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Employ the Talent You Need
Without Breaking the Bank

By Kim Hahn

So many people dream of becoming entrepreneurs, tempted by the freedom, flexibility, and sense of accomplishment that come with creating a thriving business. If you’re one of these dreamers, hoping to take turn your “big idea” into a successful company, one of the first realities you’ll need to confront is that getting your business off the ground will likely take more money than you have, and more employees than you can afford.

Most new businesses require outside talent. A surefire way to fail is to believe that you can perform every task yourself, and perform it well. The last thing you want is to be in business without the talent you need to succeed. The challenge is to attract and retain this talent without paying more than you can afford. It’s a delicate balance, but it can work to everyone’s advantage if you think outside the box and offer enticements beyond a simple paycheck.  Here are ten tips for getting the talent you need on a start-up budget:

1.  Put Together An Advisory Board: Think of this as a group of diversely talented people who you would love to hire but can’t afford to. Once you’ve identified your company’s needs, find individuals who have the talent, insight, and most of all experience to help you succeed. Then you have to convince these people to share their insights with you. Often people will volunteer their time if they’re passionate about you and your cause. Other times you may need to offer cash or stock in exchange for an agreement to attend your meetings and share knowledge.

2.  Outsource Jobs: Many jobs are very specific and require highly educated employees. That kind of expertise generally demands a large salary. But you probably won’t need all of these experts all of the time. You may be able to find outside firms or consultants to handle this workload, charging you only for the time and services you require. Or, if you know you’re going to need the same talent all of the time, but only on a part-time basis, you can put firms or individuals on a retainer.

3.  Offer Bigger Titles: Titles are very important to a lot of people. Offering a title —and obviously it has to be a title your employee can substantiate — can be a big motivator, encouraging staff to gain skills and work harder.

4.  Hire People Ready to Move Up to the Next Level: Find talented individuals who’ve been in your industry for a while, who are currently employed just a level or so below the position you are hiring for. If you can identify the people who are ready to move up, you can end up with a high performer who is happy to work for less than peak salary for the position.

5.  Give Out Stock: Awarding stock or stock options is a great trade off for cash compensation. Most people are interested in building wealth, and they like the idea of sharing in the success of the company they work for. This is a great incentive for your most senior employees. Who doesn’t wish they had worked for Microsoft at the beginning?!

6.  Offer Flex Time: Balancing family and career has become crucially important for many people, both women and men. Gone are the days when employees wanted to work 9 to 5, or assumed they’d have to. If you can offer flexible schedules, you’ll reap the benefits of this arrangement tenfold. Employees tend to work harder when they know they’re being trusted to balance their lives and their careers without being asked to punch a clock.

7. Accept Offsite Workers: Being able to work from home, or even from another state, can be a great benefit to someone who doesn’t want to move, or would prefer not to have to come in to an office every day. These options are negotiating chips that can be offered in place of salary dollars. If the cost of living is lower in the offsite location than it is where your business is headquartered, you can save even more.

8. Find Employees Who Can Wear Multiple “Hats”: When organizing your company, look to see where there are jobs that have similar skill sets, and then try to merge those positions. For example, your office manager will most likely have great organizational skills, so you may want to look to this person to handle basic accounting and record keeping, and even assist with project management.

9. Defer Compensation: There’s no rule saying you have to offer someone a fully loaded salary up front, before seeing what they can do. Offer a lower base salary with the promise of regular salary increases over time. This delay can give you the time to build your business and the revenue you need to support it. You can also offer benefits increases and one-time bonuses for meeting performance benchmarks.

10. Offer Work to Students or Interns: Students and interns can be great resources, especially if their work for you is part of a graduate level program. These young people are hungry for experience, and will offer their services for very little or even no money. Many schools run their own programs, and are looking for projects to give their students real-life experience. Sometimes professors oversee their students, and in this case you are, in effect, getting the expertise of the professor for free.

Starting a company is a very creative process, and as an entrepreneur you must continually think outside of the box if you want to survive. Just remember, the universe is full of resources: You just have to believe you have the power to make them yours!

Read other articles and learn more about Kim Hahn.

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