Micro Business Hiring Guide - Jamie Van Cuyk

The Importance of Small Business Team Building with Jamie Van Cuyk

Jamie Van Cuyk is the owner and lead strategist of Growing Your Team. She is a speaker, podcast host, and an expert in hiring and small business team building and people management with small businesses. She inspires people through her work and her podcast which is a must-listen for micro-businesses.

In this episode, Jamie shares how she discovered her love for small business team building and helping small business owners with hiring and managing teams. She explains the processes she takes her client through in making sure they do need to hire and hire the absolute right candidate for their organization.

Listen in to learn the importance of looking at your employees as a return on investment rather than a liability.

I have goals, I have things I want to achieve and being a small business and where I want to go whether it’s one year, five years from now, I want my business to be much bigger than it is now.”

Jamie Van Cuyk

What You Will Learn:

  • Jamie explains how she learned to become a business owner by doing what she loved doing. That is when she found her love for building teams and helping small business owners become good managers. [1:04]
  • How business owners commit their biggest mistakes when hiring by copying others and their lack of knowledge on who to hire. [3:35]
  • Are there lessons to be borrowed from winemaking to apply in hiring? Jamie explains what the two processes have in common. [5:00]
  • How not to look at hiring as expenses but as a return on investment. The common fears she helps her clients work through when hiring. [7:22]
  • Jamie gives tips on how business owners can ensure that they’re inclusive of diversity. Learning to give a level playing field to all candidates without biases based on ethnicity, race, gender, or and religion. [11:35]
  • What is the process she takes her clients to recognize if they need to hire or not? She also tells her clients what they need to look for in a candidate. Three things that must qualify a candidate! [18:44]
  • The onboarding process. How she helps the team member be part of the organization with timed progression. [23:52]
  • The growth she’s seeing for her business in the next 12 months. The importance of looking at the achievements and not just the finish line. [25:46]

What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

Relevant Links:

Episode 3: Jamie Van Cuyk Interview Transcript

Robert: My next guest on the AIDtoNAV podcast is Jamie Van Cuyk. Jamie is the owner and lead strategist of Growing Your Team. She’s a speaker, podcast host, and expert in hiring and building teams, and most importantly, people management with small business. She inspires people through her work and through her podcast, which is a must-listen for micro-businesses.

Welcome back to the AIDtoNAV podcast. Jamie Van Cuyk, how are you doing today?

Jamie: I’m doing well. How are you?

Robert: I’m doing absolutely fantastic. You have taken a focus of moving from your corporate world to helping small and micro-businesses grow their team and particularly focus on hiring and building up that team. Tell me how did that come about?

Jamie: Yeah, so it’s kind of a path that got me there. The short version is I always knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur, but I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. So, I went into corporate saying, I’m going to learn everything I can while working from someone else so I can be better once I figure out what type of business I want to run. So, did that for years went down the management path, because I said, I can hire someone to do everything else in my business. I’m never going to hire someone to run the business, so I need to learn what it means to be a good leader. Finally, I got up the nerve to leave. Corporate started a business with my husband and software development realized I hated it about six months in and said, what can I do? What can I do that’s for me? Because I’ve wanted to be an entrepreneur for years, not just, so I could be my own boss, it was something I was passionate about and here I was miserable every day.

So, it took a while for me to figure out, but I realized I loved helping business owners and having conversations with business owners about how to become better in their business and through everything. I realized that my favorite conversations revolved around building teams and helping business owners become really good managers for the first time in their business. And around that same time, I was identifying that there was a need for that, that most people, when it came to hiring or becoming stronger leaders were talking at corporate level or really big small businesses, not the small businesses that are maybe one person hiring their first team member or those who have very small teams. So, I identified that there was a need there and I said, okay, I love helping people in that area. People want the help, let me jump in and start a business around that.

Robert: So really that solopreneur or the micro-business, they have zero or no experience when it comes to hiring. Correct?

Jamie: Exactly. Yeah. Most people start their own business have never hired someone before. Or if they had some experience, they were in a corporate structure where they had so much support. They didn’t realize that they didn’t know all the parts of it because they had other people guiding them through every step of the way

Robert: Or taking care of other portions of the screening. So, what’s the biggest mistake that micro or small business makes when it comes to hiring, especially that first or second go-around?

Jamie: Yeah. So, the biggest mistake I see is people not really knowing what they need when they go to hire. So, this is either they haven’t really identified what role is going to do the best in their business. So they might go to hire based on what someone else has hired for their business, what someone else has seen success with and just assume that it’s going to make the same difference in their business, or even if they know roughly what type of position they haven’t figured out, how to measure the success of that role within their own business. So, therefore, they don’t know what to look for when it comes to identifying if someone is a solid candidate or not.

