Your top priority as a small business owner: eat the frog.

The most important task for a small business owner is to solve the biggest issue impacting your brand at a given time. Yes, there will be many challenges your businesses face at once, but by focusing on the No. 1 most pressing issue you ensure that it does not become fatal. I call this learning to eat the frog.

What’s your business’s frog?

I’m fortunate to get to talk to dozens of business owners each month, and in each of those interactions the discussion of “What’s holding you back?” frequently comes up. “Inflation is eating away at our profits,” “The lack of quality hires makes it tough to consistently get work done,” or “Our location is a curse” come up often.

OK, I say, but which of those challenges is poses the greatest existential threat to your business? In other words, what is the number one thing that, if not taken care of as effectively and as soon as possible, veritably insures your business won’t be around in six months? By asking the question in this way, I get them to what I call “focus on what can kill you.”

The most difficult challenge isn’t always the most obvious.

More often than not it’s hiring or labor challenges. Either they cannot afford to hire the help they need or they can’t retain employees because nearby businesses are hiring them away. They are not alone, and this is not a new development.

Each year hiring is one of the biggest drags on an employer’s bottom line.  But since the 2020 pandemic this has been exacerbated as many would-be workers have moved on to new careers or opted out of jobs in certain categories (think service industry), and those who are available are in high demand, forcing bidding wars between competing employers.


For businesses whose frog is hiring, here’s my five most recommended actions:

Prioritize skills over credentials

Now is not the time to get caught up on credentials—where potentials employees went to school, what they’ve accomplished in previous jobs, etc. It’’s best to focus on hiring folks with a can-do attitude and who fit your culture. Focus on hiring the person available, even if they don’t check all of the initial boxes.

Remember, the best employees are not only trainable, they are most often trained by companies who recognize the breadth of the contribution they can make with proper training. Maybe that should be your company.

Offer competitive pay and benefits

You’re unlikely to get around having to pay near the top of the market for talented employees, given that this is a seller’s market, and quality hires will often have multiple offers to consider. But, if you find trainable hires with the potential to be long-term solutions at key positions inside your company, getting them in the door is your first priority. They won’t come cheap, but they’ll be worth it in the end.

Invest in your top performers

Employee retention is paramount. Redouble your efforts to ensure that your best employees are engaged and excited to be a part of your organization.

In addition to above-average pay, you’ll need to provide perks such as flexible hours, remote work, health insurance, or performance bonuses to make your business stand out to potential hires. Employers adopting a level of flexibility will be in great stead to attract and retain the best employees.

Hire slow; fire fast

When hiring is tough, there is a tendency to hang onto problem employees longer than usual. Don’t make this mistake. Allowing disgruntled or underperforming employees to drag down morale and poison your workplace’s culture makes it more likely that you’ll lose your best employees in the process. When it’s apparent that the time has come to cut the cord with an employee, do so swiftly.

Hire friends

One of the best-kept secrets of strong workplace teams is that they are often comprised of friends. While not everyone needs to be friends, hiring the talented friends of some of your best employees can be a boon for your bottom line. First, your top employees will likely only refer friends who they see as a great fit and who can do solid work; otherwise, why risk vouching for them?

Also, hiring the friends of friends can help to build a more collaborative, cohesive culture, one in which employees are eager to be a part of and are thus reluctant to leave for the first better offer of pay. This longevity can help seal one of the leakiest buckets: employee retention.

Turn a challenge into an opportunity

Tackle hiring head on and soon you’ll be focused on a new frog, one that, while no less important, but could be less of an existential threat. I’ve seen from experience what six months of focus on hiring and training can do for small businesses. That’s why I say “learning to eat the frog now helps ensure your small business’s success later.”