Start-up Series: Taking on Your First Employees


One of the biggest steps on the path to growth for new businesses is taking on your first employee.

It takes a great deal of trust and you may have to be prepared for employees being less passionate than you in your new venture. You may think nothing of staying up until the early hours to finalise a proposal to a potential new customer, but for many employees that is likely to be an extra level of commitment.

Taking on your first employees can be an exciting but challenging step to growing your business and it comes with a number of important considerations. Fiona Sinclair, HR Consultant at Darwin Gray shares some top tips to help you get the best out of your employees and make the working relationship as productive, rewarding and mutually beneficial as possible:

  1. Decide on what assistance you need – it is easy to fall into the trap of recruiting someone you know and like, perhaps a family member or person you have worked with in the past, then make the job fit the person. Instead be clear on what you need – casual or permanent? full-time or part-time? fixed or flexible hours? with specific skills and experience or someone ‘green’ that is keen to turn their hand to anything? – then look for a person to fit the job.
  2. Issue a contract of employment – this is the most important legal document from an employment perspective as it clarifies the key terms and conditions between employer and employee. It is a legal requirement from day 1 of employment and a well-drafted document can save many headaches and disputes. Get it drafted properly to suit your needs – is intellectual property important to you? What about restrictive covenants when the employment relationship ends? No matter how well you know your new recruit, you will no doubt be thankful that you have agreed in writing how the employment relationship will work.
  3. Setting expectations – aside from the legal employment terms, it is important that there is common understanding of what you expect the employee to achieve and the standards to which they should work. A job description and performance targets / outcomes are often welcomed by employees as they give direction and focus. They don’t have to be set in stone and can flex as your business grows and develops, but it is wise to have this defined. If you prepared a job description before recruiting your first employee then go through it with them to make sure they understand what is expected of them.
  4. Training – in order to excel, employees need to have the skills to do their job properly. You may not have a training budget but that does not mean you cannot offer training and development.  That could involve online learning, peer support groups, mentoring from you, shadowing you or simply time and experience in the job.
  5. Giving regular feedback – your employees are not mind-readers and it is important to give regular feedback on how they are performing. Give detailed and specific praise to make it meaningful – say what they did and why it was good, but don’t shy away from raising issues and concerns. Nipping things in the bud will be more beneficial for your business and your working relationship.
  6. Progression – some people will be keen to progress, others are happy to just do a good job then go home. It is important for you to understand what motivates your employee, and if they want to grow and develop, be clear and realistic on what you can offer and when.
  7. Be fair, reasonable and consistent – employment law is a minefield and employers need to be mindful of legislation covering harassment, bullying, discrimination, working time restrictions, pay rates, health and safety and more. That said, employees who feel they are treated fairly, reasonably and consistently – whether you have a handbook full of written policies or not – are unlikely to have concerns in these areas.

Setting up your own business can be daunting, especially when the time comes to out your trust in someone else and share some responsibilities, but it doesn’t have to be a leap of faith. Following the tips above will put you and your business in a strong position to grow.

If you would like more details on any of the above, please get in touch with Fiona at [email protected] or contact the Employment & HR team:


Darwin Gray is a commercial law firm based in Cardiff. We are proud of our reputation for using a practical and solution-focused approach when helping our clients.

We have a strong team ethic, putting approachability, consistency and quality at the heart of everything we do. Your business will always be at the forefront of our minds, whilst ensuring you also receive excellent value for money.

We specialise in a number of commercial areas, including:
– Commercial Property
– Franchising
– Corporate and Commercial
– Employment and HR
– Intellectual Property
– Social Housing
– Data and Data Protection
– Dispute Resolution
– Insolvency
– Construction

Our work reflects our values; we are genuinely friendly people who are approachable and accessible to our clients. The Darwin Gray approach is thorough and careful, but we are also known for reacting quickly when it matters and providing creative solutions to whatever challenge our clients are facing, drawing on our rich and varied experience.

We endeavour to prevent problems as well as solve them, and would love to get to know you and your business.


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