Robert: Do they sometimes match their own personalities and not hire to what their weaknesses are?

Jamie: Yes, yes. I see that a lot because most of the time when you’re hiring for the first time, your replacing yourself, even if it’s just like a small subset of what you’ve been doing, you’ve been doing it and now you need to let someone else do it. So, in your mind, you need to hire someone who can do it, just like you. So, you go in find you versus what your business actually needs.

Robert: So, I also read that you do a little a winemaking, home winemaking.

Jamie: Yes. I do.

Robert: Talk about winemaking and team building and how similar are they?

Jamie: Well, I would say… Oh, that’s a good question. I’ve never been asked that one before. Never thought about that one too much, but I would say for home winemaking, it’s a very simple process, but you have to follow the process step by step. You can’t forget anything; you can’t go back and do it later if you forgot to do something. So, you have your process, you need to follow and when it comes to building a team, it’s very similar. You have to start from, I guess, the ground up the basic ingredients of what you need, and then add those ingredients into the mixture as you go along. And so, I guess that would be somewhere where it’s similar as you have to follow the process. You can’t really just wing it because when you wing it, you never know what the outcome is going to be and chances are with winemaking if you just wing it, it’s probably not going to taste very good. With hiring, if you just wing it, you’re probably going to end up with a team member that’s not the right fit.

Robert: It’s clean up afterward. It’s flat. It’s a different portion with that and those are some of the subtle mistakes that those small business micro-business owners can make because they miss a key component of it. I know in my real estate background; we were very much taught to go three deep and then three deep on references. So, go your three references that you have, but then go three to each one and you stop and I’m thinking, how am I going to contact nine different people about this individual? But it’s the eighth or ninth person where you really start to get the true story.

Jamie: Right. If you think about with references, sometimes I tell people you’re going to waste your time calling references because of the fact that who are people going to put down as references? The ones that are going to be their biggest cheerleaders. They are not going to put someone down as a reference that’s then going to say, no, you shouldn’t hire this person. So yeah, that’s a good strategy. It’s like, don’t just stop there keep digging because those first ones, they’re not going to tell you what you really need to know.

Robert: Well, we’re going to have a link to your podcast, and I know episode nine, you’re not going to remember exactly what you had on the episode, but I know you’re consistent in what you’re talking about. Stop thinking of hiring as an expense and start looking at it as an investment or a return on investment. Touch upon that a little bit more.

Jamie: Yes. So, when people think of hiring, the first thing they think of is what they have to pay that person. There’s no sugarcoating it having team members can be expensive. For many businesses as they grow paying team members is their number one expense. With sub-companies inventory and stuff will compete with that. But outside of that, paying your team members is typically your highest expense. So, that’s what we think of. We say, oh my goodness, I have all this money going out. What am I getting back?  So the way I like to look at it, and the way I teach all my clients to look at it as yes, you have this money going out, but you should have something coming back because of it and typically the way we look at that is what is the financial ROI of every team member that you hire.

So there really should be either directly or indirectly money coming into your business because you have that person and money that’s coming into your business in addition to the money that you were making before that person came on. So, if you’re hiring someone, let’s say in a sales position, they should be bringing in more money to your business than you’re paying them out. That should be money, that more money than what you were making before. So, if you’re paying them, let’s just say you’re paying someone $50,000 a year, they should be bringing in more than that into your business. So that in a sense, they’re paying for themselves and for the other positions, let’s say for an admin position, they are freeing up your time or as your business grows someone else’s time so you can bring in that additional revenue because they’re doing all the backend work that was typically taking your time, but producing no ROI financially.

Robert: And this usually doesn’t mean in a small business that you have to take that time off. It’s you reapplying the time to do more of the dollar generating activities. Small business owners and entrepreneurs are very good at avoiding what they really should be doing sometimes and what is the dollar productive activity? So now I brought somebody on to answer the phones, et cetera, but are you then taking that time and shifting it towards dollar productive activity? It’s very important.

Jamie: Right. Yes. It is very important.

Robert: I want to share with you because one of your bullet points was the fear of delegation. I want to share with you a story of the very first time I brought on an employee that’s now gone on, she has her own podcast. She does empowerment conferences, Tiffany Josephs. The very first contract file that I went to hand Tiffany, I kid you not, I was physically shaking, and I had to wait for her to, now this is a, a buyer contract in a real estate transaction. I waited until she turned over and looked at somebody else and then put it down on her desk because I physically didn’t want to give that file up. I didn’t want to give up the control of it. So, it was like, oh my goodness and finally doing it. Was I alone in facing that fear of giving away and the delegation?

