I know. It’s not feeling better right now but hear me out. This pandemic is forcing local business to learn new skills, find new ways of doing business and reallocate resources. The present is very painful but could ultimately lead us to a better future.
A word about the present first. The pandemic is absolutely crushing for small, local businesses and their employees. Some local businesses won’t survive this. Local business often operates with a two-week financial cushion. If the airline industry (with numerous bailouts and massive tax cuts) can’t continue past three weeks without another bailout, how is a small local business supposed to sustain itself during this crisis? I know you are leveraging every resource you have to survive. I hope you take every advantage of the CARES Act and that it provides enough money to keep you hanging on.
I am amazed at how nimble local business is. I am awed by the creativity, ingenuity and pure grit of entrepreneurs. If you can pause just for one moment and look up, you’ll see it too. Today, take just a moment from the fear and struggle to pat yourself on the back. You’ve had to reinvent your business in two weeks and you’re doing it. No big corporations in America are doing what you’re accomplishing. I applaud you. Bravo.
Local businesses have embraced new ways of connecting with customers because you’ve had to. Curbside service, online cheese tastings, groceries with your favorite takeout meal, community living room picnics, gift cards to your future self and more are the order of the day. This new way of doing business is providing a lifeline to local business. But it’s so much more than that. This is our community caring.
How will these new skills and services continue in the future? Will curbside service, once considered a luxury, continue as an option? It might help our parking problems. Shopping parties and cheese tastings by webinar? If continued, this could substantially increase our customer base, perhaps even beyond Austin. Two burgers, fries and toilet paper delivered? Well maybe not but you get the picture. Can we have all this and the valued gatherings at our local businesses? Yes we can.
It’s times like these that make our community take a look at what really matters—our health of course, our families, our communities. I would add our nation but what is our nation if not a collection of our communities? Take care of communities and our nation will be fine. I have seen an outpouring of kindness in Austin that is absolutely astounding. Families nurturing loved ones, neighbors caring for neighbors, communities supporting and protecting one another (wearing your masks not to protect yourself but to protect others from you), are everywhere. And in that mix is the support of local business.
Local businesses touch each and every one of us. They are our families, neighbors and communities. They will help us survive this pandemic and help us thrive when it is over. But they need our support now in order to do that. Before you hit that “Place your order” button on Amazon, look for what you need from a local business. Amazon may be your choice of necessity now but you don’t want it to be your only choice post-pandemic. Jeff Bezos (Amazon owner and richest man in the world) is worth more than $117 billion because we keep giving him our money. What if we spent that money at local businesses in our community? What if we used this pandemic to turn to what really matters—our local businesses?
Local business delivers, physically and metaphorically. Small businesses with fewer than 20 employees make up 90 percent of all businesses in America. We are the bedrock of our economy and our communities. Small business employs more than half the national workforce and creates 85 percent of our job growth. Small local business is where wealth is built. Do we want to build the 10 percent or build the 90 percent? It’s really that simple.
For all its disaster and heartbreak, the pandemic has given us an opportunity. You may wish for things to return to normal. But is that what we really want? I propose that we create a new economy based on the 90 percent. A world where small businesses thrive and giant corporations are left to figure out how to survive. A world where our government is primarily concerned with fair trade that protects the 90 percent from the 10 percent and works to remove barriers to entrepreneurship. A world where people don’t need to unionize because they have the opportunity to thrive in local business. A world where the profits from our spendings primarily stay in our communities benefiting us all. Change indeed.
This will require a return to helping people thrive as our main focus and not the extreme wealth of a few at the cost of many. How many people can we employ? How much can we pay them as opposed to how little? How many local businesses can we support? This may sound like a utopian future but it isn’t. This could be our future and we are poised to embrace it.
You may think my vision of the future is too big and you are too small. I submit that the “big” you refer to is none other than us. If we take this to Washington, the powerful are powerful because we let them be so. Amazon is Amazon because we give it our money. They do not exist outside of us, their customers. Neither does your favorite local business. Imagine what happens if we “save” the 90 percent and not the 10 percent.
While localist leaders currently work on post-pandemic economic policies that focus on local business, you hold the real power and you can exercise it today. Form this point forward, buy what you need from local business. #TooSmallToFail