Viva La Small Biz!
As the son of a stockbroker, I grew up listening to talk about large, well-established businesses. IBM. Gerber. Proctor & Gamble. All successful companies, in industries that will last a long time. But all, in their way, static. IBM’s headcount of American employees has been falling for years. Most Fortune 500 companies in America that are not in the financial world or in computing are losing jobs, not gaining them. When national unemployment is over 8%, the US needs to focus on the companies that add employees. Those are small businesses.
That is why I was interested in an article about small businesses in The Daily Beast about the real job creators. Small businesses are providing most of the new jobs in the US, but too many of them are left to fend for themselves, as the larger, more connected companies demand and receive far more face time from policymakers.
Small businesses need to organize around their common interests: they need to preserve and improve their flexibility. They need to know that they can hire someone without risking their business. Most small business owners want their employees protected from dangerous situations — and want their competitors subject to the same common sense rules, so that the more ruthless can’t leverage that ruthlessness to the detriment of the compassionate. They want their employees to have decent healthcare — but can’t afford to pay an increasingly large percentage of their revenue for it. Few employers want to be health insurance experts — which they become, involuntarily, when the burden of the decision on health insurance rests on them. The need capital and credit, but they are hard to find.
Small businesses have lots of challenges, from efficiencies of scale to being noticed in the marketplace. When employment rests on their shoulders, though, it behooves policymakers to make the small business environment a pleasant one.