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Secrets to Attracting Talent to Small and Family Businesses

By Anvar Jay Varadaraj

Small and family business owners often lament the dearth of internal talent and their inherent drawbacks while competing for talent. I’ve had the good fortune of working at both MNCs and family businesses, and I believe that small and family businesses offer compelling value for the right candidates.

1. Don’t Compete with Multinationals (MNCs) for talent – Those candidates that gun for the MNCs may be the most talented and sought after. However, a family or small business will struggle to offer the resume prestige and the structured career development in an MNC. In addition, "MNC focused talent" may not be sensitive to the ambiguities and lack of structure inherent in a family business, thus such employees’ tenure may be short and unproductive.

2. Highlight General Management – With promoter heavy structures, by design, family and small businesses offer candidates opportunities for general management. Thus, early opportunities for P&L management, cross functional leadership, and close engagement with the promoters will be attractive for aspiring managers.

3. Projects over Positions – Small entities often have crucial short term projects such as establishing a social media presence, market research, and digital marketing, but lack the expertise to execute. Recent graduates have such skills and seek practical experience to bolster their resumes for full time employment. Thus, scoping a project with clear objectives could gain access to top quality talent without long term investment.

4. Consider Veterans – Many veterans across functions and industries look to taper off into retirement by taking smaller, less rigorous roles. Such candidates, either full time or in consulting roles, can be invaluable for structuring informal functions, mentoring talent, and training and development.

5. Engage a Creative Recruiter – Framing opportunities is inherent in the discussed guidance. Ambiguity and lack of structure if framed correctly can appeal to the right candidate. An experienced and creative HR head or recruiter can understand the appeal of open opportunities and present them in a way that attracts the right talent.

Anvar Jay Varadaraj is a scion of the promoter family of ELGi Equipment, and is Head of Marketing & Communication in the company

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