You've hit that significant mark in your business where you realize that you can't do it alone and are considering hiring your first employee. Maybe you need an assistant who can take on the burden of administrative tasks, or an additional trainer who can take on your growing clientele. You might be looking for another professional to complement your services or maybe it's a strategic business move so you can focus the majority of your time working on growth or other ventures.

It's a big jump because now you’ll be taking on the role of manager and leader; there are new costs involved; you'll need to commit time and energy on training; and above all (and perhaps the most challenging), dealing with the trust factor of someone new in your business.

In my next several Training Wheels columns, I'll outline a few strategies that have worked for me when it comes to hiring (and what hasn't) and feel free to share any of your experience, feedback or questions.

Here are three first steps to consider before actively seeking out a new hire:

Step 1: Determine what employee status is appropriate for the position
Once you determine what position you need to fill, the first professional you should likely turn to is your accountant. He/she should be able to give you the parameters of whether you should bring this person on as a W2 employee status or as a 1099 contractor. Both employee statuses have very different requirements and implications and it's important to determine this before moving on in the hiring process. 

Step 2: Determine how much you can budget for the position.
Since fitness is primarily a service industry, I follow a general goal budget of 25-30% of my gross revenue for payroll. It may be higher depending on the structure of your business and the position; for example, consider that personal training sessions are generally split where the trainer earns the higher end of the revenue split (i.e. 70%-trainer/30%-gym/owner). Also be sure to consider that your total payroll costs are not just the amount of take home pay, but includes any bonuses, other benefits, uniforms, trainings and seminars, meals as well as mandatory costs associated with payroll such as federal, state and local taxes, disability insurance and worker's compensation. A good accountant can help you figure out these numbers along with revenue projections so you can make the best decisions of how to hire at what rate and what additional revenue, if necessary, is required to pay for the position. 

Step 3: Outline the expectations of the job (not simply a job description)
Finding candidates with the right skills may actually be the easy part; finding candidates who possess important intangible characteristics is the key to a quality hire. Create a list of expectations that are important to you and communicate them clearly from the beginning: for example, honesty, integrity, communication, empathy, ability to prioritize, etc. By setting a standard of expectations from the get-go you set a tone of leadership that you don’t hire, evaluate and possibly even fire simply based on skills alone. Skills are teachable, the intangibles are not.

Consider these three steps your first actions before moving on to seeking out candidates. A business coach once told me to "hire slow, fire fast." Make sure you’re hiring the right person, not just the first person you find for the sake of filling the position – it will save you money and energy in the long run.

In my upcoming columns, I'll focus on how to find and attract the right candidates, how to interview effectively and explore creative compensation options.