Besides advertising your business, hiring and retaining employees is one of the largest expenses businesses can find themselves paying out.  As a start-up that may or may not be generating enough income to create a sustaining business model—what's an entrepreneur to do?  Here's a couple of strategies to deal with manpower issues that every start-up must face.

A Well-Stocked Hat Rack

If you're starting out as the sole proprietor or in a partnership for your startup, one strategy to circumvent your lack of funds to employ more manpower is to simply handle every task by yourself.  Whether it is creating a website (INSERT LINK to “Creating a website”) and creating content, handling payroll, juggling marketing tasks, you (and your partner) will be constantly changing hats to fill the gaps that dedicated employees normally would be assigned.  Anything from menial tasks like copying documents to securing investment capital from angel investors will make up your daily word load.  Expect to be overwhelmed and inefficient, but sometimes handling each task individually will give you experience when you can afford to hire help.

Part-Time Employees

If you have the funds, you can hire part-time employees.  One fertile and untapped source of part-time employees is stay-at-home parents looking to supplement their spouse's income.  The advantage is mutual; you're able to save money by not paying a full salary to full-time employees, while the stay-at-home employees can finish your tasks in their free time.  Offering flexible time to finish tasks is crucial, as children tend to take priority for stay-at-home parents.

Temp agencies can offer employees at a slightly higher scale if you're looking for skilled workers that don't need to be retained in the long-term.  These agencies do charge a premium to your proposed salary, taking a cut for providing employees on demand and by screening out substandard workers, but you can use the provided employees to cherry pick the motivated ones and headhunt them for a long-term basis in your staff.  The best perk of temp agencies is having a wide pool of applicants that are willing to work.


Offering internships, especially for uni students looking to gain real world experience and college credit in exchange for reduced salary or free work, is an enticing opportunity most often overlooked by start-up entrepreneurs.  Ethically, you shouldn't foist all of your menial tasks on the intern.  Instead, during the interview process, screen applicants for what they would like to gain from employment at your company.  At the conclusion of their internship, you may have a tailor-made employee that would be happy to be employed straight out of uni.

Deferring Compensation

Another method to secure part-time or full-time workers is to defer compensation, with the incentive being a promise of increased salaries when your start-up generates profits, bonus payments given in installments when the employee reaches achievement milestones (days worked, profits generated, etc.), back-pay provided when the company can sustain dedicated employees—the list goes on and is only limited to a compromise that you can work out with the employee beforehand.  Make sure to draft a legally-sound agreement, preferably with the help of a lawyer, to make sure you are covered against “binding liabilities” and other legal actions that can hurt your business in the long-term.

Stock Options

Offering stock options to prospective employees is another method to retain employees for your start-up.  Do bear in mind that most companies rarely go public and never have an IPO (initial public offerings).  However, as much as the odds are stacked against this option, there is a pride & gambling motivation for employees, that their hard work will lead to exponential profits and value in the future.


Don't forget that offering perks can retain and attract more employees.  If you or your spouse is able to offer a skill to help the employee, whether it is below-market rate dentistry or at-cost construction work, you may be able to circumvent initial revenue problems.  Don't forget that you may possess equipment that is not accessible for certain people, like darkrooms for photography or high-powered printing facilities.  Offering these at a discount may be enough to retain employees who see your company as a necessary component to pursue their own businesses or hobbies.