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July 10, 2023 Other Voices

3 ways for a small business to thrive in CT

Jessica Dodge

Small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy, but especially here in Connecticut.

This sentiment was shared by everyone in attendance at the National Small Business Week SBA Awards & Resource Expo recently hosted by the Connecticut Business & Industry Association.

This statement was underscored by Alexandra Daum, commissioner of the state Department of Economic and Community Development, who stated that small businesses employ nearly 50% of all workers in Connecticut.

I have considered myself fortunate to work closely with prominent business leaders in this state for the better part of my career. I moderated a panel discussion at the SBA event focused on how three Connecticut small businesses are finding ways to innovate their organizations, not only to survive but to thrive into the future.

Here are my three biggest takeaways:

The value of having the right team

Echoed not just by the panelists themselves, but also by the event’s honorees was the outlook that having the right team members in place is what allows small businesses to thrive in this economy.

Chris Allen, CEO of iCleanse, the event’s keynote speaker, went as far as to ask: “Would I be able to carry on a conversation with this person during a four-hour car ride?”

Company culture is driving hiring decisions at all levels. Employers are carefully weighing a candidate’s experience against their ability to learn inside of a role while exemplifying the company’s core values.

Finding quality talent has pushed small businesses to get creative. Some sources suggest as many as 60% of all small businesses are either remote or hybrid, but owners need to be mindful of the tax implications when hiring out of state.

Sometimes, good solutions come with unforeseen consequences.

Innovate your benefits offering

To stay competitive, small businesses are opting for non-traditional benefits that sit alongside more traditional ones.

This includes being flexible in the definition of the workplace, lengthened parental leave, options for parents returning to the office to bring their infants with them for a period of time, and less rigid interpretations of paid time off.

Directly linked to the impact of inflation, health benefits continue to be a high cost to small employers, resulting in the frustration of shopping for competitive plans for a handful of employees.

Statewide organizations are paying closer attention while working to provide more robust healthcare plans, a positive for many owners.

Innovative benefits like these and more, which are promoting a healthy work-life balance, are helping to keep workers both employed and living in Connecticut.

Increasing state support

The resolve and determination of leadership inside of small companies never ceases to amaze me, despite it being no secret that Connecticut is an expensive and difficult state in which to conduct business.

From the panelists to honorees, there was an overarching sentiment that more support from lawmakers is needed.

The state needs to ensure that resources are easily accessible for businesses — searching the internet cannot be the solution for owners whose highest and best use of time is running the companies our economy relies on.

New data released by the Internal Revenue Service found that combined, New York and California lost over $90 billion in income during the pandemic. This was due to a mass exodus of people and businesses from both states, all echoing similar concerns about the cost to live and work.

The panelists, me included, seem hopeful that Connecticut will not face a similar fate — small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and we need them to want to be here.

Legislation such as the expansion of the R&D tax credit would help small businesses to innovate through continued research and development. Right now, this credit is only available to C corporations, leaving businesses that are not structured this way at a disadvantage.

Through continued innovation, and statewide support, small businesses can make their hard-earned dollars go further and continue to bring revenue into the state.

Jessica Dodge is the director of momentum for business owners at Farmington-based Connecticut Wealth Management.

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