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From Hire to Hire: Employee Retention in Small Business

There are challenges and unique opportunities that stem from cultivating a dedicated team. That's why you should develop practical strategies to foster a thriving workplace culture.

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As a small business owner, you may never face a larger challenge than that of employee retention.

There’s nothing more daunting than discovering that a key team player plans to jump ship, possibly at a crucial point in the development of your enterprise. You’ve seen the integral fabric of your business be influenced and shaped by the ongoing contributions of this individual, resulting in a complex dependency scenario which only really begins to come to light in the face of their impending departure. Beyond simply taking the staff member for granted, you’ve instead allowed them to become a fulcrum on which the entire stability of your business is precariously balanced.

In the context of the corporate world, the harsh reality is that staff come and go with astonishing rapidity and usually end up leaving no real ripples in their wake. The machinations of large companies are structured in such a way that individual identity plays a less significant role than it does in the small business setting. There’s so much money in play, and so many thousands of moving pieces, that whatever is getting done is occurring in the whirlwind of a gigantic overlap of skills and abilities. Efficiency isn’t always a strong suit of large corporations, but mistakes and waste are often covered up by the fact that more money is being made than is slipping through the cracks.

But your small business is a different world altogether. Maybe you started your enterprise as a sole proprietorship and only brought others in as things grew and developed, and, if so, you’ve likely figured out how to run a lean and efficient operation. This type of “no frills” entrepreneurship puts the focus exclusively on meeting the needs of your customer or client with a minimum of fuss and expense. As you integrate additional staff into your operations, you’ll do so with intentionality and judiciousness, being careful to pair the right staff with the right functions. More often than not, people will end up wearing various hats as things grow, but there will still tend to be particular job functions that are the domain of one specific team member.

This can be a dynamic formula for organizational growth and success, but it carries with it the unfortunate byproduct of making those individuals indispensable. As time passes and each staff person becomes more tenured in the company, the roles themselves take on a life of their own. The company becomes dependent on the fact that staff members know their jobs inside and out, and everything is fine as long as nothing messes with the equilibrium. It’s all one well-oiled machine, and the momentum can continue to build and build, providing that each one of those staff people remains loyally connected to the company.

There’s much prudence in the concept of heavily documenting all the processes of your operations. That way, if a crucial staff person is absent (whether short term or permanently), everything doesn’t need to come grinding to a halt. The expertise that each team member embodies as they carry out their daily job duties can now be disseminated so that someone taking over in a vacated position won’t be totally lost. The knowledge base of practical experience is now being passed on in a meaningful and relevant way that will help to ensure that the changing of staff is merely a blip on the radar rather than a train wreck.

And yet, even in situations where great documentation is provided to a capable staff person, things will never be exactly the same as they were. Invariably, the fabric of the business enterprise will be changed, and this could be either positive or negative. The dynamic of interpersonal relationships in the team will now need to go through an adjustment period. A staff of dedicated and conscientious people can adapt and embrace the group ethic in constructive ways, but it still requires focus and commitment from everyone to ensure that the collective whole of the business continues to function at its fullest.

So, realistically, wouldn’t it be better to try to minimize turnover in the first place? Some of this simply can’t be avoided – real life circumstances can sometimes end up forcing the decision for someone to move on from their position. But, in those cases where the choice to stay or leave is the personal one of the individual, wouldn’t it be beneficial to find ways to influence the environment of your business to compel the people who work there to want to stay invested? What can you do to address the practical considerations of what would cause someone to look for greener pastures?

Small businesses are at an automatic disadvantage from the standpoint of salary. A competitive wage will always be a powerful draw for talented and dedicated employees, but your company may find that a challenge due to tight operating funds. Type-A personalities who are only looking to climb the ladder of success aren’t likely to give a small business a second glance, but that doesn’t negate the fact that there are many skilled and adept individuals who want to find a meaningful outlet for their abilities. Rather than becoming a nameless piece of the corporate puzzle, those with the desire to connect to a meaningful platform to showcase their talent might just find the small business setting to be a perfect fit.

The mission of the company can also play a key role in providing a worthwhile element for employees to connect to. It’s one thing to grind away on the corporate treadmill, mindlessly performing a job function exclusively for a paycheck, but there’s usually no real emotional or intellectual attachment to what the company is all about. Any employee will be at the peak of their performance when they can find tangible ways to mesh their skill with their passion. There’s much more opportunity to do this in the small business realm, where companies are often the brainchild of one person who had a dream and a calling on their heart. Being able to present the legitimacy of why your business exists can be a powerful catalyst for gaining a loyal and lasting buy-in from the people who choose to work for you.

Very few and far between are those who can remain consistently motivated to do something they despise or are apathetic about. The idea of job fulfillment isn’t simply esoteric – it’s a crucial element of a healthy, productive work dynamic. Being able to offer an environment in which people can take a true pride in what they do can be extremely attractive. Retaining employees is much easier to do when you’re allowing people to work in a way that causes them to go home at the end of the day feeling like a valuable, and valued, contributor.

When this is tied to the underlying mission of the company, it takes job satisfaction to an entirely different level. People want the package deal – personal fulfillment and the realization that they’re contributing to something greater than themselves. When these factors combine, the net result will be a solid and positive experience that will stand out in the vast array of commonplace jobs. If you can make this happen, you’ll be providing a unique, possibly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that discerning employees will come to treasure.

The last, and possibly strongest component of employee retention in small businesses, is the family dynamic. Honoring a moderate and healthy balance between work and personal life should always be at the forefront, but you should also invest care and effort in creating an environment where people feel that they’re genuinely knitted together with their co-workers. Be quick to praise successes and demonstrate patience and understanding in regard to failures, and the climate you mold will allow people to relax and be themselves.

The goal in retaining the people you employee should never be to try to compete with those large entities that can offer a massive salary and benefits package. Rather, embrace the nuances of what can only be accomplished in the small business setting and determine to do everything you can to help your employees to flourish, succeed, and be willing to stay with you for the long run.


Elevate your small business by partnering with ValorExcel. Let us guide you in implementing tailored strategies for employee retention, fostering a fulfilling workplace culture, and maximizing the unique advantages of your small business setting. Unlock the potential for lasting success—connect with ValorExcel today by visiting, emailing us at, or calling 240-329-9387. Then, don't forget to check our recent videos on YouTube by clicking HERE.  #BusinessGrowth #EmployeeEngagement #TeamSuccess

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