For the third consecutive month, NFIBs Small Business Economic Trends report, a key economic benchmark used by Federal Reserve officials and congressional leaders, showed an increase in small-business optimism a leading indicator of economic growth.
While this news gives a glimmer of economic hope, a closer look at the data reveals that the optimism index is still not strong enough to promise significant job creation. Given the fact that small businesses, historically, create two-thirds of Americas net new jobs, it is clear that the economic road ahead remains steep.
NFIBs research has also shown that the two principal impediments to current small-business growth are business uncertainty and weak sales. Its up to policymakers to address the former impediment, but in the meantime, the rest of us can help out with the latter. In other words: Shop at small businesses.
When you support small business, youre supporting your friends and neighbors, the entrepreneurs and families whove put everything on the line to run their own businesses, be their own bosses. Youre also supporting the local economy. The chain stores are owned by big corporations headquartered someplace else, but small businesses are usually owned by people who live in the community. When you shop at a small business, youre supporting your hometown, your neighborhood.
It isnt just about the merchandise. Small businesses offer better service than youll find at the chain stores. Small-business owners and their employees know their merchandise and understand their customers. When you shop at a small business, theres a good chance youll be dealing directly with the owner, not a distracted teenager whose primary motivation is the employee discount.
Small-business owners and their employees will do everything they can to keep you satisfied because their livelihoods depend on you coming back.
Then theres the traffic. Shopping-mall parking lots can be ugly this time of year, but small businesses are usually in neighborhoods with smaller crowds and better parking, and that can go a long way toward making your day merry and bright.
But beyond all this, theres the value that small businesses bring to the community. Its no accident that small-business owners are among the most generous supporters of civic groups, local charities, youth sports, schools and virtually every other form of community activity.
Supporting small businesses not only over the holidays, but the rest of the year, will pay big dividends in many ways, seen and unseen. And in many ways big corporations cant.
Tony Gagliardi is Colorado state director for the National Federation of Independent Business.