Despite the economy apparently growing for government and corporations, most small business owners I work with are increasingly terrorized by the unholy alliance of big business and government. Across political parties, this alliance is creating an increasingly toxic environment for small business success.
Here is my view of the 3 threats to small businesses — and what should be done about them.
Threat 1: Slow Payment — While large corporations and banks have been fortified with ample low-cost cash to buy small businesses’ products and services, they continue to pay slowly, bargain harder and demand more concessions from powerless small businesses who are selling their souls “where the money is.”
- Remedy 1: Require all corporations and governments with revenues/receipts over $100 Million to pay all their vendors under $100 Million within 30 days. This would fortify small businesses’ balance sheets just as TARP funds and bailouts did and continue to do for the goliaths.
Threat 2: New costs, taxes and compliance — As social causes like sustainability, diversity, healthcare and fair taxation are being legislated by governments and lobbied into favorable terms for corporations, small business is getting choked. Small business used to lament about paperwork. Now, the new costs, taxes and compliance rules are sapping the will of owners to believe that they should risk, invest and remain confident in their businesses. A comedian recently reacted to the Times Square hot dog vendor discovering the incompetent Time Square bomber’s smoking SUV, that not only must small business save the economy, but now must save the country from terrorism!
How much can we continue to heap on the backs of small businesses?
- Remedy 2: If large corporations and government are serious about respecting small business as the best vehicle to empower minorities, women and the handicapped to join and increase the middle class, both of these goliaths must be held as accountable for the impact of their actions on small business as they are on the environment, minorities, women and the handicapped!
Threat 3: “Approved” vendor programs force buying solely on price — To shift responsibility and outsource their liability, corporations and governments are hiring third party sourcing companies whose objective is to reduce small business vendor power and commoditize their products and services. And the more owners have to comply with RFP’s and join “approved vendor programs”, the less they can add value through their creativity. Years ago I wrote a piece called ISO 9002 or I So Stupid. Since then, ISO 9002 and recently, its environmental twin, ISO 14000, along with countless “vendor aggregators” are allowing purchasing agents to buy solely on price and penalizing small businesses who invest in innovation and branding to differentiate their offers and earn increased gross margins.
- Remedy 3: Recently a European friend of mine commented how the American flag and imagery of small business is featured in so many commercials. Whenever any organization invokes small business “values” or the American flag in their advertising they should have to prove their “commitment” and pay a “royalty” to small business by buying from or investing in small businesses just as consumer marketers must comply when they advertise “Locally Farmed”, “Fat-Free” or “Native-American” on their labels.
I am so tired of witnessing small business owners endure so many hardships caused by the frivolous and cavalier behavior of the bullies they now face in trying to survive. The more we are impacted by the above threats, the more business owners are distracted from taking risks and confidently investing in profitable growth. Enough is enough!
And for those who only blame Obama, Congress or Wall Street, please don’t stop there! What’s the difference between government, large corporations, donkeys or elephants when it comes to their disrespect for small business owners? I am still waiting to see if my small business owner’s prayer to Obama will be answered.
To paraphrase the popular country song, “Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)” by Big & Rich … save a small business, ride your corporation or government into respecting small business!