Biggest Challenges Facing Microbusiness

How can a small business change its messaging and the way it operates to better tackle changing technology and customers’ needs? What can a small business do to attract job candidates and better train the incoming workforce of new and potentially unskilled employees?

Host Mary McCarthy and Co-Host Sharon DeLay discuss these issues facing microbusiness today. A microbusiness is a small business with a staff of 20 employees or fewer, including the solopreneur.

Host Mary McCarthy is the President of YMT Consultants, a small business consulting firm, and Co-Founder at the Women’s Small Business Accelerator, Inc.   Sharon DeLay is the Founder and President of GO-HR, an outsourced Human Resources service for small businesses.

What You Will Learn:

  • Challenges facing business in the next five years
  • Mary and Sharon’s take on what microbusinesses can do about these challenges
  • Positive benefits for microbusiness right now

Related Reading: Biggest Challenges Facing Businesses In The Next Five Years?

Sharon DeLay
4889 Sinclair Road, Suite 103
Columbus, Ohio 43229
P (614) 473-0122

About the Host:                                                                                                                                Mary McCarthy                                                                                                                               Host, The Successful Micropreneur Podcast                                                                           President of Your Management Team, Inc.                                                          Co-Founder of the Women’s Small Business Accelerator, Inc.

Full Podcast Transcript:

Mary: Our 15-minute podcasts provide fun stories, business insights, and statistics on microbusinesses.

Those are small businesses of 20 employees or less including the solopreneur.

My name is Mary McCarthy, and I am the owner of YMT Consultants, an entrepreneurial training and consulting firm, and the host of The Successful Micropreneur Podcast.

YMT Consultants assist microbusiness owners grow their organizations through one-on-one consulting and training.

I’m joined today by co-host Sharon DeLay, owner of Go-HR.

And we are talking about Paying Attention: Changes Impacting Microbusiness. I stumbled across a blog by author Mark Sanborn.

Mark, Larry Winget, Scott McKain, and Joe Calloway share their biggest challenge they feel businesses will face within the next five years.

Their concerns range from meeting increased customer expectations, an unskilled workforce, creating distinction in the marketplace, and the fact that the internet has killed hype.

Mary: So Sharon, first of all, thanks for joining us to talk about these important points.

Sharon: Hi Mary, I’m glad to be back.

Mary: Well we appreciate it. We always have a lot of fun talking about all kinds of things that impact us. And these are four specific points that these authors and speakers gave us, so what is it that you think? Was it one of these four, or something completely different we should be aware of, over the next five years?

Sharon: Four very good points in here, and I think there are nuggets in what each of these authors pointed out as the primary concern. I mean we constantly hear when we are out at all these events and everything, about how the workforce, constantly, how people are bemoaning the incoming workforce.

Mary: Yes, I hear that constantly as well.

Sharon: And I take some objection to that. I don’t think they are all bad. I think every generation has good and bad. I just think as we get older we complain more, just kinda like the old folks do.


Mary: I’m not willing to go there yet, just to let you know.

Sharon: I think there were nuggets in each one of these things.

And it was interesting, one of the points that was brought up, and I think it was Mark Sanborn, his point was, the biggest challenge that businesses will face in the next five years is meeting increasing customer expectations.

So, in the same vein of talking about micropreneurs, I have a friend who is breaking away from her long-term, steady job. And with her sister who has been working in big box retail for many, many years.. they are starting a small, retail boutique here in Columbus.

And one of the things they had been talking about, and we have been talking about one night over dinner is just the fact that retail is retail is retail in some cases, and it’s the experience that makes the difference these days.

And I think that was the thread that went through all four of these authors as well, the experience and making it different, and the same old same old is just not going to work anymore.

Mary: Well, and yes, because Mark Sanborn was very interesting when he talked about how just because communication is so increased, with all of the technology platforms, that we are rated…

Sharon: Yes.

Mary: By our customers…

Sharon: Yes.

Mary: Instead of the other way around. We used to kind of rate our customers, because we were the business and they were lucky to have us to shop with.

And now all of a sudden, they get to judge us, so we have to be on our toes with them. And what we wanted today may not be what we want tomorrow, because everyone is changing.

As the Millennials are growing up and moving into the workforce and they are becoming the primary purchaser of our products.

We have to change because they want something different from what their parents or their parents had wanted from us.

Sharon: So sure, what they are being raised with, the technology, the access to everything is defining how they are as consumers, as the workforce. And I think what I wrote down on my notes for today over and over again was ‘evolve or die.’ And I think as businesses, that’s what we have to do.