Jamie: No, no, you’re definitely not alone in that. It is one of the things I have to work through with so many of my clients when it comes to hiring that first person because you fear that the person’s not going to do it like you. They’re not going to do it the way that it needs to be done, that you’re going to have this person do this work, and then you’re going to have to repeat all the work. So, it’s very common fears that I have to help a lot of my clients overcome

Robert: So, they’re actually facing that and then going into. Talk to me a little bit about diversity and some of the challenges we’re facing as we go forward. We’re in an environment where someone like me needs to be listening a lot more needs to be looking at some of the systematic items that are built-in. What are some approaches that we can take to make sure that we’re being a good corporate citizen, but also a citizen to all races, creeds, et cetera?

Jamie: Yeah, that’s a good question. So, one of the things that I like to start with is remember that as somebody you’re only one person which means you can’t go out and change the entire world, but you can make small changes that really add up. When you’re business owner, you have the power to really make a lot of change with your business and especially when it comes to hiring. There’s a lot of things out there with systematic racism and everything that come out through biases that we don’t even know we have. So, it’s important to set up a system and processes within your business that help you overcome those biases, that help put the information in front of you, that you actually need to make a decision versus making the decision based on gut instinct or other things that might be your biases telling you what to do versus you making the right decision.

So some of the ways that I look at it and I help clients around with the hiring because one of the things that we can go in, read up on and do research on are people of different races, some of the ways where they’re held back with systematic racism is they can’t get the jobs that are going to help them progress in society. As business owners, we have the ability to give people the jobs that they need and deserve. So, we need to set up our system so one when we go to post a job, we are making it so people of all races, all colors, feel comfortable applying for that job. That they know that they’re going to come into a business environment and know that it’s the place for them. So, there are different things you can do in that part to attract people of different races to your openings.

One, making sure that the image you’re putting off as your business is welcoming to all races. So, you’re not having only one race or one sex or whatever on your social media profiles that are in your stock images and everything that you’re using on your website. Making sure that you’re showing diversity and everything out there, so you seem like an inclusive organization. Also, when you post jobs, making sure that you’re posting jobs on job boards and places like that, where people of different races are going to actually see them. If you’re only getting white candidates in one of the things that could be going on is people of other races aren’t seeing your job openings. So, sometimes you have to do a little research to find out where’s the best place to post this job, or what can I do to get other candidates into the pool of candidates that I have.

Then once you have your candidates, you have to make sure that you’re not excluding people based on their race. So, studies will show that people of color get less than half of the callbacks facts than someone who is white when they have the exact same qualifications. So, they put out the same resume in these studies. One has a black-sounding name, the other one has a white-sounding name. That white-sounding name gets more than double the callbacks for interviews than the other one when it’s the exact same resume other than the name. So, we want to make sure that we’re setting things up in a way where we’re not pulling in those biases. So, what I always say is prepare for how you’re going to review resumes and I typically say you look for three must-have criteria.

So, for example, if you’re hiring someone to answer your phones, you want to know that they’ve had some sort of customer service background. If you’re hiring someone in a management position, you want to make sure they’ve had some sort of leadership experience in the past. So, you figure out what those three things are, and you say, if someone has these on their resume, they get an interview. If they don’t, they don’t get an interview. If they have some of them, you put them in that maybe category where you come back to them later. So, that way you’re not really getting into these feelings of whether they’re qualified or not for that interview. You’re saying, yes, they checked the box, they get an interview. No, they don’t check the box, they don’t.

Then there are similar things you can do when you’re actually interviewing the candidates to be prepared. So, you make sure that you are having a level playing field for all people that you’re interviewing and not letting underlining biases come out during that interview. So that way you either ask really hard questions that knock a candidate out because they’re hard, but you’re asking them because you’ve already decided that that person isn’t qualified or on the flip side asking really easy questions, so you’re kind of low balling it so they have no chance of proving to you that they’re qualified. So, you want to make sure you have a level playing field by preparing questions in advance that you ask everybody and also uncover the right information. So that way you can actually tell if someone can do the job versus then once again, leaving it to feelings and biases and whether they can do a job.

