It’s finally happened.  You have worked long and hard to build your business, and now you have more work than you can handle alone.  You know that it’s time to hire your first employee…but how do you go about it?

Your first step is to decide what kind of help you need.  Is it a brusher/bather, a receptionist with retail selling experience, a full-time groomer, or someone who can do a bit of everything? After you decide what kind of employee you need – how do you find the right person?

You can advertise locally or online, network with other pet professionals, or contact grooming schools to see if they have any graduates in your area. Once you have applications, the next step is to personally interview the candidates.  Have a list of questions that you ask every applicant; ask them about their training, their past employment, and why they would like to work at your business.

During the interview, you will want to tell the prospective employee a little bit about your business.  Then you should explain in detail the duties that they will have and what you expect them to be able to do.  Ask for references, and follow up on them. Take your time.  There is a well-known saying: ‘marry in haste, repent at leisure’.  In the business world, if you hire in haste, you might regret it later.

Selecting and hiring the right person to add to your workforce is critical to your business’s continued success.  The person that you hire will be a representative of your business and can affect the good reputation that you have worked so diligently to build.

Check their past employment history.

It is also a good idea to do a background check on any prospective employee. The most important reason to conduct a background check is to avoid job fraud.  That includes purposeful inaccuracies or false information that a job candidate puts on a resume or during an interview. Criminal record checks may be the most important.  For example, if you hire someone who will be working with your expensive equipment or who will be handling money – you can find out if that person has ever been charged with theft. You must comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) when you do a background search on a prospective employee and obtain a written authorization from the job candidate.

If you are hiring a mobile groomer, you will want to know if they are safe on the road.  Applicants with multiple traffic tickets or accidents can be a warning sign of possible future problems. When you narrow your choices down, have the applicants that you are considering come in for an afternoon or a day.  See how they interact with your clients and their pets. If you are hiring a groomer, you may ask them to groom a dog or two.  This will give you an opportunity to observe their grooming and pet handling skills, how long it takes them to groom a pet, and to see how well they can follow directions.

If you want an employee who grooms and does everything exactly the way that you feel it should be done, (and if you have the time) you might consider training someone.   An employee with no experience is like a flawless block of marble, and you become the sculptor – ready to shape and to transform them into exactly what you want. One of your final considerations should be: is this a person that you will enjoy working with day-in and day-out, and will they be an asset to you and your business?

Consider your bottom line.  Whoever you hire needs to generate more in profit than it costs to employ them or they will not be a benefit to you or to your business. While you are looking for the candidate that you think will be a good fit for your company, make sure that you are ready to be an employer.

There are federal, state, and local requirements that must be followed by anyone who has employees. Visit www.irs.gov to examine the IRS Employer’s Tax Guide to view all of the federal tax filing requirements. You can also go to the Small Business Administration website, www.sba.gov, to learn some of the steps you should follow when you hire your first employee.

Once you have taken care of all the paperwork and have hired your first employee – it’s time to get to work. You have a huge responsibility in making the employer/employee relationship a success.  Even if you each have separate responsibilities, you should work as a team to create satisfied clients. And, as the team leader, it is up to you to motivate, guide, and encourage your employee. The number one cause of all employee problems is poor communications. Although it may seem like overkill to make an employee handbook for just one employee – putting your policies, procedures, and job requirements in writing helps avoid any misunderstandings.

Taking time to search for and select the right person as your first employee will establish a solid foundation for adding future staff members, and can help take your business to the next level. Hiring your first employee is a big step.  Don’t rush it.  Take your time, do the research, and you will be far less likely to have regrets later.