February 1, 2019

The Middle-Market Edge

The Middle-Market Edge

It didn’t surprise me to see the news this week that middle-market companies powered the unexpectedly positive job growth in January. Of the 213,000 jobs private companies added last month, midsize firms with 50 to 499 employees created 84,000 – leading to numbers that greatly exceeded expectations.

The news underlines something we’ve been noticing the last few years among the middle-market companies we serve here at Marcum: They are more resilient than ever before.

The past decade has kept most business leaders on their toes, thanks to the constant change caused by political upheaval, digital disruption, and a host of other factors. It can be inconvenient or downright exasperating to deal with these challenges, but there’s no doubt that having to react to them constantly has made many companies stronger and smarter in how they operate.

One sign of the trend is how many middle-market leaders we’ve seen coming in to work with us on their strategic plans. Many have been updating their plans quarterly or monthly instead of once a year, to make sure their companies stay in front of change, not behind it, and can react almost instantly to market forces.

We’ve also noticed many leaders redoubling their efforts to foster entrepreneurial thinking on their teams. They are actively training associates at all levels of their organizations to think on their feet, react to fast-changing economic conditions, make the most of new ways of gathering data, and enlist on-demand help when they need it. That gives them an edge over bigger, slower-moving corporations. That is why they are able to enter new markets and introduce new products rapid-fire – creating all of those new jobs.

One piece of news that was especially encouraging was the number of jobs created in industries outside of technology, where many people assume most of the action is. For instance, construction, mining and manufacturing added 68,000 jobs. Meanwhile, the professional and business services industries were humming, adding 46,000 new jobs, and education and health services adding 38,000 new ones. It goes to show you don’t need to work in a field like artificial intelligence or blockchain to innovate and expand. With great leadership and a strong team, any company can grow.

Of course, increased job creation means that every company will face more competition for talent. This is a good time for every middle-market firm to batten down the hatches on the HR front. Let the talented people on your team know how much you appreciate them. Invest in new opportunities for them to learn and grow – which research shows is particularly important to younger workers starting out in their careers. Take a look at your compensation package to make sure you’re deploying your budget in the most effective way possible. Invest in promoting your employer brand, so people know about the great workplace you’ve built. Your advisors at Marcum are here to help.

Although we’re living in what some might call “interesting times,” there is also an abundance of opportunity. Middle-market companies clearly have an edge in making the most of what’s going on.

As those of you who read this column regularly know, last week had me in Las Vegas. Tracy flew out Thursday with our friends Lauren and Rich Steinberg, and we stayed the weekend. We saw two shows, Van Morrison at Caesars and Lady Gaga at the Park MGM. A big 2 thumbs down for Van, playing in a much-too-big setting without the production value or sound system to match. And a big 2 thumbs up to Gaga, with perhaps one of the best concerts ever. And to top it off, she was joined on-stage by Bradley Cooper with an encore performance of their “A Star is Born” duet.

Last night had me in Washington, DC for a Marcum introduction to some of the new clients we have there as a result of our merger with the former Raffa firm. The event was held in a great setting at the Newseum, where I had the pleasure of meeting over 200 of our clients and associates. Thanks to Tom and Kathy Raffa for setting it all up. It was a great event.

And tomorrow has me off to Atlanta with my daughter Lily (9) who has become a diehard football fanatic and, although a NY Jets fan, is also a big Tom Brady fan (is it possible for the two to coexist?). In any event, we’re taking our first daddy/daughter trip to the Super Bowl. I’m not sure which of us is more excited.