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Greenville Business Magazine

A business owner’s guide to hiring good employees and making that workweek just a little shorter

Mar 04, 2019 11:35AM ● By Kathleen Maris
By Earl Gregorich 
Area Director, Greenville Area Small Business Development Center

Many small business owners agree that finding and keeping good workers is a major challenge. Most entrepreneurs already work long hours, so not being able to rely on a well-trained, consistent labor force just adds to the workload. Owners are scrambling to find qualified people who want to work and are willing to commit to staying on board for a relatively long period of time. Just getting someone to stick around long enough to be trained to cover the workload to allow the owner a periodic coffee break would be nice.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, as reported by the S.C. Department of Commerce, shows the unemployment rate in Greenville at 3 percent. Since the U.S. Federal Reserve considers full employment to come in around 4.4 percent, it doesn’t take a human resources degree to see why it is hard to find good help. Couple this statistic with Greenville’s limited affordable housing for workers earning minimum wage and it seems you have a perfect setup to effectively cut off many labor sources for small business.

So, with a booming economy where everyone is working, what brings in a good candidate? What entices and keeps good employees? 

Better wages, a sense of accomplishment, making meaning over money, community outreach opportunities, corporate global awareness, training opportunities, time off, flex scheduling, health care, retirement plans, and being part of something bigger are just a few things you will hear if you listen to new hires. The difficulty is, many of these requests are in direct conflict with small business owner’s culture, work ethic, and profit goals. 

Yet, some of these requests are not so difficult to incorporate. Business owners willing to get creative find it’s not always about wages and bonuses. Sometimes, it’s more about the culture.

Cultural differences and the definition of “work ethic” don’t have to be sources of contention. Entrepreneurs simply need a better understanding of how workers see their place in the business. Chances are, as a business owner, you have experienced the fact that no employee cares for your business or your customers quite the way you do. If you think about it, why would they? They don’t own the business, and they are not tied directly to its success or failure. If the business goes under, they can just move on to the next gig. 

Business owners must set reasonable expectations and be willing to venture away from traditional workplace practices. Flex hours, unlimited vacation (yes, it’s a thing, ask Sir Richard Branson), and incorporating community programs into work time might be just what you need to land and keep that next new hire.

Changing your approach to hiring might also be in order. Whether you are an HR professional or new to the hiring process, it is easy to get wrapped up in someone’s resume. In most cases, a person who already knows a certain skill set will likely need to be untrained and retrained to successfully apply those skills to your small business. (And, as you know, the cost of training is high!) Even worse, if you find the right skillset on the resume, but the attitude is not right, the candidate probably is not a good fit for your company culture, and they will either quit or become such a disruption you will have to part ways.

Another approach to hiring might be to go “non-traditional” with your next hire. Some of your best workers may not be who you thought. A retiree with a passion for cooking may be a great addition to your kitchen supply store.

HR is complicated and hiring people is difficult. Consistently picking winners is not possible if you are just winging it, so get some training. After your training, rewrite your job postings and job descriptions to appeal to the right applicants. Once you have found the right applicant, set clear expectations before you hire them and provide regular feedback after they are hired so everyone knows how things are going and the departures of good employees can be minimized. When you do find the right fit for your business, incentivize those good workers to bring in other good workers with referral bonuses.

The point is, you may not always know when or where your next new hire will come from. You may have to change your outlook on what a “good employee” is, and you may have to get creative to win them over and keep them. Just think how satisfying it will be, though, when you can finally finish that cup of coffee before it gets cold.

Earl Gregorich is the area director for the Greenville Area Small Business Development Center, which focuses on helping small business owners start, grow, and sustain healthy businesses. Learn more at