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Small Business Management Redefined By Millennials

Small Business Management Redefined By Millennials

By: Catherine Conlan

While proprietors who are 35 and under make up the smallest age demographic among all small-business owners, they are definitely leaving their mark. 

Tech-savvy and innovative, this new generation is changing expectations, particularly in how they recruit and engage their workforce. They often value workplace flexibility in their own lives, and extend that mindset to their employees. 

Here’s a look at the next generation of small-business owners is adapting to the evolving job market by rethinking their management best practices.

Using Social Media to Connect -- and Recruit
Social media has been a boon for small businesses. It’s easy to connect with customers and share company culture and insights. Two-thirds of large businesses use social media to recruit according to the Society for Human Resource Management. It also gives small businesses a means to effectively compete for top talent.

“I have had great results using social media to generate interest and find ideal candidates for jobs,” says Jon Kline, founder of MKE Production Rental in Milwaukee. “Some of our best job candidates have been referred from customers on social media.”

Placing a Higher Value on Soft Skills
Sara Dabby, head of talent at ClickTime, a timesheet software company in San Francisco, acknowledges that recruiting and hiring for a small company is very different from hiring at a large firm. One big difference: a candidate’s interpersonal skills (often referred to as soft skills) will often have a much larger influence on the bottom line.

“When the successes or failures of the company are determined by teamwork and collaboration, soft skills become more crucial,” Dabby says. “One bad apple can ruin morale on a small team, so it's imperative to weed those out and make sure everyone on the team is positive, friendly and makes people's lives better.”

Looking Beyond the Usual Benefits
Erica Knight is a Millennial business owner who uses unique company benefits and team perks to differentiate her Arizona-based marketing company’s culture and recruiting strategy.

The Knight Agency offers workers telecommuting options, flexible scheduling, incentive programs, monthly team outings and a team-building activities. Rounding out the available “lifestyle perks”: company’s free facial and skincare products from a local spa, free gym membership and up to $100 per month at top local restaurants. Weekly group Pilates sessions help boost team-building efforts and relieve stress at work.

Investing in Engagement
This generation of small business owners is also looking for new ways to develop and retain top talent. “Employee engagement is very different in small business, especially with Millennials,” Kline says. He makes sure to have multiple meetings annually with each employee to find out what their personal goals are and what parts of the job they like the most.

“Because small businesses are so agile, it's a lot easier to shape the future of the company around the type of work your employees are particularly good at and enjoy doing,” Kline says.

Building Something That Lasts
While independence and wealth are common reasons for starting a business, today’s entrepreneurs are looking to leave their mark and help others. 

“I started my business because I felt like there must be people out there like me, who needed equipment for small to medium-sized video shoots,” Kline says. “A lot of people getting started can't afford to buy everything they need. It also helps to have a local resource for learning about the equipment and the industry.”

"Randy and I started the business out of a desire to build something great,” says Angie Stocklin, referring to herself and her husband. She is chief operating officer and co-founder of One Click, a Greenwood, Indiana-based company that helps people buy eyewear online. 

“We wanted to create a place where not only we loved to work, but also where our team members loved to work. We wanted to build a business from the ground up that could have a lasting impression on our community."