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Executive Diary – first employee

When the business started in 2018, my business partner and I did everything on our own. From meeting with clients to actually do the development, while working on our full-time job. As Digital Envision grows, we found the need to employ people to accommodate with the new projects coming in.

Tl; dr;

Hiring the first employee is always one of the hardest decision you ever make in the early time of the business. The interview is instinctive as you don’t know what you’re doing. The best way is just to hire one and see how it goes. If you spend time reading on interview techniques and questions, don’t spend too much on it. I encourage people to read for a little while and jump into hiring. Taking too long will cost you opportunities.

Where to find talents?

We tried several ways to find our first employee. Since we did not have funding to hire someone in Australia, we decided to look elsewhere. There were a few places that we were seeking like facebook groups, job boards, etc. We needed a general admin at that time to handle our paperworks, so Philippines seemed to be a great place to look for one. We posted on various VA facebook groups, and received tons of applications. That is great, and we only needed to pick one from the pile.

It turned out to be one of the hardest thing to do. We did not know what to look for, every applications look great, and I remember that I felt guilty if I rejected an application without a rational reason to do so. That process took us over a week or two to select a handful of applications to interview. We did 10 interviews in 2 days and now the selection got even harder. After seeing their faces, I found it hard to reject any of them.

At the end, we selected one who has experience working as an admin for an Australian company before. And she was very good. We believed that we made the right choice.

Working with the first employee.

It was weird when I had someone else in the company beside the business partner. Suddenly we had someone to give tasks that we didn’t want to do. And we had a lot of them. However, I got used to it very quickly, and in a short time, she became a crucial gear in our machine. She also helped us to recruit more employees, and we started to employ more and more people since.

There was only one problem, we have an office in Indonesia, and she was the only one who lives in Philippines. And there are a lot of storms and typhoons in her area, resulting in power outage and internet connection issues. Over time, we lean more to our Indonesian staff, as the internet and power in the office is more reliable. We ended up leasing her out as a VA to another client of ours. After a while, the client wished to take her in full time, but wanted to sign the contract with her directly.

We decided to let her go.

Lessons learned.

Although our first employee was doing really well, and we still consider lucky to have her when we started up, there were a lot of things that I learned and put processes to prevent them from happening again.

First thing is, power outage and internet connection problem. Working from home is not reliable, especially in South-east Asian countries. We start working at 9am Australian time, which means it is 5-6am in Indonesia. What happens if the power is out at that time? One of the reason why we wanted to keep people in the office is to prevent this from happening, and minimize the disruptions in services.

Second thing is, we learned that sometimes giving people too much freedom is counter-productive. We gave our first employee a lot of flexibility, she could work when she was available, and just need to fulfil 8 hours a day. However, sometimes we can see the performance dropped off significantly. We avoid that by implementing KPI measures, this still allows certain freedom, but at the end of the day, results are what we look for in our employees.

Thirdly, as she was our first employee, we felt uneasy to let her go. Looking back, we should have let her go 6 months before we actually did. Now, we implement a warnings system, in which if someone has 3 warnings, or “strikes”, they are out of the company. “Hire slow, fire fast” is a motto that we adopt into the company. Luckily, we only needed to let 1 person go since she left the company.

Summary

Having employees often feel uneasy at first, since you let someone that you don’t know have access into your business. But it is a necessary step to grow your business. It is crucial to select the right person for the job. However, if it turns out to be unsuitable, you need to be very decisive and let them go quickly. Keeping a bad employee not only has negative effects to the company, it also affects other employees as well. We cannot help everyone.

“It’s not the people you fire who make your life miserable. It’s the people you don’t.” ― Dick Grote

By Tuan Nguyen

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