By Quint Studer
No doubt about it: Small businesses are leading the way to revitalize America. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration’s August 2017 Small Business Quarterly Bulletin, they’ve created two out of every three net new jobs since 2014. But small businesses can’t do their important work without the support of the community they call home.
Specifically, every community can join in what I call a “small business revolution.” Civic and business leaders can work together in creative ways to develop and implement these ten essential factors small businesses need to thrive:
- A friendly regulatory environment. Small businesses need easy-to-understand codes from local government as well as a solid understanding of why such regulations are in place.
- A strong entrepreneurial support system. Small business owners need support and collegiality. Communities need to start and promote clubs and groups that allow them to connect with other entrepreneurs.
- A culture of community support. Entrepreneurs need to feel that the community is invested in their well-being. Once leaders start this conversation, the community will respond.
- Access to good employees/talent pool. It has to be a place where people want to live. Safe neighborhoods, a strong education system, a vibrant downtown, and other amenities that add up to a good quality of life are must-haves.
- Strong mentors in the community to help entrepreneurs navigate what they don’t know. Not only does this keep them from making costly mistakes, it helps them feel supported so they don’t mind taking the risks necessary for growth.
- A safe, clean environment in which to operate. Attractive urban and suburban spaces and low crime rates are good for business.
- Access to capital. Bank loans and government grants and other forms of assistance can go a long way toward helping small businesses invest in their future.
- Access to leadership and business training. It’s believed that about half of all businesses fail in the first five years. Entrepreneurs must learn the basics of leadership and sound business practices.
- A commitment to promoting innovation and startups. Local governments have a tendency to court big business and big industry, usually at the expense of new ventures and mom & pops. This trend needs to shift. Cities need to invest in their small shops, restaurants, and small- and mid-size businesses and make decisions that benefit them just as much as (if not more than) the big box retailers and manufacturing giants.
BONUS: Consider hosting a small business challenge. This is a contest in which people compete to submit the best small business idea. The winner gets funding and support for getting their new venture started. This really gives a big boost to startups and small companies.
Small businesses truly are the lifeblood of America. They’ve built our nation, employed our people, fueled our national work ethic, and given our children a dream to work toward. As community leaders and as ordinary citizens, we owe it to them to support, encourage, and foster their well-being and growth.
Quint Studer is the author of Building a Vibrant Community: How Citizen-Powered Change Is Reshaping America (Forthcoming, January 2018) and founder of Pensacola’s Studer Community Institute, a nonprofit organization focused on improving the community’s quality of life and moving Escambia and Santa Rosa counties forward.