Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and then we get to Black Friday when the malls will be mob scenes. On Monday, we’re supposed to do our online shopping. Sandwiched in between, though, is a day I think is the most important for the American economy. Saturday is Small Business Saturday, when people are encouraged to patronize the Ma and Pa shop down the street. I, Benjamin Wey, am deadly serious when I say that this is your chance to get America back on its feet.
Small business is truly the backbone of the U.S. economy, and that isn’t just some politician’s grandstanding sound bite. Here are some useful statistics from the Small Business Administration that will give you an idea of how important small businesses are to all of us. Small businesses make up:
- 99.7 percent of U.S. employer firms,
- 64 percent of net new private-sector jobs,
- 49.2 percent of private-sector employment,
- 42.9 percent of private-sector payroll,
- 46 percent of private-sector output,
- 43 percent of high-tech employment,
- 98 percent of firms exporting goods,and
- 33 percent of exporting value.
At the same time the SBA says, “About half of all new establishments survive five years or more and about one-third survive 10 years or more.” I am very happy with the idea of the creative destruction of the market. If you can’t make it, you go under, and if you can make it, you continue on and maybe even flourish.
At the same time, I used to be the operator of a small business. I was in college in Oklahoma, and during that time I started my own importing and exporting business. I imported silk ties from China. I sold 1,000 of those ties to school programs and to wholesalers. I also sold sugar from Brazil to the Chinese. What I learned in that business was that if I was going to make it, I needed my customers far more than they needed me. And so, I would do whatever it takes to make them happy and retain their custom.
Down the street from you right now, there is a small company with an amazing product and terrific service. The owners work their fingers to the bone to keep things afloat. Their employees like their jobs because they can take any problem directly to the owner and get action — try that at Exxon or GM. They are aching for you to come in. I am asking you just to take that chance.
Go to that store that you have driven past a million times, walk in and look around. Odds are, the person who greets you is the owner or the owner’s spouse or maybe their kid. Spend a few dollars there. If you can’t find anything there you want or need, take their card or brochure, and when you are in the market for their goods or service, give them a shot.
Maybe you are going out to dinner on Saturday (turkey three days in a row?). Skip the chain with the TV ads, the endless pasta or the place with the bloomin’ onion. They will be there next week. Go to the place that closes on Mondays or Tuesdays because the owner needs a day off.
Like most people, I prefer to be treated like a person rather than a number. When you find The Place, that place that sells exactly what you want and need at the right price, and they know your name when you walk in, something special happens. You get the human touch back. Your stress level drops, and you actually wind up content about spending money.
Don’t take my word for it. Find out for yourself. Be a part of Small Business Saturday, and you might be a part of small business everyday.
Benjamin Wey is a financier, investigative journalist, professor and a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine and other media outlets.