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FORTUNE Small Business:

Hiring your first employee

An entrepreneur looks for advice on a critical growth step: hiring a staffer.

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(FORTUNE Small Business) -- Dear FSB: How does an entrepreneur go about hiring his or her first employee? What should be the first employee's role - administrative, sales or technology? Must an owner offer a piece of the company to the employee?

- Parijat Sahai, Blue Bell, Pa.

Dear Parijat: "Hiring your first employee is a big step in your life and in the life of your business. Be careful," says Martin Lehman, who has been counseling business owners for 15 years through the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE), a branch of the U.S. Small Business Administration.

The role of the first employee really depends on your individual needs; there's no generic rule that suits all business owners.

"If you're an ace salesman, you probably don't want to hire a salesman," Lehman says. "Think about what you're lacking and what you need to make your particular business grow - that's the position you should fill. Do you need a computer whiz to set up your website? Do you need a marketing genius? What niche do you need to fill?"

After determining what you're looking for, talk to at least two applicants, Lehman advises: "Don't marry the first person you kiss!"

Check references and really sit down with the applicant you like best.

"Communicate what you're looking for, that you're a small business, but you're growing. Tell them that it might just be the two of you for now, but give them somewhat of an incentive if you can," Lehman says. "Make them want to be part of the family. And listen closely to what they have to say."

You do not have to offer your first employee a stake in the company. "Not at all," Lehman says. "I wouldn't even think about it unless they're bringing something very unusual to the table."

Be sure you know what you are willing to pay your first employee and what kind of benefits you can offer before you even sit down with candidates, because they're sure to ask those questions. To top of page

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