Office Management & HR
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For many of the smallest companies who need staffing help, hiring a full-time employee is not a viable option because the costs to hire, train, and retain employees are too high. Even lower-cost options, such as part-time or leased employees, are too expensive for businesses on a shoe-string budget.
Believe it or not, there are places for these tiny companies to get some help at no, or at very little, cost. These options may involve a little more work and creativity than hiring a full-fledged employee, but cost a fraction of the dollars.
Let's look in particular at three approaches: barters, internships, and volunteers.
Barters. Bartering organizations will allow you to trade your goods and services for those of other businesses. It can be an economical alternative if you're strapped for cash and need some work done. It doesn't relieve you of responsibility for income tax on amounts you receive in exchange for your goods or services.
Bartering won't work for everyone. If you need someone to be in your office eight hours a day to answer the telephone, it's going to be tough for someone to trade with you for that type of work. On the other hand, if you need some help marketing your new product or service, for example, you may be able to barter with a marketing consultant who would be willing to help you write an advertisement or a press release in exchange for something from you.
Internships. Internships can be a great way to get workers at little or no cost, provided a local school sponsors a program. Interns expect their employment to be a learning experience, so you're unlikely to get clerical or general office help through this type of program. And, it means that you'll have to offer something of value, like teaching interns a new skill or exposing them to a certain industry.
Volunteers. Volunteers are a great way to get work done for free, but they are hard to come by and sometimes hard to rely on. If you aren't a not-for-profit organization or one that serves "glamorous" constituencies such as the arts, it will be hard to find anyone willing to work for free.
However, you can get free help with marketing, finances, getting a loan, or organizing your operations by contacting your local branch of the U.S. Small Business Administration. Their SCORE program for retired executives matches up people willing to share their expertise with small businesses in need of assistance.
And be careful. Occasionally, would-be entrepreneurs will volunteer to work in a business similar to one they're thinking of starting. If someone approaches you with such a plan, don't agree until you're sure that they're not planning to start up a competitive enterprise that might drive you out of business as soon as they learn all your best ideas.