We reported on a shocking – or at the very least – surprising fact last week: Pencil sales are on the rise. That's right, despite everything you've heard about the world going digital, the prevalence of touch pads, smart phones and tablets, people are still writing…with pencils!
If I'd bet on this one, I would have lost. I never would have guessed so many people were still buying pencils. The story illustrates something we often forget, but is invariably true – things aren't always as they appear. While we (the media) and every tablet maker would have you believe the world left writing by hand behind in the last century, apparently, it's simply not true.
It makes me wonder how much of what small business owners deal with every day has nothing to do with the kind media coverage we often see. I saw a Tweet the other day that said, "Everyone is focused on startups, what about us old guys?" It does seem that well-established, less sexy businesses – the ones without startup money or revolutionary new products to offer – get lost in the shuffle when we talk about small business and entrepreneurship.
The reality on the ground is a lot less slick than you might think. While it's true that more people would rather be an entrepreneur than a CEO, mainly because being an entrepreneur has become the modern variation of the American Dream, the majority of small business owners are living in a less exciting world.
I've been in offices lately that still use dot matrix printers that look to be older than many of their employees. Many companies still do their payroll manually and many others don't know the difference between social media and social security withholdings.
For these companies, deciding which tablets to buy for their sales force or choosing a social media management tool are problems they just don't have. Instead, many are simply trying to figure out how to motivate their employees, balance the books or find new customers. These perennial problems – for which there are never easy answers – are the "back to basics" issues most entrepreneurs have to deal with.
For these entrepreneurs, who struggle each day just to make payroll by the end of the week, there are not nearly as many resources for how to deal with the basics.
Those companies – who've been around for years, even decades – are as deserving of media attention as any startup. Maybe more so. They've weathered the storms of boom times and recessions, hiring and losing employees and changing markets. Yet, rarely do we hear their voices in the media.
Instead, we like to focus on the shiny faces of young entrepreneurs, whose enthusiasm and sass inspire us to dream big. I'm betting we'd learn a lot more from talking to those companies that have been around awhile and have some war stories to share.
To that end, BusinessNewsDaily will continue to cover not only new startups, but more established companies with lessons to share. This week, in fact, we have two great stories – one on baseball legend Yogi Berra, who has turned his baseball career into a booming business. The other is on a Pennsylvania-based candy company called Just Born, the company that's been making marshmallow Peeps since the 1950's. Both Berra and the Peeps people will tell us what they've learned over the years and how they've managed to change with the times.
And, we'd love to hear from you. If you've got a small business problem you'd like us to write about, please email us and let us know. We're always looking for new story ideas and where better to look than with our readers. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org any time you've got an idea to share.
Jeanette Mulvey has been the managing editor of BusinessNewsDaily since its debut in 2010. She has written about small business for more than 20 years and formerly owned her own e-commerce business. Her column, Mind Your Business, appears on Mondays only on BusinessNewsDaily. You can follow her on Twitter at @jeanettebnd or contact her via e-mail at email@example.com.