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Managing small business

by Global Expert Systems

The importance of small businesses in modern economies

According the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry & Commerce, in the twin-island republic, “small and medium sized enterprises have mushroomed over the last decade numbering some 18,000 by the end of 2010, employing 200,000 persons and contributing nearly 28% to GDP”.

In Barbados, successive governments have put a number of incentives in place to stimulate the SME sector.

The statistics for advanced economies like the US and Japan are even more impressive where SMEs account for approximately 50 per cent of the workforce.

Therefore, the question on whether or not we should consider talent management in SMEs becomes unarguable since SMEs play such a pivotal role in today’s economies, both developed and emerging. But here are some of the challenges many SMEs face when considering a talent management system.

* Many small businesses are run by a single person;

* SMEs are normally started within families or by a group of friends;

* SMEs tend to avoid sophisticated management systems because of the financial investment that is required.

Overcoming the challenges: My business is a one-(wo)man show!

The one-(wo)man small business is not uncommon. In fact, there are thousands of professionals who run what we call the one-(wo)man-show. The irony is that this is perhaps the best case study for practising talent management. Smallness is an advantage. Here’s how! As a single person operation, you have the opportunity to do the following:

* To outsource for all your needs: marketing and PR, accounting, IT and other business functions. However, when considering outsourcing, it is important to find the best in the market that suits your pockets. GES recommends always seeking referrals and references as a means to finding suitable talent.

* To align with other SMEs whenever possible. GES recommends joining associations of like-minded professionals as well as a small business associations and/or clusters. These groupings or gatherings will assist in creating economies of scale to help to mitigate against the high costs sometimes associated with more sophisticated management systems. These associations can also be virtual communities.

* To procure the best talent from a global talent pool via the Internet. Once more, smallness is an advantage. Unlike larger operations, the SMEs are not yet tied to bureaucratic procedures and this gives them much agility in their decision-making process. As such, seeking out the best talent via the Internet is a recommended option. But please remember not to overlook or bypass referrals and references, especially when seeking out talent over the Internet. Nonetheless, you are no longer bound to a limited geographic space. There are many online services, for graphics and marketing, social media development, IT, e-commerce, accounting and the list goes on.

Our business is made up of family members and close friends, how do we practise talent management?

We come across this scenario every day in the world of small business. Here’s GES’ advice:

* Match your family members or business associates where they are best suited, i.e. match them according to their true and tested talents.

* Don’t be afraid to hire talent if it doesn’t reside within your circle of family members or associates.

* You can be the owner without being the boss!

* However, if you feel obligated to hire friends and family, then you will definitely need to invest in training and developing them to the task.

Will a talent management system cost me a lot of money?

GES always recommends the “systems-to-scale” approach. In other words, SMEs should implement systems that match their current business needs, medium-term goals and ultimately their pockets. It’s no sense buying a state-of-the-art TV with all the bells and whistles, if you are just going to watch the news. The same logic applies to a talent management system. Do not over invest!

1. Ascertain your needs.

2. Map your needs to your current state of affairs and your business objectives for the next 24 months.

3. Research systems that suit your budget. Please note that expensive does not necessarily mean good.

4. Do not “over-process” your small business. Do not burden your small business down with unnecessary bureaucratic processes for this will affect your agility and ability to make snap decisions. Remember again and again that smallness has its advantages.

5. Finally, when you reach that threshold where you have to decide on expansion or maintaining your “smallness”, please do not ignore the critical role of talent management. The decision to expand and grow your business hinges upon hiring and recruiting the right talent.

If you are going to invest in expansion, then it’d make perfect sense to get the right team on board from the get-go. This is where talent management will help you most — hiring the right talent at the point of expansion can save you thousands of dollars.

In essence, GES recommends using your smallness to your advantage!

Next week we will look at the polemic topic “Meritocracy and Talent Management: Is the Caribbean Ready?”

* Feel free to visit Global Expert Systems online at or email us at

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