Small businesses are a key feature of any thriving community. Whether it’s the local mom and pop store downtown, or an independent eCommerce outlet operating from their home, these entrepreneurs significantly impact the people they serve and the wider economy.
Unfortunately, when crises hit — such as our current COVID-19 pandemic — they are also some of the most vulnerable to damage and disruption.
Each of us knows that it’s important to support small businesses. Many would also admit that if they were making a decision with their conscience rather than their budget they would be utilizing small enterprise services, rather than heading for cheaper and more convenient big box stores or online giants. What we often fail to consider in this scenario is just how deeply small businesses touch our lives, and how their successes and failures truly affect us all.
We’re going to take a closer look at how these small businesses make a difference to various aspects of our lives. What are the economic, legislative, and social issues they can impact? We’ll also examine how and why we can support them, particularly through difficult periods.
As a society, much of our focus on the health of the economy seems to be placed on large corporations. We look at how the Fortune 500 companies are faring or how the fluctuations of the stock exchange could be a cause for concern or an indicator of growth. However, it’s also worth bearing in mind that a report from the U.S. Small Business Administration noted that small businesses produce up to 44% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).
Smaller companies also provide significant employment opportunities.
Certainly, they make a difference as direct employers of staff, but they also create opportunities in additional services that these businesses need in order to function efficiently and legally. For example, small business accounting requires specific skills: knowledge of local and federal finance laws, cash accounting, and the creation of financial statements that provide transparency for investors. Leaders of small enterprises offer opportunities for these professionals to engage their niche expertise.
These businesses thus help the local economy to thrive. When customers interact with their local small enterprises, a proportion of the sales taxes they pay is likely to stay within the local community. This means that investment in new local amenities, vital services such as police, and the funding of local schools are all aided by the products and innovations offered by small scale entrepreneurs.
Small businesses affect us beyond simple financial contributions. They are often key components of community life, helping form the identity of the local area. Many small entrepreneurs are instrumental in helping drive local politics and work with local tourism boards to boost the local profile.
They also have a role to play in ensuring that new local legislation and regulation is effective. Most recently, entrepreneurs have been digging into resources to understand how the new legal requirements for operations following COVID-19 can be implemented. At a time in which the public is keen to return to some semblance of normal, how small businesses embrace these changes and implement regulations can keep their customers, families, and the wider community safe.
Beyond our immediate crisis, small businesses are well placed to affect environmental sustainability. They are usually agile enough to make changes to their businesses and impress upon their employee bases the importance of sustainable practices. They are also able to take advantage of government assistance programs and resources aimed at helping them reduce emissions and energy consumption in ways that benefit both the local environment and global climates.
Methods of Support
This isn’t a one-way street, of course. In order for small businesses to continue making an impact on our lives as individuals and a community, we need to keep supporting their efforts. The obvious way of doing so is to keep buying their products and services; while they may not always be the cheapest, or the most convenient, continued engagement with them is in effect an investment in their ability to also contribute to our own lives.
You can also:
- Engage on social media. This doesn’t just mean you follow them and like their posts. Rather, consider it an opportunity to help boost their public profile. Share posts on your own feed, tag colleagues, friends, and family to alert them to products and services they may be interested in.
- Buy gift certificates. Particularly at times of crisis where they may not be getting as much business, buying a gift certificate can help show your support while you wait for them to reopen.
- Volunteer your expertise. You may have skills or knowledge that can provide them with insights into useful working practices, or even just help them out of a jam. Be mindful of their needs, though; have a discussion with them about how they would like to proceed, rather than assuming control.
- Help build relationships. Get to know the owners of small businesses and their goals, and where possible make introductions to other members of the community that can help their business grow. Relationships can be one of the most valuable resources any company has, and encouraging networking opportunities can be an important contribution.
Small businesses continue to be vital to the growth of the economy — locally and nationally. But their influence goes further, impacting jobs, community health, and driving growth and change. We have a responsibility to engage with local entrepreneurs wherever possible and help ensure our relationships with small businesses have a positive effect on the world around us.
Dan Matthews is a freelance writer with a penchant for financial wisdom and solid research. You can find him on Twitter @danielmatthews0 and LinkedIn.