Human Resources: Managing Employee-Entrepreneur Relationships
Paola is the founder and owner of SUGARMOON, a sugaring business with three salons, take-home sugaring and organic body care lines, and the SUGARMOON training academy. In this instalment of her Women of Influence web series, The Truth About Entrepreneurship: My Life on the Moon, she shares her experience and advice on investing time and getting help with Human Resources.
By Paola Girotti
I spent ten years trying to do it all at SUGARMOON before I had to acknowledge my limits. Even though I could do each job individually—from sugaring services for clients to bookkeeping—I just didn’t have the bandwidth to do all these jobs together, and certainly not to the best of my ability.
Take human resources, for example: in the decade that I spent doing everything, I learned that dealing with employee recruitment and management are full-time jobs in the beauty industry (and likely in your industry, too).
Learning the Hard Way
Like many entrepreneurs, I experienced struggles with hiring and maintaining staff. Although many of our employees were young and eager, they were only willing to commit to a job until the next best thing came along. As a result, I found it was a full-time job to vet resumes, make preliminary phone calls, conduct interviews, and then repeat the process a few months later. I was burning out as I spent an immense amount of time recruiting and hiring suitable employees.
And the hiring process was only part of the job. Managing employees takes an enormous amount of time; they have needs, and want to be heard, and deserve a voice. Although I sought to provide that, I also struggled to manage employees while remaining professional and avoiding personalizing our relationships. I remember very clearly getting calls and emails in the middle of the night from my staff, warning me they would be unable to make it to their 11 o’clock shift the next morning. This often was, and still is, a normal occurrence (it amazes me the amount of sick time that people require!).
Approximately 11 years after starting SUGARMOON, I realized that I could no longer handle having these types of interactions with my colleagues. As the owner, I was unable to keep it professional—I was making it personal and getting overwhelmed with frustration. I needed to set clear boundaries and create established processes and procedures to keep my company thriving—and my life from being consumed by my business.
When I knew it was time, we successfully hired our first HR manager. She instantly gave us more credibility, and even more importantly, she provided stability to the management team and our employees. There was also a shift which at times was frustrating: where the employees used to have a straight line of communication to me, we had now set up a boundary.
We created employee manuals outlining our policies, and further strengthened our employee model to offer an RRSP plan, private health care funding, and bonus structures in addition to a quality-of-life option (that we are closed on Sundays). Ideally, we’ll go one step further to figure out how to work together as shareholders.
In this notoriously low-paying industry, employee care like that is hard to find. But it is part of the SUGARMOON brand. I want to protect my own work-life balance, and I also recognize the importance of that balance for my employees (and our clientele).
If I can offer any advice for entrepreneurs struggling with their own human resource issues, it’s the following:
- Understand that employees will come and go—the Millennial generation is looking for more at all times. Loyalty is fleeting and not something you can rely on in business.
- Don’t try to do everything; when the time is right, hire an HR manager.
- Look at your offering, compare it to your competitors, and then strengthen your employee model.
- Protect yourself, your employees, and your business by understanding and implementing employment law.
During her fourteen years as the owner of SUGARMOON, Paola has experienced both the triumphs and the trials of being a female entrepreneur. In her Women of Influence web series, The Truth About Entrepreneurship: My Life on the Moon, she’s sharing stories and lessons from her journey as a business founder and owner. From financing, to expanding, to balancing motherhood, Paola offers a candid view and valuable insights for aspiring and fellow entrepreneurs.