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What Small Businesses Offer That Others Can’t

We asked our panel of experts about what small businesses have to offer employees — beyond better pay — that can help them better attract and retain talent.


John Waldmann

CEO and Co-Founder, Homebase

Why is it so important to support America’s small businesses and entrepreneurs?

When we support small businesses, we support our local communities, and the people and places that make them special and unique. Supporting small businesses — and the entrepreneurs and teams behind them — means supporting families, a thriving workforce, and a healthy local economy. Small businesses are the engine of growth and job creation in this country, and it’s incredible that we can support the entrepreneurs that take on risks and overcome challenges to make it happen.

What is the top challenge facing small business owners today?

It’s never easy to run a small business, but COVID made it even harder: fewer customers, fewer workers, and supply chain issues. As small businesses bounce back, they have to do more with less, and they also have to do more to attract and retain team members. 

Luckily, technology can help. It can streamline the administrative burden of running a team, and it can create a better work experience for team members to keep them happy, productive, and successful. 

What would your advice be to small businesses looking to work on their brand purpose?

Don’t overthink it. Go back to why you started the business. Before you had all of the administrative burdens — running payroll, hiring team members, closing the books, etc. — there was a mission. That passion that provided the spark. It’s the same purpose that attracts your customers and your employees. 

One I love from a Homebase customer, The Playful Potter in Sparks, Nev., is simple: “Give people a place to spend quality time and create more than art — to create memories.” I love it because it shows the bigger passion behind the business: the why — something we can all appreciate.

What technologies are making the biggest impact when it comes to elevating small businesses and growing their bottom lines?

Every small business owner is doing more with less and trying to attract workers. Find technology that can do both. In 2022, there is no reason you should be dealing with the paperwork of scheduling, payroll, or hiring employees. 

Software like Homebase saves owners five to seven hours a week, which every owner desperately needs. But just as importantly, you need to retain and attract a team. You’re not growing without a team. Tech can set your workplace apart: make it easier for workers to manage their schedule, streamline communication (and appreciation), and even get access to their pay before payday. 

Why would you say it’s important for small businesses to create an effective digital experience for their customers?

Going digital can help small businesses connect and build trust with their customers, manage orders and fulfillment, and even broaden their reach outside of their local communities. During COVID, a lot of Homebase customers had to pivot to make their products and services available online. We saw inspiring stories of creativity in online ordering, subscription boxes, and even online tutorials. It’s helped businesses better reach and connect to their customers. 

It’s all part of the new normal. In many industries, small businesses that do offer a great digital experience will have a leg up on those that don’t. 

How can small businesses adapt to the new workforce?

At the heart of every great business is a great team. Make sure you’re investing in that great team — and that doesn’t just mean pay. In a recent Homebase survey, we found that the No. 1 thing workers valued when considering a role was company leadership — even higher than pay. Close behind pay were great coworkers, company culture, and flexible scheduling. 

Ultimately, the new workforce is looking for a positive work experience, not just a paycheck. And here’s the thing: Small businesses have always been the leaders in providing this. Provide a positive work experience and regular connection to your mission, and you’ll be unstoppable. 


David Ross

SVP of Growth, Partnerships and Revenue, Community

Why is it so important to support Americas small businesses and entrepreneurs? 

Shopping local and supporting small businesses and entrepreneurs is a way to give back to the community, and drive jobs, economic impact, and so much more. At Community, we launched the Amplify program to Black, AAPI, LGTBQIA+, and Latinx businesses in SoCal. To date, we have supported 39 small businesses, who have used Community’s innovative technology to drive impact, sales, and action at a critical time; when they were impacted by the pandemic and social injustices. 

What is the top challenge facing small business owners today?

It’s difficult for many small business owners today to find effective ways to reach current and potential customers, and build genuine and meaningful connections, while also trying to create value and opportunities that impact their businesses. It’s becoming increasingly more difficult to reach all your customers directly. 

Most recently, the Apple iOS15 update impacts how marketers (and email marketers in particular) effectively target their users, added privacy protection, such as:

  1. Mail Privacy Protection: A free feature that allows users to opt in to masking their IP address, which, in turn, blocks third parties from tracking email open rates.
  2. iCloud+: A premium iCloud subscription that allows users to opt in to preventing Safari sites from tracking their data, location, etc. Users can also see to which sites they’re sending information.
  3. My Email: An email address-cloaking feature that allows the user to give sites an aliased email address, sending all promotional emails to a different inbox and removing brands’ access to the user’s real address. 

