This is National Small Business Week.The celebrations, seminars and promotion are in full swing. As a Board Member of the National Small Business Association (NSBA) and Chair of the Small Business Association of Michigan’s PAC, I know how important it is to support and promote small business. There has been a lot of hype this week, so I thought it might be a good time to stop and consider the state of small business in America.
First, here are a few interesting facts. According the Small Business Administration (SBA), small business is creating two out of every three new jobs. Women and Hispanics are opening new businesses at a dizzying pace. In fact, women have gone from owning just five percent of all small businesses in America to owning more than 30 percent today. In the past year alone, 200,000 women-owned small businesses were started. Hispanics are opening businesses at a rate three times faster than the national average. It is no wonder that small business is often called the backbone of the economy, the engine that will pull the country out of difficult economic times.
While this is a great compliment, owners say that the challenges today are as great as they were ten years go. They point to access to capital, barriers to importing and exporting, taxes and healthcare. Still small business owners tend to be optimistic. They love what they do which is pretty rare in today’s world.
Over the years I have talked with hundreds of small business owners, and despite all the difficulties they have a great passion for business. Many will tell you that despite the risk there is nothing like the feeling of starting your own company. Some share how they mortgaged their home for start-up capital or borrowed from family and friends. They talk about the thrill of seeing the product they developed fly off the shelf. They point to how they delight their customers with the service they provide. They get giddy about expanding into new markets.
Does this sound idealistic?
Maybe, but small business owners are an amazing group of people. Let’s face it you have to be. When you own a small business you are often the CEO, CFO, HR Director and so much more.
Small business owners are also realistic about what they need to do to compete with the “big guys.” They understand that they have to provide a great value. Small businesses are “lean” often without trying so they don’t waste time and money. At the same time, they have to prove that even though they are small, they have systems in place to assure business and financial stability.
Small business has a distinct advantage over larger more complex organizations because it can respond quickly. I like to say that small business owners do not have an 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. mentality. They expect to work long hours and don’t complain.
Perhaps the most important thing that sets small business apart is the desire to create new things instead of doing things the way they have always been done. That creates opportunities for others. Of course, not every small business fits this mold. But for the most part, I have found successful small business owners to be committed to their organization, their employees and their communities.
This National Small Business Week is a chance to take a fresh look at what small businesses bring to the table all year round. If you support a small business you can feel good about supporting those who are creating jobs and helping the economy rebound.