If you run a small business (defined by the US Government as having under 500 employees) then chances are you spend a lot of time worrying about who is on your team. There probably isn’t a lot of fat on your payroll ribs and each person makes a critical contribution to your success. You’ve heard it before: Hire good people. Keep good people. Fire fast. Yes, I know, easier said than done.
As an entrepreneur running a company that falls squarely in the “small business” demographic (of the 5.8 million “small businesses” in the U.S., 90% have fewer than 20 employees), I have spent a lot of time thinking about how to attract top people without paying big company dollars we just don’t have. On my team are people who worked at Disney, Sony, Warner and companies with 100x our revenues. We have been able to grow to being a multi-million dollar generating company with under 10 full time staff in part because we are rigorous about the team.
Here are my top 5 secrets to attracting and keeping top talent:
1. Be opportunistic – Or, in other words, “always be hiring”. When you need someone to fill a top role at a small company, you don’t have time to spend months looking. If you meet someone who’s good at what they do, find a way to keep her as close as possible, even if you don’t have a position open at that moment. When I was raising capital a couple years ago, I met the perfect candidate to be my CMO, even though I wasn’t hiring yet. I offered her on a consulting position, and promised I’d bring her on full time when I raised the cash. By showing potential investors that I had already attracted top talent, I was actually able to raise the money faster. She became a full time employee once we secured the funding and is a star player for us.
2. Move swiftly – Once you’ve identified a top candidate, you have something big corporations don’t—the ability to move quickly with an offer. When we hired our VP of Finance she was being courted by a Fortune 500 company at the same time. We didn’t have the multiple layers of approvals and red tape that bog down the 500+ person firms, so we were able to make an offer while their HR department was still spinning its wheels. Their loss, she is fantastic!
3. Offer Flexibility – One of the greatest attractions of running a small company is being able to offer, and follow through, with the promise of a work/life balance. Flexibility is one of the keys to making employees happy. At our company three of the SVPs have young children. I promised they would be able to go to important school and family functions and they won’t be asked to go to a conference that falls on their child’s first birthday! Return on investment: Millions in goodwill.
4. Empower People – Another aspect of small business that appeals to top candidates is the ability to make a difference. Make a point of soliciting your employees’ opinions and give him or her an opportunity to be part of the inner decision-making circle. The mere promise of joining a team where each person is truly valued is a big draw. Provide, and ask for, regular feedback, whether at meetings, retreats, or just weekly conversations. We have no cogs in our wheel, just spokes.
5. Create A Positive Culture – I am a fan of the book DRIVE that details what motivated people (hint: it isn’t just money). We worked out Core Values as a team and have them hanging in our office in plain view. We refer to them at meetings, at our semi-annual Strategy Retreats, and at reviews. Some of the things we do that fall into this culture category include checking in with staff regularly about what will make our company a great place to work (people want to go to yoga!), regular staff lunches to celebrate achievements from the previous quarter (deli lunch if we missed the targets, sushi lunch if we hit it!), engaging in professional development as a staff (bringing in guest speakers, having learning brown bag lunches), going on a half day retreat twice a year and never skipping our annual summer outing to a 3D movie with our kids.
While going to see Toy Story 3 followed by ice cream doesn’t SOUND like a killer strategy to compete with Fortune 500 companies for talent, if you listen to your employees about what they want and work to give it to them, you might find you have more than you think already in hand.
How do YOU attract and retain top talent?
This article was written by Julia Pimsleur from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.