The Risky Business of Hiring Your First Employee

So, you’ve started your dream business, and loving every second. Apart from that tiny thing of not having time to do anything else! There comes a stage in every start-up when the work load is getting too much, the expertise you need doesn’t fall easily into your lap or you just need someone to bounce ideas off as the voice in your head has stopped responding. Sound familiar?

A lot of people start a business for the excitement of doing something for themselves, they’ve got a passion for a product and want to get a work life balance. After all, if you’re enjoying what you’re doing its not work, right? True, but not if its leading you to sleepless nights or not seeing your family. You may be considering hiring your first employee.

How do you know when you’ve hit that point?

How will you find the right person who shares your passion for your brand?

Is it more important to find a cultural fit, the skills you don’t have or the holy grail of both?

1)     When should you think about hiring someone?

As a start-up, managing your cash flow is the difference between winning and losing. Bringing someone on is a big risk, but does it outweigh the risk of losing customers or potential opportunities because you don’t have the time to pick them up? Timing on when to hire someone is never a luxury, but is when your workload commands it and you have enough sustainable income to support another member of staff. You can’t manage the workload alone and you need someone to share the burden. At this point, you’re ready, so do it.

There are some great social media communities, like The Food Hub or The Welsh Food Community on Facebook, where you can lean on other start-ups or SMEs for recommendations for where to look.

2)     Who do you bring on?

What is more important, cultural fit or their skillset?

If you’re after fit, then for me hiring a young person who is passionate and driven to learn can be great, even if a bit raw. A lot of entrepreneurs have some level of experience, and this recruit can add an edge to your business and keep you modern. This may be cost effective, too.

On the flipside, hiring someone in the latter years of their career can add much needed experience and a calm ear to listen to your next big problem. Either way the key qualities to consider are of course similar interest, outlook and goals. A strong work ethic is the key fit to building trust and driving the business forward.

Another option is a partner. Somone who can fill the void in your skills whilst taking equal share in the burden – after all, we aren’t all good at everything! I read recently that this is the route that RXBar founder Peter Rahal went down to make sure his company had a rounded leadership team. It seems to have worked out for him after selling to Kellogg’s for a reported $600m!

3)     Salary vs. Equity

Money plays an important part, but if you have the right idea and can find the right person, then perhaps they’ll buy into your idea enough to take equity in place of a big salary. A lot of people get hung up on giving away a share in their company, but I’ve always believed it is better to have a share of something that is working rather than 100% of something that’s getting you nowhere fast. That said, this is a huge decision, so if you’re unsure on this feel free to get in touch with me to ask any questions regarding this.

4)     You don’t have the financial means but need support?

If you can’t afford it, then you can’t do it, just like most things in life. This is a point when bringing in a specialist to help might be worth considering. You’ll be amazed at how working with a specialist even a few hours a week can make a significant difference (and give you some company). Visionary Food Solutions can help you with various stages of your business, from getting your product to market or helping with strategy in a cost-effective manner. This may be more inline with your budget currently and you’re getting expertise that can deliver results fast.


To summarise. Recruit when your business needs demand it and when you can afford to. If you’re not quite there then get in touch. If you are there, then focus on matching your potential recruit with your work ethic. Everything else is a bonus!

About Visionary Food Solutions. Our company is small. Young. Flexible. But our team has over 50 years of experience in getting food products and brands to market in retail, food service, convenience, wholesale and export. If you feel you need support around an idea, what it takes to get it to market or just where to start then drop me a message.

Hiring someone can be scary, but some part time support from an experienced company can help you open up your market, growing your company and before you know it you could have a team around you. We’re happy to do a free consultation over Skype, so if you fancy a chat then drop me a line, or get in touch via

Matthew Norton