Why Small Businesses Matter To All Businesses

Peter is the CEO and cofounder of Seniors Helpersa leading national non-medical in-home senior care franchise.

There is no better small business success story than that of Sam Walton—within five years of the 1962 opening of his small general store in Arkansas called Walmart, it grew to 24 stores, making millions in sales. Now, more than 60 years later, it’s valued at nearly $480 billion and employs over two million people. That’s the impact of small business in our country.

May is Small Business Month, designed to give a deserving node and grow awareness to the 33 million small businesses operating in the United States, based on figures from the US Small Business Administration (SBA).

Most of us are also familiar with Small Business Saturday—a concept created by American Express back in 2010 to support small businesses during the holiday shopping rush and stimulate revenue. Timing-wise, it was introduced on the heels of the 2008 recession into the spotlight of small businesses. Consequently, it assisted small-business retailers who needed a much-needed boost following the pandemic closures.

But these acknowledgments to small businesses are more than gestures—they are necessities. When small businesses are thriving, so is the economy because it drives innovation and employs workers.

It’s in the economy’s best interest for small businesses to succeed, but it requires the support from consumer and business communities to happen. In an interesting study, about one in five Americans say they shop at small businesses often. However, about 80% of those respondents indicated that they would like to shop at small businesses more often, but they also like the convenience and prices of the big box chains—you know, Walmart-type stores. Of course, the full circle moment here is that Walmart was once a fledgling small startup.

Small businesses need the community and vice versa. Typically, those small businesses that do well are rooted in the community. Small-business owners are members of the local Chamber of Commerce and the Rotary, they go to your church. I think that has a greater impact on people—beyond their business. It’s not that big business isn’t woven into the community, but bear in mind that a small business depends on those relationships to sustain their livelihood.

Small Business, Big Impact

I proudly lead a company that provides affordable in-home care to our senior population. Some of our locations throughout the country are corporately owned, but the vast majority are franchises, each a small business operating in a local community. As a small business, we impact three groups of people: the families we serve, the community—specifically the healthcare community, and employees because we put a lot of people to work.

The question is: What’s the difference between our corporate stores versus our franchise stores? I like to say it’s the difference between dedicated and committed. It’s like ham and eggs—the chicken is dedicated; the pig is committed.

When people work for you, they are committed. But, when you have franchisees who own a location, it’s their small business. I don’t have to motivate them to get up in the morning and go to work; they’re going to work for themselves. Small businesses have got to run hard; they have to be great to be successful because the competition is so fierce.

Learning Opportunities

As business leaders, understanding the influence of small businesses can be beneficial for your organization. However, I recommend going beyond just consumer recognition and actively supporting small businesses. The advantages of doing so can be transformative. Here are a few ways to do so:

1. When examining the DNA of small businesses, what’s important to note is the way small businesses operate can actually help big businesses—so pay attention. When a small-business owner has a new idea, they have the flexibility to test it in the marketplace immediately. The proposal doesn’t have to run through the board for approval or be market-tested in key demographics before it’s incorporated. These are crucial real-time observations that help with corporate improvements—taken from the small-business playbook. As a small-business experiment with new designs, concepts or innovations, it’s in your best interest to be attentive to the outcomes because they may be adaptable to your organization.

2. If you’re in a position to partner with a small business, do it. Alliances lend credibility to a business that’s trying to earn its wings. Encourage partnerships, for example, when it comes to investment opportunities or landing contracts. This can run the gamut from partnering with a smaller business on government infrastructure proposals to collaborating on a construction project. Giving a small business an opportunity is a win-win: for you, for them and for the economy.

3. Be a mentor to a small business. I’m not suggesting sharing trade secrets; I respect healthy competition. However, providing guidance, answering questions and giving feedback are valuable assets to a small-business owner trying to grow. Whether through a casual networking opportunity or a more scheduled chamber of commerce event, doing your part to help keep small businesses thriving can be a good investment for your company.

The Necessity Of Entrepreneurship

The essence of the American Dream lies in entrepreneurship. The journey from a fledgling idea like Sam Walton’s mom-and-pop general store to a corporate giant showcases the trail-blazing power of small businesses.

While some aspire to evolve into industry leaders, others find fulfillment in serving their local communities. Regardless of their size or ambition, small businesses are the backbone of the American economy, driving innovation creating employment and contributing to the tax base. Supporting and nurturing these enterprises is crucial for the vitality and growth of our economy.

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