Mary: Well it is. And they love to give the example of the stores that really were name brands. Tiffany’s for instance. Growing up, to get a diamond from Tiffany’s, oh my goodness. Even for me, to get a diamond from Tiffany’s meant something.

Sharon: How’d that feel? I’ve never had that.

Mary: I can’t say I have! I’m just saying, that’s the way the feeling was, right? But then as we look at the Millennials who are going, ‘Well, I don’t care.’ Right? I want something that is local, that has a social give back. It’s not about the name any longer.

It’s about the emotion.

Sharon: It’s about the emotion, and it’s about the impact.

So, if I’m Tiffany’s, how do I adjust my message? And if we don’t adjust, that’s the change or die scenario that Mark Sanborn was talking about.

Right, you look at something like Macy’s, this huge Titanic of a retailer. For them to turn and switch their message, it’s turning the Titanic. Maybe that’s not a good analogy.

But you look at my friend who is opening a small boutique and they can be a lot more flexible and responsive to their market.

And they can go out and curate things that are local, curate things that are unique, versus trying to take advantage of that massive purchasing power, so I do think that is the wave of future business.

How do we translate that to someone like us who is a service business?

Mary: Right. So the second comment was from Larry Winget, was about the unskilled workforce, which you said you have a little bit of an issue with.

What’s interesting, was a Bentley University study found that 60% of Millennials are not considering a career in business. It didn’t say what they were considering a career in, which is what I would have loved to have known. Because if you’re not in business, what are you doing?

And 48% say they are not being encouraged to go for a career in business.

So, are we going to have a challenge in finding staff that wants to be in business?

Sharon: I think it’s going to depend, going back to the messaging discussion/comments.

I think it’s going to depend on how we message it, and market what business is.

If we think about it in terms of our grandparents or even our parents, going into work every day, bringing a briefcase, being there from 8 to 5…

Mary: Doing it for 20 years…

Sharon: Doing it for 20 years, the same thing in and out. Yes, I would say, that’s probably correct. But I think as entrepreneurs and as smaller businesses, we have an opportunity to change how we message it, and we talk about it.

Mary: So, It might not have been asking the question correctly.

Sharon: Maybe.

Mary: For instance Catherine Lang-Cline, co-owner of Portfolio Creative, talked about The Gig Economy.

Sharon: Right.

Mary: Which is really a wave of the future of really doing shorter stints of what we enjoy and then moving on to the next thing, rather than staying forever.

Sharon: I think The Gig Economy… you can call it chunk working, you can call it a million different things, on how we approach work.

And I use the example a lot of times when I’m talking to people, I walked into a client’s {office} one day. I’m looking at this huge room full of employees all sitting at tables versus offices, so a lot of us are used to having our own isolated offices, but they are all sitting out there in kind of a bullpen, working, but what was interesting is my client was struggling with, ‘How do I track their time?

Between hourly exempt, it’s easier to go exempt, not necessarily legal, but easier to go exempt, which means ‘I just pay them a flat fee.’

And I said well, ‘Tell me what the problem is?’ She said Well, they come in at 10. They work for a couple of hours, maybe go for an hour or two of lunch, meet up with their friends, pick up a game of basketball, then they come back and work for another three hours, and then they go out to dinner with their friends, maybe have a drink or something, and then they go home and work for another three hours. They still get the 8 hours in, they just do it in a different way. Chunk working.

And I thought, well that’s kind of what I do too, if I think about it. So, they are not really different but for some reason we, the people who are currently in charge, are making it different.

Mary: Interesting. That’s an interesting point. We’ll have to come back to that one, won’t we?

Sharon: Yes.

Mary: We are currently listening to The Successful Micropreneur Podcast. My co-host today is Sharon DeLay, owner of Go-HR, and we are talking about potential challenges that may impact microbusinesses over the next 5 years.

Besides challenges, what positives do we see?

Sharon: I genuinely believe that the incoming workforce, well they are not even incoming, they are here. They are 50% of our workforce by 2020, they are 75% by 2025.

Whether we call them Millennials or the current incumbent workforce. I genuinely believe they will force some necessary changes in the workplace and make us come in to time with the technology, make us be more flexible, and fluid, and responsive. Make us change how we message, make us niche more, make us focus more on the customer needs versus the business needs. I think those are positives.

Mary: How do we do that if I’m a business owner. We’re both microbusiness owners, right?

We both have 3-4 employees each. And we’re very, very busy.

We tend to put a lot of things on our shoulders. I tend to add more to yours.

Sharon: We do it to each other.

Mary: We do, and that’s perfectly fine with me. But when do I have time to sit down and say, wait a minute. Let me take a step back and look big picture, and say do I need to adjust?

