One of the most valuable skills a business owner can develop is understanding what team members their company needs—and when (Right People, Right Seats, Right Time).

When you’re a small company targeting growth, you need to keep a close eye on your cash. But you also need to hire the right team to help you get to the next level.

Enter the fractional vs full-time debate.

Should you bring on a full-time team member as soon as you’ve identified your need for a particular role?

Or should you outsource that role for a period of time (maybe forever) on a fractional basis?

The Big Mistake Business Owners Make with Fractional Hires

There are many factors that determine whether fractional or full-time is right for a particular role. But in my experience, entrepreneurs make one big mistake when they consider this issue: 

They equate time with value.

In other words, they believe that by buying more time (i.e., hiring a full-time employee), they’ll get more value for their business.

It seems logical enough, right? But the problem is that it doesn’t always work that way in the real world.

If you’re serious about scaling your company, making one or two key higher-level hires can be a tipping point. You’re looking for A players who have already been where you want to go: a COO who has grown a company to $10 million; a sales leader who has successfully pivoted an organization upmarket. 

A players don’t come cheap. It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to afford that kind of talent on a full-time basis. And frankly, you may not need to.

When you’re working with an A player to shift the trajectory of your company’s growth, it’s not the number of hours that counts. It’s the brainpower, strategic thinking, and experience you get from every minute that person spends working on your business.

And in many cases, they may only need to think about your business one or two days a week to propel you to the next level of success. 

The 2 Day Rule for Hiring

So, how do you decide whether you need a full-time hire or a fractional team member?

We recommend following the 2 Day Rule.

If you need fractional help more than 2 days per week, you’re probably better off making a full-time hire. Fractional services always come at a markup, and at 3+ days, they likely aren’t worth the investment (and yes, as with everything, there are case-by-case exceptions).

On the other hand, if you’re getting quoted at 1 or 2 days per week for fractional support, you can probably get more bang for your buck from an experienced fractional hire, at least until the role has grown large enough to transition it. 

Other Considerations for Fractional vs Full-Time Hires

There are a few other factors to think about when you’re looking at fractional vs a full-time hiring.

Role permanence. Is this role one that will only be around for 3, 6, or 12 months? A fractional hire may be the better choice for project-based or temporary positions.

Full-stack support. In a perfect world, your finance function would include a bookkeeper, controller, and CFO. In the real world, you have to be pretty big before you can afford a full-stack team. Fractional support allows you access to C-level talent for just a few hours a month while providing mid- and lower-tier support to meet your day-to-day needs. 

Specialization. When extreme specialization is required, you want to invest in niche expertise. For example, if you’re leaning heavily on Facebook ads in your marketing strategy, you’ll probably want to hire a fractional ads expert instead of a full-time marketing manager who has some familiarity with Facebook ads. 

Fractional Time Doesn’t Mean Fractional Dedication

One final note about fractional hires. A fractional time commitment isn’t the same thing as half-assed commitment to your company. 

If they’ll be an ongoing part of your team, introduce a fractional resource to your core values, and make sure they’re a good fit before hiring them. And during those hours they’ve allocated to your business, a fractional team member should be dedicated, engaged, and fully invested in your success. (And if you really want them to be engaged, make sure they are attending your Quarterly and Annual Meetings!)

We’ve got a ton of experience with both fractional and full-time resources, and we’ve helped many business owners decide which option is right for their next hire. Contact us if you’ve got questions about what kind of support your company needs next.

All the best,

Eric Crews
President & Founder
Crews Consulting Group


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Skimmed it? Here’s the recap:
–Operational strength should not be a stand-in for business strategy.
–You can set your company up for growth by seeking help from people who have done it before, developing a concrete plan, and staying committed to the process.
–Growing your business–on your timeline–requires strategic thinking and expert support.