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How to hire employees for the first time

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Anthony Impey, CEO of productivity non-profit Be the Business, hired his first employee when he was at school.

He’d set up a business making folders for art students, and hired classmates to help assemble the folders, paying them a piece rate per folder.

Since then he’s started, built and operated several businesses in the IT and telecoms sector, including IT services company Optimity, and created two social enterprises for young Londoners.

Among his advisory roles, Anthony chairs the Department for Education’s Apprenticeship Stakeholder Board, the Federation of Small Business’ Big Ideas Group, and is a member of the Department for International Trade’s Digital & Telecoms Expert Trade Advisory Group.

Here, he shares his five top tips on how to hire employees for the first time:

1. Recruit people with high potential

2. Think about what you are not good at

3. Take your time

4. Don’t leave it too late

5. Use technology to help

I have always focused on hiring people with high potential, who you can develop on the job.

Really think about the skills you need. Don’t get distracted by the list of organisations someone has worked for. You want people with the right mindset and attitude who you can invest in with professional development.

That is a great way to build a high performance team.

Equally, hire the very best people that you can afford. Having a great team is really the difference between a successful business and a not so successful business, but it can’t just be a random process of throwing people together.

The principle of building a high performance team applies whether you are a company of 100 or a company of two.

You’ve got to be rounded. You’ve got to understand every aspect of your business.

However, it’s really important to focus on and do what you are really good at, while hiring people for the roles that you’re not so good at.

You wouldn’t expect a track athlete to be an Olympic swimmer as well.

It’s the same in business.

If there is a discipline you ace, become world class in that discipline and when you recruit, recruit for all those activities that you’re either not strong in, or that distract you from your core discipline.


At Sage, we’ve joined forces with Be the Business to help you hire and inspire your new employees like a boss. Check out our series of articles, which will support you along the way:


Building a great team is the most important part of building a business. You have to take time to do that and it can be a long process.

Learn the strengths of the people you are interviewing.

Take them out of the interview process in some way, if you can – I always think interviews can be a bit contrived, so if there is a better way to see the authentic person, do it.

Equally, if you hire someone and it doesn’t work out, bring it to an end quickly. You will always make bad hiring decisions.

If something is not working out, recognise it’s not working out and address it.

In some of the businesses I have set up, I waited until I had way too much work for me to handle on my own before I hired anyone.

There are always doubts about when to hire for the first time, but it is most difficult when you are already overwhelmed.

It’s worked best for me when I have been able to take a bit of time out of the day job to anticipate the needs of the organisation, recognising how it is going to grow and what I need to do to enable that change.

In reality, when you’re running your own business, you are always too busy and up against deadlines. Technology can help.

In the past, HR technology tended only to be available or cost-effective for large companies.

Now there is such a wealth of HR tools and software that you can access even if you are just starting out.

Recruitment is one of the toughest jobs you will do when growing a business.

If you can rely on technology to take away some of the heavy lifting when researching the market, advertising roles, interviewing and assessing, use it.

Be the Business is an independent, not-for profit organisation, with one single goal: to help leaders improve the performance of their business.

For more information, visit the Be the Business website.

A guide to hiring and supporting your first employees

At Sage, we’ve joined forces with Be the Business to help you hire and inspire your new employees like a boss. Check out this guide for top tips to help you along the way.

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