A Small Business Owner’s Perspective in Response to Big Tech Layoffs

A Small Business Owner’s Perspective in Response to Big Tech Layoffs

With big tech layoffs at companies like Meta and Twitter mounting and clogging the headlines, it’s time someone showed small businesses a little appreciation and recognition and offered some counter-perspective to all the catastrophizing.

Despite the perception that Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk define the economy and that, if they are laying off in mass as we’ve seen in recent headlines, it somehow forebodes doom for the rest of us, that is simply not the case. As in times before, it will be the small businesses and employers who carry the brunt of the economy and who pick up the slack of tech’s contraction, mostly without acknowledgement. According to the U.S. Small Business Association (SBA), small businesses of 500 employees or fewer make up 99.9% of all U.S. businesses and 99.7% of firms with paid employees. According to Forbes Business Council, of the new jobs created between 1995 and 2020, small businesses accounted for 62% — 12.7 million compared to 7.9 million by large enterprises. While the larger employers continue to look at offshoring and other options for cost reduction, it is the small businesses who continue to create local and US-based opportunities for talent.

Unlike these large tech employers, small businesses are not beholden to the decrees of investors, shareholder opinion, or the capriciousness of megalomaniacs. We don’t subscribe to the pressure and tactics of Wall Street that profits must always increase and are limitless. We don’t take huge gambles on ideas that go awry and then conveniently distance ourselves from the consequences, suffering no personal impact. Leadership without real accountability or authentic regard and deference for those you lead makes a mockery of the concept.

In the 13 years I have been a small business owner of a recruiting firm, we have consistently employed around 20 people, many of whom have gone on to earn salaries well above the six-figure mark, contributing handsomely both locally and federally as taxpayers in the top tax bracket, as community members, and as homeowners.

In my 13 years of business ownership, I have had to lay off staff only once, and it was at the absolute bottom of the COVID-19 induced recession and only under the most trying, desperate and uncertain of times in our economic history. I addressed each one of those people I laid off personally and humanely; they didn’t find their email suddenly turned off. I assumed considerable self-sacrifice and economic loss to keep the remainder of my employees and took a personal gamble that I could ration our cash reserves long enough to ride out the recession. It worked. Not only did we come back stronger and more productive, but I’ve since rolled out a profit-sharing plan to further benefit our employees in the good times and doubled down on the employee perks, incentives, and rewards that have become a benchmark of our culture.

Apart from recessions, pandemics and market cyclicality, we small business owners have little weapons to defend ourselves with when the larger tech employers come to cannibalize our workforces. Lured by the perception of greater incentives, stability and wealth, I’ve seen many of the talented workers my company has developed over the years eagerly subsumed by the “big guys.” Yet no mention is made as to why those employers are so eager for our talent. Because, when faced with limited resources to entice people with glistening packages, employee funded IVF programs and promises of wealth, we’ve instead had to create the talent we need, often by hiring less experienced people, putting in the long-hours and development to refine these individuals and help them become the superstars sought after by the larger companies.

But while the media and popular society eschew mention of us small business owners who are still holding it down in favor of more sensational headlines, let me offer this message of hope. We are the backbone. We’ve always been here, and we’re still here. We might not get the big tax incentives or hand-outs the big guys get, or the favorable rates and insurance premiums afforded to those with more purchasing power, and we rarely make the headlines, but make no mistake. All hope is not lost as long as there are small businesses to hold it down. Resist the doom and gloom hyperbolizing and, where you can, show some love for the small businesses, entrepreneurs, and mom and pop dreamers in your midst.

Written by Jessica Vann, Founder and CEO of Maven Recruiting Group

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December 12, 2022


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