Small businesses employ almost half of all workers in the United States and have been responsible for much of the post-2008 economic recovery through their hiring efforts.
Over the past year, hiring activity has been on an upward trend for small businesses, with plans to add workers hitting the highest level since 1999.
SCORE’s latest Megaphone of Main Street Small Business Jobs Report surveyed more than 1,700 small business owners to rate their hiring experiences of employees and contractors.
More than 50 percent of small businesses said it was very or somewhat difficult to fill open positions, with about 55 percent of micro businesses, or those with 0 to 4 employees, in agreement.
Twenty-seven percent of openings went unfilled in the past six months, which was consistent across different small business sizes and locations. Business owners cited problems finding skilled, qualified applicants as a primary reason for not filling positions.
Offering competitive wages and salaries is another common challenge, along with a lack of healthcare and other employee benefits. Hiring takes time, too — about 18 percent of all small businesses said it was too time-consuming to hire qualified workers – they’ll just do the job themselves.
Small businesses use job-posting sites, recommendations from other business owners, networking groups and online platforms drive hiring efforts, but by far, recommendations from other workers proved most fruitful in finding new employees.
Our infographic, “The Megaphone of Main Street: Small Business and Employment,” identifies more hiring challenges faced by small businesses.
The area of largest hiring growth among those surveyed was in one-time project or gig workers at 37 percent.
Eighteen percent of businesses reported replacing employees of any type with contractors over the past six months.
Of those business owners, 50.8 percent reported choosing a contractor or temporary worker for the benefit of their specialized expertise. Forty-one percent reported only having seasonal or temporary needs; 35.1 percent said they preferred hiring a contractor over needing ongoing cash reserves for payroll. The costs and complexities of offering employee benefits like healthcare and retirement plans also drove the decision to hire a contractor.
Forty-seven percent of solopreneurs reported hiring other people for part-time help running their businesses. Their firms had an average of 3.2 workers, including the owner.
Contractors are most likely to be called in to complete technical, accounting, bookkeeping and marketing tasks. Other important roles for contractors include manufacturing, sales, business planning and logistics.
When respondents noted their reasons for hiring an employee over a contractor, consistency of work and commitment to the company were primary. Having the same person in a position rather than a rotating contractor was another major factor, as was the ability to direct work tasks and schedule work hours.
Some business owners commented that their concerns about correctly following IRS regulations— and dealing with related paperwork — guided their decisions whether to hire a contractor or an employee.
By the summer of 1830, Victor Hugo was facing an impossible deadline. Twelve months earlier, the famous French author had made an agreement with his publisher that he would write a new book titled, The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Instead of writing the book, Hugo spent the next year pursuing other projects, entertaining guests, and delaying his work on the text. Hugo’s publisher had become frustrated by his repeated procrastination and responded by setting a formidable deadline. The publisher demanded that Hugo finish the book by February of 1831—less than 6 months away.
Hugo developed a plan to beat his procrastination. He collected all of his clothes, removed them from his chambers, and locked them away. He was left with nothing to wear except a large shawl. Lacking any suitable clothing to go outdoors, Hugo was no longer tempted to leave the house and get distracted. Staying inside and writing was his only option.
The strategy worked. Hugo remained in his study each day and wrote furiously during the fall and winter of 1830. The Hunchback of Notre Dame was published two weeks early on January 14, 1831.
The Ancient Problem of Akrasia
Human beings have been procrastinating for centuries. Even prolific artists like Victor Hugo are not immune to the distractions of daily life. The problem is so timeless, in fact, that ancient Greek philosophers like Socrates and Aristotle developed a word to describe this type of behavior: Akrasia.
Akrasia is the state of acting against your better judgment. It is when you do one thing even though you know you should do something else. Loosely translated, you could say that akrasia is procrastination or a lack of self-control. Akrasia is what prevents you from following through on what you set out to do.
Why would Victor Hugo commit to writing a book and then put it off for over a year? Why do we make plans, set deadlines, and commit to goals, but then fail to follow through on them?
