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There’s a ‘tremendous opportunity’ for small business hiring: Johnson Security Bureau president

Johnson Security Bureau President Jessica Johnson-Cope joins Yahoo Finance Live's Brian Sozzi at the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Summit in Washington, D.C., to discuss recessionary risks, inflation, supply chain challenges, the state of the small business industry, the labor sector, and the outlook for growth amid geopolitical and global challenges.

Video Transcript


BRIAN SOZZI: Welcome back to Yahoo Finance Live. I'm Brian Sozzi still at the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Summit in DC. Joining me now is Jessica Johnson-Cope, Johnson Security Bureau president and chair of 10,000 Small Businesses Voices. Good to see you here.

JESSICA JOHNSON-COPE: Thank you for having me, Brian. Great to see you as well.

BRIAN SOZZI: Take us through your story. You are running a family business that has been around for some time. Amidst all these concerns about recession, inflation, what made you get into the family business?

JESSICA JOHNSON-COPE: So I took over my family's business. I represent the third generation of Johnsons, keeping New York City safe. And my father was diagnosed with terminal cancer a few years ago. And shortly before he passed away, I joined him to help run the business. And I was expecting to have him for two years. That two years ended up only being three months.

And so my brother and I had the dubious decision of whether or not we would cash in our chips and sell the business or whether we would make a return on the investment for the 16 people who worked for us. And we realized that those 16 people were not just people by themselves, but they represented families, families in the South Bronx, New York, the lowest economic congressional district in the country. And so we said, we'll try to make it work.

And a few years after I took over the business, we were introduced to the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program. We were in the inaugural cohort at LaGuardia Community College in 2010. And we leveraged the experience and the lessons that we learned in the program to turn the business around. And this year, we celebrate our 60th anniversary, providing security guard services across the New York Metropolitan area.

BRIAN SOZZI: Lots of focus and concern, like I just mentioned, on recession. Do you see those concerns playing out in your business?

JESSICA JOHNSON-COPE: Oh, definitely. I mean, as a small business owner, recession is real. Inflation is real. The supply chain challenges are real. And it's no different than what a large corporation would face. It's just that we may not always have the same resources. I'm glad to say that the folks that are gathered here for the 10,000 Small Businesses Summit, we are resilient. Many of us have experienced growth during the pandemic. And in spite of the financial challenges and the economic challenges, we have the tools to grow our business, in spite of inflation and recession.

BRIAN SOZZI: I imagine you are looking for a very specific candidate for a security guard. Are you having trouble finding that candidate?

JESSICA JOHNSON-COPE: I will say that in the past month or so, we've seen an increase of people coming to apply for jobs. So I think that there's a tremendous opportunity to bring people into the fold from not just my business, but other small businesses, especially when we look at what some of the larger corporations are doing. They're slowing down their velocity of hiring. Or in some cases, on the tech front, we see that there are many layoffs. So there are people that are available and eager to work.

And I think people just need to understand that small businesses, you have great opportunities to not just grow, but to make an impact with whatever skill set you find. So, yes, we are looking for people that have great character, that understand customer service, and that can deliver what our clients need. And many of our people stand in the stead and are representatives of who our clients are. So when you go into a bank, or you go into a healthcare facility, and you see a Johnson security guard, you don't see my brand. You see whatever brand you're going to patronize.

BRIAN SOZZI: I talked to Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon earlier on. He said small businesses want more from regulators. As a small business owner, what are some of the things you want our regulators in this country to be providing?

JESSICA JOHNSON-COPE: Well, we are excited because tomorrow is advocacy day. And we'll be talking to over 400 elected officials about what federal elected officials can do to help small businesses. Number one is reauthorize the SBA. The Small Business Administration has not been reauthorized in over 20 years.

BRIAN SOZZI: Where have these guys been?

JESSICA JOHNSON-COPE: They've been focused on other priorities.

BRIAN SOZZI: Fair enough.

JESSICA JOHNSON-COPE: But we'll use our opportunity tomorrow to talk about our legislative priorities. So reauthorizing the SBA, making resources available for workforce development, providing access to capital to smaller businesses like ours, and those are some of the key things that we're looking at, healthcare assistance, as well as child care assistance.

I know that I've seen that many of the people that we've lost over the past two years have been women because they have to stay at home and care for their children, especially during the lockdown. So if we can get some child care assistance, that would really help small businesses like mine.

BRIAN SOZZI: Lastly, interest rates are going up in this economy. Are you finding it hard to get the capital you need?

JESSICA JOHNSON-COPE: So capital is always a challenge. I think we need to be creative. But as I mentioned, we are resilient. So as entrepreneurs, we figure it out. So if it's not getting access to capital from a traditional bank, it's going to a CBFI or trying to find some way to negotiate lower rates, lower financing terms, faster payment terms from our clients, especially the large corporations. So we'll figure it out, even if we can't get the traditional capital that we need to grow.