How to spot a great SMB employee

As an entrepreneur, you might thrive on the idea of doing everything you can your own way for as long as possible. Or, if you’re like most small business owners, you wear many hats out of necessity.

Either way, at some point your business outgrows your ability to do it all yourself — especially at tasks you aren’t particularly good at or interested in doing. If you find yourself pulled into duties that are taking time away from the most valuable activities, like spending time with customers, then it’s probably time to call in some reinforcements.

For small businesses, not just any employee will do. If you make poor hires, it can really set you back. Almost a quarter of failed businesses list problems with the support team as a reason for the SMB’s lack of success. So whether you’re hiring your first employee or just need some advice on what makes a smart SMB hire, try to identify job candidates for your small business who possess these four core qualities:

A startup mentality

Working for an SMB can be exciting, but it can also be intimidating. Recent data from the U.S. Small Business Association reveals that 80 percent of new businesses fail after their first year of operation. Small businesses have fewer resources and face greater financial risks, so it’s important to hire people who are ready to hit the ground running in an environment of uncertainty and, occasionally, chaos.

Studies have also shown that entrepreneurial environments lead to long hours, with estimates from 52-60 hours a week, according to Inc. Magazine. This can mean less work-life balance, which isn’t right for every employee at each stage of their career. Be honest with applicants about the level of dedication required in your small business. You want to find people who are excited about the challenge and willing to jump in with both feet.

Appreciation for SMB culture

Part of the startup mentality is an appreciation for what makes small businesses unique: their size. The U.S. Small Business Administration reports that more than one-third of U.S. employees work in SMBs with less than 100 people. If a candidate expresses a clear preference for the structure and layers of bigger firms, they may not be a good fit, particularly if your company fits within the average size for small businesses of fewer than 15 employees.

There’s a major difference in culture between a corporate behemoth that has separate departments to formally handle each function, and a small business setting with a handful of employees who work tightly together and may often cross functions depending on need. While some people thrive in an SMB’s more flexible but ultra-demanding culture, others may find it disorienting to have less structure. With this in mind, be sure to hire for comfort with the reality of life working for a small business.

Strengths and skills you lack

As your business grows, you need to hire people with experience and skillsets you don’t have personally. Many small business owners and operators struggle with this reality, instead gravitating toward candidates who are a lot like them. A study published by the American Sociological Association found that managers preferred candidates who were culturally similar to themselves.

This is a mistake, since you’ll need a diversity of strengths and leadership styles to grow your business in different areas. Avoid the clone approach to hiring if you want to build a great SMB team.

Endless energy and enthusiasm

It’s often said that you can train for skills but not for attitude, and this point is extremely important for best practices in small business hiring. Any position in an SMB will involve facing intimidating challenges and overcoming obstacles that can at times feel overwhelming. An unyielding sense of optimism and perseverance is required to get the job done.

Just how important is positive attitude? Research shared by Mark Murphy in his book Hiring for Attitude emphasized that nearly 90% of new hires in small businesses will fail before their second year of employment due to problematic attitudes. Negative attitudes to avoid when hiring include low motivation, unwillingness to be coached, and an unpleasant temperament. Instead, look for people who exude confidence, energy, and enthusiasm about the opportunity to join your SMB.

Beyond hiring: Stay in touch

Once you have your team in place, use Womply Messenger to stay in sync and keep your employee directory up-to-date. It’s free and better than texting! Watch our video below for more info.


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