Why We Make Plans, But Don’t Take Action
One explanation for why akrasia rules our lives and procrastination pulls us in has to do with a behavioral economics term called “time inconsistency.” Time Inconsistency refers to the tendency of the human brain to value immediate rewards more highly than future rewards.
When you make plans for yourself — like setting a goal to lose weight or write a book or learn a language — you are actually making plans for your future self. You are envisioning what you want your life to be like in the future and when you think about the future it is easy for your brain to see the value in taking actions with long-term benefits.
When the time comes to make a decision, however, you are no longer making a choice for your future self. Now you are in the moment and your brain is thinking about the present self. And researchers have discovered that the present self really likes instant gratification, not long-term payoff. This is one reason why you might go to bed feeling motivated to make a change in your life, but when you wake up you find yourself falling into old patterns. Your brain values long-term benefits when they are in the future, but it values immediate gratification when it comes to the present moment.
This is one reason why the ability to delay gratification is such a great predictor of success in life. Understanding how to resist the pull of instant gratification—at least occasionally, if not consistently—can help you bridge the gap between where you are and where you want to be.
The Akrasia Antidote: 3 Ways to Beat Procrastination
Here are three ways to overcome akrasia, beat procrastination, and follow through on what you set out to do.
Strategy 1: Design your future actions.
When Victor Hugo locked his clothes away so he could focus on writing, he was creating what psychologists refer to as a “commitment device.” Commitment devices are strategies that help improve your behavior by either increasing the obstacles or costs of bad behaviors or reducing the effort required for good behaviors.
You can curb your future eating habits by purchasing food in individual packages rather than in the bulk size. You can stop wasting time on your phone by deleting games or social media apps. You can reduce the likelihood of mindless channel surfing by hiding your TV in a closet and only taking it out on big game days. You can voluntarily ask to be added to the banned list at casinos and online gambling sites to prevent future gambling sprees. You can build an emergency fund by setting up an automatic transfer of funds to your savings account. These are commitment devices.
The circumstances differ, but the message is the same: commitment devices can help you design your future actions. Find ways to automate your behavior beforehand rather than relying on willpower in the moment. Be the architect of your future actions, not the victim of them.
Strategy 2: Reduce the friction of starting.
The guilt and frustration of procrastinating is usually worse than the pain of doing the work. In the words of Eliezer Yudkowsky, “On a moment-to-moment basis, being in the middle of doing the work is usually less painful than being in the middle of procrastinating.”
So why do we still procrastinate? Because it’s not being in the work that is hard, it’sstarting the work. The friction that prevents us from taking action is usually centered around starting the behavior. Once you begin, it’s often less painful to do the work. This is why it is often more important to build the habit of getting started when you’re beginning a new behavior than it is to worry about whether or not you are successful at the new habit.
You have to constantly reduce the size of your habits. Put all of your effort and energy into building a ritual and make it as easy as possible to get started. Don’t worry about the results until you’ve mastered the art of showing up.
Strategy 3: Utilize implementation intentions.
An implementation intention is when you state your intention to implement a particular behavior at a specific time in the future. For example, “I will exercise for at least 30 minutes on [DATE] in [PLACE] at [TIME].”
There are hundreds of successful studies showing how implementation intentions positively impact everything from exercise habits to flu shots. In the flu shot study, researchers looked at a group of 3,272 employees at a Midwestern company and found that employees who wrote down the specific date and time they planned to get their flu shot were significantly more likely to follow through weeks later.
It seems simple to say that scheduling things ahead of time can make a difference, but as I have covered previously, implementation intentions can make you 2x to 3x more likely to perform an action in the future.
Our brains prefers instant rewards to long-term payoffs. It’s simply a consequence of how our minds work. Given this tendency, we often have to resort to crazy strategies to get things done—like Victor Hugo locking up all of his clothes so he could write a book. But I believe it is worth it to spend time building these commitment devices if your goals are important to you.
