As a small business owner for over 12 years, I have had many triumphs and challenges regarding attracting, retaining and fostering the type of talent that allowed my business to grow and thrive.

I’m happy to share my experiences in hopes that you can learn from my mistakes and missteps in order to help you create the best team environment within your company.

Early on, my staff grew largely due to individuals reaching out to me before I ever considered hiring. When the referral of a potential employee that is willing, qualified and available simply appears, it can seem as though it is the perfect solution. Avoiding a lengthy interview process was attractive and I took advantage of the “right place, right time” situation several times. While some of those early hires worked out to my great benefit, others were not necessarily the best person for the position, although the timing was right. As an owner, opportunistic hiring can be seen as a great sense of immediate relief, however may not take into consideration factors such as long-term growth and team development.  

The following has helped me define my hiring practices, which now include a multi-faceted, team-oriented approach to hiring.

  • Add staff or create positions for growth BEFORE they are needed. There will always be a need to fill positions as staff members leave, however waiting too long to hire can create undue stress on your existing team.
  • Hire the person that is the best fit for the company overall, not the current staff. Your staffing may change, but the company’s goals remain the same.
  • Hire for personality. You can’t teach people how to be happy.
  • If you are a business owner, hire with the intention to replace yourself. If you can’t see a potential candidate handling even one of your tasks, you cannot create a scalable business.
  • When people show you who they are initially, BELIEVE them. This is not an original quote, but this is hugely important. Don’t overlook small items such as arriving slightly late to an interview, even if they are impressive in person. This can be a difficult lesson to learn, but a valuable one.
  • Always ask what other “hidden talents” potential new hires might have. Seemingly unrelated experiences in past positions may have value to your company. You just need to ask.
  • Implement a 90-day probationary period. You want candidates to be happy with their job choice, in the same way you want to be happy with your new hire.

My hiring practices include the following steps:

  • Specify the completion of a cover letter with resume as part of the requirements. Those without a cover letter do not advance, as it speaks to the ability to follow basic instructions.
  • Phone interview with the business owner discussing expectations, needs, and salary.
  • My company requires completion of a non-compete form prior to hire. After the phone interview, if I feel this person should be interviewed in person, I send the non-compete to the candidate for review.
  • In-person team interview with the entire staff using behavioral interview questions at our facility.
  • Tour of the facility so that candidates understand the environment in which they would be working.
  • The next step is for the candidate to work with us for a few hours on an actual project. There are minimum experience requirements for all our positions, and high expectations for the pace of work to be completed as well as attention to detail.   During this process, we look for the candidate’s ability to work independently as well as adaptability.
  • If an offer is extended to the candidate, they are paid for the time they worked during the trial phase. If they are NOT hired, no reimbursement is provided. This is clearly explained during the interview.


Although the process has many steps, we feel this provides our team with the best opportunity to experience the potential candidate in both interview and hands-on work experiences. As the business owner, I have multiple interactions with the candidate, and have lengthy conversations with our staff regarding the suitability of the person to the position. Involving our staff in the hiring process also fosters buy-in and continues the family atmosphere we strive to achieve.



Staged by Design® was founded in 2007 by Owner and Principal Designer, Leigh Newport, ASP, IAHSP. Leigh and her team have staged well over $700,000,000 in Real Estate since beginning the company.

Leigh has served on the Board of Directors for the Washington, DC Chapter of the International Association of Home Staging Professionals (IAHSP), for three years, including the Office of President, and is currently a member of both IAHSP and RESA (Real Estate Staging Association). She is a sought after public speaker, committed to educating home owners and Realtors alike on the benefits of Home Staging through seminars and other engagements throughout the Washington, DC Metro area.

Staged by Design has been voted “Best of Houzz”, in Customer Service every year since 2013 as well as voted “Best of Loudoun” 2015-2019 by the readers of the Loudoun Times Mirror and Leesburg Today.  

You can find Staged by Design® at