To date, average open rates through Community are upwards of 95 percent within the first three minutes of receiving a text message, with a 59 percent average click-through rate, which for a small business is critical. Small business owners need a clear path to direct engagement free of ads, spam, and ever-changing social algorithms.

What would your advice be to small businesses looking to work on their brand purpose?

Today’s consumers care deeply about authentic engagement and creating community by aligning with the people and brands that mirror their own interests, experiences, and needs. More than ever, what consumers are buying into is more important than what they’re buying. It’s critical to have a channel to reach audiences where they are, directly and instantly. 

What are some of the technologies making the biggest impact when it comes to elevating small businesses and growing their bottom lines?

Sixty-six percent of consumers say their phones are their single most important shopping tool. At Community, we are building personalized communication tools for businesses, while also respecting the user’s privacy. Messaging, by nature, fosters a 1-to-1 conversation that isn’t impacted by the privacy flaws marketers have come to rely on with email. 

What can small businesses do to adapt to the new workforce?

It’s critical that entrepreneurs keep people directly connected to their audiences to drive conversations that convert into actions, sales, and revenue, ultimately driving economic growth and impact at a critical time for their businesses.  

Mary Ellen Coe

President, Google Customer Solutions

Why is it so important to support America’s small businesses and entrepreneurs?

Small businesses are the backbone of our communities and a cornerstone of the U.S. economy. They were disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, but we know consumers want to support small businesses. Right after the pandemic started last year, Google searches for “support local businesses” grew by over 20,000 percent, and 60 percent of U.S. consumers say they’ll shop more at local small businesses. With nearly half of U.S. shoppers saying they now expect to buy from any store online, digital tools can help small businesses get back on their feet and meet their customers where they are. 

What is the top challenge facing small business owners today?

Small businesses continue to adapt to shifts in consumer habits to ensure their businesses stay afloat. The pandemic significantly reshaped buying habits as more consumers started to discover and buy products online — first as a matter of necessity and now for convenience. In fact, we saw 10 years of ecommerce growth in just three months! 

A small business owner can no longer just have a physical storefront as it is critical that businesses live online. Using digital tools, like a business profile on Google Search and Maps, amplifies offerings like promoted items, store hours, and curbside pick-up or delivery options. 

Why is it important for small businesses to create an effective digital experience for their customers?

Small businesses have had to evolve and adapt the ways they find and engage with customers. During the pandemic, revenue was 50 percent better for digitally savvy small businesses, according to a study conducted by the Connected Commerce Council. What’s more, 76 percent of small businesses increased their use of digital tools during the pandemic. A small business owner’s ability to quickly evolve and adapt to changing customer needs and behavior is what allows them to not only survive, but thrive.

What are some of the digital tools or solutions you see having the biggest impact when it comes to elevating small businesses in the coming year?

As consumers move online, small businesses need to help consumers easily find and shop with their business. A quality website that represents a small business’ brand and services helps provide a seamless experience for customers. 

Google’s free shopping listings and digital ads, like Google’s Smart Shopping Campaigns, help businesses reach and engage more consumers. And tools like Google Trends or the Insights Page within Google Ads can help businesses better understand what people are looking for by providing search trends. These insights help small businesses better prepare budgeting, marketing, and merchandising plans to meet rising consumer demand.  

What would your advice be to small businesses looking to work on their brand purpose?

When considering brand purpose, small business owners can reflect on their founding story and consider how their business reflects their values and beliefs. I come from a family of small business owners and I know that by demonstrating what the founders stood for as a part of a business’ operations, small businesses will stand out from their competitors and create a memorable impact on customers.

How can small businesses adapt to the new workforce? 

When it comes to adapting to the new workforce expectations and the war for talent, small businesses should think about how they can meet their employees where they are and offer a better employee experience. Are there jobs within an organization that can be done hybrid or remote? Does a small business’ purpose and culture appeal to employees’ values? Can businesses offer flexibility for parents that struggle with childcare? These are all things current and prospective employees will be looking for as the nature of our workforce continues to evolve.

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