How to Build a Team for Your Small Business on a Budget

  • Building a team can help small business owners grow financially and creatively.
  • But it can also be expensive to hire and retain full-time employees.
  • Two founders share how to scale their team responsibly and pay workers what they’re worth.
  • This article is part of Talent Insider, a series containing expert advice to help small business owners tackle a variety of hiring challenges.

For entrepreneurs, building a team can be an exciting step in growing a business.

For Kimiko Avilez, founder of corporate events and travel companies Glow Event Management Co. and Glow Travel Group, building a team was necessary to the success of her business.

“I realized that to be successful and do what I do, you need a team,” he said.

Yet Avilez, whose business has been impacted by COVID-19 restrictions, is among many founders today who don’t have huge hiring budgets. So offering internship opportunities with the potential for future work has allowed Avilez to build on a budget, he said.

Avilez and Caroline Constas, who founded a clothing line of the same name, recently spoke on a panel for minority and women-owned businesses about developing gear you can afford. Here are his tips for building a strong team sustainably.

Subcontracted workers for specific events

Internships are a great way for founders to test the waters with new employees without increasing costs to the business. Some interns work for school credit rather than financial compensation, while others work hourly without health insurance, benefits and other expenses that come with wages. But there will be times when internships end but you want to keep workers as team members, Avilez said.

In these cases, she gets creative with her next steps. His business hosts corporate events and group travel experiences, which means that certain days require extra hands. Avilez hires her former interns as contract employees for one-off events or projects if she can’t hire them full-time, she said.

“Outsourcing them has been a way for me to pivot and retain,” Avilez said.

Find creative ways to support workers

While Avilez pays his employees by the hour, he also finds additional financial avenues to support them. One way it does this is to automatically include the tip in every customer contract so your workers can earn tips.

“There is an essential minimum that they have to pay tips to the people who work for me because I know the effort and time they dedicate,” Avilez said. “That’s how I’ve been able to take advantage of that gap.”

She suggests that other founders find similar ways to pay their workers without creating their own line items.

Scale at a responsible pace

While additional employees can support an expanding business, it’s important not to rely on potential growth for employee pay. “It’s very important to climb at the right pace,” said Constas.

For example, if Constas knows someone she wants to work with but can’t afford to hire that person full time, she will try to find other employment options.

“Anytime I meet someone who I think is very talented but I can’t hire them full time, maybe we can do two hours a week, maybe we can do four,” he said.

Regularly including them in the company’s work ensures they are incentivized and still bring their ideas and skills to the table, he said. Also, there is hope that it could become a full-time position in the future.

“It’s happened to me many times when I meet someone, they start out as freelancers and are now full-time employees,” he said.

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