Robert: If 2020 had that hidden camera or 60 minutes had that hidden camera and they looked through your five interviews would you be consistent on the interviews? We’re caught up right now at the time of this recording with rightly so black lives matter. Until this conversation also goes to females and the way females are treated I’m going to continue to do that. I’ve been an advocate of that in auto racing, as well. Until there are opportunities for women and minorities to be in all of the seats or not all the seats, but in the seats then we’re going to continue to keep beating the drum. So, I love the way that you’re putting that and being consistent. It’s never an issue until it’s an issue as a small business owner or an employer. Until somebody makes a complaint if you’re able to show, Hey, I asked these consistent questions. I did a consistent review. I looked at consistent sources you have a fighting chance of being able to answer that, and it’s the right way to run a business.

Jamie: Right. And to add on that, one of the things I always say, when it comes to diversity training and businesses really paying attention to this, normally it’s reactive versus proactive. So, even in larger corporate companies, diversity training normally happens because there was a problem because someone’s saying, I feel like I was racially profiled an interview, or when it comes to sexism because a woman stands up to say this happened. So, we really, as small business owners have the responsibility of kind of flipping the switch and from the ground up building our businesses right and being conscious to the fact that we need to be a diverse business and building our businesses that way instead of waiting for something to happen.

Robert: Yeah. Yeah. Then back to my real estate parts of, okay, you got sent to the fair housing classes or whatever. Now take care of that beforehand and look at your processes and go through it. That’s great advice and your episode on that was very much. I could tell that you’d taken a lot of information in, it was not reactive. It was okay let’s really look at what the foundation of these issues are and go through. So, what is kind of the path that you walk a small business through? If they first get in contact with you and they’re talking about, you know, I really think I need to bring somebody on what’s kind of that process that they work through with you?

Jamie: Yeah. So, when it comes to hiring, the first thing that we go through is identifying, do you actually need to hire? So, if you’re sitting there and saying, I think I need to hire, I’m going to walk you through the questions and scenarios to say, okay, do you need to hire or is there something else going on in your business? And for some people, the answer is, yes, you need to hire, for other people it’s you might eventually need help, but you’re not quite there yet. Here are the signals we’re going to look for to say, yes, it’s now time to hire, or here are the things we need to fix before you hire. Because if you don’t have some of your systems and processes and everything in place, you can hire someone, and things are going to be so chaotic and such a mess that you’re going to fail with having that team member. It’s not because you don’t need them. It’s because you didn’t have everything prepared and in place beforehand.

So, once we identify, if someone needs to hire, then we move into the saying, what exactly does that role look like? What position is going to give you the biggest bang for your buck? Even when people say, I know I need help here sometimes it’s going through the conversations of, okay, why is that the right role? Sometimes we’re having conversations of do you think you need to hire for X, Y, and Z. Well, Z is really out of left field. It doesn’t mesh with this role. So, we really need to focus on a role around X and Y, we’ll come back to Z or you need to hire a completely separate person for Z later. So, it’s really defining that role, so we make sure that we’re bringing in someone who is actually going to make a good, positive impact on the company, that your goals are going to be achieved because you have this person.

So, figuring out what does success look like for that role so that way we know how to find the right person. So, once we have all that figured out, for the most part, I take things over from there. So, I use all that information that I uncovered of what does the role looks like in those conversations. Also, finding out what really matters to the business owner? Like I always say I’ve had multiple clients tell me, I feel like I’m describing a unicorn, or this isn’t possible when it comes to hiring and I always say, just tell it to me anyway, give me everything. Tell me what you want. Describe that unicorn and I’ll figure out a way to find that unicorn or I’ll figure out a way to tell you, okay, that unicorns not possible. But if you don’t tell me, I can’t help get you what you really want.

So, all that information that they tell me about what they want, their business, I take that and put together the job posting. So, put together a job posting that tells the right candidate this is the job for you. You want to work here; you need to apply. I also put together what they need to look for when they’re reviewing resumes. So, as we talked about with some of the diversity, having those three must-have criteria when you’re reviewing resumes. So, I tell my clients these are the three things that a candidate must have. So, I tell him exactly what to look for and for some of it, how to find it, because we’re not necessarily looking for were they in this job title in the past, it’s do they do this type of work in the past?

It might not be as obvious. So, here are some ways of how to find it, or here’s the type of roles to look for that signify that someone has done this type of work in the past. So, really telling them what to look for. I then also write up their interview rounds of questions. So, telling them, okay, based on what you told me was important, here’s what you need to ask in this interview, which is typically a first phone screen, and then when you bring them in for an in-person interview, here’s what you should ask for this interview. Here’s how you decide if someone’s qualified because you’re asking the right questions, uncovering the right information. So, that way we’re not wasting our time asking questions that don’t tell us anything that we need to know.

