How Small Companies Can Compete Against Larger Companies For Talent

Q. We are a small growing company. How do we compete for talent with larger companies, since we can't pay as much as they do?

In my search practice I have placed people in small and large companies. The main issue is rarely compensation. In fact, if that is the primary issue then you will never win, as there is always some company willing to pay more, and that goes for large companies too.

First off, should you even be competing against large companies for talent? Their culture, resources, support, systems and budgets often will not align with a small company. That isn't to say never, but often, so you might be searching in the wrong pool for candidates.

Secondly, especially in this economy, money isn’t everything. Candidates today are seeking much more than just compensation. The are seeking stability, work-life balance and a company where they feel they can make an impact. Smaller companies tend to have a lot less bureaucracy, there is hard work but it's a fun place to work, there is a personal touch where everyone knows everyone, it's a growing company with an exciting vision for the future and so much more. It has been my experience that smaller companies don't think about these things when hiring. They go right to compensation, when for many candidates these things have a value or trade off to compensation. Granted, there is a fair compensation for every position and person, but once that level is met other things come into play.

Finally, don't ignore the seasoned workforce. I constantly hear about how age discrimination is happening. Many of these people would be outstanding employees and bring a level of expertise no younger worker could bring and also do it for a very reasonable compensation package. This workforce is underutilized in today's market by many smaller companies.

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Retaining your best talent is always the best thing any company can do. Download our FREE  Non-Monetary Rewards and Recognitions Matrix. It will help you retain your best people without additional compensation. CLICK HERE to download under the Free Resources section.

I welcome your comments and feedback.

Brad Remillard


If you’re looking for a job – don’t apply here.

One of the things I've noticed when working with successful business owners and executive leaders in large corporations is that they know who to hire. They look for certain characteristics in the person they put on the team. One of the first things they try to determine (once the skills are out of the way) is whether or not the person is hunting for a job or a position of responsibility.

If the candidate is looking for a job, they don't go any further with the interview. If the candidate indicates that what motivates them and gets them up every day is a position with responsibility for which they are held accountable, then the interview continues in earnest, with success factors and lots of questions. The open ended questions will focus on how to figure out if the candidate takes responsibility for the consequences of her/his decisions. “What was the single biggest failure you've experienced professionally and what did you learn?” “Can you provide an example of  how you made an uniformed decision and then went back to correct it to take the project down a new path?” “Give me an example of how you allowed hard data analysis to override your instinct when making a business decision.” The candidate had better be prepared to give substantial examples that can be verified.

As you might guess, the person asking these questions isn't looking for someone who is simply wanting to come in, do what s/he is told, let others take responsibility and go home at five. Nor is the hiring manager looking for someone who always sees outside forces or internal bureaucracy as getting in the way or causing failure. No, this manager or executive is not hiring someone for a job. Instead, they are looking for a person who takes responsibility; one who analyzes situations and is willing to look at data with fresh eyes. This manager is likely building a team that isn't afraid of admitting mistakes, pointing out areas for improvement, or being the bearer of “bad news.” They are looking for a professional.

Let's look at the other side. If I am a candidate who thrives on being in a position of responsibility, believe in being held accountable, and believe in being “data driven,” then I would want an interview to proceed as outlined above. If the hiring manager isn't asking questions that lead me to believe they are looking for a professional, then I might take the initiative to ask some of the questions myself. I'd be very tempted to ask, “How will you know that the candidate you hire is successful?” What would you expect to be accomplished in the first three months and how will you measure it?” “How would you describe the culture of accountability in your organization?” If the manager fumbles the answers to these questions, this is not a cultural match for me and I may want to move on. That's a very difficult decision, especially in these times. However, to settle for a job when you are looking for responsibility and a career position is going to hurt you in the long run.

Readers of this blog will not find too much surprising in this post. Yet, I see hiring managers make the same mistakes over and over again. I also see senior executives taking jobs in a panic – they have bills to pay and a family to support. Here is where I see the problem manifest most often – hiring a salesperson or sales manager. Sales people have a built in aversion to accepting responsibility for failure. Now before you fill my in-basket with hate mail, let me admit that I have come up through the sales ranks and managed a multi-channel sales team at several companies. I found myself succumbing to the very mindset that I'm suggesting isn't healthy. There's a simple and understandable explanation for this stereotype of the salesperson (apologies for those of you who have figured this out and grown out of it). A salesperson always faces more rejection in the average day than many people face in a year. They have to build up a thick skin. They have to accept the rejection, BELIEVE that it isn't personal, and move on to the next opportunity. That understandable need tends to create a habit of looking outside of our own actions for the reasons for failure. We have to guard against that eventuality and admit that while understandable, it is not acceptable to ALWAYS assume the failure is not ours. As the hiring manager for a high functioning sales team, I found it very challenging to dig down and get to the point of “when are you accountable for the failure of a sales initiative or forecast”; both for my sales team (including myself) and with prospective candidates for the team. It turns out getting there was crucial for a successful hire.

