We see all these campaigns to promote small businesses, like International Small Business Week, “Small Business Friday” and other conferences and initiatives that put the spotlight on small business. These campaigns are well-meaning but what impact do they make? What good do they do for the small business person down there in the trenches of a small village trying to eke out a living?
Small business is about every day slogging it out in the trenches, providing friendly customer service and thinking of what better services or products to provide customers. These grandstand platforms make everyone feel good on the day but what good do they do for small business and the other 364 days of the year?
This isn’t to say that larger businesses don’t do good for small businesses but they could be doing far more by buying from smaller businesses and supporting them.
What is it then that you and I can do to help small business?
What really brought this home was that I was in a very small town in the Karoo where the utility had cut off the electricity from 8 o’clock in the morning until 5 PM in the evening on a Sunday. All the small businesses had to close for the Sunday. No one gave a damn about these small businesses and the loss of revenue to them. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. There is a huge disconnect between what is there to support small business and all how small business is really treated.
S0, out of all the small tourist businesses in this lonely Karoo town just off the N1 highway, nearly all were shut down because of no electricity. One enterprising restauranteer had backed up his restaurant with a diesel generator and was able to serve breakfast there that morning. No, he wasn’t doing a thriving trade but the point is he had used his initiative to have backup power in case of an emergency. But not every business person thinks this way so you can’t blame them.
So what is it that we can do to help small businesses?
What we can do, you and I, is buy from small businesses whenever we can. We can visit, for example, a local community restaurant run by a husband and wife team instead of patronising a chain restaurant where your money will be converted into a dividend and paid outside of the community to shareholders in some far-off country.
You can buy local services from your small business. Support small businesses in your own main street – hair salons, dry cleaners, butchers (if there are still any independents around), clothing shops, picture framers and convenience stores.
Let me give you a simple example. An entrepreneur I know has a computer business in Main Street – where he employs young people from the local community. Yet, the parents of those youngsters that he employs will buy their computers in larger shopping centres trying to get a few pennies less rather than support their local computer shop, which has been set up for their convenience in their own town.
Do those larger chain stores employ the sons and daughters of the parents of the local community? No they don’t. Those mega-chain operations bring their own people from far outside of the community to come and work and live in those people’s communities.
Don’t get the wrong impression here – I’m not saying that people from outside should not come into communities because that would be stupid as they bring special skills, expertise and experience that is beneficial for the community. But what I am saying is just think about it: is it really sustainable to break down the fabric of a community by not creating local employment for the sons and daughters of community members but then only to find out that their parents are shopping at the larger chains.
And let me tell you it is not not easy for those small businesses to create employment. I have another friend who runs an online business quite successfully thank you. But it took him at least a decade to get to the size where he can employ someone to take care of a certain part of his business. Again, he is employing someone from his local community and helping to keep that community intact rather than chase away the sons and daughters of the parents who are reluctant to buy from him to other cities and even other countries.
So next time you have need to buy a product or service turn over in your mind where you could source that product or service locally. It might cost you a few pennies more to buy from a local business than an out-of-town foreign business but at least you will know that the money that you are spending goes back into the community by employing local people who in turn buy from other local businesses in the community.
The money stays in the community and circulates in the community instead of being sucked out of the community and going to a shareholder in some foreign land who has never put foot in your local community.
If you find this article has touched a chord in you, and you feel that you want to comment, please do so by commenting on this blog. Should you require assistance with your small business in whatever way you want or need, we may be able to assist. Let us know by emailing us.