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It took ‘a whole year to find the person I’m hiring’: Small biz owner

Small business owner Nesha Pai says it took a year to find a solid bookkeeper for her accounting business based in Charlotte, North Carolina.

“If you’re a big company you might have a bigger pool, but for the small business — for me for example it’s been very difficult,” said Pai. “It took me a whole year to find this person that I’m now hiring.”

Pai reviewed more than 150 resumes and interviewed about 10 people for the part-time position, which offered $25-35K a year, benefits, and a 401K plan matching contributions.

“It’s just been hard to find good talent,” she said. 

Pai CPA already has five employees, serving about 80 small businesses accounting needs across different industries. Demand boomed during the pandemic, as small companies asked for accounting services to apply for PPP loans and survive the lockdowns. 

“My demand is growing way past my capacity,” said Pai. “All of a sudden the floodgates are open for me. I have the demand, I don’t have the capacity.”

‘It’s something that I have never witnessed in my 30 years of business’

Al Cediel, the owner of ALFA Driving school in Atlanta, faces the same issue. 

Cediel says business spiked once classes went online during the lockdowns. However, his $20/hour job openings for drivers haven’t attracted many applicants over the last two years. 

“In those two years I’ve only been able to hire 2 qualified people and I’m looking for at least 3 more,” Cediel said.

“It’s very difficult. It’s something that I have never witnessed in my 30 years of business,” he added. “I’ve had to put myself as an owner, in the position of do-it-all.”

‘Humans are the fossil fuel of the growth engine’

Hiring is one of the biggest challenges facing businesses, according to WSJ/Vistage polling of small and midsize firms.

“Humans are the fossil fuel of the growth engine, and there simply aren’t enough humans out there for the amount of jobs,” Joe Galvin, Chief Research Officer of Vistage told Yahoo Finance. “We still see 54% of our members say that their inability to hire is impacting their ability to operate a full capacity.”

Galvin added, “52% of our community still plan to increase headcount in the year ahead.” 

Katherine Anderson and Zach Lucido plan a delivery schedule as part of an effort organized by The London Plane restaurant. (REUTERS/David Ryder)

The survey shows economic conditions have led one-in-five small businesses to slow their pace of hiring, with only 8% instituting a hiring freeze, layoffs, or rescinded job offers.

Compared to their hiring plans at the start of 2022, the plans of most small businesses (70%) have not changed. Small businesses say the biggest factors that help attract talent are higher salaries, benefits, and bonuses. 

“Myself included, and even my restaurant clients and retail clients are facing this. In order to attract that higher talent pool, we need to offer a higher compensation,” said Pai. “There’s desperation almost.”

Pai says she’s still looking for more bookkeepers for her growing business. 

“I know it’s out there because pre 2020, when I was hiring, I had many applicants to choose from back then,” she said. “I’m always looking — cuz it could take me another year.”

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