The Big Thing Missing From National Small Business Week
(This post originally appeared on Entrepreneur)
This week is National Small Business Week, a time when the nation celebrates our small businesses. Of course, there’s good reason to celebrate.
By now we should know the facts, but here are few of the more important ones, thanks to the Small Business Administration (SBA): There are between 20 to 30 million small businesses in the U.S., depending on who you ask. They employ almost 60 percent of the nation’s workforce. They pay 44 percent of the country’s payrolls. Small businesses are, of course, very important.
And so this week, the head of the SBA, Maria Contreras-Sweet, is traveling to cities around the country to participate in events, hand out awards and bring attention to the nation’s entrepreneurs and small business owners. That’s great, and so is she. But there’s one thing missing. One big thing. And that big thing is big companies.
Yes, those evil, horrible giants that pay their executives too much money, destroy the environment and corrupt society (at least according to some). National Small Business Week forgets to honor them. Without them, there would be no such thing as National Small Business Week. Because small businesses nationwide would significantly suffer.
Take a look at my little 10-person company. We’ve been around since 1994. We’ve grown. We have about 600 active clients that use the software that we sell and implement. But I would have no business at all if it weren’t for the big companies that I rely on.
For example, without the Internet, I wouldn’t be in business. I use the Internet to communicate with my clients, collaborate with my people, access my data, make phone calls, conduct training and buy software and services. So thank you Comcast, Intel, Amazon and Verizon.
Even if I weren’t a technology company, I still couldn’t function today without technology. My people rely on PCs, iPads and smartphones. I need to get invoices out and collect bills. I have critical databases that help me serve clients and follow up with prospects. So thank you Microsoft, Google, Dell, HP and Apple.
Without being able to travel I cannot visit my clients and go to conferences, which are instrumental for growing my business. So thank you American Airlines, Marriott and Avis.
I need a bank to hold my money and help finance my business. If I’m lucky enough to make a few dollars of profit I need a good place to invest that money. I need insurance. I need credit card processing. I need payment processing. I need financial services. So thank you Capital One and Charles A Schwab. Thank you American Express, PayPal and The Hartford.
I need to drive places. I need the lights to go on. I need power for my equipment. I need energy. I need to ship products. I need to buy supplies. Thank you General Motors, BP Oil, PECO and FedEx. And thank you Staples and Sam’s Club.
But most of all, I need customers. And that’s where big companies play their biggest role for small businesses such as mine.
Most of more than 600 clients are small companies, many not much bigger than mine. They’re active, which means I get a few hours of services a year from them, and that’s fine. It’s paying the bills. But it’s not generating significant profits. The good news is that every year I have a dozen or so project with big companies. Companies that include some of the names above. And other big companies that you may (or may not) have heard of, such as Sutter Health Systems, Lutron Electronics, Nilfisk-Advance America and Johnson & Johnson.
These are just a few of the big companies that have purchased products and services from me in the past. Their projects were significant enough to generate significant profits for my little company. And those were the profits that I used to re-invest in my company, funnel into savings and help pay for my kids’ college tuitions.
And that’s just me. Almost every one of my small clients have big customers that also drive their businesses. Big companies outsource work to smaller companies. We are vital to them, just as they are vital to us. They employ small businesses to clean their offices, cater their lunches, landscape their corporate parks and watch after their employees’ children after school, to name just a sampling of services.
These services don’t stop with the corporation. Those “evil,” “overpaid,” “1-percenters” that run these companies eat at independently owned restaurants, hire contractors to remodel their kitchens, get their BMWs fixed at the local repair shop and buy clothes from small businesses in their communities with their excessive amount of riches. They spend their big company money with small businesses and in turn small businesses thrive.
So sure, National Small Business Week is a great thing and let’s celebrate our nation’s entrepreneurs. But can we also admit that big companies need a shout out too?