Fewer employees means workers have a better chance of being recognized for a job well done, says Nora Denzel, senior vice president and general manager of Intuit's ( INTU) Employee Management Solutions. Intuit has 1 million small-business payroll customers, mainly firms with between 10 and 50 employees. An employee can be a "big fish in a small pond," Denzel says. The more intimate setting also makes for a more familial atmosphere -- even if it isn't a family-owned business. This type of setting can give employees a "keen sense of belonging in a personal way that sometimes larger companies can't," she says.
Fewer employees also means that while workers might have to multitask, that could add to overall job satisfaction. With fewer employees, tasks fall to those who are available, which means one employee could find her hands in several different aspects of the company, from billing to customer service to sales. That could be overwhelming to an employee, but it could also make for a more satisfying role -- less boredom and a chance to learn more skills. Employees could "be called on to do things that they've never done before," making for a rewarding work experience in which the employee is constantly learning, Denzel says. "Some people love that; some don't."
Employees in small firms can have a much stronger impact on how the company is run. "In a small company there is less red tape," says Kristina Bouweiri, president and CEO of Reston Limousine. "Let's say one of the chauffeurs
Working for a smaller firm could give employees a better work-life balance. Small businesses are more likely to be able to extend flexible work hours and put a priority on family. There are even businesses that let workers bring their pets to work. The perks could offset the fact that smaller companies may not be able to offer the high salaries seen in larger corporations, allowing the businesses to still attract talent. Mark Douglas, chief executive of Internet ad company SteelHouse, has implemented some unusual perks to find good talent. Besides a benefits package, SteelHouse has an open-ended vacation policy. Employees can take as many vacation days as they want (within reason -- six months of vacation is a bit much), Douglas says. And SteelHouse will pay up to $2,000 toward a trip. "The most-talented, best-educated individuals -- they're in high demand," Douglas says.
Small businesses may also look to promote from within, especially for workers at the beginning of their careers. Reston Limo's Bouweiri says she prefers it that way. "Somebody might come to work for us right out of college with no skills and no experience and if we see something in them -- they may start out as a dispatcher, but may be promoted to manager in three years or so," she says. "We find as a small business, sometimes you can't compete with a lot of large corporate offerings" to employees, Bouweiri says, who lists mega-conglomerates AOL ( AOL), Exxon Mobil ( XOM) and Microsoft ( MSFT) among the companies with large presence in the D.C. area. Due to the many government opportunities and corporate presences, "small businesses have to struggle to hire the right people because we can't afford to pay the salaries as the large companies," she says. Training and promoting from within could be considered a better use of time for some businesses.
Reston Limo turned to employees for cost-cutting suggestions, Bouweiri says, they incentivizing them to come up with the best. One suggestion from an employee in the accounting department was that the company buy instead of rent uniforms and wash them internally, which ended up saving the company $17,000 a year. Such ideas helped Bouweiri raise revenue by a reported 27% during the recession. "Each and every employee has a voice, and they feel they can share great ideas and implement positive changes for the company," Bouweiri says. Additionally, when an issue arises, employees should feel comfortable alerting management. This gives the owner the ability to "respond quickly to a changing situation," SCORE's Bloom says. "To many of us, at times, the impression is that 'I don't want to hear bad news,' " he says. "You run into trouble because
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