Fall Into Expansion: Gearing Up for Autumn Growth

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Ahh August. It’s the month our love affair with summer slowly comes to a close, our minds turn to year ends goals, and we scramble not to hyperventilate over everything we’ve left to worry about until fall. But in business, it’s also the time to think about grants (depending on the industry), funding, and expanding our teams.

For a lot of companies expanding their workforce is a dream. Expansions mean more overhead and less wiggle room, with yet another person relying on you to put a roof over their head. It’s a scary thought — growing a team is like growing a family. Each employee is your child and relies on you, and in return, you invest in them and teach them how to make your brand, a legacy.

In Canada, specifically Ontario where I am, we’re lucky to have so many applicable funding channels to rely on. There’s the myriad of grants coming from provincial and federal levels. Then there’s the 50/50 funding opportunities from specific industry associations; special investment loan agencies, and again, more federal bursaries that help us increase our inclusive and diverse workforce.

With all these opportunities at our doorstep, you have to ask yourself — how the hell can I expand without going overboard?

Growing a team, while a bit scary, is also a necessary step in creating a bigger bottom line. When you hire right, and are streamlined in knowing what you want to do to grow, it could mean a process that see results quickly. You have to know the position, take chances, and hire the right potential, not just the right person. So let’s break this process down and look at how these three elements are the right combination for your expansion.

Know the Position

The problem most owners face is really pinpointing what they want from the person who they will hire. Long descriptions don’t help either — when someone is looking for a new role they really only care about what they’re getting paid, and what they’ll be doing on the day-to-day. So before you even start to throw up paid ads for your new hire, you need to know what you want, and it can’t just be more money. Whatever you are lacking in, take a long hard look at why it’s not in your company already. Is it time? Is is direction? Is it competence? Every boss has an idea of that perfect cornerstone — when you are able to tell your mentor, with confidence, “We as a company lack X,” you can start stating without a doubt what you need for that position. Be clear. Be concise. Don’t fool yourself. When a company lists a description that reads like Tolstoy, you lose out on a lot of good candidates because you, as a company, look like club douche.

Take Chances

As cheesy as it sounds, chances are necessary when you expand. Expansion itself is a chance. From just finding the right fund to go after — I’ve been in countless meetings where team members are just debating about the best grants or funds out of a list of 70 trying to streamline their application process.

I say screw it — when it comes to expanding, government funding, even private funding, is a war zone. You have to spray and pray, or potentially lose big. Sure, grant writing is a long process, but when you know what you are going after, it becomes easy. The more you apply to, the more chances you have to be awarded.

Oftentimes, these funding opportunities are made to be used together to help companies create better workplaces and better hiring packages. That’s what their there for! So stop arguing at the table and just go for the funds that works for your company.

Find the Right Potential, Not Person

This one I get debated on a lot. I’ve spoken with executives who clearly only look at previous work experience and say, “This one’s it, look at what they did with this company!” without realizing their company has nothing to do with that industry. Profits and portfolios are key, but sometimes the well versed candidate can also be stuck in their own ways and not willing to explore new ideas.

When a small business expands, you need a proven track record but you also need creativity. That $120k a year expert sounds nice, but they may not know how to work with your on a small budget. That fresh graduate may have a lot of great freelance work, but they just don’t always know how to speak for themselves — or they know how to do it a little too well.

When you’re looking for a candidate that your company will depend on during an expansion, you need to learn how each person would help you expand. Do they know to industry? What challenges can they expect to face? Will they blow through their budget or be able to stretch it until they make you money? Previous experience counts only very little when you take a chance on expanding. What counts is if this cornerstone candidate can deliver within the scope that YOU set and can help YOU find the answer to make a better bottom line.

So before getting too excited and wanting to billboard that new role everywhere, use those questions as an exercise, and reflect upon what it is your company and YOU need in this new role, and you’ll find the right answers you seek.

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