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A Simple Guide to Hiring Your First Employee

July 11, 2024

A woman smiles as she shakes someone's hand across a desk in an office. The woman wears a red-and-white pinstripe collared shirt and has black glasses on. Her long hair is tucked back into a ponytail. She has a pen in hand and a notepad on her desk. Behind her, there is a dark blue shelving unit with books, baskets, and files. We see the hand of the person extending to shake hers; their arm is only visible with a soft focus and they were a long blue dress shirt. There is an illustration of a clipboard outlined in blue against the white wall of the office. The clipboard has a checklist with checkmarks and there are stars around the clipboard.

By Julia Rose

Where are you overwhelmed in your practice? It’s time to delegate that, ASAP.

While it can be rewarding to run your own business, it can also leave you scattered, tired, not to mention hitting an income ceiling.

When doing everything on your own starts to impact your home life and your bottom line, it’s time to make a change. But for you — it’s vital that your first hire is done with thoughtfulness and care.

That’s why I sat down with Nicole McCance. She knows all about taking the first step with intention.

Nicole is spectacular. A (now retired) psychologist, she scaled her practice from solo practitioner to 55 therapists in three years. She’s a mom to twins, a loving partner, and now a business coach to fellow therapists.

Nicole knew she needed to expand her practice at a moment when she had two young kids and too much on her plate. But she didn’t take a step forward for another couple of years. Why not?

“As therapists, we weren’t taught about the business side in graduate school. There are no mentors. Because of that, I didn’t know the first step to take. Plus, I didn’t want to make the wrong choice,” Nicole shares.

Nicole McCance smiles for the camera. She leans against an open doorway. The whole room in front of her and the room behind her are white. She wears a powder blue blazer with a black turtleneck and a silver watch. She has long, dark hair and red lipstick on. Behind Nicole, the room has black and white framed photos and a silver floor lamp with a white lampshade.

Does Nicole’s decision paralysis sound familiar? Wondering how she was able to get unstuck? The short answer: when things get so uncomfortable that we have to change, we change!

Two years after the idea of expansion first came to her, Nicole’s discomfort had grown so much, she had to make a move. “I’m home at 7:00 pm every night, and my poor babies are only up for half an hour with their mom. Finally, I hit the wall. I turned to my husband and said, ‘I’m starting a group practice. I don’t care if I don’t know what I’m doing, I’m doing it.’”

Nicole took the only first step that made sense to her — she hired an intern that could grow with her. But that may not necessarily be your first move.

Her big piece of advice for getting started is simple: let the problem guide you.

Nicole’s problem was that she wanted to grow but didn’t know how. So, she hired someone excited by the idea of “I’m new. You’re new. Let’s figure it out together.”

If you’re unsure of what your first move should be, here are some “Nicole Approved” brainstorm questions:

  • What’s not getting done because I’m just one?
  • What am I saying no to?
  • What do my clients need?

Nicole has so much good advice that we distilled it down into five steps. Here’s how to make your first-hire journey as seamless as possible.

Two people sit at a desk in an office. One man wears a long blue dress shirt and has short dark hair. He holds his hand up as he listens to the person on the other side of the desk speak. His other hand is on top of a white sheet of paper on a black binder. The other person is a silhouette and we can only see behind them. They have short, dark hair.

Step 1: Understand your problem

“What’s not getting done because I’m just one?”

Your practice is unique, so your first hire strategy should be as well. I bet there’s a long list of things you can’t get to because you’re just one. Start by making that list. You might be surprised at what you find.

“What am I saying no to?”

Nicole was operating as the sole therapist in her business, constantly turning away new clients and putting them on a waitlist. If an expanding waitlist isn’t your problem, what are you saying no to? Is it learning new modalities? Getting on top of invoices? Spending more time with your friends and family?

Could you say yes to these things if you had another hand on deck?

If the answer is yes, then it’s time to consider making your first hire.

“What do my clients need?”

Your clients may not be explicit with their feedback — their requests (or gentle complaints) may come in more subtle forms:

  • “Did you get my email?”
  • “Are we confirmed for Friday?”
  • “It’s hard for me to make time for weekday appointments.” “I’m thinking of trying couples therapy.”

Your first hire could be a practitioner who specializes in a different modality than you, or a front desk associate who can handle the admin. Let your clients help you in finding what you need.

Step 2: Determine what you want in an employee

Your first hire should be a version of you.

“People expect you, or at least a flavor of you,” Nicole notes. What do your clients expect from you when they walk through the door? Make a list of the characteristics, qualities, and values they most appreciate in you.

“Your goal is to find someone who maintains your energy, your brand, and your quality of service,” she says. “To learn this during an interview, you have to identify the characteristics you’re looking for and notice when they’re present. It takes practice.”

An over-the-shoulder view of an interviewee looking at their laptop on their desk and waving to an interview candidate on screen. The candidate is smiling. They have short brown hair and a blue dress shirt. The candidate waves to the interviewee. They are in a white office setting with a large window behind them, where there is the top of a tree visible.

Step 3: Screen applicants first, then interview

“Don’t bother wasting hours on Zoom until they’re screened.”

To find someone similar to you, you need to rely on more than your gut.

“Once, I went to an interview having already fallen in love with this woman’s resume,” Nicole explains. “I went in completely biased; the opposite of what you want to do. Then, despite what her energy on the call was telling me, I tried to reverse-engineer her as a good fit. Suffice to say, it didn’t work out.”

Nicole had success screening candidates through The Big Five Personality Test. Perhaps you’re also looking for someone highly conscientious, like Nicole was. She used this tool to identify who met the minimum requirements before inviting them to a Zoom video interview.

Nicole offers another tip, which is a bit more subjective. Ask yourself: overall, are you impressed? The right person should impress you and give you confidence.

“If you leave thinking, ‘Wow. Their references were impressive, they’re the one who will think outside the box.’ That’s the person you want to hire.”

Step 4: Write an attractive job listing

Your job posting is your most important sales tool.

To attract your ideal team member, write the posting to them directly, with their dreams in mind! This is the beauty of copywriting.

Many clinic owners misunderstand this and make the job posting sound like a corporate description, filled with bullet points even the most engaged candidate would yawn at. Don’t forget — this is about your future employee. Tell them why they want to work with you. Corner office with a window? Plants at work? Purpose? The ability to control the playlist? Whatever it is, lead with that and sell them!

A blue infographic with a flame icon in front of the title that reads: "Hot Tip! Check your job posting!" Underneath the title, there is a white Cmd/Ctrl+F box with the word "we" and a 0/2 beside it. The text underneath that box reads: "Cmd/Ctrl+F for the word "We" and compare it to the number of mentions of the word "You." If you find two times more We than You, do some rewriting. Your job posting should be about the person you want to attract, and less about restating your business profile.

Step 5: Be proactive in hiring

Nicole’s tip? Keep your job posting up year-round.

Nicole kept her posting up on Indeed, an online job site, so she could have a bank of resumes to go through whenever she needed to hire. This way, you can keep an eye on high-quality candidates. And who says you can’t meet them, even if you aren’t hiring? It might be a healthy space if you’re both calm and relaxed, rather than feeling the flames of desperation.

Wherever you’re at in your journey, use Nicole’s story of tenacity and growth as inspiration to make a move, even if it’s not “perfect.” Her tips can guide you forward — from stuck and scattered — to imagining new possibilities for your practice and enjoying what you do best.

“As a solo [practitioner] you can only help so many. When you expand, you can help more people. What’s better than that?!”

Want more great advice on all things clinic life? 🙋🏾‍♂️

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