Your Most Important Small Business Investment

Aug 12, 2011, Written by Sue Miley

We throw up the shingle, and voila, success!  Believe it or not, this happens a lot.  An entrepreneur embarks on his new business and is doing well.  Soon the free-spirited make your own schedule business owner is working more than ever.

Chances are we are not experts in all facets of business.  We are great technicians, or we have a wonderful idea, but what do we know about systems, accounting or selling our services?

Where Do You Go First For Help?

But we have friends and family.  So we start asking them for help.  We hire the best friend who has only been working for the three years since we graduated, just like us.  Or we hire the cousin who took an accounting class once.

Seriously, we do this.  Small business owners tend to underestimate the importance of each facet of business.  They have just started out and the product or service is the area they focus on.

There Isn’t Time For Us To Provide Much Training And Support

But if you have opened your own small business, you know too, that you are not going to have time to do a bunch of training with a new employee.  Plus, you barely know how to open Quickbooks, or Salesforce, or handle many of the other business aspects of the new business yourself.

We ask the new employee-to-be if they are good at learning new systems themselves.  With the utmost confidence they say “Piece of cake”!  And they believe it as much as you do.

Soon it is evident that their learning curve is steeper than your need.

Could they be great at it? (Accounting, Marketing, Sales)


Just like you will be after years of experience.

The Impact On The Employee

Unless you ruin them.  (Read more The Ultimate Christian CEO Priority.)

They start out a job thinking they are going to conquer the world.  They shortly begin to fade with the lack of training, education, and experience.  Their attitude changes when they can’t ask you questions because you are too busy or don’t know the answer anyway.

The Impact On Our Business

A couple of years later your business has slowed because the foundation for growth was not in place to support it.  The first employee soon turned into the fifth and sixth warm body that never made a difference.

We blame it on work ethic.  A friend taking advantage of our kindness.  Soon we are using cliché’s like “you just kind find good people anywhere”.

You are running around trying to do a little of everything.  Days are long.  Cash flow is short.  You begin to wonder if you were ever supposed to open this business to begin with.

Your Doubling In Size

It’s a vicious cycle we get ourselves in that I believe all started with that first new hire.

Your first new hire is 50% of your team.  The first employee will be handling some part of your new business that is important.  He or she will significantly influence your culture.  This one individual could mean the difference in your small business success or failure.

Invest Wisely!

Don’t waste it.  Plan for it.  Save for it.  Figure out what skills you don’t have and make sure they have a ton of it.

Interview well!

Your first employee may be the most important investment you make in your business.

Invest wisely.

Reader Interactions


  1. Amos Johnson says

    Sue great food for thought in this article. I was just thinking today, that we are small business owners are afraid (or don’t want to) spend money on the people we need for our business. Employees or consultants.

  2. Loren Pinilis says

    You raise a really good point here. I think it’s easy to hire and just hope things work out for the best – I know I’ve been guilty of that.
    What are your thoughts on using a lot of independent contractors to fill in the gaps in their specialized areas as opposed to an employee?

  3. Chris Patton says

    Excellent points here. In fact, this is critical whether it is your first hire (employee #2) or your 50th hire (employee #51)! Too often we go with our “gut” and hire too quickly. Or later in the growth of the business, we delegate this task to someone else who does the same thing. Interviewing and hiring is tough work, but I don’t believe we can ever be truly successful until we get better at it.

    I strongly recommend finding a proven hiring process and an in-depth personality assessment. Both of these tools will certainly help minimize hiring mistakes.

    Thanks for the reminder!

  4. Mark A. Griffin says

    One of the most overlooked aspects of bringing new people in is on-boarding! No one does it anymore. Epic fail when you don’t assimilate people to your culture. This goes for companies of 5 and companies of 5,000.

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Sue Miley

Sue Miley MBA, MA, LPC helps small business owners build successful businesses on a foundation of Christian values. After 20 years in business, and 10 years as a Christian counselor, Sue uses a combination of faith, business and psychology to help clients in business and in life.

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