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    « HR Happy Hour - The Job Seeker's Show | Main | The Carnival of HR is Back »

    Six Million versus Eighteen Thousand

    According the the US Small Business Administration in 2006 (the last full year data is available) in the United States:

    Number of firms with more than 500 employees: 18,000

    Number of firms with less than 500 employees: 6,000,000

    Think about it, there over 300 times as many small businesses in the US as large ones.

    In the HR Technology space at times the news and commentary tends to be dominated by the vendors that cater the the top end of the market, those 18,000 or so big firms that have the most employees, the biggest budgets, and (typically) the most hierarchical and elaborate structures and decision processes.  I get that, it makes sense for vendors, consultants, analysts, and pundits to chase that market, heck, that is where all the money is. I have spent most of my professional career in that space as well, either working for giant companies, or working for myself and consulting at giant companies.

    But I think today the small market is really the place to be.

    To me, inside the six million small companies is where the the most exciting innovations are going to happen. Flickr - The Geekery

    And the technologies and vendors that are most interesting to me are the ones that are accessible, lightweight, and inexpensive enough to be in the reach of say a 150 person company with one or two HR professionals on staff.

    Solutions like Rypple, The Resumator, Socialcast, EffortlessHR, PbWorks, Shareflow, Kindling, and Brainpark to me are incredibly interesting and dynamic. These solutions (and scores of others) can be brought to bear by the average HR professional in the average small organization and can make an almost immediate and important impact.

    I care about what is going on with the Oracle, SAP, and Workday.  I'd like to see Oracle Fusion delivered sometime before I retire. When and if the entrenched ERP vendors fully embrace SaaS and produce solutions that are more flexible, easier to manage, and are less reviled by their giant corporate customers are very important issues for the overall HR Technology industry. I get that.

    But to me the real fun is watching what the new breed of HR Technology vendors are bringing to the table, and how the small business can exploit these tools to maybe one day rise from the ranks of the six million to the eighteen thousand. Personally, I enjoy connecting with and trying to assist HR pros at these smaller organizations.  Ironically, while there are scores of technology solutions out there that cater to the small organization, there are very few independent sources for unbiased advice and assistance with small business focused HR Technology.

    What do you think?

    Is it more fun to be one of six million, with a real chance to make an impact, or to be one cog in the wheel at a giant organization, but with at least a chance to be a star on the big stage?

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    Reader Comments (7)


    Thanks for saying this! In my own field of rewards, I have long been troubled by the fact that all (or most) of the researchers, vendors and professional associations focus their attention almost exclusively on big firms. As you make so clear - that is not where it's at. At least that's not where it's all at. The future lies ... and the lion's share of innovation will occur ... within small and emerging businesses.

    September 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnn Bares



    This is an excellent postand an excellent. I work for a massive huge corporation, but it is really the small businesses that are going to keep us vital and viable. Good idea to discuss some of these solutions. In my last gig with a very small employer (less than 25) we got around all these tech and record keeping issues by going with the PEO solution via Gevity. It was a good solution then. Now even Gevity is gone, snapped up by TriNet.

    You have been on fire lately, dude. Keep up the good work!

    September 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMichael VanDervort

    @Ann - Thanks very much, I totally understand your perspective, so much of the analysis and commentary is reserved for the needs of the large or even global organization. I totally understand why, but to me there is so much opportunity serving the huge number of small businesses that almost certainly will drive the economy in the future.

    @Michael - Thanks for the kind words. Your work in a huge corporation to me, is a great example of what is possible in a large organization. And you do a great job sharing your knowledge and experience far and wide, so that folks in smaller companies can benefit. Full props to you!

    September 20, 2009 | Registered CommenterSteve

    I hear you -- I have done both in my career. I will give the one downside of being a small software company targeting solutions for small companies. Building solutions well takes a lot of investment and staying in business as a small company is very hard. This introduces risk into the game and for those of us who LOVE our products that we build, it increases the probability that all your hard work does not survive.

    October 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMeg Bear

    @Meg - Great points and thanks for sharing them. Certainly seeing your passion and hard work go for naught due to the realities of the market is a tough lesson. Thanks for the perspective.

    October 7, 2009 | Registered CommenterSteve

    Love the you wrote this post, Steve! I couldn't agree more -- as you already know :)

    I have worked in each space. Nothing wrong with the big stage -- I too spent a good part of my career here -- learning and benefiting tremendously from it. As a consultant (internal or external), I can honestly say that some of the most personally enjoyable and satisfying work has been in the SMB space -- it really is a fantastic place to be to help really make an impact and be a part of some exciting work. I love the agility, the desire to try new things, take some risks, and innovate that I have experienced here.

    Great stuff Steve - Keep up the awesome work!

    October 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterChris Havrilla

    Thanks very much Chris, I appreciate the nice comment. I agree, both the large and small enterprises have their place, but as you say, the ability to make a real and positive impact in the small business is what makes those opportunities so attractive.

    October 17, 2009 | Registered CommenterSteve

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