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Do You Have a 'Small Business' Personality?

Do You Have a 'Small Business' Personality?
Credit: foto infot/Shutterstock

You might not ever get rich working for a small business, but there are certainly a lot of perks. For example, you'll be part of a close-knit, highly valued team; you'll have a real impact on the direction of the business; and you'll get to know the "C-suite" on a personal level.

The downside, however, is that it's a bit more difficult to get hired at a small business than at a big company. Smaller organizations typically operate with a limited budget, and when someone is added to the payroll, the whole business feels the effect. That's why small business owners are especially selective about the people they hire — and it's not always about your skills and experience.

"The distinction between skill set and personality traits is a crucial one when it comes to considering people for a startup or small business," said Josh Boltuch, CEO of virtual assistant service Fancy Hands. "It sounds cliché, but you want critical thinkers and problem solvers, because your job at a small business is changing every day."

If you've ever wanted to work for a small business, here are a few key personality traits business owners say they look for in their new hires. [Startup or Corporate? Choosing the Right Company to Work For]

Passionate. Every employer, regardless of size, wants staff members who are passionate about their work. But in a small business — where every decision, project and action requires everyone to work together — owners need to know that their employees are as dedicated to the mission as they are.

"You have to have a really clear-cut passion if you're going to work for a small business, and your passion needs to line up with the business's focus," said Shaun Curtis, chief operating officer of Buffalo's Cafe. In a small business, it's all hands on deck at all times, and your life will really revolve around every detail of the product or service you are involved in."

Adaptable. In a larger, established corporation, you're often walking into a well-oiled machine. The company has set processes and procedures, and your job remains essentially unchanged from day to day until you're promoted. Startup and small business environments require much more flexibility from employees, who may be called upon to wear multiple hats to keep the business running smoothly.

"Someone who has the ability to adapt and loves that things are constantly changing is the type of person who is more suited to a smaller company," said Dan Brinton III, CEO of Fractured Prune Doughnuts. "They're always seeking to be better and to create new ideas."

Confident. Confident individuals don't pretend they have all the answers when there's a problem. They do, however, handle uncertainty well, and can remain calm and levelheaded when the going gets rough. This is a prized quality in employees, who will need to deal with the ebbs and flows of the business.

"A great trait for [a small business] candidate to have is the ability to deal with uncertainty and to be OK with it," said Dan Sheehan, CEO and founder of auto product retailer Winplus. "Working in a small business is, at times, like being at sea in massive swells. The employee has to learn to deal with these big waves and the uncomfortable feeling that comes with them in order to survive and excel."

Opportunity spotter. If a small business is looking to expand, especially overseas, the owner is going to want someone who can quickly identify and analyze potential growth strategies and make a smart decision about them.

"Someone who can spot development opportunities, weigh the risks and act quickly is well-suited for the international business world," said Andy Wiederhorn, CEO of Fatburger. "Candidates like these know where the big rewards are. If you can be comfortable with exploring territories you are unfamiliar with and can efficiently conduct the proper research, you may be a good fit for scaling [a] business."

Self-starter. It's easier to slack off a bit in a larger company. With so many other staff members to keep track of, a manager might not always notice when you're browsing the Web during work hours or if you sneak out early. But in a small business, every employee plays an important part, and if you can't motivate and push yourself to do the job well at all times, your career — and the company — will suffer.

"You need to be a hard worker," Boltuch told Business News Daily. "To thrive at a small company, you just have to be willing to put in the hours. [Small businesses] really need people who are self-motivators."

Bill Peppler, managing partner at staffing firm Kavaliro, shared a few more traits that his company has looked for in potential employees as it grew from the startup stage:

  • Fearless
  • Impartial
  • Persistent
  • Charming
  • Precise
  • Encouraging
  • Reliable
  • Helpful
  • Humble
  • Imaginative
  • Meticulous

As with any job, it's important to make your small business job application laser-focused and tailored to the position you want.

"Find what you want to do, and go after it," Peppler said. "With the [current job search] tools available, you can find out exactly who the hiring manager is, target your message and achieve your goals."

Nicole Fallon

Nicole received her Bachelor's degree in Media, Culture and Communication from New York University. She began freelancing for Business News Daily in 2010 and joined the team as a staff writer three years later. Nicole served as the site's managing editor until January 2018, and briefly ran Business.com's copy and production team. Follow her on Twitter.