Aristotle coined the term enkrateia as the antonym of akrasia. While akrasia refers to our tendency to fall victim to procrastination, enkrateia means to be “in power over oneself.” Designing your future actions, reducing the friction of starting good behaviors, and using implementation intentions are simple steps that you can take to make it easier to live a life of enkrateia rather than one of akrasia.
Courtesy James Clear https://jamesclear.com/akrasia
If Black Friday crowds exhaust you and Cyber Monday feels risky, mom-and-pop business owners in metro Atlanta have a proposition: shop Small Business Saturday.
Instead of elbowing your way to that discounted TV at a Big Box retailer this weekend, you should patronize independent shops, where you can slow down, get one-on-one service and perhaps find unique items, small business owners say.
“We try to offer things you can’t get in the big box stores or on Amazon,” said Crista McCay, registrar for the Marietta Museum of History, one of a number of Marietta Square businesses hoping to get on metro Atlantans holiday shopping itinerary.
“We’ve got Big Chicken items like a Big Chicken ornament made of Georgia clay that you can’t get anywhere else,” she said, referring to the Marietta landmark. “We’ve also got ‘History in Focus,’ which is 125-page book about Cobb County that is unique to our store.” Expectations are high that this may be the breakout year for Small Business Saturday, which has struggled to gain momentum since it was created by American Express in 2010.
The National Retail Federation projects about 71 million people will shop on Small Business Saturday, a solid turnout when compared to the more traditional and better known Black Friday. About 115 million are expected to shop on Black Friday, the NRF reports.
A recent study by the National Federation of Independent Business found that consumer awareness of Small Business Saturday has grown to about six in 10 Americans. That could mean millions in dollars for local economies because most small business sales stay in the communities where the purchases are made compared to that of big box retailers, said Nathan Humphrey, director of the Georgia NFIB office.
“Keeping the money in the local community with people you know is part of the emotional draw,” he said. Small Business Saturday also helps small communities showcase their downtowns because many of the stores are in older, renovated buildings that require shoppers to park and walk to storefronts.
“This is great for communities because it forces people to get out of their cars and walk around,” said Amanda Leiba, senior marketing coordinator for the city of Duluth, which is sponsoring a Small Business Saturday celebration for Gwinnett County community. “Sometimes people don’t know what’s in their back yard because they don’t venture out.”
Unlike retail chains or billion-dollar online juggernauts like Amazon, the mom-and-pop retailers can’t afford to offer huge deals to pull in customers or take a loss on certain items, say a TV, in hopes of making it up with sales of other products, Humphrey said.
The Game-Changing Technology Every Company Needs to Prepare for Now It’s 1890. You own a small insurance company that sells accident protection and marine policies. Your business is growing quickly but faces one key challenge: There’s no electric light. Your productivity rises and sets with the sun. (Gas lamps are available, but they’re dangerous, messy, and not that bright.)
Then you get word of a new set of interlocking technologies that promises to transform daily life. It all begins with Thomas Edison’s light bulb and the electric current that turns it on, courtesy of a power utility’s centrally located generator in New York City. Electricity quickly changes everything. You can work longer hours and process more policies, which allows you to hire more people.
Electricity also flows into factories, soon powering machinery along vast assembly lines and allowing for the mass production of cars (which opens up a whole new insurance market for you). It changes things at home, too: Electricity empowers women, who, before long, come to rely on electric clothes washers and coffee percolators. In time, electricity will underpin countless once-unthinkable inventions: radio, refrigeration, television, computers.
It’s 2017. You own a small insurance company, your business is growing quickly, and you have a chance to take advantage of the biggest transformative technology since electricity: artificial intelligence.
You’ve experienced narrow forms of A.I.: anti-lock braking systems, email spam filters, weather apps. All only hint at the coming new age of human-machine interaction, in which A.I. will perform any intellectual task just as a human would.
Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, IBM, Microsoft, and Baidu are all building the foundations of A.I., but hundreds of startups are focused on ancillary tools (just as, 125 years ago, many companies made wooden poles, copper wire, and lamp fixtures). Nvidia is building computer chips that allow machines to react to their surroundings in real time. Fanuc is working on an unsupervised learning system, so A.I.-powered robots can learn skills on their own. Tesla is developing A.I. infrastructure for autonomous vehicles, which includes new kinds of maps and decision-making software. And Clarifai is building software that will automatically tag, organize, and search content.
If you’re an insurer today, you’ll need to plan for self-driving cars that don’t get into accidents. And you’ll need to create policies for companies that want protection against algorithms that run amok. Like electricity, A.I. will usher in huge changes for every single industry. Over the next two decades, you’ll encounter key bosses who aren’t human.
And changing industries will require new skills:
A.I. will enable the production of significantly more food in much smaller spaces. Collaborative robots will decide what to plant, harvest the fruits and vegetables,
and then transport them to autonomous vehicles that will drive the produce to factories for processing. We’ll need fewer field laborers–but more horticulturists and managers who are cross-trained in computer science.
The medical center of the future will be remote. There–assisted by A.I., nanobots, and health data–doctors who know robotics will monitor and treat us before we get really sick, and with far fewer in-person office visits.
Businesses will eventually outsource key decisions and organizational management to algorithms. Many humans will find themselves managed by machines for performance assessments, raises, and conflict resolution. To oversee it, we’ll need companies–and people–that understand data, A.I., and traditional human resources.
Someday, you’ll look back and realize that A.I. is our generation’s electricity. And that you were there, at the start, witnessing A.I.’s illumination of the future of your business and our world. (more…)
This short interview with Tesla CEO Elon Musk is packed with valuable lessons.
Elon Musk has emerged as one of the world’s most popular entrepreneurs. As the guiding force behind Tesla, SpaceX, and OpenAI (among a host of other companies), he’s confronting some of the world’s biggest challenges head-on.
I recently stumbled across this interview with Musk, and his advice resonated with me. His lessons are aimed at entrepreneurs, but the final point can be applied by anyone.
Here are the highlights:
“Starting a business is not for everyone,” begins Musk. “Starting a business, I’d say, number one is have a high pain threshold.”
Musk goes on to share one of his favorite sayings, which he learned from a friend:
“Starting a company is like eating glass and staring into the abyss.”
“That’s generally what happens,” explains Musk. “Because, when you first start a company, there’s lots of optimism. And things are great. Happiness at first is high. And then you encounter all sorts of issues–and happiness will steadily decline. Then, you’ll go through a whole world of hurt. And, eventually, if you succeed–and in most cases you will notsucceed … And Tesla almost didn’t succeed. It came very close to failure. If you succeed, then after a long time, you will finally get back to happiness.”
This is so true. When I started working for myself several years ago, I wasn’t prepared for the amount of pain I’d have to endure. And I’ve failed more often than I’ve succeeded.
But every failure was a lesson learned–and the successes wouldn’t have been possible without them.
If you’re building a product or offering a service, says Musk, it can’t be just a little better than the competition–it has to be great.
“If you’re entering anything where there’s an existing marketplace, against large, entrenched competitors, then your product or service needs to be much better than theirs,” he says. “It can’t be a little bit better, because then you put yourself in the shoes of the consumer … you’re always going to buy the trusted brand unless there’s a big difference.”
This reminds me of the vital lesson Guy Kawasaki learned from Steve Jobs many years ago.
“You have to jump curves, not [create] better sameness,” Kawasaki said in a keynote. “You don’t do things 10 percent better; you do things 10 times better.” Think of how the iPod replaced the Walkman. Or how the iPhone replaced Blackberry. Or how the iPad replaced … the Palm Pilot?
As Musk says: “It can’t just be slightly better. It’s got to be a lot better.”
This is my favorite lesson from this interview, because it’s a vital reminder for everyone.
“A well-thought-out critique of whatever you’re doing is as valuable as gold,” says Musk. The famous founder then encourages listeners to seek criticism from everyone, but “particularly your friends.”
