What’s it like to hire your first employee?


If you run your own business, there may come a point when you will need to hire your first employee. But what’s that like? One business mum shares her experience with us.

One of the great things about running your own business from home is that you can work it around your life. If you like, you can get up at 5am and get a couple of hours of work under your belt before the kids wake. Then, if you like you can down tools at 3pm and spend the afternoon with them.

But what happens when you hire your first employee, and take the first baby steps towards a ‘proper’ business? Suddenly you need to think about proper business hours (and can no longer work in your pyjamas).

Rachel Sestini from Sestini & Co, a tax and business consultancy, describes how it feels to finally hire your first employee.

I set my business up to work my way

I set up my business a bit less than 18 months ago. To start with, like many, I unwittingly followed the e-Myth case study almost word for word – if you substitute tax advice for pies.

As well as doing things my way and being able to choose my own clients, one of the big drivers was a need for simplicity after two decades of corporate life – no teams to manage, no office politics, just me working with like-minded people.

So a key part of the vision was that the business would be, well, me. I knew I’d need to build a network around me as I wouldn’t be able to do everything myself, but these would be freelance arrangements and professional partnerships.

Over the past six months though, my business has grown

For various reasons, over the course of the last six months as the business has grown, I’ve started to see clear advantages in employing people. And these are primarily loyalty and being able to train people up for the long term in the less tangible aspects of the job – especially how the client experience should feel.

So, after a couple of false starts I now have my first probationary employee. And I’ve discovered that our perceptions of this arrangement are vastly different!

As with most self-employed people, I work from home, set my own hours – which stretch (in an extremely flexible way, it must be said) depending on the amount of work available. I have a home office which I try to keep in a reasonable state and various charts and lists which remind me of what I’ve done, am doing and should be doing.

I get up, get as much done as possible in between school runs and other commitments, sleep a little and repeat.

I’ve started dressing more smartly

My main thought about hiring my first employee was how lovely it would be to have someone to help me – particularly someone who, on the strength of the interview, I thought I’d enjoy spending time with. Then I realised that my new employee (let’s call her S) was going to work.

After several conversations about how excited S is to be getting dressed up to go to work, that she’s slightly daunted by the new systems and looking forward to being trained up in tax (I know, I really need to make this work!) I realised I need to keep providing a going to work experience and it’s made me see everything with a completely new perspective.

I’ve started dressing a bit more smartly on the days when S comes in, even if there aren’t any clients to meet. I’ve rearranged the office, I’ve been writing a training programme as well as buying new IT equipment and suddenly felt the need to start looking for a “proper” office in the outside world. And as one of my clients put it today, I’m also feeling the need to start being a ‘grown up’.

Do I measure up as an employer?

And I can’t help wondering whether I measure up. After all, many businesses have been around a lot longer, they have teams of people, glossy town-centre offices with water coolers and possibly even office canteens.

They have annual conferences and Christmas parties, company cars and in-house magazines. It suddenly feels a world away from me with my laptop working wherever and whenever I like, just looking for someone to come in and work alongside me.

I’m hopeful that what might make this work is that she buys into the dream, the vision of what it can be. Even better, that she appears to want to work with me and help me shape the business into something even better than I’ve planned, as it’ll have her ideas in it too.

In S’s own words, she’s excited about the fact that the business is growing, that my clients are an interesting bunch and that I’m ‘quirky’. But I’ll still keep working on being a proper employer.

Rachel Sestini is a tax and business consultant. You can find out more about her services on her website.

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