File this article under “Why I Bother To Try So Hard” or “My Small Business Matters Big Time.”
As our society relies more upon the safety net provided by today’s good companies, there’s more honor than ever to be found as an EMPLOYER. This first Business Essentials column of 2006 urges you to recognize the distinction that the role of employer is gathering and to use this rewarding emotional fuel to propel you through the sluggish New Year Blues.
By the time you read this it’s most likely mid-January and the year-end holidays will have just come to a bittersweet close. It’s a reflective time when you’re caught somewhere between memories and promises; reviewing last year’s performance while at the same time making some business resolutions for the new year ahead of you. Your operation might be experiencing the winter sales slowdown that hits most firms at about this time. Some of your employees may be grumbling that they won’t see another day off until spring. It’s also the time when news outlets invariably report on signs of “economic uncertainty” telling us to use caution in the coming year. All of which simply makes you want to lay down your cards and your head and sit out the next few hundred hands — but you can’t and you don’t because you are relied upon by too many people. YOU ARE AN EMPLOYER.
Each year business owners face this agonizing test; the “I don’t want to start all over again” moment. Have you gone through this corporate version of torture yet? If you have then you know the pain. But there’s some wonderful news to share when it comes to the new status forming around the role of an employer. An evolution is taking place — a shift in both thought and feeling that will bring you, the small business owner, a new helping of respect and recognition to carry you through far more than just this day. But first, let’s remind ourselves of the very essence of who we are:
In America Small Can Be BIG
Let’s get some perspective. Most small business owners know that, as a group, they significantly contribute to the general standard of living. However, they rarely know to what extent they make the American Dream a reality for so many. Our government labels organizations with fewer than 500 employees as “small businesses.” Pretty funny, isn’t it? Can you imagine having 500 employees? Would that seem small to you? Here are some numbers to consider:
- Small firms represent 99.7 percent of all employer firms in the United States
- Small companies employ HALF of all private sector employees
- Being small doesn’t mean we’re not competitive. Small businesses cover 45 percent of the total payroll
- Small businesses generate approximately 80 percent of all new jobs in the recent decade
- Small companies represent 99.9 percent of the 25 million total businesses in the United States, leaving just 17,000 “large” firms to pull the rest of the weight
Lessons? First, as assumed, smaller businesses are the economic backbone of our country, but we don’t just push dollars around — we employ half our fellow countrymen and women and create the lion’s share of the new jobs. Secondly, there is no such thing as a little unimportant employer — especially as the real meaning of the word continues to grow well beyond traditional definitions. Employers are just too vital now to think there is any practical difference between a big city employer and a small town employer. In the new America every single job — and every single employer — matters.
New Responsibility And New-found Respect
Scan the horizon to see the powerful changes coming. Our country?. . .?our government is entering an age where swift and comprehensive paternal care for “each and all” of its citizens is becoming more fantasy than fact. While superior to any other large country, recent events have shown that our government — regardless of the party in charge — cannot respond to every emergent or long-term need of its citizens, its infrastructure, its environment, its elderly, its neighbors, its enemies, etc. Right or wrong, the job has become too big and it’s the nation’s employers who have begun to pick up the slack.
It’s not just the big headlines that have opened our eyes to the widespread shortfall — there’s more to it. A spread-too-thin, underfunded and overstressed government cannot support and protect us in the way in which we had grown accustomed. Moreover, the nature and the scope of the challenges have ballooned, often leaving private employers holding the checkbook. The most compelling examples of government scarcity and the expanding importance of employers include:
- Healthcare — a socialized structure of care for all seems far off and what was once an insurance gap is now a gaping chasm. Smaller firms who bear down, rather than the giant “Try-n-Saves” who clean up, are the heroes holding the mess together.
- Retirement — social security creaks under the future Boomer burden and quietly underfunded pension plans are the next uber-scandal. The boring but solidly stoic 401(k) plan offered by the smaller champions of Main Street USA will ensure that many golden years remain 24 carat.
- Security, Public Health and Recovery — our government takes the lead here but recent years show that it is the more agile smaller organizations that Washington partners with for quick fixes whether it’s disaster relief, engineering, vaccine development, specialty tech, etc.
Also clearly requiring the increasing subsidy of our nation’s employers are issues like education, research and development, career preparation, trade negotiations and now even space exploration!