Like teen idols, brash and gutsy startups always hog the spotlight with their panache and sparkle. But it's when they get to be older, more mature mid-sized businesses that a crisis of confidence really sets in.

That's the news, anyway, from payroll processor ADP's Midsized Owners study for 2014. Despite creating more than one third of all jobs in the U.S. and adding more than half as many employees as big companies lost during the recession, mid-sized companies know they can't coast on their past achievements.

They have to reinvent, but the question is, how? Sometimes there are just more questions than answers.

And as ADP found out, for mid-sized companies it was often a matter not knowing how to tackle some of the basics. For example, top concerns for mid-sized businesses, which ADP defines as having between 50 and 999 employees, are complying with government regulations, accessing enough talent, and dealing with the increasing globalization of business.

More than a third of mid-sized businesses faced fines for non-compliance, for example, but nearly 60 percent were not sure how much they paid for infractions, and 47 percent did not know how many infractions they had committed.

Nearly half of businesses surveyed said they were uncertain about their talent pool, and just one tenth said they were completely confident they had the necessary tools to effectively manage talent. More specifically, nearly a quarter of respondents said they had employees who were not engaged at work; 17 percent said they were unable to retain talent, and 18 percent said they were unable to attract the best employees.

When it comes to the increasingly globalized business world, mid-sized businesses reported uncertainty about realities like pricing, increased competition, creating new market opportunities. Less than a quarter said they had the necessary tools and information to manage a global workforce.

"When it comes to globalization issues, midsized business owners are not sure where to turn for help," ADP writes, adding elswehere in the report that mid-sized companies aren't studied adequately.

You could always look at the National Center for the Middle Market, whose quarterly research and other studies are pretty comprehensive. (Inc. doesn't do such a bad job either.)

ADP polled owners, C-suite and senior executives at 756 mid-sized businesses between July and August.


Published on: Nov 6, 2014