Accelerator: People - Win talent and keep it

Don't let the big corporates take the cream. Small firms like yours can attract the best people by playing to their own strengths: start-ups are flexible, informal, sociable, purposeful - and exciting. Dave Waller reports.

I can't live, if living is without you, sang Harry Nilsson in his schmaltzy 1971 hit. He was pining for a lover, but his words may well strike a chord with any small business leader who's ever watched the star performer walk out the door for a well-paid career elsewhere. Unfortunately, when it's decent staff you're trying to get your hook into, it's rarely a case of 'plenty more fish in the sea'.

For smaller firms, losing talent can be soul-destroying: you invest time and money in unlocking someone's potential, only to find yourself abandoned as they are lured by big and shiny corporate rivals. But even these large firms can suffer. Take Google. The internet giant drew rare criticism this year over the amount of brainpower it was losing as staff left to seek their fortune elsewhere.

Lacking Google's cash muscle, international opportunities and cultural kudos, the average growing business may feel it faces an uphill struggle to hold on to its best people. Yet small enterprises actually have many advantages that will ensure people want to join and stay. Your company may not have the biggest brand name, occupy the flashiest HQ or offer a stratospheric career ladder, but there's still a lot of appeal in the small-business set-up. It's simply a matter of tapping into it, of knowing your strengths and playing to them.

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