In this economy people are a commodity and employees are treated as such by far too many businesses. Chain restaurants, stores, hospitals, hotels, housing/apartment managers no longer treat their employees or their customers with the respect and courtesy that was once commonplace. Part of that is because we let them…we choose the efficiency they provide instead of the personal service we could get elsewhere. We choose the low costs they can afford to charge over the cost of personalized products and services. We look for work from them instead of building competition. In short, they own our economy and we keep giving them more.
There is another way though. Before the 1880’s, small businesses were the norm in the United States. Most everything, from groceries, pharmacies and clothing to media, publications, and transportation were managed by small, locally-owned businesses. It wasn’t until the 1950s that big businesses began to take over in industries where economies of scale (produce more and sell it cheaper) gave them an advantage. Between the power they had in size, manpower, money and later, government access they have tipped the playing field to their advantage. Since the 1980s, the balance is shifting back toward small businesses, at least those that don’t make it to the Fortune 500. These businesses are capable of serving needs that big businesses typically ignore, reaching areas that big businesses won’t address and providing goods and services that are better suited to the local culture.
In most big businesses an employee amounts to one cog in a very large machine. It is often very difficult to see how your work impacts others or to see how you contribute to the big picture. Appreciation tends to come in the form of money but usually nothing else. Differing types of bureaucracy and office politics can make accomplishing relatively simple things far more complicated. All these things, and others, can leave a building frustration and lagging sense of self-worth because you aren’t getting positive feedback and may be un- or under-appreciated.
Beyond the benefit that small businesses have for the communities they serve, they have very specific benefits to the workers. Small businesses are, by definition, much smaller than big businesses and usually have not developed the same systems, the same political climate, or the same levels of “money as appreciation” that you see in larger organizations. You will normally receive instant feedback on what your contributions have done for the business. A small business working toward solvency is a very roller coaster time with highs and lows that come quickly. Typically there is ample opportunity to learn new things and other aspects of the business because most small businesses don’t have the luxury of hiring employees that only do one thing.
Starting a business also has very specific benefits to the entrepreneurs that start them. You have, maybe for the first time in your life, the experience of calling all the shots. Your success or failure is dependent on you, the people you attract and the people you make a part of your company. You choose the product/service, the company rules and practices, and all the other aspects of your organization. This can be a very daunting task for a new business owner, particularly once you start to hire employees, but it is never dull. Owning a business, even a small business that doesn’t grow, can be very financially rewarding. The United States is the most business-friendly nation on the planet. There are tax benefits that are only available to business owners and investment vehicles that pertain to your business. As a new business owner, you have never had so many people and organizations with an interest in your success. From your local government all the way to the Federal government there are people and institutions dedicated to helping small businesses succeed. The same can’t be said for most employees.
To be fair, being a small business owner can also be one of the most exhausting, demanding and complicated things you ever attempt…but the benefit of being a successful one is truly amazing.
Here are some places to look for advice and help in starting a business:
- The SBA has local offices in every state and most major cities
- There are SBDCs in every major city and most states
- Providing a wide array of teaching tools, resources and counseling for investors and small business owners