It’s the dream of many research professionals to open up one’s own independent research laboratory where you would have the freedom to choose the projects you are passionate about. It’s an unfortunate truth, however, that our in-depth scientific training doesn’t prepare us for the day-to-day realities of managing a facility, where people and business skills are needed!
Even so, it’s still an undertaking worth pursuing. Assuming you have acquired the necessary financial backing, and have succeeded in moving laboratory equipment to the building that will house your facility, it’s time to get the right help. This is one of the most important decisions you will face as the head of a private research laboratory, because even with all the necessary equipment in place you need to have people to make it all happen, and picking the right ones is critical to your success.
Among the hardest decisions you are going make will be the first hires. At this early stage, you probably haven’t yet built the kind of reputation that will have talent waiting lined up at your door for you to hire them. To begin the hiring process, it’s critical that you thoroughly describe the roles they will play in very clear terms in your help-wanted advertisement. You might want to seek the opinion of other, more experienced colleagues or mentors before making any final choices.
The very first position you should fill will be an experienced technician who can double as your laboratory manager. The day-to-day logistics of running a research laboratory are something that technical staff usually have hands-on experience with, which they will bring to your facility. Their expertise will grow and become even more valuable as time passes. Once you have a technician who is excelling at the work, and in whom you know you can place your trust, be sure to praise their contributions and promote them, thus increasing their responsibility and enticing them to make a long-term commitment to your operation, which you will repay in kind.
In regards to filling out the entirety of your team, it’s important to remember that they are unlikely to possess the same high level of motivation you do, so be careful to manage your expectations in a reasonable manner, and be forgiving of rookie mistakes. Your goal is to build a great team, and that requires caring and patience.