King knew that growing her business would require a financial investment on her part as well. To hire a senior professional who wouldn’t require the majority of her time in training, she’d have to pay senior-level salaries. Having employees also meant moving the business out of her home and into an office, which represented additional expense.
But as a solo entrepreneur, King’s says her biggest concern was, and continues to be, maintaining the quality, reputation and relationships she had established. “When you start a consulting firm on your own, your clients are hiring you. Any new people you bring on must offer the same quality and be as dedicated to doing a good job as you are. That’s really hard to find,” she says.
Ultimately, King took the plunge to hire someone. She was relying on help from freelancers at the time and doing a lot of the extra work herself, so she was confident she had enough work to support a full-time employee by moving work from the freelancers and lessening her own load. “However, it’s an ongoing challenge with growing a consulting business,” she says. “You are never going to have enough work just sitting around for an entire new full-time position because you would never sleep. You have to pull the trigger on hiring just when the extra work gets too much for yourself or your current team and you’re confident you’ll get more work to fill up the new person’s plate.”
Today, King’s business is booming. She employs two full-time professionals, plans to hire a third full-timer soon and continues to work with several freelancers for additional support.
Making the shift from a self-employed service provider has been significant, just as she thought. “There is an entire new set of skills needed: human resources, financial, legal and more,” King says. “And by far, HR is the most difficult, especially finding and retaining high-quality people. When you get extremely busy, it’s tempting to hire quickly and not take the time to ensure it’s the right fit. But I’ve learned not to do that; recruiting is the single most important thing I do now.”
While King still undertakes a lot of client service work, she does spend much of her time reviewing others’ work. As important as anything else she does is her effort to “create a work environment that [her employees] really enjoy and that will continue to motivate them,” she says. “I am trying to learn how to better coordinate and manage workloads, budgets and timelines for the entire agency; it’s much easier to do when it’s just you doing the work. The more people you add, the more complexity you add.”
Although adding employees has made her work more complex, King has realized that creating a great place to work has become part of her business goal. “I don’t have a specific growth goal in mind,” she says, though she has doubled her revenue each year as she has added employees. “Overall, I want to create a business staffed with smart, interesting and likeable people, do work that is stimulating and fulfilling, have control over my day-to-day life and give my employees the same control — and make some money in the process.”