#b#The January 12 presentation of the following event has been rescheduled for Wednesday, January 26. The January 18 presentation is still valid.#/b#

It is often said that most job openings are filled by friends or relatives of the boss or employees. But does that friend or relative really have the right skills you need as an employer?

It is particularly important for a small business that each person hired enhances the business, says #b#Carl Muehleisen#/b#. Whether you are hiring your first, second, or 100th employee, there are specific steps you can take to make sure that you hire the right person.

Muehleisen, a human resources expert and founder of True North Dynamics, an HR consulting company located in Ewing, will discuss the steps every employer should take before beginning the search for the right employee on Wednesday, January 12, at 1 p.m. at Camillo’s Cafe in the Princeton Shopping Center. The free seminar will be repeated on Tuesday, January 18, at noon at Val de Benito’s on Main Street in Somerville. Call Lorette Pruden at 908-359-4787 or lpruden@teamnimbus.com.

Muehleisen opened True North Dynamics about six years ago after many years as a personnel officer with the HR department of the Mercer County Board of Social Services. He received his bachelor’s in English from Trenton State College (now the College of New Jersey) and earned his master’s in education from Trenton State in 1979. He is active in the International Public Management Association for Human Resources, where he has been a board member and president of the New Jersey chapter, as well as the Princeton chapter of the Human Resources Management Association.

“The mission at True North is ‘making work work,’” says Muehleisen. ‘We design workforce development and retention strategies for small businesses, not-for-profit, and public sector agencies.” The company develops workshops for managers and employees promoting the best in employee and labor relations practice.

#b#Plan before you hire#/b#. Many small business owners have never hired an employee, says Muehleisen. In fact, they often start their business as a one-person firm and don’t really plan to add an employee until they reach “crunch time” and find they just can’t do it all anymore.

This is the point at which they reach out to friends and relatives and often hire the first person available without really thinking if that person has the skills needed to truly help them.

“Remember that your employees are often the first contact your customers have with your business. Before you hire ask yourself how you want your company to be represented, how they will work to extend your brand,” says Muehleisen.

He doesn’t use the word “brand” only in terms of a recognizable logo. Instead, he sees a small business’s brand as the overall impression the customer has of the business. “Is it friendly? Is it reliable? Do you know, like, and trust it? This is what I mean by brand,” he says.

#b#Identify core competencies#/b#. Before hiring, Muehleisen suggests the business owner spend some time thinking about all of the tasks he does throughout the business cycle. “Every business has daily tasks, weekly or monthly tasks, and seasonal tasks,” he says.

For some businesses, such as agriculture, landscaping and gardening, or even a gift shop, tasks may vary greatly from season to season. For others, it may be as simple as the preparation needed for tax time.

Sit down and write out all of the tasks you, as the business owner, perform. It might be helpful to keep a chart for a week or so, Muehleisen suggests. Once you have developed the list, categorize into groups: tasks you must do yourself, and tasks that you can delegate.

Accounting, Muelheisen says, is one of the first items many business owners delegate, but other areas could be sales, marketing, customer service, or any other task specific to the business. “Think about your core competencies — the things that you alone must do to make your business successful,” says Muehleisen. “Then decide which tasks distract you from those core essentials. Those are the things that you need to delegate.”

#b#Developing your workforce#/b#. For many small business owners, the first step in expanding the workforce is not through hiring an employee, but instead by hiring a freelance person or another business to handle some of those tasks. For example, a business owner may find that instead of hiring a fulltime bookkeeper, he can hire a bookkeeping service that looks over the accounts once or twice a month. A web site designer might hire another designer or a graphic artist as a freelance employee to assist with a particularly complex job. These are both legitimate ways to grow a business without actually hiring an employee, he says.

Of course, the time-stressed business owner may see that he really needs several employees, when he can only afford one. “Prioritize,” says Muehleisen. “Decide where you need help the most and find the person who can best fill that need.”

#b#Complying with the law#/b#. To make sure that payroll, unemployment insurance, and other issues are handled properly, Muehleisen suggests contacting a payroll company and considering outsourcing these tasks. Otherwise, he says, you may find yourself in the position of spending as much time handling the business of having an employee as you did handling the tasks the employee was hired to do.

Learning to be a boss. Being a boss is a different skill from being a business owner, Muehleisen says. It takes practice to learn.

“The old command-and-control style is on the wane,” he says. “Today a boss needs to engage his employees by gaining their trust and getting to know them. If you model an open communicative style to your employees, they in turn will show that to your customers — and that will grow your business.”

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