Friday, September 30, 2011

Small Businesses That Are Hiring

A recent poll suggests that despite economic uncertainty, America's fastest-growing small businesses are looking for talent. Their biggest hurdle: finding it.

The entrepreneurs and CEOs leading America's fastest-growing private companies aren't letting the troubled economy slow down their hiring plans for 2012, a new survey reports.

The survey, "High-Growth Entrepreneurs Plan to Continue Growing," found that 133 CEOs who attended the Inc. 500|5000 Conference last week are readying themselves for plenty of new hires in 2012. It was compiled by the Kauffman Foundation.

Among the results Kauffman reported:

  • 96 percent plan to add employees in 2012
  • 41 percent plan to hire more than 20 employees in 2012
  • 71 percent do not outsource business operations outside of the U.S.

While the findings indicate the Inc. 500|5000 are on the hunt for new talent, the general feeling among small business owners is a bit gloomier. The Vistage CEO Confidence Index, which tracks sentiment among small business CEOs, reported this week that 1,700 entrepreneurs expect "a stagnant economy during the year ahead… and will likely curtail hiring plans."

Thom Ruhe, the director of entrepreneurship for the Kauffman foundation, says the discrepancy between the two surveys could very well be attributed to another Kauffman finding: that 40 percent of employers have trouble identifying qualified job applicants and say it is the biggest obstacle standing in the way of continued growth.

"It's two sides of the same coin," he says. "The small business pessimism could be attributed to a sense of frustration in finding [new hires], and I think Inc. companies are saying the same thing. If I had the wherewithal to wave a wand and have policy-makers pay attention to the real job creators in this country, I would point out that finding qualified people is the biggest impediment to growth, and maybe we should be addressing that, and spending less time on the debate around taxes and regulatory issues."

Others offer a simpler explanation: Inc. 500|5000 companies are in the midst of a serious growth spurt, and as a result, aren't as concerned about market challenges right now.

"You have a really skewed sample," says Brian Halligan, CEO of HubSpot, an inbound marketing software firm that ranked No. 33 on this year's list. "The Inc. 500 is like the Fortune 500 of the fastest-growing small businesses in the country, so of course they're going to be hiring. They're growing fast."

Halligan, who attended the conference, noted that what differentiates Inc. 500|5000 companies from the rest of the small business community is also something more intangible. "All the companies here have some unique, remarkable twist," he said. "There are no commodities here."

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