“We are a small company – we don’t need to make more money”

By Aggy Cybulska


Occasionally I come across the owners of small businesses who say to me “we only have 40 (insert whatever number you can think of) people, we don’t need HR”.

Are you one of these business owners? It always surprises me when I hear that phrase because what they say can’t possibly be what these business owners really mean.

Over the decades HR evolved from a purely administrative function to a value adding approach specialising in achieving desired impacts on people and organisations. So you can get the picture of what HR gets involved in, let’s look at six examples of how professional HR can help a company:

  1. If your competitors engage professional HR they are more likely than not to get ahead of you in the business race. Yes, apples for apples, etc. having HR can be a source of competitive advantage. Not surprisingly, an increasing number of small businesses begin to use HR expertise.
  2. Through crystallising your message, values and direction, improving business practices and the use of accreditations, HR could make your company appear slicker, more professional and more appealing to the outside world helping you attract the right people and the right clients.
  3. Right initiatives designed by HR can make a real difference to customer satisfaction and client retention rates.
  4. With a little help from HR with organising and distributing work, creating the right culture and streamlining processes your productivity could increase significantly, bringing a direct impact on the bottom line.
  5. Yours are more likely than not to become a high performing, continually improving organisation with the help of HR. Andre de Waal in his recent research identified 5 broad factors differentiating high performance organisations as the quality of management; openness and action bias; long-term orientation; continuous improvement and employee quality.
  6. Working closely with your HR business partner you are more likely to pursue your business strategy with confidence, knowing that the key people are looked after and won’t leave as you grow or restructure and that relevant people plans are in place for when the time is right.

So, aren’t all these things of interest to all businesses, regardless of size? A business of 40 staff needs to achieve competitive advantage, pursue the business strategy of choice, and improve client satisfaction or profitability as much as any other larger business. How does the phrase “we are only 40 big, we don’t need HR” fit in with that? To give business owners some credit, they recognise correctly that “large company” type of HR may not be suitable for their flat structured, agile, profit reinvesting organisations. But then why would any business implement solutions which are overkill?

HR solutions like anything else need to be tailored to the needs or ambitions of the business. If you only have 40 staff members it means you don’t need complex systems but good foundations which will allow you to build on for the future and which, in the meantime, will improve your business.

All companies, big and small need professional HR in different ways and at different degrees of intensity to improve performance and ultimately, make more money.

So, next time you bump into me, I hope to hear “we have 40 staff and we want to make more profit next year, how can HR help us?…”

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