What is Your Biggest Business Issue?

I have asked that question of many small business owners and get several responses.  Most commonly concerns regarding labor lead the list.  I’m not speaking in terms of union type labor issues.  I am talking about the ability to attract and retain good employees.  Labor is often the biggest business issue.

While some would say that they are two separate and slightly related issues, I would suggest that they are the same issue viewed from different perspectives.

Depending on your source, the unemployment rate in the specific locations I do most of my business range from slightly above 2% to slightly above 3%.  Not enough to really make a difference.  This means the available labor pool is:

  1. Not considered favorably by employers
  2. Considered overqualified by employers, and/or
  3. Considered lacking the needed skills by employers.

One of those three is never a good consideration while the remaining two have a good deal of validity.  Neither of them can be controlled by small business employers and as a result, they are not worth spending a great deal of time on, unless the owner simply wants to sit around and complain without accomplishing anything.

So that leaves us with the seemingly “overqualified.”  That expression that carries so many meanings, among them:

  • Too expensive,
  • Too set in their ways,
  • A personal threat to the owner’s knowledge, skills, and abilities, to
  • Too old.

As I have shared before, in the immortal words of my father, “horsepucky.”

All business owners have a strategy.  It may be written down, it might be kept locked inside their heads, but they all have a strategy.  The strategy, they hope, will make their business successful.  Yet, without employees, the business struggles at best.  It moves along at some pace hiring, losing, replacing, hiring… The lack of quality labor harms the business.

How is a business to compete in an environment like that?

There are three things any business needs to consider:

  1. Leadership and workforce behaviors – these are nothing more than those things your leadership and workforce need to do, the performance they must demonstrate, in order for your business to achieve success.
  2. Workforce skills and competencies – The Knowledge, Skills, and abilities your workforce must have to execute your strategy. That means not only doing their jobs but excelling at it.  Sometimes this also includes their having the right personality to do the work.
  3. Workforce values and culture – This means that you and the workforce understand that some jobs in your business have a greater influence on your strategy than do others. That your high-performance culture is not just words but that it is executed and managed effectively.  This is how you differentiate your business from your competition – and win.

All 3 together create strong business success.  All three together take time, effort and the right knowledge to make them happen.  Interestingly, these are the same issues that any business regardless of size faces every day.

When you have all three of these your recruiting, retention, performance, productivity and profitability will not only be remarkable, it will be remarkably sustainable and successful.

Having the right skills doesn’t come from hiring the least expensive any more than it requires breaking the bank in your company to hire extraordinary high priced talent.  Often times, that so-called overqualified person is seeking an opportunity to work in a smaller business, a new industry or some other reason that makes them an ideal and important part of your businesses future.  Yet most will overlook them based upon ideas and beliefs that limit their business growth.

Imagine a highly skilled worker in your business that with years of experience, perhaps even more than you have, working on the day to day issues your business faces.  Imagine a person happy to contribute on a broader scale than they ever have before and, to your business wallets immediate but short-sighted thinking, is affordable.  Now imagine that same employee costing you a few dollars more but able to bring 3, 4, 5 times or more what you pay them into the business by increased sales and profit.  Now, imagine the reputation your business gains from such a relationship and how the right kind of people now want to not only work for you but remain and work for you; regardless of what any of your competition is doing.  If the people you select have the right mindset for your business, you’ll never have to worry about labor issues again, but your competition will.  That is how you create a successful recruiting and retention program.  Further, that is how you solve your biggest business problem.

Regardless of size, maximizing the value your workforce brings, through its ability to expertly execute your strategy, spells sustainable business success.