Do you ever wish you could pick the brains of America’s most successful startup CEOs, just to see what’s rattling around in there? Do you wish you could ask them how they grew their companies or how they manage their employee selection process? Inc. Magazine certainly does. That’s why, every year, this leading small business publication rounds up the CEOs of the companies on its Inc. 500 list and grills them about life, happiness and the pursuit of the perfect business. It’s called the Inc. 500 CEO Survey, and it’s one of the best indicators of the state of small business in America.
The magazine just released the 2012 survey last month, and after reading it a few times over, we have to say – it’s pretty telling. For instance, we never knew so many people looked up to Richard Branson. Here are a few other (more) important things we learned.
1) CEOs are hungry for good employees. According to the 2012 survey, Inc. 500 CEOs feel that the difficulty of finding good employees hinders growth more than anything else. They gave “finding talented workers” a severity rating of 3.31 out of 5, putting it ahead of other obstacles like “keeping up with demand” and “domestic competition.”
This is good news for the 39% of college seniors who are hoping to work for a small business when they graduate, but it’s a drag for the thousands of other startups around the country who are trying to hire a few talented employees themselves. What’s the takeaway? Simple. If you own a small business, don’t skimp on the recruiting budget this year, because a great deal hinges on your employee selection process. If you don’t pursue star candidates aggressively, you’ll be stuck with the B team.
2) They’re crazy about social media. The Inc. 500 CEOs consider social networks like Facebook and Twitter to be invaluable business tools. When they use these networks to complement their existing recruiting systems, they’re able to reach out to customers and further enhance the visibility and value of their brand.
According to the survey, 74% of the companies on the list have a Facebook page, and 66% of them have a Twitter account. And while 57% of the companies let dedicated social media pros handle their networking, 40% of the Inc. 500 CEOs contribute to their company’s social accounts directly. As Astonish Results CEO Adam Degraide puts it, “If you’re not using [social media], you’re crazy and blind to the way the world works today!”
3) They don’t need your handouts. If there’s one difference between the startup CEOs of today and the tech-bubble chiefs of the late ’90s, it’s that this generation of entrepreneurs is taking much more of a “DIY approach” to launching a business.
Out of the 500 CEOs surveyed, 42% said they had no need for outside funding and no interest in seeking it. Another 20% said that they have had difficulty accessing capital but have grown quickly anyway. Additionally, 33% of them said that they started their companies with less than $10,000. We find that pretty inspiring. In an economy like this, these executives somehow bootstrapped their companies straight out of their musty garages and onto the Inc. 500 list – and that means that any aspiring CEO presently reading this blog can do the same.
4) Some are waiting for a new tech bubble to burst. Today’s startup CEOs have learned from the past. According to the survey, 57% of the Inc. 500 CEOs say that tech companies are currently overvalued and that we may be looking at a bubble.
The notion that we’re in a tech bubble is controversial, but the last thing we want is for any of these companies to implode as a result of wanton market speculation. We’ve been there and done that, and so we’re glad that so many of these CEOs are heading into 2013 with their eyes wide open.
If there’s one thing you should take away from the 2012 Inc. 500 survey, it’s this: startups are driving the economy right now, and they’re all hungry for young talent. Companies that wish to expand in the near future would do well to make their employee selection process an overriding priority, and they must make sure that their recruiting systems are up to snuff. There’s a war being waged for top-notch candidates right now, and if you want a few of them for yourself, your company will have to outsmart, out-recruit and out-dazzle the competition.