How Can a Small Business Compete for Big Talent?


Some don't embrace it, but even small businesses have an employer brand. This is important because that brand does impact a business’s ability to attract top-talent, and thus compete in the marketplace. By employer brand, I mean that every company develops some degree of a reputation as an employer. As an employer, I regularly ask myself questions such as, how do current and past employees feel about what it’s like to work for our organization? Are our people motivated, are they growing professionally and personally? Do they feel valued and cared for? Do they feel they are able to make a significant contribution to the world around them through their work?

Local Eye Site is a small business. We tend to fluctuate between 6 and 10 employees depending on what we have going on. Because we’re small, the impact that each person has on our success is magnified. It's super important that we attract productive, intelligent, and creative team players.

So, how can our small businesses attract the top talent, especially since most can’t just throw money at it? Most small business compensation packages are average. From a recruiting perspective, compensation and traditional benefits are not strengths we can lead with, so we have a difficult time competing with larger companies on that basis. Here are three steps towards building an employer brand that will better position your small business to win the favor of talented candidates and staff-members:

1. Awareness of the role your staff plays in helping your business thrive is a good first step. Do you think of your employees as assets? Do you recognize how vital their performance is to the success of your small business? If you're unsure, ask your customers. Customer feedback about your staff, good or bad, can often be a barometer for the impact your employees are having on your ability to make money. Once you have a proper appreciation for impact your team is having on your business, you'll probably find the motivation to take your employer brand seriously.

2. Tell them, then show them how important they are, and mean it (see step 1). Small businesses have an advantage over large ones in that small businesses can feel more like a team, a more closely-knit group. It means a lot when we get positive validation of our value and contribution from our leaders and teammates. Like in every good relationship, don’t assume they know how you feel, tell them! Then, get creative and show them how important they are. I spend roughly $3,000 a year taking employees to lunches, happy-hours and an occasional team dinner. It’s a small investment to create a venue that promotes sharing and understanding.

3. Lastly, empower them. How can an employee truly feel valued if they are micro-managed and not trusted to make decisions? Trust builds strength in relationships. Empowering your team to use their creativity while leading will build strong bonds and foster professional growth on your team.