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How to hire your first employees and what to expect…

Most of us entrepreneurs start in the affiliate world as “lone wolfs”. That is us doing all tasks in order to make the whole thing go.

Well at some point 1 of 3 things typically happens.

1. We get tired and don’t want to keep doing the same thing over and over
2. We see opportunity that we know we can’t get to on our own.
3. We want a lifestyle business that continues to run without us having to do everything every day.

I’ve been in this business for 12+ years and talk with 1,000’s of people all the time. And believe me everyone gets to this point.

But hiring people is scary…

“I only make $200,000/year and I’m going to pay out $60,000 to someone? That means I’m only going to make $180,000”

I remember having this thought way back when. It’s a fallacy and just not true. If you hire the right people, train them and coach them in the right way. A $60,000/year employee should make you $200-300k at a minimum.

If every $60,000/year staff member made you $200-300k/year how many would you want to hire?

Of course, it never works out that nicely. But with practice and strong systems it can.

As some of you know when I started I was a full-time affiliate for over 4 years. And in that process, I was the “lone wolf” and being the “lone wolf” I needed to learn how to do all things. On that list was:

• Manage servers
• UNIX scripting
• Vision
• Strategy development
• Landing page speed optimization
• Conversion rate optimization
• Write sales copy
• Design to make ads and landing pages
• Business Development
• Sales
• Negotiation
• Accounting
• Collections
• Cash flow management
• Media buying
• Systems automation
• … and the list goes on you get the point

Never working in large organization before, other than a few sales jobs, I didn’t really understand what it was to be an “employee”, how they think and what they’re capable of.

So, let’s talk about your first hire…

They’re not going to be you. Let’s start there. But if you hire right (will save that for another post) and invest into good people. They’ll learn to progress towards you over time. The other great part is they probably bring a whole swath of skills that you may not have that they earned from previous jobs.

When it comes to hiring your first hire there’s 5 major mistakes, in mindset, that I see people having when they make their first hires.

1. I’ll teach this person to do what I do and I’ll have 2 of me 😀
2. They’re going to steal my business
3. Unrealistic time frame expectations

The first biggest mistake I made was assuming that someone could do all those things.

I would hire people and expect them to do 10-15 things on that list. Now in the real world almost everything on that list is a different role. Not only is it different roles but if you bring someone in they need to know.

1. The what you want done
2. The why you want it done
3. The how you want it done
4. Measurements on success / failure

I had none of this. I would just tell them to do whatever I’d think needed to get done with little to no training or process to follow. They’d do their best, which was never good enough, and then we’d both get upset and frustrated. This was a terrible system.

Don’t do that!

Keep the role simple. No more than 1 of those items up top. I’d pick someone to handle anything non-marketing related to start. So you can spend more time on marketing/advertising which is where you make your money.

I highly suggest you start writing down rudimentary systems to at least get the ball rolling. Some tools I like to use:

• Lucidchart for flowcharts
• Google docs for outlines of systems
• Google sheets for simple planning calculators

I’ve mentioned in some of my posts in the past some strategies I use for this stuff.

What is one simple system you can outline in a google doc today?

Oh No… aren’t they going to steal my business?

This the most common question I get when people ask me about hiring people…

And the answer is “Yes’ there is a high probability if you don’t’ do step 1.

If someone needs to come teach themselves to do everything that you know how to do you’re basically making them an entrepreneur. And if they’re an entrepreneur then why not go run your own business?

Most people in the world have been trained to be employees. Think about this:

1. First you go to school and are assigned homework
2. Next you take tests to make sure you know the material
3. After that you move up from one grade to the next
4. If you get all that right you hope to go to college where you do more of the same

My point in this is you can’t take someone who has been told what their goals are their whole life and stick them into a role where they have to fend for themselves. They need the same kind of systems and support to operate from as they did in school.

