08 Mar Don’t let the fear of hiring slow your growth
When Jacqui Jones started her company, One Degree Marketing in 2013, she was the quintessential solo-preneur, doing every aspect of the business herself. Today, the Birmingham, AL-based firm that performs outsourced core channel marketing (social media management, email marketing, website design development) and strategy, has grown to seven employees, serving clients from Illinois to Florida. But it was the very first hire that scared Jones the most.
“I had no clue how to bring on an employee. That sounded like a whole mountain to climb at the time where I didn’t have consistent enough work to be responsible for someone’s pay,” the CEO said.
For years, Jones built her business the old-fashioned way – by networking. She leveraged her counterparts in business development programs, starting with Co.Starters.
“It was a cohort full of my target market at the time. Whenever there was an opportunity to flex my expertise, I did that. And I picked up my first recurring client in that class. I have done that nonstop,” she said, including in the SBA Emerging Leaders and Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses programs.
As she grew her business, Jones built a team of contractors to build capacity. She didn’t go full-time herself until 2018. Her first hire came in October 2020.
“That decision was difficult, because it’s a scary thing to do,” she said. “With contactors, I legally cannot tell them what to do and when to do it.”
But Jones said she realized, “I cannot be the only person who wakes up and this is their job all day, this is their priority and how they make their money. I was at capacity and it was killing me. It was a hard decision because I wanted to get some capital at the time and I could not. But I hired her anyway,” Jones said.
When asked how she got over that initial fear of hiring, Jones said she didn’t.
“It’s not necessarily an absence of fear, it’s an acknowledgment of fear and saying, ‘We’re gonna do it anyway’. At that time, I had to make a very serious decision. I could either say this is not hard enough for me to cap where I’m going, or I have to consciously choose to make my business smaller and one of those was not an option for me,” she said.
“It’s not necessarily an absence of fear, it’s an acknowledgment of fear and saying, ‘We’re gonna do it anyway.”
There have been times where Jones has had to forego her own paycheck to ensure her team, both employees and contractors, have received theirs.
“The year before the pandemic started, I had gone pretty much that entire year without paying myself – just paying for the help that I had. Since about six month after [the first hire] started, no one has missed a check, including me,” she said.
Her staff currently includes four part-time and three full-time employees across three states. She supplements with 3 contractors. In thinking about the growth of her team, Jones said, if she had to do it again, she might have had conversations with a human resources professional sooner.
“Talk to somebody who has done it. Talk to somebody who does it for a living. And just talk about what the future and vision of your business really is and what that might require of your team more than people who have the skillset, [like] people who complement each other and what you want your culture to be like. I think having that conversation earlier would have been beneficial for me,” Jones said.
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