When To Hire A Professional (And Which Ones To Hire First) At Your Startup
This article originally appeared in Forbes.
During the startup phase, it’s all hands on deck. Funds are often tight, so staff members have to be willing to do anything from high-level planning to taking out the garbage. When we started the company, each of our team members took on multiple roles based on the time of day and the day of the week.
These times are exciting and nerve-racking, but it’s fair to say that some jobs should be left to the pros. While I know how to get around on Photoshop, our early graphic design and photographs were second-rate with me as our designer.
As founder, even if you can carry out many roles, time is money, and taking on art or accounting projects is often less important than servicing your clients, improving your company’s systems and making sure that your company is achieving its larger goals.
So, when should a company start hiring pros -- and which pros should you hire first?
Hiring a photographer can be expensive, but a good one is worth every penny. If you start doing a lot of design work without great photos, your look won’t be as professional. Additionally, you’ll inevitably have to redo your graphic design and websites when you finally do commit to a professional photographer, which will cost more time and money later on. A professional photographer can provide you with pictures that will improve all aspects of your look -- from your website to your marketing materials. After our first photo shoot, we loved the pictures so much that we decided to print them onto plexiglass and hang them in our office as decorations. When browsing your website, prospective clients usually won’t read a text-heavy page, and instead will quickly scan for headings, short blurbs, and photos. As the adage goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” What’s your message?
Now that building websites has become so easy, I would make it a requirement to hire a graphic designer whose aesthetic you love. Also, select someone who is comfortable with a CMS such as WordPress or Squarespace. The added benefit is that once your website is looking like your brand, it’s easy to ask your designer to extend the look and feel of your company onto marketing materials and business cards. This will also save time and money because you can recycle elements and don’t have to explain what you do and don’t like to a new person. Having a great looking website is not only your face to your clients, but also sets a level of professionalism among your team and future hires.
From the very beginning of building a website, I would employ an SEO specialist to work with your designer to help grow your online traffic and presence. While there are many tools available -- and Google Analytics is fairly intuitive -- the pros know exactly what to look for. And believe me, it goes way deeper than a simple call to action button. Up until a month ago, our internal marketing team was in charge of our SEO. While they did an okay job for years, after just two meetings with an SEO expert, we all felt that we gleaned unbelievably helpful tips for not only our website but also for our email and social media marketing. To be honest, after working with this firm, I truly wish I had hired them years ago. They provided us with clear action steps that our team was able to carry out internally. We’ve since been able to improve our online strategy while being educated on what we were doing right and where we have been going wrong.
The cost of an accountant doesn’t necessarily equate to quality, but if you don’t find a good accountant from the beginning, you could pay dearly later on. Our first accountant loved to use fancy words and actually called me a neophyte during our initial consult. He was right about me being a beginner, and he gave some horrible advice that I blindly took.
Without asking me anything about my future goals, he told me to form our company as an S-Corp instead of an LLC because it would save us $1,500. While an S-Corp might be the right corporate structure for some, it certainly wasn’t for us, and we ended up restructuring down the road -- a time-consuming and costly process. Find a referral from a fellow small business owner who loves their accountant. When you meet with the accountant, keep in mind you are interviewing them. They should articulate information clearly and thoughtfully answer your questions.
It’s important to keep in mind that while outsourcing is a great way to professionalize your company, you still need to be present at key moments. Offloading work without properly providing oversight will likely weaken the outcome of your project. That said, hiring key professionals to execute your vision is an investment worth making.