How to Attract Great Talent on a Budget

An employee can buy your business.

Attracting great talent is possible even if you cannot offer a huge salary!

Question: How do I attract great talent on a budget?

One question I often get is: How do I attract great talent on a budget? or, put another way: How do I attract a corporate star or someone worthy of being a corporate star when I don’t have the corporate budget to pay him or her? I have attracted great talent and helped other business owners do the same (directly as a COO and indirectly as a business advisor and consultant). The key is to focus on what you want in an employee and what you believe are the benefits that person would derive from working for your firm.


I found an employee through a business association I was in. I needed a business development head but could only offer a small base initially. I focused on what he would learn from me and how, when he left me (because I intended to sell the business in 2-3 years), I told him he would qualify for a director or VP position at a larger company because of the scope and the practical knowledge he’d have. I also told him he would develop a business network in the commercial construction industry that would serve him in his future roles. In addition, I provided him with a share of the profits and encouraged and paid him for his occasional writing contributions. (He liked to write but this had never been encouraged or even allowed in his previous roles.)

How to compete

To entice someone for whom you cannot compete dollar for dollar, you must identify and cultivate what your prospect wants that you / your company can provide, which the firm with more money cannot. These include such tangibles and intangibles as exposure, training, flexibility, more vacations, a greater sense of contribution, more connection to the company’s goals, profit-sharing, an equity stake, or greater personal development.

Why is your business great?

Why do you think your business is great? You must have a clear understanding of this in order to communicate this to a special recruit. You need to write these reasons down. In addition, talk to your employees or your investors and business advisors and get their input and write those reasons down. Everyone does not want the same thing. Talk to the person you’re seriously interested in bringing on board and find out what they really want. Play to those other wants and needs, and you’ll be surprised just how “affordable” a great talent may be.