Follow your gut, not money or title or what-ifs or has-beens, when it comes to making your own career and company. So goes this sage advice, and much more, from author, teacher, and PR entrepreneur Lynne Golodner, founder of Your People, LLC and Parenting Without a Map.
When I transitioned from journalism to public relations and marketing, I never intended to manage people. I didn't envision building a staff or hiring others or becoming The Boss Man.
And that is exactly where I stand today.
In May, my company, Your People LLC, moved out of my home and into a 500-square-foot office in Southfield. My long-time administrative contract worker who showed up occasionally to file and buy supplies now works 12 hours a week in a very organized manner.
I hired a graphic designer (a former student of mine from University of Detroit-Mercy) who also does account work (mostly social media). He works 20 hours a week. And in August, my first full-time salaried employee joined the team.
It took me four months and one bad hire to find her.
When you're an accidental entrepreneur (and by that I mean, no MBA, no legitimate road map telling you to do this now and follow this protocol), no one teaches you how to hire others, how to manage a staff and how to delegate and supervise. You learn it on the fly – sometimes to your detriment and sometimes to everyone's success.
We are truly a team now. My company is so much more than it was when I hung out my shingle five years ago. There is more at stake, more investment, and a familial feeling. When Michael generates a gorgeous eight-page booklet for a client, I feel like a proud mamma watching my chick take wing. When Ingrid makes contact with a new-to-us member of the media and expertly, artfully weaves a nascent relationship into something really nice, I feel like walking on clouds.
And when someone sends an email with misspelled words or repeating something I've already said, I remind myself to teach with kindness.
Here's what I've learned thus far as I've stumbled into the world of finding, and nurturing, local talent.
1. It is really hard to find the good ones. I interviewed nearly 18 people for Ingrid's position over the course of four months. I posted ads in several places, fielded calls and emails, turned people away for misspellings on resumes, inability to make time to meet with me, or just inappropriate behavior in some way (beware of what you put on Facebook!). Everyone thinks there are no jobs in Michigan. That is entirely not true. There are jobs; there just isn't always incredible talent to fill them with.
2. When you find the good ones, take care of them. I feel protective of my team, in part because they are giving me their heart and soul, and in part because I realize the responsibility of employing someone. That doesn't mean I excuse bad behavior – but I don't see much of it anyway because when you treat someone with appreciation and kindness, it comes back at you.
3. Don't forget, business is business. I hired a bunch of placeholders before I found my true team because I needed the help. When someone cries over an email that has no harshness behind it, or gets passive aggressive because they're not really loving the work they're doing, it's just too bad. It's not personal. It's business.
4. Build in rewards. As the business grows, I want every member of my team to feel it in increased pay and benefits. It's only right. I establish a work ethic in my company that nurtures, encourages and rewards.
5. Hire only people who are 100% on board. I've tried out people who were just looking for a job. I don't care what industry you're in – if it's just a job, there is no loyalty, no teamwork, no longevity. Explain exactly what to expect and check in regularly to make sure everyone is on the same page.
6. Create a company protocol and mission. This summer, I wrote a 32-page employee handbook that outlines all protocols, policies and expectations for everyone in my company. I included a huge section about vision statements and mandated that every employee write their personal career vision as well as their vision for their job at Your People. And I pledged to do the same – for the company as well as for each position. That way we are articulating our goals and expectations and have a way to measure growth and accomplishment.
7. Have fun. I love going to work every single day. I feel lucky to do what I do. I thank people regularly and show gratitude. I communicate my mission and vision to my team constantly and make sure they're happy with their work. We spend so much of our lives working, it might as well be fun, right?