when to hire: business advice

pigcar2First of all, sorry for the random pig car photo, it relates to nothing that will be mentioned in this post. I just happened to see it twice on Saturday in two different parts of town and thought it needed to be shared.

Okay, back to business (literally). Chic Sensibility asked this question yesterday:

When did you first decide that you needed employees other than your sales reps? How many did you start with and how many do you have now?

This is a great question that I am sure many other designers are wondering themselves. My own experience with adding additional people to Jess LC has been pretty deliberate and slow for two reasons. First, I have grown the business since I was 15, and didn’t need extra help until I took the company full-time. And secondly, I don’t have any capital outside of Jess LC revenue to pay for employees, so the choice to hire is based entirely on growth. Personally, I have really liked that my growth has driven the scale of the employees because it also has followed the arc of my ability. As I have become better at operating the business and managing employees, I have been able to add more.

Back in August of 2007 I moved to Chicago and launched Jess LC full-time, as you probably well know by now. From August to December, I was a complete one-woman show. I did everything from hole punching the necklace tags, to making the jewelry, to writing store orders. It was exhausting, but it was how I was comfortable running the business and I couldn’t afford any more help.

In January 2008 I took on my first serious sales representatives and also secured my first intern. Shortly after that I also added Gertie, my first part-time lady to help fill all the store orders that the sales team started to bring in. It was pretty natural. When I got more orders than I could handle alone, I got someone to help me complete them. And the intern was a huge help as well. By the time January rolled around, I realized there were certain parts of the business I had to do, and others were just time suckers.

My Must Do’s:

  • Maintain relationship with reps and store owners
  • Track of orders and processing payments
  • Ordering supplies
  • Design new collections
  • Lead the Jess LC team
  • Web design
  • Emails and communication
  • Accounting

My Time Suckers:

  • Making each individual piece of jewelry for store orders
  • Making jewelry tags
  • Tracking inventory
  • Organizing paperwork
  • Training employees

The time suckers that could be completed by interns or part-time employees were delegated. It was an adjustment at first. My perfectionism would prohibit me at times from giving up control but over time I realized the ladies I work with are incredibly talented and capable of handling anything. I don’t have to do it all. In fact, there were projects I gave them where I described how the end result should function, and they used their imaginations and turned the project into something well beyond it’s original function.

Over the course of January 2008 to April 2009 we have had a fluctuating team of three interns and four part-time jewelry makers. This size has ebbed and flowed with the sales seasons. I haven’t made the leap to adding full-time employees yet, but in the future I would love to have someone help manage the day to day activities. It’s a work in progress and I am happy that I have grown the company to include more people. We get much more accomplished this way but I also love working with the girls on my team more than I like making two dozen necklaces.

PS- Check back later this afternoon for a sneak peek at one of our newest Jess LC collections, we need your help naming one of the color combinations!

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  1. wow, this is a super duper late comment, but just wanted to say THANK YOU for this advice. I just hired on my intern part-time because I found her help invaluable. Even doing that, though, has freaked me out a little. I really appreciate you mentioning your perfectionism…MAN, I can relate to THAT! seriously, I’m like…do I really really need to watch this incredibly apt person drill holes for me??

    thanks so much!

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