On November 29, as American Express does every year, it will again promote Small Business Saturday—and so will retail, consulting, and other entrepreneurs in large and small towns across America. Truth be told, I’ve always had mixed feelings about this annual event. While it puts those of us who work our butts off every day in the limelight for day (coinciding with Black Friday—surprise), there is still the smell of corporate money that permeates the air, and it reeks just a tad. That said, with small business and entrepreneurship stronger than ever, I offer my ode to “us”, the small business owner. I should know, I’ve been a consultant for 15 years and wouldn’t have it any other way.
Labor of love
Everyone who has ever started a business has a story, myself included. Maybe corporate life was becoming too much of a grind, there was an unexpected lay off, or that Next Big Idea just wouldn’t go away from our brains. Whatever the motivation, the end result is to be a small business owner. It is a core part of our identities, and we want more than anything is for it to be successful. The alternative? Not much. This is our lifeblood and doing something different usually just doesn’t feel “right.”
We have blended lives
If any small business owner tells you they leave work at their retail store, desk in the upstairs office or on their tablet, they are lying (or gently fibbing to themselves). Running a business is a constant process—whether it’s bookkeeping, ensuring that orders get out before a holiday, or planning the next marketing campaign, our brain neurons are always firing (or misfiring) ideas, to-do lists, and ruminating what we did wrong or perfectly right and want to repeat again.
We never go on autopilot
One of the best things you’ll get from a small business is creativity: it might be uncovering that one way to make a deal work, whipping up a new promotion just for you, or coming up with fresh ways to differentiate ourselves from the competition. Experimenting with something new is a regular occurrence, if not, business gets stale. We are always thinking and wanting to make ourselves invaluable to you (but not in a desperate way), not to mention us entrepreneur types get bored easily.
Special orders don’t upset us
As with corporations, there’s always that “one”. Liken it to your customer that always calls the complaint line, revisits the contract 50 times, or any other time-sucking and irksome behavior. The difference? We deal with it on an intimate level instead of as a company. We can’t sluff it off to a manager or customer service—we are customer service (and CEO and CMO and everything else). We are composed of nerve and grit and rely on this often when dealing with our, um…our “special” folks. In the end, these types of customers make us stronger, teach us lessons, and can bring positive changes for how we manage our business in the future.
You are our “regular paycheck”
When you have a full-time job you know you’re going to get paid on a schedule. For those of us who have a small business it is not an assumed. We put our trust in you to be our source of income. We give you our all and expect that we’ll be compensated fairly and on time. Customers and clients that stretch out payments, lose invoices, or use delay tactics make a difference in our financial lives (and not in a good way). Small businesses don’t have the cash flow that corporations do—those dollars really matter to us. We may not tell you that directly but it’s true.
We go the extra mile
I can’t speak for all small businesses, but as a rule, if you want an article turned around ASAP, a substitute in that gift basket, or an extra rounds on that consult for free—we will do it. Why? Because we have a relationship with you, appreciate your business, and can “make up our own rules” (otherwise known as flexibility). This can’t always be said for a corporation. Our relationship gives us a sense of satisfaction and pride when we can give you what you want. “You saved the day” and “You’re awesome” means a lot to us. That one-to-one exchange can’t always be replicated with larger companies.
Word-of-mouth is our bread and butter
There’s a reason reviews on Yelp, Trip Advisor, and LinkedIn carry such weight in the online world: they make up the referral world that we all live in, and we rely on it heavily. Then there’s offline—the real world—which has been around since business has: an introduction through a colleague or a neighbor that steps into your store after hearing a glowing recommendation. These help add up to business sustenance. They also drive us to do better and strive to be the best for you.
At its core, Small Business Saturday may be just a smart promotion for one of the largest companies in the free world. But kudos to Amex for recognizing the trials, tribulations, and hard work of millions of small businesses—at least once a year anyway. More importantly, a toast to us—the ones who do the work all the time.