The Great Recession may have started in early 2008, but its claws still grip American businesses as our country and economy experience seismic, fundamental shifts into a new economy.
One perennial concern for independent business owners is how to hire talent on a budget. How can you find the right people at the right price to meet your goals? How can you minimize your risk? How can you ensure the people you hire are happy, loyal, and productive?
Full-time, physical staffing is not your only option. Let's look at four strategies that might be right for your business:
Virtual Assistants (VAs)
Virtual assistants offer a wealth of services on an as-needed basis, from social media management to Web design to administrative duties. These tasks are important to most businesses, and being able to hire them on an as-needed basis is excellent for budgeting purposes.
There are two distinct downsides, however. The first is that if you hire a popular and competent person like Crystal Berg, my go-to virtual assistant, she may be too booked to help you immediately (because she is assisting me!). Of course, you could hire a virtual assistant through a larger staffing company. The downside here is that you may be shuffled between available VAs in that company instead of building a relationship, and working exclusively, with one VA.
1099 and Proteans
Subcontractors come in two flavors: 1099ers and "Proteans." The former are well-known -- you hire a person for a specific project, and at the end of the year you submit a 1099 tax form to the IRS.
The latter, "Proteans," are single-person corporations. Author Michael S. Malone proposed the Protean format in the book The Future Arrived Yesterday: The Rise of the Protean Corporation and What It Means for You. Proteans were recently featured in The Wall Street Journal as a way to circumvent adherence to the Affordable Care Act, for example.
This is because technically Protean workers functioning as their own businesses are responsible for their own health care, retirement savings, and other traditional benefits. They have no affiliation with your company outside services rendered.
Both types of subcontractors allow you to augment your business on an as-needed, skill-specific basis. There may be tax advantages to individuals who form their own companies versus provide services to your company as individuals. The downside and upside are, again, the same: a temporary, as-needed relationship. You manage contracts, not employees.
Outsourcing Companies (e.g., Talent Agencies)
If you have a specific, highly specialized need -- such as computer programming or engineering -- outsourcing from a talent agency is one-stop-shopping.
One plus is that you can contract for lengthy periods of time under a "work-for-hire" arrangement. The worker remains the employee of the agency, and you retain ownership of intellectual work. The downside is that these professionals can be very costly, even considering the savings of not being full-time hires of your company.
Additionally, like in any other industry, the highest wages and most frequent bookings move to those with the greatest skill. Your select candidate may not be available on short notice.
Your Greatest Fans
Finally, a grossly overlooked category of potential hires can be found amongst your customers and fan base. An advantage here is that these people are already familiar with your brand. This may make it easier to incorporate them into your company culture.
Hiring from amongst qualified fans and customers makes finding the right person much easier than hiring off the street. This is yet another benefit of customer-appreciation marketing; you may feel like you're giving away product coupons or discounts as a thank you, but in reality you're also sending a signal about the type of employer you are. Another bonus? People who already support your business and believe in it are more likely to trade some perks for a chance to work for a company they respect. Emphasize their ability to make a contribution to your business, and you could pick up talent at a significant discount.
Photo: Flickr user Victor1558