A Staffer Learns to Staff

It's my second day back at work after six weeks of maternity leave, and it feels like I never left. The day went by fast and I got so much done, and honestly, I really enjoy being back. For a while, I wished I didn't have to return, but when you run a small business you don't always have that option. At first I tried to get a few projects done from home, but I found it wasn't as easy as I thought, and there was my sweet newborn son there to distract me, filling me with a surge of guilt at the thought of leaving him. What mother wouldn't be distracted in that situation?

Thankfully, our nanny started a week ago, and figuring out the breastfeeding thing wasn't hard either, since my office building gave me a key to a private bathroom. The hardest part was leaving my son, knowing that going forward, my nanny will most likely witness many "firsts" without me.

I'm a mompreneur now and excited about my role. YehID, as we affectionately call the company, was my first child and now she's seven years old and we've been preparing her to see if she can walk on her own.

Early on in my pregnancy, there was a great deal of trepidation about how Yeh IDeology would fare while I was away. There was no telling exactly when my delivery would happen and how long I'd be gone. How much could I manage while on maternity leave? How would my company fare while I was absent, served as my biggest concern. How would my team perform and would they be able to keep the business running in my absence? I received advice that we needed to bring on board temporary management to run the business. But how could I train someone new to understand everything essential about the business in such a short time.

I shared the concerns about the performance of the business with my staff, vocalizing my pride in the team that we've built. I reminded them that while individually they had their own responsibilities, they had to function collectively, as a unit.

The team I have built today is phenomenal, and I knew I could trust them to take on this challenge, but it wasn't always this way. Learning how to hire staff is a very personal and unique lesson each small business owner and manager has to learn. You would think that since I've garnered 15 years of experience as a recruiter, that I would understand how to hire and manage my company's own talent. While I could do this for others, sometimes it's hard to apply your expertise to your own business. A plumber's house is always leaky, right?

Nothing taught me about building a team more than my own trial and error in hiring for Yeh IDeology. Most of the people who I brought on board were great, in fact we still keep in touch with many of them. With each hire I made, I learned more about myself and I grew as a business owner and manager.

When I first started Yeh Ideology at my dining table in 2006, I hired people to be my friends -- to keep me company. Then at one point, I over-compensated people, having been swept up by their spin, only to find I was paying them to carry out the critical decisions I was making. When I hired people who were unqualified for the job. It was hard to reprimand and critique them, but over time I learned how. Sometimes as a new employer, it took me longer than 90 days sometimes before I understood the employee wasn't the right fit. When I lost good talent, I realized what I needed to do next time to keep them.

Over time I found confidants and mentors to help remind me what to watch out for. I've had great advisors in my bookkeeper and accountant who have seen many small businesses succeed and fail, and I found other small business owners and managers I admired to bounce ideas off of. Participating in professional development programs such as the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses, gave me invaluable continual education on how to enhance my business, it brought me access to a network of educators, mentors and fellow successful small business owners whom I can turn to for advice and support.

As a new mother learning to juggle the complexities of parenthood, I find that the art of balance extends itself to my role as a small business owner. I am still learning, but thankfully, we're at the
point now where Yeh Ideology has an amazing team and a sustainable business model we firmly believe in.

Angela Yeh is the owner of Yeh IDeology, a boutique recruitment firm specializing in design and strategy. Headquartered in New York, their clients are major corporations and top design firms across the U.S. and internationally. Angela is an alumni of the Goldman Sachs' 10,000 Small Businesses Program, Cohort 4 New York. She is also a first time mompreneur and looking forward to getting back into surfing in Long Beach, N.Y. this summer. Goldman Sachs is a partner of the What Is Working: Small Businesses section.