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The UPS Store Small Business blog
  • 26 July 2021
  • Liam Edwardson

How to Build an Inclusive Small Business

Of the many lessons we all learned over the past year and a half, one is as crucial as it is clear: We have work to do in terms of prioritizing and strengthening diversity and inclusivity. As a small business owner, you have more influence and opportunity than you may realize to build bridges and strengthen your community by becoming an ally for historically marginalized groups. 

people working on their computers

At first glance, diversity and inclusion seem to mean the same thing, but there is a distinction. Diversity is the practice of including people from a range of different social and ethnic backgrounds, genders, sexual orientations and more in your workforce. Inclusion refers to how you go about achieving that goal. Inclusivity is a message, even a mission, to show every employee, customer and vendor that they are accepted and to let them know that their voices and opinions are heard and respected.

Beyond being the right kind of business to create, an inclusive company has been proven to be a more successful company. Generally, the more diverse and inclusive a business is, the more it outperforms more monolithic businesses in terms of employee satisfaction, innovation, growth and other long-term measurements.

How can you create a more inclusive business for your employees and your customers? Here are some positive steps every small business should take.

Start with a bold statement
Start by letting your employees, partners and customers know that you are on a mission to be more inclusive in every facet of your small business. Communicate your goals. Formulate policies about your hiring, sales, marketing and vendor selection, with the plan being greater diversity and inclusion. After that, create a forum for you and your employees to educate each other about the ways forward. If you need support, there are a number of consultants, many of them small businesses themselves, who can help educate you on what it means to create a more inclusive company.

Hire thoughtfully
Even the best of us can fall into the trap of unconscious bias when it comes to making hiring decisions. Your upbringing, peer pressure and local customs may have influenced your views without you being aware of them. Fortunately, there are some great strategies and practical software programs that can help combat unintentional bias and promote inclusivity in the hiring process.

Unbiasify Chrome Extension: Unbiasify allows users to hide photos and names from sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Free on Google Chrome, the intent is to eliminate any possibility of unconscious bias right from the get-go.

Textio: This is an augmented writing platform that helps hiring managers create job descriptions by using language that is more inclusive.

Gender Decoder: This free site focuses on women of color as well as women in general. Gender Decoder screens job descriptions and helps suggest a balance between what are considered masculine-coded words (driven, competitive) and feminine-coded words (dependable, collaborative) to attract a variety of talent.

Diversify your suppliers
Many fledgling small business owners start out by using vendors they already know, which often results in a homogenous supplier pool of family members, friends and/or personal referrals. When choosing contractors and freelancers, make an effort to seek out and include people from different walks of life other than your own. As a small business owner, you could be the first chapter in a minority-owned small business supplier’s success story by choosing to partner with them.

Expand representation, widen the marketplace
Your marketing efforts are the community-facing expression of your small business. If prospective customers see people who look and sound like them, they will be more inclined to do business with you, buy your product or give your service a try. Start by casting people from different races and sexual identities in your TV commercials, print and social media ads and billboards. Buy time on more diverse networks. Reserve ad space in publications that serve minorities. If you use photographs of people on your websites, make sure a variety of groups and lifestyles are represented.

Beware of tokenism and appearing opportunistic
True diversity and inclusivity should be more meaningful than posting a few messages on Facebook or Twitter. Chioma Onwutalobi, the founder and CEO of Glam Africa, a dynamic Africa-focused media platform, writes, “Brands must be wary of tokenism, stereotypical portrayals and cultural appropriation, which can come across as ignorant, patronizing and artificial, thus achieving the opposite of the desired outcome” Before you post anything related to diversity and inclusion, make sure you are “walking the walk”, not just jumping onto a trending topic. Donate. Educate yourself and your team. Reach out to marginalized communities via your hiring practices. Only then comes a more authentic expression of your inclusion efforts via social media.

One day, because of your efforts, we will live in a society where Black, Hispanic, Asian, LGBTQ+ and all communities feel they are seen, heard and valued. The work you put in today regarding diversity and inclusion will lead to the success of your small business, the health of your community and the strength of our society well into the future.

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