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How to compete with the big guys when attracting talent to your small business

Attracting the right talent to your small business can be an uphill battle and as challenging to a business owner as any other macro force. Not only are you competing with players in your own sector, you’ve also got the big guys to contend with. You know the ones, big staffing budget, big, shiny training programs, BIG brand name.

So how do the little guys compete for the small pool of top talent to build a high-performing team – especially if your industry is experiencing a national talent shortage? By using your size and USP to attract like-minded people who want to be part of building a winning team.

At King Kong we’ve attracted a team of absolute winners over the past four years – 42 winners in fact. We were a start-up that I bootstrapped from a rented bedroom, in a new and evolving industry plagued by cowboys, and a national skills shortage. Challenge much?

Here’s how we do it:

Embrace your business size

Small can be oh so good. Remember, you’re trying to attract the entrepreneurial types who will be drawn to what makes your business unique and the leader that’s built it this way. This is the type of team member who will recognise the benefits of joining a team at ground zero and growing with them.

Training and development

Please don’t opt out of offering staff excellent training and development because you are not a big business. We constantly hear from job applicants that their desire for continued learning is a reason for changing jobs, and many would even take a pay cut if they know that they’ll have the opportunity to develop their skills.

Shift your mindset from the notion that employees are there to get things done, to recognising them as a talented team with enviable skills that can be fostered and further strengthened. Not only will your business benefit from their improved skills, but your team will be of even greater benefit to your clients.

Enter awards

Your work and your great culture can’t speak for itself if people don’t know about it. Entering awards will highlight your strong points, and promoting your wins will help to position you as a more attractive option for top talent. We were just named Australia’s Best IT Small Business in the 2018 Small Business Champions Awards, and were recently crowned Australia’s fastest growing digital marketing business in the AFR Fast Starters list. Without a doubt this helps us attract the real players.

Offer flexibility, because you can

You could just snag yourself a top talent who’s a working parent by offering flexibility to work from home when needed or an early finish. There are many ways to offer flexibility, and when done well it can even increase productivity and retention.

Be cut-throat about culture

A strong and defined culture is palpable and will attract the right talent. When you consider the percentage of their day that your team gives to you, your business’ culture is so important to setting the tone for how enjoyable, purposeful, dynamic, supportive and challenging it is to be part of your team. It also can bring out the best in people.

Don’t forget to sell the close proximity of working with you and how the team is like a family. People respond to this over more bureaucratic segregated working. If you are a small or medium sized business, own it!

Don’t be afraid to be polarising. Our job ads do a great job at repelling the candidates we don’t want to attract and this makes us even more magnetic to the ones we do want.

Hire for attitude

I am a big believer in hiring people with the right mentality who are prepared to develop their skills, rather than hoping that their attitude and approach will change once hired. You must get this right if you want to maintain the right culture and quality of your team. Don’t narrow down your talent pool based on skills that can be developed with further training or experience. Some of our most effective senior staff started out in more junior positions and received support and training to work their way up, because we recognised that while their skills weren’t at a senior level yet, their work ethic and attitude were too good to pass over.

Reward referrals from existing employees

If your business is a great place to work, incentivise your existing employees to spread the word by rewarding them for referring your business to potential hires. Your staff are your best advocates and can be your best recruiters.

Be proactive

Don’t wait for job applicants to come to you, especially if your industry is experiencing a talent shortage like ours is. Look for the best talent who you’d love to join the team and approach them. For example, we go directly to top talent and sell them on our USP, training and development, and enigmatic leadership. And have a great hire rate from this approach.


Attend local meetups run by pioneers in the community learning new things. For example, we attend local SEO meetups and build relationships and share our expertise. As a result, we are top of mind as a preferred place to work because of those relationships and because potential hires know that we do things differently.

Building a winning team is essential for business growth, and in my experience, small businesses can do this better than the big guys.

About the author:

How to compete with the big guys when attracting talent to your small businessSabri Suby is the founder and Head of Growth at King Kong, Australia’s fastest growing full-service digital marketing agency that uses true ROI and only charges for success. Based in Melbourne, King Kong has clients across Australia and overseas. Its services include SEO, CRO, PPC, Facebook Advertising, web design and landing pages. 


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Sabri Suby

Sabri Suby

Sabri Suby is the founder and head of growth at Australia’s fastest-growing full-service digital marketing agency King Kong, and author of international bestseller Sell Like Crazy. King Kong is the 17th fastest-growing company in Australia across all industries and has been named the fastest-growing digital marketing agency in the country by the AFR and Deloitte.

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