Okay – here is a radical business strategy for entrepreneurs that some of you won’t like – and that is that you should not employ anyone. Please, if you disagree, please don’t switch off but take a moment to think about the argument… you can always respond below…
Work with people on a freelance and contractual basis – yes, absolutely, you simply must. You can even have an office or a factory if you must, but never sign a standard UK or European employment contract.
(I accept that employment law in the US is a lot simpler and so this does not apply to the same degree, but employment law is bad in the UK and terrible in continental Europe for the entrepreneurial business).
Here’s how to start. Find a Human Resources training company’s website and look at all the training you’ll need to go through to be allowed to hire people. Here are three I selected from the UK
- Employment law, discrimination, grievance, discipline, dismisal, data protection, maternity, paternity rights
- Conducting disciplinary investigations, guides to contract law, workplace stress, unions, guides to managing redundancies
- Employment law insurance – for when you really mess it up…
Now, let’s compare all this to something we all know about – qualifying to drive a car. Well, in comparison if you thought getting a licence to drive a car was tough, this is 10 times harder and takes 10 time longer to master.
Of course hiring people is different from driving – you are allowed to do it before you pass the exam – but you’ll be sued and screwed if you don’t know and follow the letter of the law. So read through the websites above, the message is clear enough. Either you need to perfect employment law – all aspects, you never know when you’ll need it, or you need to find another way.
And, the worst of it is that the more successful you are then the more people you hire, the more work you need to do to comply with legislation. In other words, as you get bigger, so the burden becomes greater and employment law becomes stricter.
Okay, you might say, I’m in the UK and once my business gets to 50 staff, I’ll just hire an HR (Human Resources) person, won’t I?
Sounds good, but has two problems.
But ask yourself, why should you do this? This is an entirely bureaucratic role required simply because you are a growing company. It will attack your profitability weakening your company.
Hiring an HR person will also create an extra layer between you and your revenue producing team and confusion between your managers and the HR person about who is responsible for employee performance. This is truely dangerous.
Recall that in nearly all start-ups and fast growth businesses the employee costs will be the largest component and will probably make up 80% of your costs and be responsible for 100% of your revenue.
If your managers are going to be responsible for the costs of their division, then they must be responsible for the staffing costs – including the time and monetary costs of any disputes. This can not shift to a central HR person, otherwise you’ll find the the HR person is actually running the business, which is your job or your Managing Director’s job.
Okay, I’ll make it simple for you – follow this link to see employment law training and note the headline quote that:
“100,000 employment tribunals in the UK each year, costing British business more than £250 million”
So, not only do traditional businesses using traditional employment need to hire a full time HR employee – who will deliver no benefit, but you also now face the risk of time consuming tribunals that could result in loss of time and more cash.
Of course, an HR person will be brought in to develop your staff, but hey, this happens when you get to 50 staff and have a successful business. How is it we are sold the idea that the HR person now adds value? Instead your aim should be to stop corporate and legalistic rot setting into your business.
So, you have the costs of the HR person. You have the cost of the tribunals or at least defending yourself and you have the distraction from the goals of the business. If you must go down the employment route then I would recommend that you put aside an additional 10% of employee costs to meet this extra drain on your time and money.
However, how much better would it be if your managers had to learn to live with large pools of freelancers and contractors who could walk out at any moment? They’d become great people managers right? And isn’t that what you want?
If you follow this business strategy then throughout your business growth, your managers would have learned to deal with staff being available and staff not being available. Staff who didn’t want to work for them anymore would just walk, and you would immediately know there was a problem with your manager because there would be a staff shortage.
Also, your managers will have to develop large networks of talented and motivated people they could call upon in an emergence. Many of those people will have developed new skills by working elsewhere which they can regularly bring back to your company (and the best part is that you didn’t pay for the training course, nor the days out of the office to take the course, nor the manager to set up and purchase the course!).
In this scenario, where is the problem now? We don’t need an HR person to ‘develop’ our staff – our managers have demonstrated an ability to do this and our ‘staff’ are actually freelancers and contractors who have an utterly different approach to work – they need to make each project work in order to get the referral for the next piece of work or contract or project. And, usually, they are improving and upgrading their skills on their own time under their own motivation.
If your managers can not develop and keep your staff, and by that I mean freelance and contracting teams, then they have no place acting or being paid as managers of staff.
If HR managers are so good at developing staff as is often claimed, then they should be hired as managers (on a contract) with a revenue or p&l responsibility and given the task of building and holding together a team whilst delivering good profit to the original shareholders and investors.
If the HR managers can not do this, then they have no place in an entrepreneurial growing business and that means you need to develop a different culture – one based on personal motivation and the freelance and contracting concepts.
You need your business managers to grow up in this freelance and contracting climate so that they can cope when the business grows strongly.
You do not, I promise you, want to trade your role as an entrepreneur to become an HR expert. You are an entrepreneur, nothing will kill your entrepreneurial spirit faster than the dead hand of employment law and the endless tribunals that they entail.
Please, if you are a true entrepreneur and dedicated to a life of discovery and adventure – carried out in the business world – then value your freedom and don’t build a traditional business based on the screwed up incentives of the employment contract. If you can avoid this horror trap, you will go a long way to keep the spirit of enterprise alive in your business and what is more, you’ll encourage like-minded people to work with you who also share that spirit.
Give up on the excitement of the enterprise and you will chase away all your best people and nothing will achieve this faster than traditional employment contracts.
Now why on earth would you want to do that?
Please note, as an entrepreneur I find that diversity of my teams in terms of age, race, religion, disability, criminal record or sexual orientation, is no hinderance to performance. In fact, often your best people may well be people who have suffered some form of discrimination and those who have life handing to them on a plate are lazier.
And if you focus your business on performance then you will allow people to prove themselves based on what they can deliver and not what they look or sound like or how they move. So my recommendation is in no way to avoid the intention of employment law, but is has every intention of avoiding the spirit destroying effects of employment law on an entrepreneurial business.