Planning for Deliberate Growth
“We didn’t realize how quickly we needed to take this seriously.”
When it comes to general diversity amongst very small businesses, their biggest liability is that early team members and employees are either family or friends. Starting out, most entrepreneurs turn to their own social networks for early staffing, and if those networks are not diverse, either LGBT or otherwise, then they are unlikely to have a diverse workforce at the start. Especially for companies who grow to around 10-20 employees, we heard a number of them suggest that they suddenly realized they have a sizable team that is pretty homogenous. Attempts to focus on diversity with singular additions of staff even after just 10 employees can be a struggle to translate into inclusivity.
It is certainly a difficult position to tell an entrepreneur, “take a chance on someone you don’t know because you need to be diverse and inclusive,” but it does not have to be that extreme. We found that companies would use their first-degree network to take one more step to find diverse individuals in their broader network.
This is even more impactful in industries where employees are in limited supply because of greater needs of education, training, or certification.
For industries that did not have those labor-supply challenges and relied on consumer-facing interactions—including realtors, food service, financial services, and personal care—focusing on a diverse and inclusive workforce is a requirement to reach an inclusive consumer base. The companies saw that those employees provided them entrees into those diverse communities.