How to attract talent to your small business (and how not to)

There’s nothing that makes a business more successful than top-notch talent. When a business owner has a team they can count on, the sky is the limit — we have all the confidence in the world and it shows. But when we don’t have the talent we need, when we aren’t confident in our team, we start holding on to things we should be delegating. Soon we are overwhelmed; and letting opportunities pass us by.

how to attract talent

But how to attract that talent? We can’t offer a huge salary, and big company benefits beat ours every time. How do we find those smart, aggressive team members without those tools?

In my experience, I’ve seen strategies that are successful, and not so successful. We’ll start with 5 successful strategies on how to attract top talent:

1. Show them how they can make a difference working for you.

The biggest thing that you have to offer to team members is the chance to make a difference. In a small business every employee is a front-line employee. No one is “pushing papers” or lost in a cube somewhere. For action oriented, high-achieving people, being able to see the results of their work every day is really attractive.

This is why it’s imperative that you have a a mission or purpose for your business that goes beyond making money. It can’t just be something hanging on the wall. Use it in your job postings, talk about it when you interview. Don’t just recruit folks to a job, give them a mission!

2. Let them know it won’t be easy.

Just like high performers want to make a difference, they are attracted to challenge. So don’t sugar coat it! Let folks know that you are David; and you are out to slay Goliath. This is a big job we are calling you to, there are real obstacles, are you up for it? If you pitch the job like that and someone is excited to join — they are going to be a winner. If they aren’t, well, they weren’t going to last anyway, right?

3. Be a mentor.

To get great talent that’s smart and aggressive you might have to take a chance on someone younger; someone who shows promise, but may not have the full track record. To do that you need to be prepared to be a mentor, to teach her the ropes. She’s not going to know everything that you know; that’s OK. Build in some time to train, develop, and mentor, and you’ll have a terrific team member for half the price of your big business competitor.

4. Look far and wide.

Your perfect candidate might not be 3 blocks from your office — they might be 3 states away! If you want to find the best talent you need to take them wherever they can be found. That means setting your team up to succeed working remotely and being willing to find talent that’s far from a major city. This strategy isn’t for every job, of course; sometimes you need to be together. But when you can, be geographically agnostic.

5. Always be recruiting

Just as you are always on the lookout for new clients, you need to always be on the lookout for new talent. It’s not like you are going to hire someone on the spot; but you can add them to your LinkedIn, share articles with them occasionally, and try to see them socially. These are all good ways to assess their fit with your firm before you need to hire them.

And here are a couple of other tactics I’ve seen used a lot that don’t work.

Offering too much “flexibility” too soon.

too much flexibilityMany small business people went out on their own at least partly for the flexibility that it affords them. Because they find it so valuable they want to offer flexibility as a benefit to attract top talent. The problem is the flexibility also attracts folks who just want to get out of work. It’s great to offer flexibility to team members once they’ve demonstrated a track record of productivity and effectiveness. Too much up front communicates a lack of accountability.

Trying to compete on price

You meet a candidate with a stellar resume — just the kind of guy you’ve been looking for! But — he’s got an offer from a BIG firm — it’a a lot of cash, big corporate benefits, the works. Still, he would rather come work for you. Should you scrape together the money, buy up the benefits, and make a run at him? In my experience, no. The guy who’s looking for the big company package doesn’t get what it’s like to work in a small firm. What’s going to happen when he has to put paper in the printer, or buy his own office supplies on his way to work? He’s going to take that big company job that’s what. Say “no thanks” and let him go.

You need to know how to find top talent. It’s essential to the growth and success of your business. But it’s not going to be easy. Are you up to the task? Follow along this month as we talk all about it.

What have you done to attract terrific people to your team?

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Photo credit: Brian Dys Sahagun, Giphy,

Devan Perine

Devan Perine works with small business owners on their marketing and multimedia efforts. She's passionate about helping businesses build their presence online, and giving Gen Y a voice in the workplace. When she's not working, she loves to make a mess in the kitchen, and play with her band around Chicago. She loves to chat! Give her a shout on Google+, Twitter or LinkedIn.

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