If you give them the processes to follow and clear goals it’s much more likely they’re going to stay with you. Because you’re their support system. As long as you take care of them, pay them fairly, appreciate them and treat them well they’ll most like stay and help build something amazing with you.

Back to the first point, keep them accelerating at 1-2

They’ll double my revenue as soon as I hire them, right?

Stop and think just for a second how much more efficient you are by knowing every piece of the equation. How all those skills listed above impact each other. As a “lone wolf” you’ve made lots of decisions based on 3-4 steps in front of you. Also, being a “lone wolf” you’ve probably built some support network of people that you talk to, forums or IM groups. Your first employee will have none of that.

What can you expect out of someone new?

Not a lot to start with. I have some time lines that I consider for all hires. This goes for people that are very experienced for what I hired them for to brand new people. I am typically hiring someone to fill one of the listed skills above. Then we’d train them how we would do that.

Time frames for hiring productivity (these are assuming basic systems documented and measured)

1. 3 months – for them to learn how to make their way around the systems you use. Sometimes what they even are. What matters so they can have their focus on that.
2. 6 months – they usually have an idea of what’s going on. Are mildly productive but are still far from running at full speed. You should have a good idea if they’re going to make it at this point
3. 1 year – By this point they should be in full stride. Meaning they operate without you guiding them. You should be letting them operate fairly autonomously with goals at this stage.
4. 2 years – They should be amazing if they were a good hire. Some people are just duds. Try and catch them at the 6 month mark.

These time frames can be longer or shorter depending on how complex your business is. But if it’s complex I’d invite you to break it into pieces and simplify it. Have them focus on the 1 or 2 things that really matter for those first 3 months while they get their feet wet. Better the training, simpler the tasks, more measurements available

If you hire someone and expect them to far exceed these time frames there’s a good chance they’re going to become super frustrated as well as

Hire of longevity

As you can see make sure you hire for the long haul. It takes a long time to get people effective and efficient in an organization. For this reason, we don’t hire anyone that’s not going to stay. That train time is a huge drain on people’s time. No, reason to invest it unless the person is an amazing fit.

Some of the hardest points to let someone go is at that 4-6 month mark. You’ve invested you blood sweat and tears into them and it’s still 50-70% not working out the way you thought. This is probably a good sign that you may need to let that person go and start over again.

On that note any employee you let go make sure you do an exit interview if possible. Then I’d also do a personal post mortem.

• What did I see in this person when I hired them?
• What did I not see that I need to watch out for next time?

A note on who that first hire should be.

My first hire was people that I thought could make the company more money.

If I had it to do again I wouldn’t make this mistake.

I’m good at making money. That’s the easier part for me and should be for all of you reading this. That’s what we become as affiliates… money makers.

9 out of 10 people I talk with have that skill so I’m going to assume you do. With that said your first hire should be an Operations person. Ideally someone that has started with 2-3 smaller businesses before. Then helped grow them to the size you’d like to be. Some skills you’d want in that hire.

• Build systems with measurements
• Document processes
• Hires and trains the team

They effectively build the business side of the business. All businesses are the same on the business side. They might have different products and how they make money. But at the core of the business they’re the same.

If you make a good hire in this role you’ll be freed up to make money while they build the business.

Don’t let any of this scare you. Having staff is amazing!

I really enjoy going to work every day. Coaching, mentoring and watching the team grow. They grow individually and as a team each and every day. Just set them up for success and win together.

P.S. this is a first hire post. There’s definitely ways to hire more advanced people that an help multiply


  1. Awesome post with a great subject not talked about too often. Keep bringing the fire!

  2. Dan Dan

    great post! made all those mistakes before and still doing..

    continue with the good work.

  3. SholaA SholaA

    Jason, check out the book, “HIRING FOR ATTITUDE” by MIKE MURPHY. You will love it. Long ago you gave me some sage advice in a WickedFire PM that until this day still rings true. I figure I would give back 🙁

    • SholaA SholaA

      🙁 was supposed to be a major :), lol!

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