Hiring: The Flaw in the “Girl Friday” Philosophy

By August 30, 2016 No Comments

I’ve seen many business owners try to hire one person – let’s call her “Girl Friday”- to be an administrative assistant, HR specialist, AND bookkeeper extraordinaire.  It is a classic mistake small business owners make when the business seems big enough to finally hire help in the back office but not profitable enough to spend “much” money on an experienced full-time salaried employee.  In fact, the job needs to incorporate all these roles in order to even make up a full-time position.  To the small business owner who wears multiple hats, finding a smart recent college grad that won’t require much pay to fill what seems to be an entry-level administrative role seems reasonable.  Search today and you will find several job postings for exactly this position.

The truth is, while parts of these jobs are indeed administrative, HR specialists and bookkeepers fill critical functions in a small business and mistakes can cost a lot of time and money.  An inexperienced person managing HR certainly can’t be expected to know all of the rules around hiring someone as an independent contractor versus an employee or hiring an employee as exempt or non-exempt from overtime.  Such a mistake brought to the labor board by a disgruntled employee or contractor down the road could cost a business thousands of dollars in back wages and payroll taxes owed.

An inexperienced admin filling the role of bookkeeper can’t be expected to properly manage an accounting database.  I’ve frequently seen business owners ignore reports from their accounting system altogether because they know the data can’t actually be trusted.   Sometimes business owners decide simply to not file tax returns because they don’t have the correct numbers to give to their accountant.   Sure this admin extraordinaire can get the bills paid and deposit checks at the bank.  Eventually, though, the tax returns must be filed and the data ultimately recreated by a professional.  The most costly mistake caused by not hiring a professional bookkeeper is that significant insights into the business’ performance can be easily missed without regular and accurate objective measures.    


A better solution than hiring an inexperienced but smart college grad to manage administration, HR and bookkeeping is to contract with a team of experts and pay for only what you need.   

You might hire that smart admin but also hire a professional HR consultant and a professional bookkeeper to train and essentially manage the admin to be successful in his/her role.  As your business grows, this team will grow with you.  Develop long term strategic partnerships with these consultants and align their incentives to yours.  As your business grows, so will theirs. This option will give you the flexibility you need as your business grows and you can rest assured that you are being advised by professionals.  

Chances are this approach may cost you even less than a full-time Girl Friday in the short term and in the long term.