Your small business can't offer an employee barbecue where U2 plays, or afford to rent out the local arena for an office party. You probably also can't have on-site day care, coffee kiosks, free cafeterias, or a full-size gym.
Those perks remain unique to big businesses that have the scale to offer them. As the owner of a smaller company, it's not realistic to think you can match these, so it's important to lean into what you can offer employees.
The good news is that it's your company, and you're allowed to be as clever and flexible as you want. This can be an asset in recruiting employees. Here are three examples.
1. Location flexibility
Some jobs require employees to come into an office or store. You can't be a very good retail clerk from home, and taking inventory generally requires being there.
But for other positions -- and even parts of some jobs that require a physical presence -- it's not always important to be in the office. Allow your employees to make those decisions. If they can get their job done from home part of the time (or even a lot of it), let them do that.
2. Team events
When I was growing up, my family's business hosted a summer barbecue every year at a rented-out camp. There were pools, softball fields, tennis courts, and a lot of food. In years when business was good, the meal might include lobster, and in slower years it was more likely hamburgers and hot dogs on the grill.
Think about what kind of event your employees would enjoy and organize it. Solicit opinions and involve your whole team in planning. This doesn't have to break the bank; it just needs to be something your employees actually want to do.
3. No set hours
For a few years, I ran a company with a partner. One of our selling points for employees is that we wanted them to be at the office (or working from home) only when they had work to do. If someone finished a project or their meetings ended faster than planned, they could go home (or hang out in the video game room).
We never wanted anyone to sit at their desk checking social media while waiting for the clock to hit some arbitrary number. Sometimes that meant people worked late, got to leave early, or didn't have to come in the next day. We were flexible, and if you did your work, we never watched the clock.
Find the perks that motivate your employees and make your company someplace people want to work. Think about team goals like offering a bonus or added time off for reaching certain sales milestones. Do things like give your workers all school holidays off (a really valuable perk for parents -- schools have a lot of random days off).
There are no set rules here. Be creative and try different things; talk with your team and throw out ideas. Maybe people really want better coffee in the break room or a team lunch once a week. It doesn't matter what you do -- just do something to stand out by offering perks that improve employees' lives.