“Usually your friends know what’s wrong,” explains Musk. “But they don’t want to tell you because they don’t want to hurt you. It doesn’t mean your friends are right. But very often, they are right.”
This is so true. When it comes to your ideas, those who are closest to you typically want to encourage. The last thing they want is to bring you down.
But these people are also a valuable resource: They can tell you, in-depth, where your weaknesses are and what you need to improve.
Of course, it hurts to hear that you’re wrong. That something about you or what you created isn’t perfect. But with a little emotional intelligence, you can see that feedback for what it is–an opportunity to get better.
As Musk brilliantly sums it up:
“You should take the approach that you’re wrong. Your goal is to be less wrong.”
One minute you’re reviewing last month’s sales and strategizing about the future of your business. The next you’re uploading blog posts and sharing a photo of your work on Instagram. On the weekend you’re balancing time with your kids and your overflowing email inbox.
How can you stop the crazy? Before you start thinking about hiring a little help – like a VA, project manager, or support person – take a look at your systems. There is a lot you can do to increase your productivity without expanding your team. Plus, there’s a hidden bonus here. The work you do to automate now will actually make it easier for you to delegate later.
Now, I know the things I’m about to recommend actually aren’t super sexy and exciting. But, trust me… taking these steps now will pay off for you immediately and in the future.
It is time to face reality. The sticky note system you use to manage your task list is not as effective as you might like to believe. The mish-mash of information scribbled in your planner could be more efficient too. And, that habit you have of remembering everything without writing it down? Well…. That’s a disaster in the making.
You’ll be amazed at how efficient you become when you start using a project management tool like Asana, Trello, or Evernote to help you run your business. Sure, it takes a little time to find a tool that suits you…and a little more time to transfer your sticky notes and scribbles to the system… but the investment is well worth the effort. You’ll quickly become more organized and you’ll have the information you need about each project within easy reach.
In addition, a project management tool will allow you to start documenting the normal way you do things. These “systems” are the the foundation you’ll need to delegate once you add someone to your team.
A good project management tool will also help you track progress on projects and check in with your team easily. You won’t have to micromanage (something we all struggle with at first) because you’ll be able to quickly evaluate your team member’s results.
When you are the only one performing key tasks in your business, you become the bottleneck. Every task requires your time and attention, and all the knowledge required to get things done lives inside your head (or on your sticky notes). Adding a project management tool begins to solve this problem, but it is just a first step.
To truly become more efficient, you need to automate wherever you can. Here’s where I recommend you start:
In addition to automating systems like these, think about ways you can systematize key tasks using tool such as checklists and tip sheets. These resources are super helpful because they allow you to quickly move through repetitive tasks. Once you’re ready to expand your team, these resources become the systems you’ll need to delegate. (more…)
The horse race to be the city of Amazon’s second headquarters.
Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. There’s something mesmerizing about watching horses race each other, all over the country, on vast screens as one sits in semi-darkness.This may be why I’m fascinated by the 200-horse race to be the city of Amazon’s second headquarters.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about the betting being conducted on the site of Irish bookie Paddy Power. At the time, there were two cities that seemed to be vying for the Amazon HQ2 title: Austin and Atlanta.
Each was priced at 2-1. This means the so-called smart money couldn’t decide how smart it really was. But it was sure it was smart. Today, I returned to the Paddy Power site, wondering if anything had changed. It has, and how. There’s now a clear favorite. Oddly, despite Bezos being a Texan at heart, it isn’t Austin.
It’s Atlanta.The home of Hawks and blown Super Bowls is now the 3-1 favorite. All you ancillary entrepreneurs out there look East and the Capitol of the Southeast which is already the fintech city of the U. S. Has the world’s busiest airport, a mild climate, and transportation everywhere (The MARTA rail system was built by those who finished BART in San Francisco). Labor is less expensive than other regions, and Atlanta complements a Northwest primary headquarters. Hot’lanta is where it is happening with 19 streets named Peachtree.