As a business consultant, one of the most common questions I am asked is, “What’s the best way to find good employees?”.

I work with many successful solo-preneurs who are hitting that stage where it is time to grow their business, and that means bringing on key employees. For many people, this is an area of great difficulty and anxiety.

Before I ever answer that question, I need to give a few overall guidelines as to the overall business process and where staff actually fit in.

The first hire for most professionals should be an administration assistant or office manager. This is key. Don’t spend your time doing work that a) you don’t enjoy and b) you’re not good at.

Consider this – if you charge $75 per hour for your work, than any time you spend doing office work means you are paying an office assistant (you) $75 an hour.

Plus, you’re probably not good at it — it will take you twice as long – so you’re actually paying $150 for what would be $15-$20 work.

Add in that you’ll be miserable – you are now paying $150 for a miserable, no skills office assistant. So always start with support staff before hiring more production based staff.

The Big Mac Model

Entrepreneurs need to study other businesses. Success leaves clues, and the most successful ‘small business’ in the world is McDonald’s.

At McDonald’s the food is made the same way every single time From London to Los Angeles, from Madrid to Moscow – ask for a Big Mac and you’ll get one. The same style. Every single time.

You even know the recipe…. “two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun…”

But is McDonald’s the best hamburger you’ve ever tasted? The answer to that question from almost everyone in the world is no. Most people even claim that they could make a better hamburger than McDonald’s themselves.

So let me ask you a question? Why is no one giving you hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to make hamburgers?

What’s the secret of each McDonald’s location?

McDonald’s don’t hire experts to run each location or do every task in the business. They hire good people and train them in the implementation of SYSTEMS. Their systems are so well developed that they can hire high school kids to run a lot of their business. They even have the upsell systemized through the ubiquitous question, “Do you want fries with that?”

I’ve read that most independent small business start-ups fail, yet most franchises succeed. The reason for that difference is due to SYSTEMS.

SYSTEM: Save Your Self Time Energy Money

Step one when hiring additional staff: think systems.

Before you hire anyone you have to have a system in place that can easily be replicated. It doesn’t matter if you hire a world-renowned expert with multiple PhD’s and 25 years of experience — unless they work within your system – they aren’t a great fit to grow your business.

The primary goal of any business is to produce a consistent, replicable product or service. If it’s replicable and consistent – you can guarantee results. If you can guarantee results – you’re ahead of the game.

As a nice result of running a systems based we are able to hire people with lower skill levels than we would initially think. Now, notice I did not say low skill, just lower skill. We are going to hire people to run systems and educate them.

Instead of thinking of McDonald’s – think of a hospital – a doctor writes the protocol and most often it is nurses that implement it. Nurses are by no means low skilled, but they are most definitely lower skilled than a doctor. Similarly, all admin tasks at hospitals are handled by lower skilled employees than nurses. It would make no business sense for a doctor to spend time taking blood pressure, temperatures or making appointments.

And remember, the ultimate goal of hiring and growing your business is to replicate YOURSELF so you can step out of the business.

Hiring someone without a system is an absolutely deadly business mistake. Hire based on your core values and train for skill based on systems.

If you do that, your business becomes a lot easier to manage. You must run a systems-based business as opposed to an individual based business. The owner/managers job is to manage the system, rather than the employee. Run the plan, not the man.

If there is a problem, we can look at two solutions.

First, was the system followed? If yes, then we need to tweak the system. If no, then we need to work on coaching and training the employee. It’s that simple.

In our business at Results-Fitness in California, we make it even simpler by having all of the systems recorded in manuals (how to open the gym, how to answer the phone, how to greet every client and prospect that walks in the door, etc.).

If it’s not written down and signed as completed and understood by an employee, you are improvising. Business is far too important to improvise.

So to get back to your original question – how do you go about hiring staff?

When systems are in place – it really doesn’t matter. We have hired experienced trainers, beginner trainers, schoolteachers, former clients, interns, etc., and all have become excellent personal trainers because they follow our system.

As long as you have business systems and an education program in place then when hiring employees what you need to look for are personality, work ethic and core values first. As long as your new employee has brings those three attributes to the table, they will succeed in your system.

[Ed. Note: Alwyn Cosgrove is the owner of Results Fitness, Santa Clarita, California’s Number One Fitness and Sports Training Facility. He is a regular contributor to Men’s Health magazine and the co-author of several workout books, including his latest, “The New Rules of Lifting for Life” with Lou Schuler.]

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