After retiring as a teacher, my father opened a small art business in Warren, Maine. But even though I've always been comfortable around technology and have worked at Google for six years, my dad didn't ever embrace technology himself. Ultimately, he made the decision to close his business. Of course, failure in the first few years is the fate of many small businesses. But my father's experience gave me the passion for helping small businesses succeed.
Early in my career, working in state government and politics, I chose roles on political campaigns because my day to day work - organizing volunteers, preparing issue briefs, working on behalf of a candidate I believed in - seemed to me the most direct way to help improve society. What I learned from those years was that the most important issues to people were economic. It was all about jobs and opportunity. And one of the most vibrant sectors of opportunity is small and mid-sized businesses. America has 27.2 million small and mid-sized businesses (Small Business Administration, 2008).
What continues to inspire my career is helping these businesses obtain more opportunities through innovation. One of the levers is Google, which I truly believe is an engine of economic development. There are businesses today that would not exist without the Internet and the direct access to information, of course. But whatever their business model, they need customers -- and customers are increasingly online, seeking your products and services.
Every day I hear from businesses that are growing quickly - and adding jobs! - because of their investment in online advertising. At Google, I've watched businesses grow from small shops to major global players. For instance, there's CafePress in San Francisco, which is seeing a lot of interest right now in t-shirts related to health care reform (not to mention Vice President Joe Biden's colorful remark on that topic.
Investing in online advertising is investing in the growth of your business. For a small business especially, it offers extra marketing muscle that used to be hard to come by. No matter what size, a company can pay to have ads appear above and alongside the search results on Google.com - you just need to provide keywords (the phrases people type into the search box) that are relevant to what you offer. So for CafePress, when someone types "Joe Biden t-shirts" into Google, customers can find them. The same holds true for you.
Working in politics helped me better define how I wanted to have an impact on the world. Now I work with a global team and can see the power of technology firsthand. My father did not see the possibility that online advertising offered his business. It's because of his experience that I keep encouraging business owners to take even a small step online. There is a new universe out there, reaching potential customers wherever they may be, and helping them to find you.