"We're glad you're here," your boss said with a warm smile and an armful of employee handbooks, policies and forms. With that, and a quick tour of the office, you became a dutiful member of Company XYZ.
Sound familiar? If you've ever worked for someone else, your first day on the job probably proceeded much in the same way. Other than the requisite computer problems, the transition was smooth.
But now that you're the boss, the responsibility of providing new hires with a seemingly smooth welcome - and a regular paycheck - falls in your lap. Knowing when it's time to hire your first worker is just as important as understanding employment legalities such as worker's compensation requirements.
It will also be up to you to answer all your new hire's questions. Even the simple ones, such as, "Um, boss, where's the bathroom?"
"You'd be surprised at how often business owners forget about the physical issues," said Donald Rogers, professor of management and international business at Rollins College. "What seemed like plenty of space for the owner might not be enough when an employee is added. Other owners might forget to designate the employee entrance or bathroom. These sorts of issues should be decided before employees are hired."
Knowing when to hire your first employee is the initial step. Generally speaking, it may be time to hire help when your workload has become unmanageable or unrealistic, or when you are in need of specific skills that you don't possess. For instance, designing and managing a Web site might require technological experience that you don't have.
Mr. Rogers, who is also director of the graduate program in human resources, cautions business owners not to jump too quickly into the hiring game. In addition to consulting your professional advisers, such as an attorney, accountant and insurance agent, be sure to weigh all your hiring options.
Determine if the workload can be fulfilled by hiring an independent subcontractor, he said, though not all industries, such as retail, can go this route. Another option might be to hire a temporary employee by using the services of a placement agency.
"This removes a lot of the risk to the owner," Mr. Rogers said. "And it will help determine if an additional employee can generate profit and is truly needed."
For some businesses, the future of the company depends as much on the quality of the workers as it does on the owner's abilities. For that reason, hiring that one employee - the first of more to come - is a big step.
Maria Martinez, president of Superior Building Services in Orlando, Fla., runs a corporate janitorial company. The firm over time has become a big-space cleaning-services business, compared with one that handles small offices.