• WisBusiness

Friday, September 3, 2010

Make a difference: Support other local small businesses


By Dan Danner
“It's easy to make a buck. It's a lot tougher to make a difference,” broadcaster Tom Brokaw said.

With all due respect, Tom, making a buck in today’s economy is downright difficult for small businesses whose sales are plunging almost as fast as their confidence in Washington’s ability to revive the recovery.

In fact, many policymakers at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue are pushing laws that could make things even tougher for small firms and stretch the nation’s unemployment lines longer.

Now that the ballot boxes of November 2 are being dusted off, you’ll hear lots of “we-love-small-business” chatter. Don’t be misled. The names of those who care about small business can be found on NFIB’s list of endorsed candidates.

The ballot box is one way to make a difference. But let’s not wait on Washington to make a difference. There’s a faster and smarter way to have an immediate impact. How? By simply buying the goods and services you need from other local small businesses—wholesalers and retail stores, business services and repair shops, restaurants and more.

We go out of our way to “buy organic” and we certainly are devoted to our often-more-expensive “name brand” products, so why not support your local “mom and pop” shop? Why not show support for your community, for your neighborhood and, instead of heading to the Wal-mart, you head over to the party supply store across the street, or the family-run furniture store around the corner?

Sure, you might get occasional volume discounts from outlets of big corporations whose headquarters are in another state or country even. But have you asked your fellow local small businesses if they can fill your orders? Do those companies help bring more customers in your doors?

Not only will shopping locally make a difference by helping entrepreneurs in your own community, but it could help you gain new customers and increase sales. And when local stores thrive, it helps the entire local economy, maybe helping to lift confidence in these dreary times.

Think of it this way: When you visit the deli a few blocks away, or have them cater your next big meeting, you are supporting that restaurant, but you are also supporting the farm outside of town that provides the produce, and maybe even your neighbor’s son who is the delivery driver for the summer. Small businesses are still the benchmark for high-quality, personalized service – everyone knows their local hardware store is the place to go for advice on the plumbing problem that only “John” (the owner) remembers all the history on. And, your local clothing boutique and tailor are the ones who have had your measurements on file since you were ten years old.

Urge others to take this same step – your employees, your family, and your friends. They too can make a difference locally by supporting nearby establishments. And, when spending cash close to home, offer encouraging words. No one needs their spirits lifted more than small business owners living the same economic nightmare you’re facing.

Shopping locally can make a difference where government stimulus and bailouts haven’t. By supporting your fellow owners and by becoming one voice in support of small business, you can lift the economy and support local businesses…the business you save could be your own.

-- Danner is president and CEO of the National Federation of Independent Business in Washington, D.C.

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