The 97.7%

Don’t panic! This isn’t one of “those” posts.

Did you hear the news last week? According to a report, 97.7% of all businesses in the United States have fewer than 100 employees. Small businesses are much more plentiful than the big guys. If you want to see G. Scott Thomas’ original article in “The Business Journals,” you can find it here.

Logic dictates job seekers might have more luck chasing companies from this enormous pool of options than  joining the millions who pile on top of the larger companies with more recognizable brands. Why are so many remiss to do so? I’ve found it comes down to 3 things.

  1. Jobs with small businesses are harder to find online. Big companies are more likely to post their openings in easy to find places. They can afford to post on Monster & Career Builder. They have fancier websites with  job portals. They have the type of infrastructure that can handle the influx of applications visible recruitment efforts generate. With so many job seekers relying heavily job boards for job leads, opportunities with small businesses are missed.
  2. Candidates have concerns about the stability, growth potential, compensation plans and culture of smaller companies. Assumptions and broad generalizations are made without making the effort to get to know each company individually. The irony is the fact small businesses have the same concerns about many displaced professionals. They aren’t sure how long they’ll stick around, don’t know if they can learn skills beyond what they have, assume they’ll be too expensive and worry they can’t adapt to their their culture. The risk is on both sides, folks, and common ground can be found in accepting that truth.
  3. The sense is the big  names carry more professional weight. Professionals like to work for recognizable firms. Having a name like Kraft or Microsoft on a resume gets the attention of future employers. Unless, of course, the big name company turns out to be Enron or Arthur Andersen. The thought big names give candidates more selling power has some truth. Especially for those hoping to remain in big business. It’s not an absolute truth, however. It’s a fair guess the 97.7% who identify themselves as small businesses are going to have a positive view of small business environments. Also, candidates with experience in smaller firms may have a broader range of responsibilities to sell from.

No matter your reason for not giving small businesses the attention they deserve in your job search, consider what could be gained from taking the time to make sure the big names aren’t dominating your efforts. Joining the majority of job seekers who are chasing 2.3% of businesses doesn’t sound like a winning strategy.



  • Justin says:

    We do agree on some things! I have spent my whole career with small companies and have never regretted it. Working for a small company gives you the chance to wear many hats. I had friends that went the big company route and then became very specialized in certain areas where working for small companies that were growing I got to be a generalist and really find where my true strengths were. I think small businesses will always be the ones creating the jobs, good old fashioned networking is one of the best ways to find jobs at those types of companies. So I agree give it a shot, especially those just entering the work force, you can get a lot more variety of experience that will server you well the rest of your career.

  • Scot says:

    I could not agree more. I have worked for small organizations and global organizations. Always found the most fun and flexibility to be with the smaller organizations. Once again you may have uncovered the next niche business….assisting the smaller organizations with “affordable” visibility.

  • Tammy says:

    Excellent point about small businesses. This is something that many job seekers don’t even realize.

    Many people I meet have forgotten why they even like to work. They find themselves depressed thinking that they can’t even get a job in fast food for minimum wage. Part of the problem is that they don’t really have anything in mind. They are just looking for a job that will pay the bills rather than focusing on where their talents, experience and skills will best serve themselves and the employer. They’ve lost hope.

    I meet people who carry the world on their shoulders thinking that they “have” to work so they better get a job. They would do a whole lot better choosing to do something they are good at or find some satisfaction with. Work is not something some look forward to and see it as a daily grind.

    Both of my parents did not finish high school. Before they decided that starting their own business was the only way to survive, my dad had worked in a factory by day and drove a cab in the city at night. My mom was a housekeeper. I can’t imagine either of them looking forward to work or wanting to paint a picture of themselves in a these roles, but they made the best of it. Their focus was on their family and their dreams.

    Getting those hard working Americans who deserve a good job to imagine themselves in new roles is not always easy. I think they will feel less like a “worker bee” and more at home working for a smaller business.

  • Lisa says:

    Thanks for stopping by, Justin, Scot & Tammy. Thanks for sharing your family’s story, Tammy. Hope things are improving in CA. We are seeing some growth in Michigan. Hope it lasts…

  • Tammy says:

    Hi Lisa,

    I forgot how much I enjoy your blog. :-) You inspire me.

    People here are getting interviews when a year or so ago, they were barely getting them at all. I’m finding that many job seekers are getting short term employment, but at least they are working which makes them more desirable for more permanent positions down the road. The housing market in CA is still crazy as ever though. We have a lot of foreclosures as well.

  • Lisa says:

    Tammy, I always enjoy your input. Thanks for chiming in on some of my other posts with great feedback and ideas. I had no idea you were a guitar player, by the way. Very cool.

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