Sharon: From some very wise people, you included, I have learned that I need to schedule time to do that. And I think entrepreneurs are the worst at doing that themselves. I think we get into this habit of work, work, work. We forget that in the business versus on the business thing.

Mary: And we do need to schedule time to plan. I know what I’ve done recently is work with a mentor who questions me on why I’m going in a direction or thinking a certain way. And why am I not thinking bigger picture. And that has helped me.

Sharon: I would say.. and you share some of that stuff with me, that I go away and I process it because I am more of a processor sometimes, and I think about it and it makes perfect sense.

Why am I focusing on something that I’m focusing on? Yesterday was an example.

It would have been so easy to work all day because I had a deliverable, and I’m sitting there thinking, Everybody I know right now probably isn’t sitting here thinking about writing twenty job descriptions. Why am I?

Mary: Right.

Sharon: And so I think we have to force ourselves to take that time.

Mary: And it’s important to force ourselves to do that. If we’re going to think about some of these things the authors’ were talking about, they brought up some really good points.

The one I found interesting is that Internet has killed hype, is one of the comments they brought up in the article. So what they were meaning by that is, you know now everything is shared.

So it used to be, you would sit down with your marketing company or your team, and come up with this great marketing concepts and messages and promotions and you would do advertising.

And all of these things and get people excited about your product.

Well now, everything is shared so you get rated on Yelp and Google, and you don’t always have control over that, though you do the best that you can, you’re not always going to please everyone.

Well now it’s out there in the universe. And things are shared quicker, so something you are trying to build is already out there before you’ve finished the bigger buildup. ‘How do you stay on top of your messaging?’, really is what the author was talking about, so that you can control it rather than it controlling you. That one I thought was a very interesting point that we do need to pay attention to.

Sharon: I think it’s really easy to get caught up in everyone else’s baggage, everybody else’s strategy. And I think that when you do, that’s when you start losing any kind of ground you may have gained. There’s always going to be someone who comes out and they are a business consultant competing with you. Someone who is a HR consultant competing with me. We can’t control that.

Mary: We can’t, but we do have to pay attention too.

The Pepsi ad that was pulled within a day that had such an uproar, even thought Pepsi initially came out and supported it. The uproar just continued, they pulled it within a day. So they had to react quickly, couldn’t just hold true.

Sharon: And I think that is key. Being very responsive and being very in tune with what your client’s desire, want, and need. Your customer’s desire, want, and need. Again, not what you think is clever, not what you think someone else got away with a version of.

Mary: We know sometimes in our head what we think our message is that we are trying to get across, and it doesn’t always come across the way we want it, so we need to be aware of that.

Sharon: Exactly. Context is everything.

Mary: It really is, isn’t it?

Sharon: It is!

Mary: That always amazes me when I look at that.

I will never forget. I worked for somebody, let’s see if I can remember how it went. Someone sent out an email that said we’re having a half shorts day, or something like that. And she meant half day you can wear shorts. But she typed it half shorts day. So of course the owner came in and said, ‘Which part of the shorts are you going to wear? The top half or the bottom half? Or the right or the left?’ And the person turned and went what? And I just started laughing. Because I was reading that going, I’m not sure what it is that you are trying to say to me.

Sharon: I don’t know, but that could be a new fad.

Mary: But in her head, it made perfect sense because she did know what she was trying to say.

So there were a couple of interesting points here.

We didn’t solve the world’s problems today, but it is enough to say we need to think about the things that are coming up in the future, so that we can plan ahead, rather than fall behind.

Sharon: And one thing that we didn’t talk about, but I just want to throw out there because you said, Is the unskilled workforce the greatest concern? And I think an unskilled workforce in different areas of the economy has always been a concern. I think the one message I try to get across to all of my clients is we have to invest in training. No matter what. And entrepreneurs are notoriously bad in committing to that. We want that ready made workforce.

Mary: Well, we’re so busy. Again, it’s easier to bring someone in and have them day one up and running. Again, that’s planning.

Sharon: I think that’s gone.

Mary: It probably is. I want to thank Sharon for joining us today. Sharon’s contact information along with this podcast will be posted on our website, the successful micropreneur.

Thank you for listening to this Successful Micropreneur podcast. Be sure to subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher. Like us on Facebook and share our podcast link with all your microbusiness owner friends. Thank you again for joining us today. My name is Mary McCarthy owner of YMT Consultants, along with Sharon DeLay of Go-HR.

We are the co-hosts of The Successful Micropreneur Podcast, where starting a business is tough, failing a business is unnecessary.

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