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Small businesses have a bad track record when it comes to their ability to attract and retain high-quality employees and contractors. Conventional wisdom suggests that "cream of the crop" employees will follow the money trail to the doorsteps of the large corporations, leaving small businesses to settle for whoever is left.
If money were the only factor, then the conventional wisdom wouldn't be far off because small businesses simply cannot compete with the employee purchasing power of their larger counterparts. However, the good news is that financial remuneration is not the only factor. There are several non-financial factors you can leverage to make your small business more attractive to prospective employees and contractors.
Small businesses are usually much more flexible with their employees than large corporations. The big companies thrive on organization. They rely on systems to keep the ship afloat, leaving employees with little room for personal flexibility.
Let's say your preschooler has a presentation at eleven o'clock on a Monday morning. If you work for a small business, there's a good chance you can attend because small businesses are built around relationships. But if you work for a large corporation, you might find yourself sending a babysitter with a camcorder.
Play up the flexibility and relationships angle with prospective employees. In some cases you will strike a chord with first-rate employees who are put off with the rigidity of a larger operation.
Small businesses also offer the advantage of being able to provide employees with more responsibility and more significant roles in the company. This is especially attractive to career-minded, upwardly mobile employees who are interested in gaining experience quickly.
If you are going to play the "more responsibility" card to attract higher quality employees and contractors, you need to be aware of the downside. While it's true that small businesses can offer their employees greater responsibility and experience, career-track individuals will find it more difficult to move up the ladder in a small business for the simple reason that your ladder probably has fewer rungs than the ladder in a big corporation.
One way to get around this is to discuss your strategic plan for your business with job candidates. Without giving too much away, you can help them envision promotional opportunities within your business as it grows and expands.
Generally speaking, big companies can have a reputation for being cold, sterile and valueless. Smaller companies, on the other hand, are perceived as being fertile soil for values such as family and community. Additionally, small businesses are almost always able to connect employees with the company "story" in real and practical ways, especially when the employees can envision themselves as part of that story.
Discuss your company's values statement with your prospective candidates. Also, tell them why you started the business and how they can play a significant role in shaping the company's story as it evolves.