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Small Businesses Are Being Touted as the New Job-Growth Engine

July 16, 2010
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The economy might be thawing. Although U.S. unemployment continues to hover around 10 percent and many entrepreneurs are still focused on—and worried about—keeping their doors open, new jobs numbers have slowly been improving nationwide, and some Chicago-area small businesses report that their customers are beginning to return, and to spend.

As the owners of now-stabilized small businesses come up for air, they are encountering a marketplace that looks a little different than it did the last time they contemplated growth. For one thing, their competitors are weaker and probably fewer in number. In addition, the hiring pool is flush with qualified candidates. In many cases, entrepreneurs have been pleasantly surprised to discover just how efficiently they can operate.

Entrepreneurs are inherent risk-takers, and their instinct, when opportunities are within their grasp, is to reach for them. Those who sense opportunity in the marketplace now also realize that there will be intense competition to capitalize on it. This is good news for job seekers, because some small businesses are beginning to hire again.

Several factors are tempting entrepreneurs to hire:

• High-level talent is available and affordable, and there may be extraordinary value in certain strategic hires.

• If they beef up their sales and marketing efforts, entrepreneurs stand to outflank more conservative competition and to see revenue growth by winning a larger share of the recovering market.

• People need jobs and may be willing to work for less guaranteed money than they would typically, enabling entrepreneurs to build their businesses without straining their budgets.

• If demand is increasing significantly, entrepreneurs may feel pressure to grow in order to deliver at a high level.

Hiring is certainly a risk. Entrepreneurs with recent, vivid memories of skirting insolvency are understandably reluctant to add fixed costs that could mean the difference between surviving and failing. Here’s how several Chicago small businesses made the decision to start hiring again.

“Our philosophy hasn’t changed in this economy other than taking a second look before we post a job and asking, ‘Do we really need this?’ Then it’s ‘OK, yes we do,’ ” says Kelly Cutler, CEO of Marcel Media in Chicago, a marketing firm that plans to hire 12 to 16 people this year.

“We take a slow, steady approach to growth, where some of our competitors have hired up without first having the businesses to sustain that growth and then gone out of business. We’ve gotten some great people because of that.”

Workforce Management Online, July 2010 -- Register Now!

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