How fear gave small business a competitive advantage

Over 30 years ago a survey was published that revealed the top ten things that are most important to employees. The findings were shocking: The most important thing was how employees felt about their manager and how much their work and ideas were valued by the company.

Stop the presses! You mean to tell me that the most important thing to an employee is not compensation? Not money?

And here’s more shocking news: In every subsequent survey I’ve seen in the intervening years, money has never even been in the top three most important things for an employee. Until now.

That’s right. A brand new survey, conducted by my friend and Brain Trust member, Chuck Martin, revealed that perhaps for the first time ever, compensation topped the list of things that are most important. But the big news is why. I think the answer to that question is fear.

The sudden collapse of the global economy beginning in Q4 2007 has created more fear than I’ve seen in my long career. And as if that weren’t enough, the way top corporate management and politicians have reacted – and over-reacted – has poured fuel onto the fear fire.

When a manager or employee is afraid to propose a new idea or take a risk for fear of losing his or her job, creativity and innovation are the victims. Without creativity there can be no optimism. And without optimism the spirit is wounded, trust dissolves and relationships break down.

In this kind of environment – where relationships up and down the organization chart are questioned – the historically reported feelings for remaining in an organization give way to survival. If I can’t find fulfillment in how my boss appreciates me, the only other source of employment fulfillment is money.

As the economy recovers, fear will abate. But in the meantime, there is opportunity for small businesses with this change in attitudes. There is still plenty for small businesses to be fearful of, but we are less likely to have fearful work environments than big companies. Perhaps that’s the reason Chuck’s recent survey also revealed that 71% of respondents would rather work for a small or medium sized company than a large organization.

Consequently, there has never been a better time for small businesses to recruit top talent. And as you interview those candidates, make sure you demonstrate that creativity and relationships are alive and well in your small business and that fear is not part of your management style or business plan.

Recently, on my small business radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show, I talked with Chuck Martin, CEO of NFI Research about the impact of his research. Take a few minutes to listen to what Chuck and I had to say. And be sure to leave your comments.

One Response to “How fear gave small business a competitive advantage”

  1. 1
    Frederick Jones Says:

    Good work. Small is the new big!

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