We are in that hazy netherworld that seems to sneak up on us near the end of every year. We wonder where the time went, what the New Year will hold and how we can take our enterprise to what we euphemistically call the next level. This year there is an extra bit of haze in the picture because the mid-term elections have sent a lot of rookies to various legislatures and embracing small business may not be their #1 priority. This is a good time to share some thoughts on what the business sector and small business in particular really want and need.
I think that the biggest thing small business owners want from all levels of government is simply respect. With over 60% of all jobs created in the country coming from the small business community, won't politicians and others simply say "nice job" to the men and women who hustle and risk every day to build and grow various enterprises. It is my contention that small business gets only lip service in the corridors of congress because the heavy hitter lobbyists represent other interests.
That respect has to begin at the local level. Last week I received a nice note from Bob Foster, the Mayor of Long Beach California regarding a pilot program they've been working on for greater small business development. He and his council want more city contracts to go to small and even very small businesses. He says this will help generate job growth and sales tax revenue, and ensure that their tax dollars are spent locally. Are your local politicians building real bridges to entrepreneurs? If so, please let me know about it and be sure to thank them for it.
The next thing the owner of a growing business wants to have is a clear set of rules regarding taxes, and health care costs that will hold steady for at least a few years. The top layer of clouds blotting out the sun for business is that a massive expansion of government has created an equivalent amount of uncertainty for the private sector. Uncertainty means that money goes to the mattress and many expansive thoughts are put away for a while. Big business in America is sitting on about $1.8 trillion in cash, waiting for a sign that the federal government won't do a snatch & grab on their resources.
Carl Schramm, head of the Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City has a clear idea about how the country can build a path to greater economic growth. In a Forbes Magazine interview he said "The single most important contributor to a nation's economic growth is the number of startups that grow to a billion dollars in revenue within twenty years." He went on to say that in the U.S. we need to see 75 to 125 of those billion dollar babies every year to feed a post WWII rate of growth.
The owners of growing businesses need care, feeding and specific education on how to get where they want to go. From our twenty years of producing television stories of small business owners for Making It! we've seen about five (out of 1000) rise to the billion bucks level. They were all headed by hungry and even driven people who probably consume big dreams for breakfast! One of the exciting aspects of this for me is that this superstar level of entrepreneur comes from all known ethnicities and genders! Most business owners simply want to make an independent living that can take care of their families and help the kids through college. Many don't have the iron constitution, discipline and raw ambition that it takes to go from very small to large, but that isn't what they want. I know that you can find your own comfort level of enterprise building and it may have three, six or nine zeroes after the first three digits.
Business owners don't want to feel that they are being treated as pawns in some sort of class warfare. President Obama and his administration have acquired a reputation as being anti-business. A lot of the energy of the Tea Party seems to have come from small business owners who feel that Washington simply doesn't understand them or their place in reviving the American economy. Politicians sometimes inject haves versus have-nots notes that imply business owners have some sort of unfair advantage. Some Wall Street barons may indeed have that advantage, but Main Street America certainly does not.
Notice that I didn't put easier loans or money in general on the wish list. Money has never been cheaper and it seems that loans for going enterprises are available. I believe that what small business owners really want is very much what all humans crave. That would be understanding, appreciation, encouragement and respect. Those ingredients are the food of dreams and no country can be great without entrepreneurs who harbor big dreams.