I recently published a new article on HOWDesign.com about hiring practices for design firms. As I worked on this piece I couldn’t help but reflect on the many hires I made at Newfangled. Over the fifteen years I owned the company, I walked through every stage of hiring mentioned in this article. I started out as a freelance web designer and began by hiring contractors. Then I hired a few part time employees. Then finally began to hire full time employees. I made my share of mistakes and sadly, as a result, had to fire people. Hiring is never a perfect science.
But I also made some great hires. Steve Brock, my original co-founder who left to freelance for a few years, came back to work for the company and he’s still there. Dave Mello, a young high school graduate back in 1998, did a summer internship and became a full time developer — he’s still there. Jim Hendrickson, our first full time developer who I hired in 1998, still there. Justin Kerr the Creative Director at Newfangled was hired back in 2000, still there. Mark O’Brien was hired in 2000 is now the owner of the company. Chris Butler who came on board in 2004 is still there and his contribution to the success of the company is inestimable.
Hiring is tricky business. Owners of small firms will make mistakes. Hopefully my article can help some owners avoid a few of them. But one lesson I learned, which I did not mention in the article, is that when you realize you’ve made a hiring mistake, don’t make it worse by delaying action. Firing someone is a terrible experience, the worst part of owning a company. But when it needs to happen, don’t drag it out. Leadership requires doing hard things. But timely and decisive action will actually reassure the rest of your employees that the company is being managed well. Besides, they usually know when someone is not a good fit, or is a problem employee–often before you realize it. After all, they work side by side with one another every day while you’re on the phone closing sales, or on business development trips!
While I hated it every time I had to let someone go or fire them, I cherish all the guys above, as well as many others who may not have stuck around as long as long as they have but who I fully enjoyed working with and remain friends with to this day.
Being an owner is hard work, but it has multitudes of rewards.