“Hiring my assistant is the best thing I did for my business. I hired the right person and my business has tripled in two years. It just took off!” says Brad Long, a solo practitioner in Seattle, Washington.

Can it really be that easy? Maybe not. But it happened for Brad. A better question to ask yourself is: “Why not me?” If you’re a solo practitioner, a one-person agency or a small firm and are considering an addition to your staff, here are ideas that may help you hire the right person for you.

Before Looking Out the Window, Look in the Mirror

When you consider what type of person you need, think about what you’re like. Ask yourself the following questions: Do I like to call clients and talk on the phone? Do I like paperwork? Do I like studying insurance policies? Do I like giving presentations? Do I like to spend time with clients or work on the computer?

Doug Carter, president of Carter International, says, “When people answer three personal questions, dramatic changes occur, resulting in measurable results.” His three questions are: Who am I? What’s worth doing? And who’s worth being with?

Carter, an expert trainer and success coach to top financial and insurance professionals, adds, “Only when a professional realizes the answers to these tough questions does he or she become willing to delegate the rest.”

Since 8.81% of clients typically provide 50% of your revenue, by delegating the tasks that you don’t really need to do, you will free yourself to focus on developing the relationships that really make a difference.

Candid Camera

Assess your strengths and weaknesses objectively. Did you know that many large companies require their employees to complete annual, self-evaluation reviews? Did you know that many of the top 25 MBA schools in the U.S. require candidates to submit a list of their closest professional and personal peers? During the program, these peers anonymously complete assessments of the candidates’ strengths and weaknesses.

By evaluating your strengths and weaknesses, you better understand who you are. How can you do this if you’re a small firm with no plans to get an MBA? Ask your clients to assess you in an effort to better serve them. Ask your friends to assess you as a personal favor. You’ll be surprised at how many of them will help you.

You will learn quickly what others consider your strengths and weaknesses. “Know thyself” goes a long way to finding the right person to work with you.

Different Strokes for Different Folks

Once you know your strengths, then recruit people who can compensate for your weaknesses. Yes, don’t work on your weaknesses. That’s a waste of time. Work on what you’re good at and be great.

Write down job descriptions for prospective hires. List the duties you want them to perform. Be specific and thorough. List every program (Excel, Word), tools (postage meter, fax machine, scanner, phone, computer, Internet and hole punch) and abilities (likes to greet customers, talk with customers and think on their feet) that you want them to have. Note: A significant investment of time here will pay dividends later.

Now the Paradigm Shift

We hear the phrase “client focused” a lot in our industry. I suggest that you be “client focused” in your approach to recruiting. Too many of us consider only what we want. Think about what recruits want and why they would want to work for you.

You know many of the answers already: stability, benefits, long-term future and flexible work environment. You should convey, too, the advantages you have over larger firms: your personalized service, caring attitude, local presence and other strengths.

From the Inside Out

Do you have what a recruit is looking for? If not, how can you get it? The answer: outsourcing–the great equalizer. Outsourcing can help you compete in some of the big areas like HR, payroll and benefits.

Jim Hopson, president of Hopson & Associates in Dallas, Texas, agrees. “Our benefits package is second to none. My four employees have a choice of six large group medical plans, flexible spending accounts, 401(k) and more. We definitely compete for top talent.”

Once you’ve leveled the playing field, create an environment in which big firms can’t compete with you. Rick Tanner, an insurance agent from Lewisville, Texas, knows what I’m talking about. Tanner treats his staff to onsite complimentary back and neck massages by a registered massage therapist–and they love him for it!

Get creative. Very few big companies can compete with that kind of a staff benefit/perk. And the right environment competes well with higher salaries when a recruit is looking at what’s available and deciding that you’re right for him or her.