So back to the beginning statement. If you're looking for a job (no responsibility, just put in the time, collect a paycheck and go home), don't apply here – even if the position is for the assembly line. If you're looking to take responsibility for your actions, hold yourself accountable and are willing to grow, then let's get started on what it will take to be successful. Be ready to give examples of how you've made mistakes, accepted the responsibility for them and learned from them. Be ready to demonstrate how you are open to various views of and conclusions derived from the same data. If you're successful, we will be building a highly functional and exciting team. In my book, that's better than a job any day. Even in this horrible market.

Hiring sales people is difficult for everyone. We just launched our Sales Recruiting Division to help companies with this issue. As the economy turns, good sales people will be harder to find and even harder to identify. CLICK HERE to get a Free Success Factor Snapshot for your sales position.

For more information on hiring top talent, read our best-selling book (0ver 10,000) You're NOT the Person I Hired. CLICK HERE to read reviews.

About the author

Dave Kinnear is a sought after business advisor and mentor. He works with highly successful executives through one-to-one mentoring and coaching meetings. Individuals who are presently running successful businesses and executives in transition work with Dave to ensure meeting corporate and/or career goals. Through his affiliation with Vistage International, Dave convenes and facilitates Advisory Boards comprising Business Owners, Company Presidents and Chief Executives dedicated to becoming better leaders who make better decisions and achieve better results.

New Toyota vs. Old Toyota – It’s All About Soul

I was recently sent a blog post by Peter De Lorenzo, “The AutoExtremist”, on Toyota’s recent recall woes, or as Peter put it: “Toyota’s got trouble alright…Trouble with a capital ‘T’.”

Let me share a few paragraphs:

“The harsh reality for Toyota is that it went too far overboard in striving to become the biggest, baddest car company on earth. And in the course of their quest they literally abandoned damn near everything that got them to the point of being a true corporate juggernaut to begin with.

The Toyota “Way”? It went right out the window as soon as they started planning new assembly facilities at the same time they were still finishing plants that weren’t even up and running yet. The “old” Toyota would never do that. The “old” Toyota would take their sweet time in making sure that a new facility was every bit as focused and dialed-in as their best facilities. If it wasn’t, it simply didn’t open until it was.

But the “new” Toyota started skipping steps and compressing timelines. And the details started slipping through the cracks. People – engineers, managers, manufacturing types – were schooled in the Toyota Way, but in the company’s breakneck, accelerated pace to eclipse GM as the world’s largest automaker it didn’t sink in. There simply wasn’t enough time to let it sink in either.

Communication broke down, both internally in Japan and externally to the troops in the U.S. The Toyota Way wasn’t the focus of the organization any longer. Classic Toyota descriptors such as “quality,” “reliability” and “durability” were replaced with words like “units,” “volume,” “production plan acceleration” and “domination” of markets.”

In today’s world, it does seem that many companies share the “bigger is better” philosophy. The faster one can grow the company, the better it will be for everyone. This is the attitude fostered by the “machine of production” paradigm where everything is measured in relation to dollars and volume.

The “new” Toyota, with its extreme focus on growth using metrics of volume and size killed the very thing that made it a great company – it lost its Soulful Purpose. The Toyota Way, like the HP Way, represented more than just a slick set of phrases or plaques hung on the walls. It was a symbol of something that was deeply felt at the very core or soul of the organization, and passed on like DNA generation after generation of managers and employees.

We are all for growth, and even accelerated growth, as long as the organization stays focused on its Soulful Purpose and ensures that this is at the center of everything it does. How fast is too fast? When growth is at a rate where it can no longer be effectively passed on to each new hire, carried out in each decision made by every manager, then the organization is simply growing at a faster rate than it will be able to sustain in the long run.

There is no one right rate of growth for every organization. The right rate of growth is strictly determined by how effectively it can propagate the Soulful Purpose to every new generation of employee. Companies undergoing large growth or expansion initiatives should heed Toyota’s recent downfall and take a very close look at their core values, ensuring that a “practice what we preach” philosophy remains intact at all levels of operation.

Is your culture one with purpose? Do all you employees agree on the culture. Download a free Cultural Assessment Tool and find out. CLICK HERE to download.

If you enjoyed this article consider joining our LinkedIn group How to Hire and Retain Top Talent. There are an extensive amount of resources on this topic. CLICK HERE to join.

To learn more about an organization’s Soulful Purpose and The Living Organization model, visit or download a white paper here.

– By Norman Wolfe, CEO Quantum Leaders, Inc.

