Small businesses rise to meet 2023 labor challenges

By Michelle van Schouwen

Getting all the work done presents a conundrum for many small business owners in 2023. Business is good, workers are hard to find, and yet the future looks a little murky, economy-wise. These factors combined present challenges to businesses ranging from restaurants to building services, small tech offices to law firms.

Even as large corporations lay off thousands in anticipation of – or response to – changing forecasts and business plans, small companies aren’t enjoying much benefit from all these fresh faces in the employment pool. It’s difficult for many smaller companies to compete with the compensation packages and in some cases the status of the giants for which sought-after employees formerly worked. And in some cases, these workers are in major cities far from the small businesses looking for their skills.

But smaller companies are finding ways to cope with 2023’s workforce climate. Among these are:

-Broadening the search. If the job can be done remotely, hire the right people regardless of location. If they must work onsite, consider relocating them in cases where their expertise is worth the money.

Another way of broadening the search is to widen your scope. For companies that need to hire locally, seek out training programs and services that exist to find first-time or return-to-work opportunities for people who have been out of the workforce. Consider people with disabilities, who may need accommodations to perform at their best. Don’t rule out people looking for a fresh start – veterans readjusting to civilian life, dislocated workers, people moving off public aid programs, and more.

-Turning to contract labor, which allows you to have help when you need it, and to stop paying for a function during slow times. Administrative temp agencies, creative freelancers, technical services of many kinds, day laborers, payroll and accounting services, and human resources contractors are just a few of the jobs you may wish to fill with contract workers. Here’s one good guide to discerning the legal differences between a contractor and an employee.

-Automating. Workforce automation is a boon for employers (although admittedly a concern for the future of workers). Many jobs can be done in part or full by cloud-based or local software, machinery, robotics, apps, and artificial intelligence. From production to customer service, marketing to order processing, your company may have one to many jobs that can be sped up or performed entirely with the help of automation.

Creativity is the hallmark of entrepreneurship. Hiring, and finding alternatives to hiring, is one of the hurdles for growing businesses, and owners will rise to the challenge with these and additional solutions.


Michelle van Schouwen is principal of Q5 Analytics, providing advocacy and communications for climate change mitigation and adaptation. For 32 years, Michelle was president of van Schouwen Associates, LLC (vSA), a B2B marketing company. In 2017, van Schouwen Associates was acquired by Six-Point Creative Works, Inc. of Springfield, MA. Michelle is available for speaking engagements on topics including her work on climate crisis mitigation and Florida coastal water issues. She speaks to business and student groups about marketing launches and entrepreneurship and works with start-ups to support their development.

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