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When is the right point to hire staff?

When is the right point to hire staff?

As part of my planning for starting up a practice, I was wondering at which point it would be sensible to look into hiring staff? What are the signs? Is there a magic number of clients or revenue or is it something else? Should the first hire be a PA or a book-keeper? All advice is, as ever, gratefully received.


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21st Jun 2010 14:41

Not based on clients or revenue

Unless you are a biggish firm I wouldn't consider a PA.

A bookkeeper is usually needed earlier than an accountant because you can do the accounting.

There's no magic number of clients or revenue - it's more to do with when you are starting to get too busy but try to do it early so that you can spend time on showing staff how you want things done. You may want to start with subcontractors.

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21st Jun 2010 15:01


Agree with Peter -

When you don't have enough time to do the work yourself.When you can afford to pay them - don't forget it's not just wages, but NI, insurance, etc too.

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21st Jun 2010 15:45

Eggs in one basket

This will depend on your cashflow, how fast you want to grow and your personal resource allocation.

I suggest you include in your plan the time you need for practice development and make a commitment to recruit around this.  If you do not make a commitment to x hours a week for practice development you could fall into the trap of not recruiting soon enough and finding all their time has gone in fee earning.

Ensure you take account of how long it takes to get someone up to speed and also the fact that after you take someone on you will need to invest time with management and coaching.

Subcontractors can be an answer and so can part-time employees...don't know about you but I like the idea of two part-time employees rather than one-full time for cover and eggs not being in one basket.

Bob Harper

Portfolio Marketing


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21st Jun 2010 15:50

never too early

I dont actually think you can do it too early, so long as you have enough work to keep your busy, just start with somone a few hours a week and grow it from there. You will be amazed how much time it frees up - so much time you end up tarting about on here instead of doing some work!

Sexist but true, but mums just back to work are ideal in terms of building hours as your practice grows, but see who is about.

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21st Jun 2010 20:06


The answer to your question depends on what you want from the business you are about to start.   Do you want to build a business, a real business in the truest sense of the word, or do you want to build a practice with you the MD? Or do you want to build a lifestyle business where it's just you and one other assisting, be it admin, bookkeeping or accountancy assistance?

Knowing the above will give a clearer picture on your situation and make answering the question easier as its not a 'one size fits all' answer.


Jason Dormer

Seahorse (UK) Ltd - Supporting Accountants and Bookkeepers




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22nd Jun 2010 09:53

Systems first then people
I would recommend that you document all the procedures and systems in your business as it grows, from answering the phone to standard letters for sending accounts to clients, and then when you come to take on your first employee they know what to do, all they need to have is the systems you have created.

I agree with bob that you will need someone to help you when you canno longer devote a day a week to practice development because you have too much work. If I were starting from scratch this is what I would do, always leaving me a day for marketing etc, and increasingthe hours of the team so This can be accomodated. As you grow, you will eventually want to spend around 3 days a week on this sort of activity and delegate the operational work to the team.

My first employee would be someone who can do bookkeeping payroll and admin, to take these les profitable tasks off me. That is of course if youintend to provide these services! You may not have to pay ni on their wages for a year too if the budget is as we expect and you aren't in the south east!

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22nd Jun 2010 17:09

Thank you all for your very sound advice. It really is appreciated.

@Jason - this is not a lifestyle choice for me, I am looking to create a business. In light of this, what would you advise?

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22nd Jun 2010 17:58


If you are looking to start and grow a business, one with standards, systems and processes, a bsuiness that does not depend on you personally then my advice would be as follows (finances permitting):

Start the business and do everything yourself at first.  You will then have practical experience and knowledge of how each part of the business operates, from client inception, admin, operations etc.  Make maximum use of software and technology and create a system that works for you.  Focus on each part of the buisness and decide how you want it to operate and link.  Make a plan and stick to it so that the systems and processes of the business are easily referenced and implemented by all future staff.  Set down in writing your practice minmium standards.

When you have done this, and you have created a system (as far as is practical with an accountancy business) then hire staff and get them to work they way that you want them to.  Do not employ people too experienced who have developed bad habits.  Choose staff that are right for your business and vice versa.

This will free you up to concentrate on strategic work without wasting your time dealing with HMRC, answering the 'phone,  admin and operations work - that is the role of staff.

If you want to create a business then you have no place doing day to day accounts and tax work, your role is to develop the buisness, to get the work (the right clients at the right price) and strategic dutes,  with your staff reporting to you on operations.

If finances do not permit then get in part time or subcontract help as a short term measure but as soon as prcatically possible you should get someone in who is capable of performing the services you offer, without your constant supervision, and get someone in to do the admin, you should only need part time help in this respect at first.

In my opnion, and this is opinion only - others with a more cautious approach will certainly disagree, you should recruit as soon as you possibly can, even if you haven't suffciient work to warrant it.  You need the foundations in place from the start, and that includes staff.

For every moment that you are working in your business, you are not working on it.

Of course all the above depends on your capital, your revenue,  other sources of income, your attitude to risk, your determination to succeed etc.  Not to mention what you want to do - you may be perfectly happy creating a £60k business with help as an when you need it.  Plenty of people do this which allows them a happy and stress free living.

Good luck with it all - there will be highs and lows, don't get too down during the low points and don't get too carried away when it's all good!

 Jason Dormer

Seahorse (UK) Ltd - Supporting Accountants and Bookkeepers





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