The Small Business Impact on Employability in Greenville, SC

Originally published in the Upstate Business Journal // May 11, 2018

Small businesses in Greenville, SC as anywhere else around our country, have great potential to positively impact our communities through employment. But, ironically that potential is made possible through the challenges small businesses face in finding candidates. Small business owners often struggle with the time-consuming and disillusioning task of finding the right people to hire. And it’s not just the task itself. It’s also the fact that there is so little public discussion on the topic. Very seldom do publications and media outlets spend time on the challenges faced by small businesses. Most folks are more interested in a Fortune 500 adding hundreds of new jobs to the local economy or perhaps eliminating hundreds of existing jobs.

However, small businesses account for “47.8% of private sector employees (58 million out of 121 million employees).” Couple that with the fact that “small businesses accounted for 61.8% of net new jobs from the first quarter of 1993 until the third quarter of 2016.” (https://www.sba.gov/sites/default/files/advocacy/SB-FAQ-2017-WEB.pdf). That means that while the big news goes to big businesses, it’s small businesses that are making some of the biggest impacts on employment, and more specifically, on the lives of employees. So, the issue of small business hiring is an extraordinarily relevant topic with significant ramifications.

The Challenge

Small businesses simply don’t have the resources to attract candidates or make offers comparable to large companies. This is true of any small business, but it’s an acute challenge for small business in industries where higher education, professional certifications, or specialized training is required. Larger companies have the odds stacked in their favor with regard to compensation, perks, and resources to lure potential hires.

Add to that the additional challenge that small businesses don’t have the brand or name recognition that large ones do. This is a major hindrance to employees who might otherwise be willing to take lower compensation in exchange for the brand equity their resume could contain.

The Opportunity

However, it’s this very difficulty that small businesses have in hiring the ideal candidates that gives them their strength in developing people.

If a potential employee does not have the right degree/work experience, or they have not gone to the right school, or they don’t have the right social network, they are most often overlooked by larger companies. The same is true for candidates who may be younger or older than the “ideal,” or for candidates who have blemishes on their credit or have a criminal history.

These candidates may lack employability among large companies but their employability among small businesses has the potential for great value. When small businesses struggle to gain the ideal candidates, overlooked candidates then have an opportunity.

Small businesses have a trade-off to offer these candidates. In exchange for lower compensation, what a candidate lacks will be overcome by the small businesses investment in that employee. The candidate who lacks the proper credentials can be given the opportunity to continue their education. The candidate who lacks sufficient experience can be given the opportunity to gain that experience. The candidate who has a blemished past can be given the opportunity to establish a new resume.

The Impact

The small business benefits from filling a position at a lower compensation point, which adds to their overall sustainability as a business. The overlooked employee is given a chance, which they might not have otherwise.

It’s in this way that small businesses are a truly vital component to individual human flourishing. The very structure of the agreement between the small business and the employee facilitates the growth and development of that employee. In order for the small business to thrive, its employees must meet the functional needs of the company. So, it’s in the best interest of the small business to fill the gaps in the employees’ knowledge, skills, and experience. Conversely, a overlooked employee, who has been given a chance, has a tendency to prove their worth, work hard, and show loyalty.

The story of the outlier, who was given an opportunity and made good on it, is a powerful narrative that resonates with us. And that’s because on a deep level, we know that it matters for individual humans, their families, and our community here in Greenville, SC.