Making Successful Changes – Part 2

As we mentioned in part one of this article, change is very difficult no matter what we want to change. Now we will look at other components for making successful changes in our lives.

Taking small steps to change

Consider taking one small step that you can take to begin the change process. An old Chinese proverb says, “The man who removes a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.” Change is much easier and less scary when it is done in small steps. For example, to work on shyness, one might begin by saying hi to the neighbors or to the cashier at the supermarket and then work up to small, light conversations with others. They could then possibly build up to joining a club and participating in activities or committees. The key is taking small steps in change, rather than overwhelming, sweeping changes. A good example of small changes is when I wanted to get back into doing artwork, but froze when I sat down in front of the blank canvas. So, I started out with using crayons and letter-sized paper, and just making shapes and using different colors together. I told myself that the end result doesn’t matter (lessening expectations and self-judgment), and what was important was the experience of creation (refocusing on the true need). This made the process less intimidating so I could get back to something I loved so much. From those small steps, I moved on to using different materials and techniques while feeling more confident in my artistic abilities.

Slow change creates significant progress

Once you have discovered a good small step – put it into action. Depending on the severity of the problem, one may need to start out very slowly with the first step and repeat it a few times for significant progress to be made. For example, if one is very shy, the first step might be repeated once or twice a week, and work up to doing it daily until one feels more comfortable to move onto the second step.

Celebrate and record your progress

After each step, celebrate your small step even if you feel the result was not as you expected. Remember that when you first started learning something new, like riding a bike, you probably didn’t do it perfectly. It took patience, practice and perseverance. Celebrate your courage, the experience of change, and your desire to take care of yourself. It is important to celebrate and appreciate yourself when you are in the change process. Record your progress and achievements. This can instill a sense of accomplishment as well as help to identify any further trouble spots in your progress.

Support is a necessity

Most of all, support is crucial during change. Seek support and feedback from understanding friends and others. Find a friend who shares your goals so you can help each other in making changes. Recognize that change is very hard and scary. As I said previously, we are very demanding on ourselves. We expect ourselves to be perfect and handle everything with ease. In actuality, we are human. It is OK to struggle and to be afraid, as long as we don’t allow the fear or obstacles to block our progress. Give yourself support by challenging self-criticism, and telling yourself nurturing statements daily. Some examples of a nurturing statement are, “I appreciate myself for who I am” and “It’s OK to be imperfect.”

Fear of failure

Finally, a big obstacle for change is our natural fear of failure. There are two quotes that can give us perspective on failure. The first is, “Failure is never final! The only time you can’t afford to fail is the very last time you try. Failure does not mean we should give up; it just means we have a reason to start over.” (Don Shelby) The second, by Samuel Johnson, “Great works are performed not by strength but by perseverance.” We may get frustrated or disappointed, and yet, we need to venture on in spite of these obstacles. Change comes through with patience and determination to overcome the challenge that has confronted us.

Check to see if  your hiring methodology is in the zone of attracting top performers. Download our FREE Hiring Methodology Assessment Scorecard. CLICK HERE to get yours.

When was the last time you and your team assessed your culture? Take our Culture Quiz and see if all of your team describes your culture the same way. CLICK HERE to download the quiz.

LinkedIn is a powerful tool for hiring top talent. Join our Hire and Retain Top Talent Group. There is a wealth of articles and discussions for you there. CLICK HERE to join.


Have you ever assessed the full and true costs of a bad hire? Few companies take the time to conduct this assessment. I think it could be that they are afraid of the results. If you can handle it, download our Cost Of A Bad Hire Worksheet. CLICK HERE and be sitting down when you complete the worksheet.  Having a respirator nearby is recommended.


Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2010 The information contained in this article is not meant to be a substitute for professional counseling.

Author's Bio:

Dana Borowka, MA, CEO and Ellen Borowka, MA, COO of Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC have over 25 years experience in the area of business and human behavioral consulting. They have been helping organizations both nationally and internationally in raising the hiring bar through using in-depth work style assessments.  They are nationally renowned speakers and radio personalities on this topic. They have built a well recognized organization that provides expert interpretation of in-depth work style assessments during the hiring process, providing a variety of workshops and assisting those with communication challenges. They are authors of the book, “Cracking the Personality Code”. To order the book, please go to

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, 3130 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, Santa Monica, CA  90403, (310) 453-6556, & our website:

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development, team building, interpersonal & communication training, career guidance & transition, conflict management, workshops, and executive & employee coaching.

Initiating and managing change

People speak a lot about change these days. As you read this, you are exhaling atoms of hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, and nitrogen that just an instant before were locked up in solid matter; your stomach, liver, heart, lungs, and brain are vanishing into thin air, being replaced as quickly and endlessly as they are being broken down. The human skin replaces itself once a month, the stomach lining every five days, the liver every six weeks, and the skeleton every three months. To the naked eye, these organs look the same from moment to moment, but they are always in flux. By the end of a year, 98 percent of the atoms in your body will have been exchanged for new ones. Literally, you are not the same person from year to year. Why then, amidst all this change, do we often seek to eradicate changes in our lives, our organizations, our business processes, and in our environment?

