The coronavirus pandemic certainly has taken its toll on business. Unfortunately, that toll has been disproportionate. The largest corporations with wealthy shareholders and enough cash reserves have been able to weather the last 12 to 14 months without serious threats of going under. The same cannot be said for the millions of small businesses.
Suffice it to say that small businesses could use all the help they can get right now. That includes our support as consumers. According to a recent post from Vivint Smart Home there are 10 ways to support small businesses in your local area and they have explained that in more details.
This post will touch on some of these points. The most important take-away is this: small business is the backbone of the U.S. economy. In 2018, there were more than thirty million small businesses employing five hundred or fewer workers. Some twenty-two million were operated as sole proprietorships, meaning a single operator with no employees.
Employing the Majority of the Workforce
Based on the Small Business Administration (SBA) definition of five hundred or fewer employees, small businesses make up more than 99% of all companies operating in the U.S. But get this: nearly half of all workers in this country are employed by a small business. That is incredible.
Most of what we hear about in business news relates to corporate employers with tens of thousands of people on the payroll. They get all the attention despite being in the minority. They also get a lot of the business. For example, how many small businesses are now routinely passed over in favor of Amazon?
Amazon is a fine business. Its management has built it into a retail behemoth that is virtually unrivaled. Kudos to them for such a remarkable achievement. But how many small businesses have gone under because of Amazon’s ability to undercut the competition with lower prices? And how many of us have contributed to the demise of those businesses to save a few bucks here and there?
Corporatism Is Not Capitalism
The U.S. is a country built on individual freedom and capitalism. But perhaps we have lost our way. Perhaps we have fallen into the trap of equating capitalism with corporatism. But guess what? They are not the same thing. Corporatism is actually a mixture of business and socialism.
At the corporate level, everything exists for the benefit of a few key executives and the wealthiest of shareholders. Individual workers are treated as human resources for the good of the company. It is corporate practice to continue cutting corners in order to increase profits, at the expense of both employees and customers. In the end, everything exists to support the corporation.
On the other hand, capitalism rewards individual effort. It rewards competition without unfairly undercutting those seeking to compete on a level playing field. It treats customers like gold and values every employee as an individual human being with interests outside of the company.
How We Can All Support Small Business
At the end of the day, corporations are going to survive regardless of how the economy goes. They always do. Not so for small businesses. It is up to each one of us to help small businesses keep going. With that in mind, here are a few suggestions:
1. Buy Locally
The first item should be the first item on all of our lists: buying locally. Whenever possible, shop at local stores and purchase local products. Yes, doing so takes some effort. It also takes time. It is certainly not as convenient as pulling up your smartphone and ordering online. But remember, those distant corporations do not employ your neighbors.
Even a corporate department store chain with local locations is better than shopping online from a retailer far away. That local department store employs local residents. It pays local taxes. It probably even contributes to local community events.
2. Prefer Locally-Owned Businesses
Sometimes giving your business to a chain is unavoidable. But if you can find the same products and services from a locally-owned business, support local instead. Instead of going to the mall to purchase new shorts and tank tops for the summer, try that locally owned boutique downtown.
Chain restaurants are another thing. There are plenty of them benefiting from large marketing budgets and nationwide ad campaigns. But they are not the only game in town. Chances are that your area has more locally-owned restaurants than chains.
Who knows? Locally-owned restaurants might even offer you better menu choices and higher-quality. You are also more likely to get individually prepared meals rather than corporate meals pulled out of a freezer and portion-controlled to make sure every plate is identical.
3. Leave Positive Reviews
You can go a long way toward supporting local business by leaving positive reviews online. How does this help? Through something known as local search. Whenever you use your phone or computer to search for businesses in your area, search algorithms are able to pinpoint the best options based on your ZIP Code.
It turns out that local businesses with a plethora of positive reviews perform better in local searches. And of course, good reviews will encourage other customers to patronize those businesses. Just by writing a few reviews here and there, you can seriously boost the reputations of your favorite locally-owned establishments.
4. Business-To-Business Support
There’s one more important thing many leave out: business-to-business support. In other words, maybe you own a small business yourself. While you are hoping that customers will support you, you can turn around and support other local operations by using them to meet your business needs.
The powers that be have been telling us for the last 12 months that we are all in this together. If that is true, let us prove it by supporting our local small businesses. If they don’t survive, corporate interests will wind up with even more control than they have now. We don’t have to let that happen.