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Small Businesses Can Offer Big Benefits to Attract the Best Talent

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Small businesses with less than 10 employees employ only about 11 percent of the American workforce, according to the most recent U.S. Census. This relatively smaller pool of workers puts the enterprising small-business entrepreneur at a distinct disadvantage when looking to hire top talent.

Related: 4 Smart Ways to Increase Employee Retention

As a small-business owner of tour companies Trademark Tours, LLC and City Wine Tours, LLC for over eight years, my biggest challenge has been attracting and retaining dedicated and talented employees in the competitive Boston job market. However, by highlighting the unique benefits of small businesses, I seem to have discovered the secrets of finding and keeping great employees! Here's how:

Offer a better work-life balance and more flexibility:

  • I allow staff to work from home a few days a week. Less commuting equals less stress and expense for my most valuable players. With a small staff, it is relatively easy for me to monitor home-office work. My sales director works from home for almost all of the off-season. Her cat thanks me every day!
  • My small business has seasonal trends, so I can be flexible with days off and vacation time. Offer full-timers a minimum two-week paid vacation plus holidays, but don't be stingy with personal days. In work-fun balance, small business can come out way ahead of the corporate giants.
  • We offer top talent a broader range of experience and responsibility. A colleague of mine recently left his large company because the cog-in-wheel feeling drove him away. My employees feel empowered to make changes in our company and I listen carefully to their ideas.
  • Technology allows for our key employees to not feel tied to one place. I'm based in Cambridge, Mass., but my business partners are spread over the country. My CFO works full-time from Virginia and overseas, our COO is based in New York City, our chief wine ambassador lives in Boston and our head of IT is in Los Angeles. People live and work where they want and there is no office drama in my far-flung, yet hyper-local company.

Related: How to Fix Virtual Team Challenges Before They Happen

Make a little go far with competitive compensation and benefits:

  • We offer even our entry-level employees a great wage and steal the best talent from the dreaded chains. Fifteen dollars an hour for a skilled college pre-med goes a long way toward paying for those science textbooks. Higher-paid employees are likely to stay longer.
  • Offer full health insurance benefits. It is the right thing to do, and it can gain you great loyalty. A former "invincible," health insurance was not always high on my radar. By joining a small-business network I found access to reasonably-priced plans. Don't nickel-and-dime your employees and they will not run to the big boys.

Offer unique perks but don't give into trends:

  • Save the money on bean-bagged game rooms and a fully-stocked kitchen -- hand out restaurant gift cards instead so your staff can enjoy lunch hour on the business and grab some well-earned privacy.
  • Fancy company retreats are unnecessary, but a "retreat day" at the office where calls are intercepted by voicemail and email replies are automatic allows for long-term planning without robbing employees of a weekend. Throw in dinner at the coolest place in town.
  • Employees won't miss stock options when they get quarterly cash bonuses for excellent work. You're the boss -- no need to wait "till Christmas.

The most important benefits a small business can offer its employees are flexibility, variety, a tangible stake in your success and the opportunity to lead more balanced lives. Your employees will be the envy of all of their friends who work for "The Man."

Related: No Cash on Hand? 3 Tips on Attracting Top Talent With Stock Options.

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