Buddy, can you spare the change?

No, you cannot spare the change and neither can your organization! You are in fact changing and your organization will also change. You and it will change or you will die and even death is a process of change. And in today’s modern business world, to focus on the business issues, the pace of change has accelerated to the point of almost blinding speed. It continues to accelerate.

We all know that this is the case, and we all know that it is technology that is driving the acceleration of change. Advances in communication have made our world one global market. We face competition from the same global markets in which we seek the lowest cost labor for our own products. Many of our customers and employees purchase products and work to design products and services from the comfort of their homes. Information (and disinformation) is readily available to all who have access to the internet, and in the industrialized nations of the world, a majority of the people have gained that access one way or another.

We also know that disruptive technology provides leaps in competing products which totally transform the markets in which we move. The classic example is that of the buggy-whip. While focused on making the best buggy-whip in the world, the manufacturer does not see that automobiles will soon obviate the need for buggy-whips. The whole market disappears. Personal computers have totally changed the corporate information system market and have gone on to fuel the changes in how we as individuals use information and communicate in our personal lives. To not anticipate these disruptive technologies, or at least recognize and respond to their impact, is to invite corporate obsolescence.

Why do we fight change?

While intellectually we all know that change is inevitable, that there is no such thing as security or stability, we often have a difficult time accepting that things must change. My experience is that as long as someone perceives that a forthcoming change will increase their authority in the organization, they will embrace the change. If the perception is that authority or power will be lost due to a change, then all stops are pulled to avoid the proposed changes. Rarely do employees willingly make a personal sacrifice in stature, authority, or power for the general good of the organization.

Sometimes the opposition to change may be due to change overload. Perhaps an employee is dealing with an overwhelming amount of change in his or her personal life; children moving away to school, divorce or simply dealing with relationship strains at home, illness in the family. Under these circumstances, employees may well look to the workplace as the only point of stability in their lives. They spend fifty percent of their waking hours at work, and if everything else is in turmoil, they want desperately to have work be the haven from change.

Institutionalizing Change

As if it isn’t enough to deal with the outside forces of technology and globalization of markets, we now have to deal with the institutionalization of change within our corporations. Management initiatives such as Six Sigma and the ISO9000 programs demand continuous improvement. It’s impossible to imagine improvement without some level of change. Relentless pressure to increase human productivity demands changes in our business and management practices even if we determine that our products and markets are well defined and viable.

The essence of Business Process Reengineering (BPR) is alive and well today. The name, BPR, has been misappropriated for those who would simply downsize their organizations. Yet the original intent of a careful study, measurement, and radical reorganization of a company is still employed today; we just call it something else! Leadership teams have also recognized the need to make continuous incremental rather than radical changes for many of our business processes. Regardless of how we make the changes, change we must if we are to survive and thrive.

Shaping the Corporate Culture

How well change is managed in an organization depends on the skills of the leadership team. Not only do they need to understand the organization and the requisite changes, but they must understand their employee’s capacity for change and the capacity of the organization itself to support and promote changes.

Mr. Michael Mussallem, Chairman and CEO of Edwards Lifesciences, often speaks of “actively managing the corporate culture.” Part of the company credo is that; “We will celebrate our successes, thrive on discovery, and continually expand our boundaries.” Continually expanding boundaries implies not only technological but organizational change. To actively manage the corporate culture means not only ensuring that the corporate ethics is understood and managed as a process, but that the leadership team affirms and promotes an environment that encourages individual responsibility and a capacity to change the business processes.

So are you ready to embrace change when it comes or are you one who “fights” the changes? What is the culture of your company with respect to change? Do you fit in?

Take a quick assessment of your company's culture and see if it fights change. Have all your key managers take this same assessment. Then evaluate and discuss the differences. CLICK HERE to download a free culture assessment.

Change starts with an effective hiring process. You must have the right people on the bus. This 8 Point Hiring Methodology Assessment tool will help you build a hiring methodology in your company that attracts top talent. CLICK HERE to download your free assessment.

About the author

Dave Kinnear is a sought after Business Advisor and Mentor. He works with highly successful executives through one-to-one mentoring and coaching meetings. Individuals who are presently running successful businesses and executives in transition work with Dave to ensure meeting corporate and/or career goals. Through his affiliation with Vistage International, Dave convenes and facilitates Advisory Boards comprising Business Owners, Company Presidents and Chief Executives dedicated to becoming better leaders who make better decisions and achieve better results.