Writing about small business can be a challenge. Not a day goes by without a barrage of new press releases claiming to have pinned down the mood of all small business owners.
On just one day last week I saw three press releases that made the following claims:
- Small business and middle market confidence in the U.S. economy fell in the third quarter of 2012.
- The health of small business is improving in 2012, with the majority of small businesses reporting revenue increases over 2011.
- Small business optimism declines on concerns for the future but remains in positive territory
That last one even contradicts itself. I get emails from small business groups claiming that Romney is the choice of most small business owners and other emails claiming that a less vocal majority supports Obama.
Small business hates Obamacare. Small business loves Obamacare. Small business owners aren't hiring. Small business owners want to hire, but they can't find skilled employees. You can see where this is headed. Getting a real fix on where small business owners stand is the losing-est game since the Olympic badminton debacle. Anyone who claims to know how "small business" is feeling is just not telling the truth.
Think about it. How many small business owners do you know? Lots, probably. Are any of them the same? I'd bet not. Small business owners are as mixed a lot as Americans themselves. They're young and old, immigrant and native, men and women, liberal and conservative. Their personalities and politics are all over the place and no two are the same.
Some think healthcare reform is an unconstitutional burden. Others think it's about time their tax dollars were put to good use. Some think small business is too regulated, others think regulation levels the playing field and ensures their competitors play fair.
Whatever kind of small business owner you are, however, there's one thing you have in common: The need to drive customers to your business. Competition from big companies and overseas manufacturers is only part of the problem. Convincing customers to shop on Main Street rather than in the mall is a problem most small business owners face.
There's at least one day a year when small business can unite: American Express's Small Business Saturday. This year the event will be held on November 24. Its goal is to raise awareness about the importance of shopping at small businesses and encouraging Americans to spend at least a few of their holiday dollars at a small business.
While the campaign for this year's event hasn't kicked off yet, it's not too soon for you to start planning how you'll make the event work for you. Maybe you'll host a party or give discounts to special customers or maybe you'll team up with other small businesses in your area to do something really great.
Regardless of what you decided to do, now is the time to start planning. It's once a year opportunity to remind your customers that you're still there and need their support. It's also a great time to team up with other small businesses in your area to work together and capitalize on the strength of the group. And, maybe, just maybe, it'll be just the thing to heal all those post-election wounds.