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  • Jessica Shields

5 Things to Look for in your First Employee

Alicia had worked with me as a brand ambassador for a little over a year before I met her in person. I was 7 months pregnant, at an activation in southern California where she was leading a team of about 20 people…and killing it! A few months later, I asked Alicia to be CEO, making her my first full-time employee.

Alicia representing SPIbelt as a brand ambassador 2014

Fast forward 4.5 years. Alicia has been pouring her heart and soul into Health and Fitness Activations since I handed over the keys. She ensures our clients and our team members love working with us. Read our Facebook reviews; Alicia is mentioned by name in most of them.

I find myself so “lucky” to have found Alicia. She loves my business like it is her own. But it wasn’t all by chance. I count myself blessed to have learned from my mother, and others who have coached me along the way, how to spot raw talent.

Here are some things to remember when you hire your first (or any) team member:

1. Age is Just a Number

Alicia was 25 when I handed her Health and Fitness Activations. Twenty-five. Think about when you were that age. I know I wouldn’t have been ready to take on a $250k company. But, Alicia had that special something. She sees the world in terms of possibilities and is willing to put in the hard work to get from point A to point B.

2. Grit is Important

The business we run is hard. We manage part-time staff, most in their 20s. They usually have a “real job” or school, in addition to their work as a brand ambassador. In short, we have to remind people every day that the work they do with Health and Fitness is important. It makes a difference! I had to find someone with grit, who could push through the daily grind, and find joy in fulfilling our mission of hand-selecting passionate staff for each client.

3. Don’t Look for Someone too Nice

You need someone that can be kind to your customers, but also stand their ground, especially in your first few hires. As they grow with the company, their tasks will become more and more challenging. A few examples: When do we let a team member go? What is work/life balance in a C-level position? How fast can we grow before outpacing our cash flow? As you can see, these are challenging decisions, and you’ve got to have someone on your team who can put their emotions aside and make the right call for the company.

4. Degree or No Degree?

It doesn’t matter to me. Can they do the job? Will they work their tail off and help us get to the next level? Are they proficient in the systems we use, or can they catch up quickly? Do they have a great attitude? I rarely look at someone’s degree anymore. I’ve found it has very little to do with how well they will perform the position.

Alicia and Jessica at Expo West 2019

5. Find your Dreamer

Odds are the salary you offer your first hire is not going to be what gets them to sign on. They need to share your vision of what could be. Alicia is paid on commission, and has been since day 1. Last year we made the decision to move all of our contractors to W-2s, which cost about $35k. That’s not something you’d do if you’re not in it for the long haul! And to those wondering – this investment worked! We are expected to surpass our 2019 revenue goals by an additional 50 percent!

We are now in the process of making Alicia an official owner, a culmination of the past 5 years she has poured into this company. I’m so glad Alicia has stuck with me this long. My hope for all of you who are looking for your first hire is that you find your “Alicia”.