Carl Wiens

Your company has had a couple of good years, so it’s time to grow. Although you’re used to handling the day-to-day workings of your business all by yourself, you’ve gotten to a point where you simply cannot go it alone any longer; you need to hire your first employee. But it’s a lot more complicated than simply adding another office chair or printing out a W-2 form.

Both you and your business need to make sure you are prepared for your new addition.

Step 1: Numbers Game

“Look at your numbers and look at the total cost for that employee,” says Leslie Shiner, REMODELING columnist and owner of consulting firm, The Shiner Group. “You’re ready to hire somebody and immediately your company goes from profit you were making without an employee to profit you will make after replacing yourself. You have to look at your total estimated cost for that employee for the year and make sure your company can afford that big chunk of money.”

Since a new full-time person is coming onboard, you also need to make sure that your company has enough work to keep both of you busy. “Check your backlog,” Shiner advises. “Make sure you have the ability to basically live with reduced profitability as the volume increases.”

Salary, workers’ compensation, and payroll taxes are just the beginning; there are other costs that you probably haven’t considered. What about another cell phone? Will you have to update your data plan to include another person? Then there’s the company truck or van. If the new employee is going to be using it, your insurance payments are going to rise. Will you provide the tools or will the new employee provide them? And if tools get lost, who pays to replace them?

Step 2: On a Payroll

Ken Darrow, senior marketing manager at Intuit’s Employee Management Solutions Division, told REMODELING in the November 2011 issue that a payroll service is a must because it quickly becomes a “multi-hour process as soon as you have your first employee. If you’re spending hours doing payroll, then you’re basically spinning your wheels.” Your job is to make sure your company keeps growing. You don’t have time to spend hours behind a desk each week juggling paperwork.

Shiner cautions that the payroll service you use should understand how to allocate job costs and all the burdens that go along with that.

Liz Reisch Picarazzi, founder of Checklist Home Services, in Brooklyn, N.Y., not only recently started her handyman company but also just hired her first employee, a project manager.

Picarazzi uses QuickBooks for her payroll services because it is a low-cost solution that calculates the taxes, withholding, etc., without Picarazzi having to put those monies aside. Also, QuickBooks “enables electronic timesheets for my employees so they can put in what their hours were each day and that flows into my payroll program,” she says, adding that then she can quickly approve or scrutinize the report.

Step 3: Ask Around

Just like most things with your business, it always helps to have input from professionals who can advise you or colleagues who have “been there, done that” and can alert you to certain pitfalls. Picarazzi spoke to a labor attorney to figure out whether she should hire full-time or subcontract out. She also spoke with Chuck Solomon, a consultant with, who even wrote a book on how to start a handyman business. “He was helpful because not only did he have his own handyman business, but he was also an HR executive, so he knew the drill,” she says. “He was a great consultant to me and even participated on interviews of potential candidates because I wanted another perspective.”

S. Robert August, president at North Star Synergies, in Centennial, Colo., suggests consulting your local home builders association to see if it has a databank of résumés.

He also advises you to call on your subcontractors, manufacturers’ reps, vendors, and distributors for referrals. Aside from interviewing your potential hire a minimum of three times, August also suggests inviting the candidate out for a meal with spouses to determine how he interacts with people. “You will have more insights to share with your significant other who can be an excellent resource with which to discuss the future employee,” August says. It never hurts to get a second opinion, right?

Step 4: Describe the Job

Before you begin the hiring process, you need to create a job description so both you and your new employee will know exactly what the job entails. “The job description was really important to clarify what the job was and wasn’t in terms of the skills and the types of jobs we take,” Picarazzi says. “Also, the soft skills they needed — such as really strong customer service, good communication skills, and attention to detail — were put front and center in the description. These soft skills are really important to us; it’s what helps me distinguish my company.” Perry Evans, owner of Accessible Building Concepts, in Nampa, Idaho, has developed a detailed job description that divides the employee’s time among tasks so a potential hire will know exactly how his time will be spent. “State also whether there will be an expectation to work weekends or longer hours depending on deadlines,” he says. “The object here is to allow the applicant to determine whether [he or she] can perform the job before they actually apply.”

Evans adds that many state job service agencies have people who can help you write job descriptions and job announcements and keep them within the requirements of the law. Another good resource is to go to sites such as and to see how other companies have crafted their job descriptions.

Step 5: Find Your Employee

Last but far from least, be honest and keep in mind that throughout the hiring process, the prospective employee is also interviewing you,” Evans says. “They might also ask some of your competitors and suppliers about your reputation and how you pay your bills. In the end, the goal is to find that person who will want to come to work each day, do a good job, and feel rewarded when they go home.” Shiner adds one very important reminder: “Your employee is not you. They don’t do things the way you do, and you have to be able to accept that.”

Mark A. Newman, senior editor, REMODELING. More REMODELING articles about hiring and managing employees:

Hire Calling: Tips for Hiring Field Employees

Building Capacity: Knowing When to Hire

Hiring Time: How Much Can You Afford?