Costs for small businesses are through the roof. The employees are feeling it, too. You need to find a way to protect your profit margins while giving your staff more money before they talk to your competition about better pay.

Choosing a job isn’t all about pay. Workplace culture is important, too. So is an alignment of employee and corporate vision. And workers require an opportunity for professional advancement. However, those benefits won’t matter if wages are not high enough to pay employees’ bills.

On a recent weekend, I visited downtown Great Barrington to enjoy al fresco dining on the promenade. However, one of my favorite restaurants could not seat us outside because there weren’t enough workers to serve those tables. They also didn’t have the cooks required to prepare dessert.

The next day, Tractor Supply Company in the same town was closed with a sign on the door saying, “Closed: Lack of Help.” If you believe the approximately 200 comments on the Great Barrington Community Board’s Facebook page, “if the cost of living was manageable, people could work for minimum wage and survive.” And, “it’s not that people are not willing to work; it’s that they aren’t willing to work for a non-livable wage.”

What was a “livable” wage in 2021 is not the same in 2022. Inflation is up 8.6 percent year-over-year. Higher prices cost the average American household $460.20 more per month for the same basket of goods bought a year ago, or $5,522.40 annually.

At the same time, nearly every small business owner (92 percent) reports that inflation has increased the cost of running their company. More than four-out-of-five (81 percent) say their costs have increased by more than 20 percent. Nonetheless, it’s time for you to pay your employees more. Great Barrington is in Berkshire County. The county has a median household income of $61,166. Even if top earners are making double that, an inflation “tax” of $5,522.40 is hurting employees enough for them to consider leaving your company for a higher-paying job.

Many small businesses are raising prices less than their cost increases, shrinking their profit margins. Let’s explore how to find the necessary cash flow to pay employees a competitive wage that will retains them.

You may be reluctant to charge your customers more. More than one-third (35 percent) of business owners say it is a bad time to raise prices because they fear losing customers. Those concerns are validated as 37 percent of small business owners say that customers have complained about inflated prices at their companies.