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Open Letter to Small Businesses and Start-Ups

by Eric Baker
on 2016-03-16

Nah, we aren’t starting this open-letter piece with, “Dear Businessperson.” In a post that’s about changing your approach to small business, it would be ironic if we dragged out a tired cliché to make our point. Irony is cool when you do it on purpose, like in fiction, but not when you do it by mistake in a corporate blog.

Now that we’ve chewed up an entire paragraph to avoid two words (which, in an act of double irony, we didn’t actually avoid), let’s get to the part you actually care about: changing your approach to business.

In one respect, running a business is a continuous act of sorting and resorting priorities. When you are a huge corporation, you take a beehive approach, because no one person can keep track of everything that needs to be done. In a small business or a start-up, however, the person in charge does not have such a machine-like hierarchy of decision making. You’ve got to figure it out as you go.

The problem occurs when sorting priorities turns into making sacrifices. These aren’t intentional sacrifices (like goats to stop the volcano from getting mad), but things that get shuffled to the back so often they fall out of habit. Talent management, for example.

It’s understandable. Going in, we want to grow our business so that we become a destination employer. We want to attract and keep top talent. But two things happen. One, we never get to it because other needs are seem more immediate. Two, we don’t do it strategically.

Later, we find out we don’t have the right people to grow or, if we are fortunate enough to grow, we aren’t set up for long-term success and end up rushing the hiring process to fill empty seats with people who may or may not be right for our organization.

Coming up with a “talent alignment strategy” sounds like something they do in big pharma or at global soft drink companies. But in reality, there are plenty of low-cost yet viable and proven options for assessing the talent you have, identifying the gaps, and coming up with a strategy for growth. A great deal of research has already been done to determine what qualities point to success in different types of jobs as well.

In that regard, this is the best time of all to lead a small business or start a new enterprise, because your access to talent-management support has never been more affordable, nor have the tools been so advanced.

For the long-term benefit of your business, make talent alignment your priority. Save a goat.