Of course, every small business is unique in its size and needs. But how many employees does a small business have? To get an idea, we asked Hello Alice owners to share about their specific team sizes, considerations in hiring, and tips for scaling. Here’s what they each had to say on the following topics.
How many employees did your small business have when you started?
Of the three small businesses we talked to, the number of employees at launch greatly varied with responses ranging from two employees to sixty two.
Diamond Brown of Diamond’s Body Care started with just herself and two freelance social media managers. At the time, she had formulated her bourgeoning skincare line herself from home to soothe her husband’s sensitive skin during his chemotherapy treatments.
Meanwhile, Jaja Chen and her husband started their bubble tea shop Cha Community as a pop-up at the local farmer’s market in Waco, Texas. To get started, they recruited five friends to work as contractors before investing in a mobile truck and hiring their first general manager and further expanding the business from there.
By contrast, Russell Jackson started with sixty two employees at Harlem-based restaurant Reverence. If that sounds intimidating, know that Russell is an experienced restauranteur. In fact, Reverence is his 7th establishment so he had ample experience to manage a bigger team.
How many employees does your small business have now?
Being several years into their small business, some small business owners chose to scale their teams while others preferred to maintain the same number of employees.
Diamond Brown has opted to maintain a small and efficient team. These day she works with a production assistant and a social media manager. The production assistant works in the lab. “Her duties include labeling bottles, blending products, inventory, and shipping orders,” Diamond explains. Meanwhile, her social media manager also works on brand strategy for growth.
On their part, Cha Community has grown to include a team of twenty four employees total over the past three years. After investing in a mobile truck they went on to build out storefronts and expand with a food concept pop-up. Jaja’s husband Devin works as the CEO while Jaja acts as Chief of Strategic Initiatives & Business Partnerships.
Their team also includes a six person leadership team including:
- Brand Manager
- Operations Manager
- Store Managers
- Food Production Manager
- Special Events & Catering Coordinator
Additionally, they have sixteen team members who work as:
- Shift Leads
- Food Team Members
- Cha-ristas (their term for baristas)
Last but not least, Reverance has maintained the same size staff while scaling their operations based on the business needs.
Advice on Hiring
When it comes to hiring, Diamond cautions to look beyond a first impression. “A person can interview well and have a nice resume,” she says, but this may not reflect the whole picture. For this reason, you may consider checking references and in-depth interview questions when screening potential employees.
Jaja suggests working through your mission and values early on to factor into the hiring process. “For example, our mission is to bridge cultures and create community through premium boba and handcrafted dumplings,” she says. So when they look for team members, it’s not just for people with previous restaurant experience but those who are eager to work on a team and are passionate about diverse cultures.
Also, be sure to onboard new employees with care.
“The main lesson I’ve learned is you have to make sure your employee is trained properly,” Diamond shares. After all, everyone learns at a difference pace, she reasons. It’s also important to not just verbally affirm tasks, but to check in on their actions. “Test their skills and shadow them,” she recommends.
Similarly, “take your time,” Russell advises when it comes to onboarding. “Train honestly, deeply and transparently.”
Finally, Diamond encourages entrepreneurs to provide specific rules and processes in an employee handbook.
(For a complete guide to hiring employees for small businesses, check out these helpful guides.)
Managing a Team
As Jaja’s headcount has grown, she and her husband have learned to delegate. “We have had to move from doing everything on our own initially to delegating roles and tasks to managers,” she says. “This has been exciting but also initially nerve-wrecking.” However, it’s been an important transition that allows her to focus on strategic planning and leadership. Ultimately, she says, it has brought her joy to see the business scale and employees flourishing in new responsibilities.
Also, don’t forget to be intentional about team building. “Working in a healthy work culture and environment is something people all want to find,” Jaja says. “The time and energy you invest in your people is so worth it in the long haul.” To that end, she recommends hosting gatherings regularly or simply even recognizing birthdays.
Finally, remember that leading also means learning from your employees. “Be open to criticism and learn from your mistakes quickly,” Russell advises. “Be humble. And be willing to always work harder faster longer than anyone else.”