Skip to content

Strategic staffing: How to build a team for your small business

Staffing strategy

Hiring can feel like a chicken-and-egg scenario for small businesses. Which should come first: hiring to bring in more business or hiring because you have more business than you can handle?

At The Law Office of Hannon De Palma, a custody and family law firm, we wanted to expand the practice into new markets in other states, and to do that, we needed to hire. However, as a small business, we needed to hire attorneys who shared our legal philosophy and could match our founder’s effectiveness in practicing law. 

Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn, once said, “No matter how brilliant your mind or strategy, if you’re playing a solo game, you’ll always lose out to a team.” Today, our law firm has expanded into several states, and we’ve trained a team of attorneys to mirror our founder’s resolution-focused approach, use our technology, and grow the business.

Here are a few steps you can follow in your hiring process — and some unique approaches to consider.

Step 1: Align your hiring with your business objectives

At our law firm, hiring became a logical step as we looked to expand into other states. It wasn’t feasible for our founder, Sherene De Palma, to fly back and forth between New York and Boston every day to handle cases. 

Hiring an attorney in this new market was aligned with a specific business objective and long-term goals. You should never hire for the sake of hiring or because you feel you need to have additional employees. You hire because you want to grow and scale your business.

Business objectives for hiring will look different depending on your company’s needs, but you can start by asking yourself:

  • What are our revenue goals for the next six to 12 months?
  • Do we have specific goals to increase our sales or close rate?
  • Do we want to reduce customer churn?

    Once you’ve identified your goals and done some forecasting, you can outline the key roles needed to achieve your business objectives. For example, you might hire an operations manager, customer support specialist, project manager, or other relevant position. 

    Step 2: Identify gaps in your current business

    Before we hired additional staff, our founder had been a solo practitioner for a long time. Eventually, her caseload became unmanageable. She was spending so much time providing service to clients, taking phone calls, and going to court that she could no longer focus on growing the business. Our growth was limited by her capacity.

    Many small businesses often struggle to maintain the right staffing levels. As your business becomes more complex, you may identify gaps in your existing employees’ skill sets (for example, needing expertise in marketing or human resources). If you need to offload basic tasks, such as answering emails or providing service to customers, you can look for a virtual assistant or customer support representative as your first hire.

    You should also be aware of common signals that it’s time to hire. Event-based triggers include increased call volume, surging website traffic, positive customer reviews, and increased discovery calls or leads. You may also experience capacity challenges seasonally or around specific product launches.

    Miro Gap analysis: Staffing strategy
    This gap analysis template from Miro can help you identify and prioritize the roles you need.

    If you identify several gaps, prioritize your staffing plan based on how closely each role aligns with your business objectives, urgency, and potential for cross-training. Remember that hiring is a long-term commitment, even when filling a specific gap. Consider how the new hire will fit within a larger team, even if that team doesn’t exist yet. Do you envision this person eventually leading a team of junior employees? Or will you hire more people for the same role?

    Step 3: Determine your budget and perks of the role

    Doing research on compensation is a must for successful hiring. For some roles at our law firm, like paralegals, we can go on LinkedIn and find a competitive hourly rate. Other roles, like attorneys, have a lot of variation. The State of New York pays about $140 per hour for state attorneys. We knew we wanted to be well above that so the roles are appealing to candidates.

    As a small business, we have to factor in overhead, technology, and other costs associated with processing a case. Small businesses often can’t compete with corporate pay and benefits, but you can attract top candidates in other ways. We pay for continuing education for our attorneys, which can add up to tens of thousands of dollars in program fees. Upskilling opportunities can be a powerful incentive for top-tier candidates. 

    Remote work is also an incentive that can attract top talent. Our attorneys can work on cases on their own schedule using our technology and infrastructure. 

    Step 4: Consider recruitment and flexible staffing

    Would you think that you could hire an attorney on Upwork? Turns out you can! I found an attorney who had been in New York and then moved to Florida. We were looking to hire someone in Florida, so it was a good fit. LinkedIn is also great for hiring. Free and low-cost recruitment tools and platforms like Upwork, LinkedIn, and OnlineJobs | ph can streamline your hiring process. 

    Social media and networking are also incredibly powerful for sourcing and hiring candidates without high recruitment costs. Encourage current employees to recommend candidates or share their positive experiences about the company on platforms like LinkedIn. You’ll attract more qualified applicants by building your company’s reputation as a great workplace. 

    You can also consider hiring roles other than full-time or in-house employees. At The Law Office of Hannon De Palma, we have many contractors, which is great for flexibility and cost-efficiency. My background is in technology, and I’m used to outsourcing. 

    One of our first hires was a virtual assistant, and she’s now our full-time bookkeeper. Contractors can fill various roles, including short-term or seasonal business needs, specialized projects, consulting, or part-time work. 

    Step 5: Screen new hires for the right fit

    Small businesses have to be incredibly conscious of their hires. For us, everything from hiring to onboarding is a demand on resources. And finding the right talent matters even more among small teams since new hires can have an outsized impact on your future staffing needs. 

    Customer experience is an absolute must for small businesses. It doesn’t matter if the role is customer-facing or handles behind-the-scenes operations; in some way, it impacts your customers. I’m the first “barrier” for new hires at our law firm, and I assess how the interviewee participates in the conversation. A green flag is when the person is interested in how we do business and our processes and is open to learning our style of practicing law.

    You should also look for people who can motivate others, support your team, are patient and understanding, and are solution-oriented.

    Step 6: Onboard and retain new hires 

    Many small businesses make mistakes in onboarding because they’re already overwhelmed when they hire. They don’t take the time to get people off to a good start, which is critical for setting the role up for success.

    Tools can help this process. At our law firm, we rely heavily on Trello. You can also consider:

    • Slack for teamwide and 1:1 communication
    • Notion for async project collaboration and internal documentation
    • OpenPhone for shared phone number inboxes and internal tagging
    Internal thread OpenPhone
    OpenPhone’s internal threads can be used to tag teammates on incoming calls and texts.

    You can use documentation around your company’s values and goals to help new hires understand your company’s business objectives and how their role fits into that. You should also check in with new hires regularly and maintain open communication, especially if they work remotely. 

    Step 7: Measure success and adjust your staffing strategy

    When you hire the right people, you want to make sure you’ve met your original needs and your hire is happy in their role. 

    You can use simple, cost-effective metrics to measure the success of your staffing plan, such as sending out employee satisfaction surveys or reviewing retention rates. You should regularly review and adjust your staffing strategy based on feedback and performance data. At certain benchmarks (such as 90 days or six months after hire), have an open conversation with the employee, asking how they feel about the role. 

    You can also measure the employee’s success against your original business goals. Make sure the employee is aware of these expectations and review them regularly. There should be no surprises during check-ins and reviews. After all, their success and your business success are intertwined. 

    Three key takeaways

    Building a team isn’t easy, but finding the right employees is essential for growth.

    1. Hiring should be a strategic decision based on specific business goals. 
    2. Small businesses should consider recruitment platforms like LinkedIn and explore flexible staffing solutions for cost-effective hiring.
    3. Spend time finding the right fit for a role and invest in onboarding to ensure a new hire’s success.

    Ready to start looking for top talent for your team? Discover proven strategies to draw in the best candidates! From refining your job descriptions to optimizing your recruitment process, this post covers everything you need to know: How to Attract Qualified Candidates.

    5/5 - (5 votes)