Sunday, May 20, 2012

Small Business Week Is What You Make It

Did you know that small business products and services are responsible for half of the entire U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) (according to the U.S. Department of Commerce)? Another interesting fact I recently learned is that more than 80 percent of U.S. businesses are family owned (according to Matt Allen, Asst. Professor of Entrepreneurship at Babson College). I recognize that many family businesses are large, but I’ve included the statistic here because I was so amazed by it and because all of the family owned businesses I personally know are small businesses. I found both of these statistics remarkable and wanted to learn more about what a small business can get out of a national recognition of small businesses.

This week, the U.S. Small Business Administration sponsors National Small Business Week to celebrate the large contributions made by small businesses. One of the first things I noticed on their website is that the sponsors are some of the largest companies in the U.S. That sponsorship is a very supportive statement to small business owners – the giants recognize our worth and want us to succeed. Knowing they certainly do not feel threatened by our success (!), it is a nice feeling that they carved out a piece of their huge marketing budgets to sponsor the event which honors and empowers small businesses. It is a confidence-booster, a nod from the big leagues that our work does not go unnoticed. Maybe they recall their own roots. Perhaps getting their names on a nationally advertised event carried more value to them than the moral support their sponsorship provides. But I choose to view it as an attagirl! and to dismiss the thoughts of self-promotion.

So, back to wondering what small businesses can get out of this week-long event. The National Small Business Week website offered registration to valuable events this week in Washington D.C., as well as online contests that benefit small businesses. The events include dedicated networking time slots and they cover topics such as creating an economy that lasts, getting noticed by big companies, changes in lending practices, going global, and, of course, social media.

Getting like-minded individuals together is always filled with great potential for education and collaboration. In a gathering of small business owners, there is so much knowledge to be shared, collective clout to be harnessed and applied toward change, and issues to elevate with an eye toward solution.

For most of us who are not heading to Washington this week, we can take a few minutes from our busy schedules and look around at our local small business scene. With whom can we collaborate to build relationships and broaden our business? What could we do in terms of local contests to create or strengthen the cohesiveness of our local small business culture? Are there any local banks or vendors who are taking Small Business Week to heart and offering programs or products focused on small businesses? What events go on locally that we have overlooked or intentionally missed? Maybe it is time to give them a try. All of these actions can raise the profile of the local small business community.

Similar to an alumnae networking event I recently attended, we can always learn from our peers – even when we least expect it. Strength in numbers comes from talking to people in the same boat, feeling less isolated, swapping ideas, fostering alliances and friendships, and feeling pride in how far we have come.

So for small business owners, this week may be what we make it. It could be a week that, with some reaching out on our part, opens new doors to future growth. For potential and repeat consumers of small businesses' products and services, your efforts to patronize a small business this week are especially appreciated. 

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