Small Businesses Big On Jobs In California

Finding work while attending classes or after graduating from SMC may be a daunting task for many. Some students want part -time work to help make ends meet while attending school, even if they plan to transfer. Those who graduate might want to enter the workforce with an Associate's Degree even if they plan to get an upper level degree in the future. Given the current condition of the economy many will experience firsthand the challenges of finding work.

Historically, large and medium sized companies seem to be hesitant to hire just before a presidential election. This may be true because many administrations push for changes in the tax code after they take office. Moreover, because of the housing market bubble burst, the stock market tanking over the bank failures and the credit market virtually at a standstill, it is not surprising that jobs are scarce.

The corporate world may no longer be the best place to look for work. A new category of small business, microenterprises, has experienced phenomenal growth in the past eight years. A microenterprise is any business that is owner-operated with zero to four employees according to a California Senate Office of Research report. Microenterprises have created six times more jobs than medium and large corporations between 2000 and 2005. So the best prospect for finding a great job for a student or recent college grad might be a microenterprise located in California.

The Office of Research report said that from 2000 to 2005 California microenterprises increased by 24 percent from 2.77 million to 3.44 million. The number of jobs created by these small businesses increased 23 percent from 2.99 million to 3.67 million. The largest increase occurred in California's rural counties at 23.5 percent. Urban counties accounted for 18.7 percent of the increase.

What does this mean for the student or recent college graduate? It could be a great job where he or she has an opportunity to wear several hats, learn new skills and gain valuable life experience. On the other hand, nothing in life is free and there are disadvantages to working for a small business.

One disadvantage is that few small businesses can offer their employees retirement benefits. Employees of a Fortune 500 company or one whose stock is publically traded can get shares of the company stock contributed through a matching plan. For example, some companies match employee contributions dollar for dollar when purchasing company stock for their 401(k). Some employees get stock options. On the contrary, it is extremely unlikely that a microenterprise will share ownership with employees.

Anna Mijangos, manger of Tobacco Trader, a cigar shop in Marina Del Rey with two employees and a working owner, says that the biggest disadvantage to working for a microenterprise is scheduling time off. "With only three people working in a small mom and pop business, you can't get time off like you could with a large company. Sometimes you have to work even when you're not feeling your best because there is no one to take your place" she said.

Another disadvantage is access to affordable health insurance. Health insurance for an individual can cost upwards of $800 to over $1000 per month. Even with a group health insurance plan the cost can still run upwards of $600 per month per person. Many small companies, especially those just starting up, simply cannot afford to provide those perquisites.

Despite the disadvantages, some people may be more suited to working for a microenterprise rather than a large corporation. Large and medium corporations function through specialization which means the employee learns one skill. As long as there is a demand for the specialty, the job is safe. Conversely, with small businesses, employees know the boss personally which presents the opportunity to have direct input concerning decisions on the day to day functions of the business: a good idea is not lost in committee.

Therefore, if a student is suited to working for a microenterprise, how does he or she find one and ask for a job?

When seeking employment, one can follow the traditional route by checking for jobs online, the newspaper, or watching for "help wanted" signs posted in the establishment's window. However, the savvy job seeker will pay close attention to the Fictitious Business Name section of virtually any local newspaper. The state requires all businesses to file a statement of ownership when starting a new business and it must be re-filed every five years. This is called a Fictitious Business Name.

The owner's name, business name and address are published. Sometimes the name of the business reveals the nature of the business, e.g. Jack's Tire Center. Sending the prospective employer a letter and resume almost certainly gets the applicant first consideration when the company begins to hire new employees. Moreover, timing is everything. Business owners like smart people. If a business owner is contemplating hiring new staff and receives a letter and resume it should make an indelible impression. It might also be a refreshing change from the junk mail they receive from other businesses that use this system because they know being there first makes the difference.

Being first, however, is only part of what a business owner considers when hiring someone. Virtually all business owners stress one quality above all others when they wanted to hire someone: the ability to deal with people. Customer service is the heart and soul of any business. To the public, the person he or she interfaces with at the place of business is the company. Personable, socially oriented applicants will almost always be the first hired and the last to be let go because businesses make money from people. We all expect professionalism and a pleasant experience when doing business.

Regardless of how hard a business tries to please customers problems occasionally crop up, mostly due to miscommunication which may not necessarily be the company's fault. Andy Avedian, owner of Edible Arrangements in Venice said "all businesses have problems, small problems, and the employee need to understand the customer. He is not just the employee; he needs to take care of the customer."

The manager of Allen Interiors on Lincoln Blvd., Stephanie Lopez, said that they are not currently hiring, but said the next person they hire will be someone who is good at customer service and sales. "We need someone who can help with customer service, someone with social skills ... personality. Experience is not necessary. We can teach anyone the business if they have the right attitude." she said.

Every small business up and down Main Street is an edifice to the American Dream and truly symbolizes the entrepreneurial sprit. Small businesses employ more people in America than all Fortune 500 companies combined. They truly are the backbone of the American economy.