Work for an SME? Bah!

A SME business owner lamented to me recently that one of his staff members had resigned.

He had poured a significant investment (in terms of salaries and training) into the person who happened to be the son of a very close friend of his.

The story went like this.

The friend’s son was out of job for several months after leaving his last employ. In a desperate attempt, this friend approached the business owner for help. Would he hire her son?

If a close friend is to come to you with such a request, what would you do?

You probably have only two options. One, politely decline with some nice excuse and bear the risk of losing a friend should the friend take it in a negative way.

Two, although you may not want to hire the friend’s son as he is not the right fit, you feel obliged to do so as a favour for your friend.

So this business owner hired the friend’s son, gave him a reasonably good pay and entrusted key projects to him. He envisioned that the young man would be very appreciative of the opportunity given to him and grow with the company. All was well for a few months and everyone was happy. Then it came, that white envelope.

The friend’s son resigned — he had found a job with better pay in a bigger company. The business owner panicked. There were projects entrusted to this friend’s son that were still in progress. Now, where would he be able to find a replacement for this person in such a short notice! He deemed the friend and her son ungrateful for leaving him ‘hanging’.

Although such situations do not happen every day but it is a familiar story. Most small business owners are normally not able to pay their staff a very high salary. Even if they could, they are not able to give the staff the exposure as compared to a much larger outfit.

Due to this, they do not normally get the crème de la crème in terms of employees but they do not mind.

It does not matter if they cannot speak or write good English. Well, some small business owners are not able to tell the difference anyway!

To the small business owners, all this is not important. The most important is that these people are trainable and can grow with the company.

Like what my father says, it is like a taking a discarded piece of wood and trying to sculpt and polish it into something beautiful. It takes a lot of hard work and time on the part of these business owners.

Also, what they could not give to their employees in terms of perks and packages, they compensate with other not-so-tangible benefits.

But to what end? I still hear many stories from SMEs that it is challenging to get people to work for their companies. Job seekers and even interns are getting choosy and demanding these days.

Nevermind if they have lousy English and a complete lack of common sense. They think SME businesses and start-ups out there owe them a favour should they be willing to work for them.

Sometimes they see SME companies as temporary solutions or stepping stones.

Yes, most people want to grow in their career and everyone wants a better pay, a better job or a better environment. So when a better opportunity comes along, it is bye-bye for sure.

To my fellow SMEs, all I can say is do not expect your staff to work for you for life. And to those who are working in a SME company, you probably did not realise your boss actually did you a favour by hiring you. Not the other way round.

Jeanisha thinks one of the reasons she had the guts to start her own company is because she had been the pioneer staff of two small start-ups years earlier.

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