Recognizing the Vital Impact of Small Business in America

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The Greatest Time to Be Self-Employed is Now

I have to say that this is, without a doubt, the greatest time ever – and I mean ever in the entire course of human history – to start, own, run, and grow a small business, and to be self-employed in general.

Hyperbole, Steve? No, my beloved reader, fact.

Because technology has, in many cases, dramatically lowered the cost of entry, starting a business today can be incredibly affordable…

Back in the Roaring 20’s, a time of Big Oil, transnational railroads, a booming stock market, and not a few swindlers and robber barons, President Calvin Coolidge famously said that, “the business of America is business.”

Today let me suggest, that the business of America is small business. But let’s not stop there. Let’s double down. The business of the world now is small business.

Looking to the Cold War Era for a Few Insights

Not long ago, we lived in a bi-polar world where two systems – communism and capitalism – dominated the economic field. In communist countries, there was no small business, save for the black markets that provided goods that the state could not offer, because a state-run system provides few incentives to create, innovate, grow, and produce.

But even back then, in the 70s let’s say, here at home small business was still small; big business ruled the roost. The Big 3 automakers were only topped by the Big 3 networks. Big business was big business.

But since then, five different seminal events/factors/changes have combined to transform the landscape into one where small business grows ever more dominant, both here at home and abroad.

1.  New markets: A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, small businesses could only sell their wares to people in their immediate geographic area. How quaint. But two things dramatically changed that such that no one need ever be tied to doing business only in their neighborhood anymore:

  • The Internet: Discussed in detail below, but suffice it to say here that we all work virtually these days. Never before in history have small businesses had the ability to work and sell globally, and so inexpensively. And the online, virtual marketplace is limitless.
  • The fall of communism: In Eastern Europe, the old Soviet Union, in China, Asia, and in South America, capitalism won. Markets have been opened. In China alone, there are hundreds of millions of new small businesses. New markets have been born.

2. Attitudes: Because capitalism has proven to be the best economic system, because entrepreneurs are now the new global rock stars, small business and entrepreneurship are now in vogue.  And because of that, the idea of owning your own business has become much more acceptable, indeed, desirable. Small business is on the march because, among other reasons, people now get that supporting small business is good business.

3. Technology: This may be the most important reason and change. The ways in which technology has fueled the small business revolution are almost too numerous to mention, but a short list would include:

Software to run your business; email and texting for new, instant, global communication; the Internet and websites which allow us to look big and be global; e-commerce; social media, allowing us to expand by meeting people we otherwise would have never met; laptops tablets, and smartphones that allow us to work anywhere, anytime; and more affordable air travel allowing us to actually meet in person all of these virtual connections we make online.

And when you add that all of this technology has, in many cases, dramatically lowered the cost of entry, starting a business today can be incredibly affordable.

4. Help: There once was a time when small business people were on their own. No longer. Today, there is an abundance of help available:

  • Organizations like SCORE, the SBA, SBDCs, non-profits, community colleges, and mentor programs all make small business success much more viable.
  • Websites like this one, and scores of others, teach small business skills

And the help is also financial. Banks are lending again, crowdfunding is coming into its own, and other creative solutions are available. Combined, this means that there is really a lot of institutional help available to the small business owner today.

5. Tide of history: All of the above combined means that the wave of the future and tide of the present are all headed in one direction: Towards the ascendance and dominance of entrepreneurship and small business in the global marketplace.

As the Rolling Stones might say, Time, time, time, is on your side, yes it is!