April marks the beginning of spring and is associated with renewal, regrowth and rejuvenation. Hope springs eternal on Opening Day of Major League Baseball, even for teams that have been in the cellar for years. Each year in April, Georgia proudly hosts the Masters golf tournament. There also are two great festivals this month: the Acworth Arts Festival and the Big Shanty Festival in Kennesaw.
In addition to festivals and sporting events, April is a great time for businesses to do a spring cleaning. Nothing can renew a commercial entity better than taking a step back and reviewing opportunities for improvement. With that in mind, here are some of my takeaways from the recent Fabricators and Manufacturers Association Annual Meeting in Miami.
Small businesses need to get bigger. We are in a historic supply-chain crisis, and vendors will give preference to larger accounts. A candid conversation with your vendors is required here. If they cannot collaborate with you, then it is time to review your options. Good vendors are partners in your success, and that relationship is more important than ever.
Besides supply-chain problems, labor is harder than ever to find. The U.S. Labor Department released some positive news recently: February hires were the highest since last summer. But, ask any business owner or human resources executive, and he or she will tell you hiring challenges are more concerning than inflationary pressures. By offering more money, you can separate yourself from the competition. In January, I wrote that companies needed to be prepared for average salary increases of 4%, but why not 5% or even 6%, if it is merited and possible? Larger employers are offering extraordinary salaries, as I have seen from personal experience during “resignation summer,” so small businesses must do what they can to remain competitive.
It also is time for small businesses to get younger. If you have been afraid to hire Generation Z, now is the time to bring that group into your multigenerational workforce. Z is loosely defined as being born between 1995 and 2010; this means 18- to 25-year-olds are the group most likely available for work. We had an excellent presentation at our conference on this cohort, and just like millennials and Gen X, there are opportunities to better understand what they seek in a professional setting.
For starters, Zers are much closer to their parents. They may still live at home. Pay is not necessarily the biggest factor in their happiness, and that will benefit you since you are going to have to cough up some raises for your older millennials who are trying to grow their families and buy their next house in a market with a serious housing shortage. If pay is not the top motivator for Zers, what is? For one thing, they want flexibility with their schedule. Zers are looking for a real work-life balance and do not want after-hours emails from the boss intruding into their personal time. They also want to work remotely in many cases and to have employers who are progressive enough to consider it.
The Zers are extremely tech-savvy and have an entrepreneurial spirit. Smart employers can maximize those traits, especially in social media. Zers have grown up with smartphones and understand Instagram, YouTube and TikTok far better than any other group.
Still not convinced that you need to embrace the next generation? There are 73 million members of Gen Z, and 60 million of them will be entering the workforce during the next decade.
– Ryan Blythe is the founder of Georgia Trade School, which for the sixth consecutive year, was named one of the Cobb Chamber Top 25 Small Businesses of the Year.