Bredin Report: When do SMBs Hire Key Roles?

We recently surveyed over 800 SMBs in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia and New Zealand on how they learn about product and services for their businesses.

One of the interesting findings from this new research is when SMBs bring on key roles, such as an office manager or head of HR, on a full-time basis. This is a question our clients occasionally ask, to help with campaign targeting.

The biggest takeaway: Roles one would expect to be common – such as a head of sales, marketing or HR – are not that prevalent; and those SMBs that do fill these positions fill them later in their development than one might expect.

Role Incidence by Company Size

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Perhaps not surprisingly, the most common role is an office manager. Roughly a third of SMBs with 2-9 employees have one, increasing to almost half of SMBs with 10-19 employees, and plateauing at about three in five SMBs with 20-500 employees. Bigger SMBs with more than one location, of course, may have multiple office managers.

The role that grows the most with company size is the head of IT. Only about one in 10 SMBs with 2-9 employees have one. This doubles to about one in five SMBs with 10-19 employees, and jumps to over half of SMBs with 20-99 employees, three in five SMBs with 100-249 employees and over two in three SMBs with 250-500 employees – at which point it is the most common role surveyed.

Third-party IT advisors – whether a consultant or an MSP – are used significantly more by the largest SMBs than their smaller peers. Fewer than a quarter of SMBs with less than 250 employees use either, while two in five SMBs with 250-500 employees have an MSP, and almost half have an IT consultant. The implication is that many IT directors – especially at SMBs with fewer than 250 employees – don’t have a third-party advisor, and as a result rely heavily on vendors for purchasing guidance.

Operations and finance roles have very similar incidences, each growing from roughly one in five SMBs with 2-9 employees to one in three with 10-19 employees, half of those with 20-99 employees, and roughly three in five of those with 100-500 employees. These roles are critical to managing company effectiveness and profitability.

HR, marketing, and sales have lower incidences than might be expected. Roughly one in ten SMBs with 2-9 employees has these roles, increasing to about one in five SMBs with 10-19 employees, and two in five SMBs with 20-99 employees. The incidence for sales and marketing heads dips slightly to about one in three SMBs with 100-249 employees, while about three in five have a head of HR. The incidences are closer among companies with 250-500 employees, in the two-in-five to one-in-two range. While it’s not surprising that incidence for these roles generally increases with company size, it is surprising that the incidence of these key managerial and revenue-generating roles isn’t higher, especially among SMBs with 100-500 employees.

Need help building your brand standing with SMBs? Bredin can keep you up to date on evolving SMB needs and challenges through quick-turn, actionable market research. We can also help you develop high-value content to boost SMB awareness, brand perception, leads, conversion and revenue.

About Bredin

Bredin was founded in 1991 by America's foremost small business expert, author and syndicated columnist Alice Bredin. From its beginning, Bredin was designed to be a breed apart: 50% research consultancy, 50% creative agency, 100% focused on SMB. Based in Somerville, Mass., Bredin helps Fortune 500 companies understand, reach and retain SMB customers through timely, targeted research and award-winning marketing programs.