Like, I once had a client who wanted to ask, I think it was like four of those like, let’s see how you think outside the box questions. I was like, why are we asking these? And their response was, I think they’re fun questions and I’m like, okay, I’ll allow you one maybe to gauge their personality or their innovative thinking. I was like, but no more than one, because then you’re just wasting time. We need to uncover other things during the interview. So, once we get that stuff altogether, my clients either then execute it on their own or with me by their side or I actually act as the talent acquisition manager and my company does the reviewing of the resumes and the initial phone screens. So, we hand them the top candidates and then they interview those candidates and make their final decision.

Robert: I’m sure it doesn’t stop there as well because putting them into the position and saying, here’s your phone, here’s your desk, good luck doesn’t do either party any good. So, having that, that 90-day, 100-day, 180-day plan that they can hit the ground running is just as important. You do a lot of that with the identifying upfront. Talk about that process as well.

Jamie: Yeah, so with the clients, onboarding is very important. As I always say you can’t just bring someone in and expect them to be able to do their job well even if they’ve done the exact same job for someone else. You need to teach them what it means to do the job well for you. So, we do create onboarding plans and guide them through the onboarding process as well. Making sure the business owner understands that onboarding isn’t just one-day, training doesn’t take one day. It doesn’t take one week. Typically, it’s a longer process to really help that new hire feel a part of the company and also make sure they fully understand what it means to do the job well and all that stuff. Setting up that business owner or manager for success as well saying, okay, at the end of 90 days, this is what the new hire needs to accomplish.

These are your goals. Okay. Now let’s go back 60 days. What should they accomplish by 60 days in order to reach those 90-day goals? Alright, now let’s go back once more. What do they need to accomplish by the end of the first 30 days so that way they can reach the 60-day goals and so they can reach the 90-day goals? So, it’s all this progression plan so that way, hopefully, by the end of 90 days, this new hire is really part of the organization and knows how to do their job well. Some decisions, it moves a little faster than that, other positions, it does take longer than 90 days but just helping them understand that it’s this whole progress of getting this team member up to speed and it’s not an overnight success.

Robert: And us as entrepreneurs, we want it now but yet when we look at ourselves, it took us a longer period to get there. So, you’re not only helping micro business owners. You are one yourself.

Jamie: Yes.

Robert: So, for the next 12 months to be successful, blank has to happen in your own business.

Jamie: Oh, huh. For the next 12 months to be successful. Ooh. That’s a, Oh my goodness. I would say continued growth. I know that probably seems a little obvious, but you know, I have goals. I have things that I want to achieve and, you know, being a small business and where I want to go, whether it’s one year from now, five years from now. I want my business to be much bigger than it is now because I can personally only help so many people because I only have so much time. I want to grow a business where we are able to help a wider net of businesses than I can help myself. That means growing a business that is more than just me. It’s more than just me being the lead consultant, working with clients and in order to get there, the business just needs to continue growing month after so I can start bringing on the team of consultants that helps the clients versus me being that lead consultant that helps the clients.

Robert: It’s very key because sometimes we become self-employed in order to not work for the boss, to not be part of the corporate headache, to not be those things and it’s continuing on you identifying that it really is a growth that I have a story, I have a methodology that I’d want to share. That’s very important to look at and no matter what’s going on in the world or the economy it’s still is looking at, am I making the right decisions and right things to do for growth. That’s very important, very much something that we don’t always take a step back as micro and small business owners to really reflect and say, where am I? Where am I going and what’s my next navigational point? That’s where we call it aid to navigation. What’s my next navigational point that I’m actually heading towards?

Jamie: Yeah. Yeah. It’s important to focus on that, but it’s also important to look back. So, there are some months where I’m like, okay, I need to do X amount to reach this month’s goal. But then I’m like, okay, it’s also important to look back and say, what have I done versus last month’s goal. If I didn’t hit this month’s goal but I still did more than last month. Okay. I’m on the right path to get there. So, it’s like looking at the successes and not just am I at the finish line yet?

Robert: Yeah. Well, Jamie, absolutely fantastic to get to share your message, get to know you a bit. For folks to know that there’s a resource out there, or if they are a smaller or micro business to talk through. We’ll have all your contact information on our blog aidtonav.com and also we’ll have this on YouTube so people can subscribe, but they’ll also be able to click the links there. For those of you listening, we’re on all of the major players so hit subscribe. Go on over, tune into Jamie’s podcast as well, and until next time, make it a great day.

Jamie: Alright. Thank you so much for having me.

Robert: Thank you so much.


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