Scaling a small business is hard. How do you find the right employees?
Ask any entrepreneur or business owner what their biggest struggle is, and most will say “I wish I could clone myself.”
Since the next best option is finding good employees, we sat down with local entrepreneur and jewelry designer Judith Bright to talk about how she’s building a strong team.
Want to meet Judith and hear her story in person? Click here to register for our next Power Surge networking event on Thursday, December 7!
Pathway WBC Interview with Judith Bright: “Hiring Well”
What was the tipping point for you to say “I need help” that lead you to hire your first employees?
I was making jewelry in my basement and selling more and more every day when I started to find that I couldn’t do it all myself. The first person I hired was an assistant who helped me set up my inventory system and helped me with my accounting software.
I knew that accounting, inventory and taking care of business was what tripped up most creatives and I didn’t want to take any chances. She made sure we were compliant in collecting, filing and paying sales tax. It was an investment that was 100% worth it.
You have to build a solid foundation before you can build a house that will stand the test of time.
The second employee I hired was an experienced wire-worker. I also found out quickly that I had to move onto only designing and that I would not be able to grow if I continued making the jewelry myself. That enabled me to expand my initial collection more rapidly.
You can’t do it all. The quickest way to success is to work on your business instead of in it (a very hard thing to practice that I still struggle with every day).
How do you maintain your company culture?
It all starts with who you hire. We’ve learned over time that certain personalities aren’t going to work in our business. Extroverts are what we mostly look for. We do personality tests prior to interviewing candidates now. If they clearly line up with those who haven’t worked well for us in the past, we don’t even bring them in anymore. We get that specific because after ten years, we just know what will work best for our team long-term, and who would be happiest here.
We want happy employees, and we’ve found over time, that employees happiness comes down to “fit,” which we’ve been able to predict very well with our personality test screenings.
We look for self-sufficient employees who are open to constructive criticism and who want to better themselves every day. It takes a certain level of confidence to be able to accept and iterate on feedback. We are all very close as we are in such close quarters. We look for optimistic people who love a good laugh but know how to buckle down when needed. If someone isn’t working out well, it has become obvious more quickly over the years, and we are making swifter decisions on that. We take care of our employees by offering them one of the most competitive benefits packages out there for studio and retail small business. That is one of the things I’m most proud of. I honestly don’t know anyone with under 20 employees who is as competitive in an artistic enterprise.
As an artist, what does quality assurance look like in your small business?
Perfection is the goal and we work on that across the board. There are many eyes on each piece and we have a thorough checks and balances system in place.
We still make mistakes but they are getting fewer and further between as we grow our processes and procedures.
How do you know it’s time to part ways with an employee who is not a good fit?
We used to let it drag on and on, hoping that people would change to fit our expectations, but we’ve realized over time that it’s best for everyone involved if we part ways as soon as possible. Over time, I’ve noticed that even when someone we love personally is not a good fit for whatever reason, they do better once they leave us. I personally feel it is incumbent upon me to be very honest with employees who are not happy and encourage them to try to find something that aligns with their passion.
When work aligns with passion, it’s magic.
I really try to make our expectations clear and also make it clear that if people don’t buy in to what we do and how we do it, they really owe it to us and to themselves to find another job. We hope they will give us a proper notice and do it with grace. 99% of the time they do. We have had the 1% who hasn’t and that has been very unfortunate to witness. Not because of how it affects us so much, but because I know that person is going to have a hard row to hoe in their professional life. I find that the way a person does a few things is a good indicator of how they’ll do most things over time. That’s something that employers should definitely keep in mind!
Do you have a team motto, or a rally cry for your team?
Our core values which have been developed a little over time but when I look back to day one, they are still essentially the same. We have 10 values that we share on our philosophy page.
What’s your advice to other small business owners who might be having a hard time finding the right staff?
Take your time getting to know them, and administer personality tests and see what personalities might be right for your team. Vet them properly by making sure to check two or more references. Give them a 30-day trial period (I have found that most of the time, habits show up within that time frame).
Trust your gut – it saves time in the long run.
Be swift if someone is not the right fit, and in the end just keep on truckin’!
Hear more from Judith Bright at our next Power Surge on Thursday, December 7!
Grab a friend and come enjoy cocktails, networking, and a heart-to-heart interview with Judith Bright here at Pathway WBC from 4:30pm-6:00pm on December 7.