InMarket: The ‘killer’ employee


It was National Small Business Week last week and there were the usual proclamations, pats on the back and conferences all aimed at “the little guy.” And no wonder: President Barack Obama hailed small-business owners as the nation’s economy’s engine and primary source of new jobs while declaring June 16-22 as National Small Business Week. “America’s small businesses reflect the best of who we are as a nation – daring and innovative, courageous and hopeful, always working hard and looking ahead for that next great idea,” Obama said in a news release. And small businesses are hiring, though the pace of job growth in that sector of the economy has tapered off since earlier in the year. The smallest companies – those with fewer than 50 workers – added only 58,000 jobs in May, according to a report issued earlier in the month by payroll-processing firm ADP. That’s up from May, but the overall trend is clear: Small business job growth is experiencing a general decline. According to ADP data, small firms started the year strong, creating 106,000 jobs in January. But hiring has since tapered off. “Owners are very pessimistic about the future of the economy, and they’re not making any bets customers will come in to generate extra revenue to pay for these workers,” said Bill Dunkelberg, an economist with the National Federation of Independent Businesses. And those with fewer than 50 workers seem to be the ones that are worried. They even have a name for employee No. 51: The killer employee. The employer mandate under Obamacare says that starting in 2014, “large employers” with 50 or more full-time employees must start providing insurance. “It is 50-plus employees,” confirmed Joanne Peters, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Analyst Dennis Gartman blamed health reform for holding back new hires in a recent interview on CNBC. “Anybody who has a small business with, let’s say 47, 48, 49 workers, is not going to add the 51st,” Gartman said. So if you’re out looking for a job and the company looks like it has about 50 employees, you might ask what number employee you’ll be if hired. The employer mandate is at the crux of a debate about whether Obamacare will hold back hiring. In reality, though, the mandate will apply to only a tiny share of businesses – about 3 percent. And the vast majority of them already provide health insurance. But the FUD factor, fear, uncertainty and doubt, can cause a lot of trepidation, particularly in a fragile economy.

Business Plan While all that may be troubling for small business, most entrepreneurs don’t let bureaucratic nightmares derail their dream. You know who you are. If you’re a small business person who has an idea and are ready to compete against other small businesses Survivor-style, you still have some time to test your mettle in the Business Plan Competition. For the third year, the Fort Worth Business Assistance Center, in partnership with SCORE, Small Business Development Center for Enterprise Excellence, Tarrant Small Business Development Center and Texas Christian University Neeley School of Business MBA Program, are in charge of the competition. The Fort Worth Business Press is media sponsor for the event. The competition is open to all Tarrant County businesses (with more than six months in operations and annual revenue up to $500,000) to apply to receive coaching on strengthening their business and the chance to compete for awards, cash prizes and business services from sponsors. For more information: CNN contributed to this report.

In Market is a column written from the perspective of a plugged-in business journalist about business happenings in and around Tarrant County. Got an idea for In Market? Robert Francis can be reached at