Here's What 86% of Hourly Workers Say Would Actually Make Them Happier at Their Jobs. (Hint: It Isn't More Money.)

In this ongoing series, we are sharing advice, tips and insights from real entrepreneurs who are out there doing business battle on a daily basis. (Answers have been edited and condensed for clarity.)

Please give us the elevator pitch of your business.
I’m John Waldmann, CEO and co-founder of the small business team management app Homebase. We are maniacally focused on providing small businesses everything they need to build unstoppable teams: scheduling, time tracking, payroll, financial services, communication, hiring, onboarding, and compliance. We’re used by over 100, 000 businesses that employ over 2 million workers.

How is it different from other payroll platforms?
We are built for local businesses, a very important subset of our economy. So that’s your neighborhood coffee shops, restaurants and retail businesses. They are dealing with a very different and unique work environment than corporations. It’s shift-based. Workers infrequently overlap with their managers, which introduces communication challenges. There’s high turnover, which puts a different kind of burden on onboarding and training. There are a lot of different languages spoken. So we are built to address all of these specific challenges and more.

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What inspired you to launch this company?
My cofounder and I both have very good childhood friends who own and run restaurants. Some of my friends were up in Seattle and opened a salad restaurant. They were super passionate about healthy eating and also cared deeply about providing a great work experience for their team. But they had no experience in managing a team and had absolutely no tools to help them. At the same time, my sister was working in restaurants and she was a fantastic employee who was picking up shifts but had no easy way to track that she was getting paid correctly. So that’s what got us formulating Homebase — it was built to help our friends and family members.

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Having interacted with so many small businesses over the last ten years, what would you say are the hallmarks of successful ones?
I think small businesses are incredibly resilient and they are great employers. We know from our data that workers at small businesses are generally happier than folks at larger businesses. So my advice to small businesses is to lean into those things that make them great.

We conducted a study, the 2024 Homebase Small Business Fulfillment Index, and we found a lot of interesting points. The study showed that 86 percent of hourly workers enjoy their jobs more when they’re being recognized, but only 66 percent of hourly workers said they received a compliment at work in the past year. So there is a simple lever of recognition there that every small business owner can embrace. Also, the kinds of benefits that hourly workers care about in small businesses are different than what many small business owners think. Fifty-six percent of owners believe that the most important priority for the team is pay, but actually, 86 percent of workers were craving more flexibility, in their hours. It wasn’t about the dollar amount. It was about having the ability to schedule work around their family’s needs, going to school and things like that.

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What do you say to small business owners who have been doing things their own way for decades and are resistant to “complicating” things with new tech?
We get to serve so many different types of entrepreneurs — new business owners who are trying to figure out how to do everything and also folks who have been doing it for 30 years. And the reality is true for both: running a small business is incredibly hard and there are so many pulls on your time. Running payroll, tracking down time cards, and making sure that people are showing up. And the businesses who have been doing this for 30 years know that it’s getting harder because they’re dealing with more compliance. They’re dealing with more turnover. So our pitch is pretty straightforward: even if you are using the free version of Homebase, you will probably save five hours a week. And no matter who you are, you are going to get a lot of value from freeing up five hours of your time.

What is your advice to aspiring entrepreneurs?
My advice to aspiring and current entrepreneurs is pretty much always the same: find a problem you are passionate about solving that is bigger than your company. And as your company grows, know that you will face a fundamental small business conundrum: the reason you started your business is almost certainly not the thing that you’ll be spending your time on. For me, 10 years into this, the best part of my job is still getting to go talk to local businesses. That’s when I’m at my best, that’s what keeps me fired up. So my advice is to know the part of the business that gives you energy and make sure you carve out time for it.

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