American Express has put its “big business” muscle behind today’s Small Business Saturday promotion. It’s a day they have designated to raise awareness about the importance of small business to our communities and our economy. They’ve conveniently located it the day after Black Friday, a day that raises awareness of how crazy the Christmas shopping season has become. To wit, they’ve suggested these two examples of how you as the American consumer can support Small Business Saturday:
- Have dinner on your way home from the mall during the holiday shopping season
- Reserving a part of your holiday gift budget to spend at a local small business
If I sound a bit cynical, I’m really not. I own a small business, Urbandale-based Archadeck of Central Iowa, and I appreciate American Express’ Small Business Saturday promotion. Even though, despite our own “Put The Heat On Archadeck” promotion, I realize our decks, porches, 3-season rooms, pergolas, patios, outdoor kitchens and other outdoor living structures aren’t generally what folks are shopping for on Black Friday.
But, there are a couple of points I’d like to hit on in light of the Small Business Saturday promotion. because I think these are being missed in the promotional material I see on this. The points are:
- I know this day is about awareness, but its really not just one day. Its every day.
- I know this day is about small business, but its really not just small. Its business.
To the first point, every day a small business owner stakes his or her reputation, not to mention likely their own capital (life savings; blood, sweat and tears; family relationships, etc.) on the nameplate that adorns their business. Whether its Archadeck or Welcome Home Des Moines or The Flying Mango or any other business, the owner’s life revolves around the business…24/7. Actually, 24/7/365. I worked in the corporate, big business, world for 29 years before I became a small business owner…now for 7 years. Not long after I got into the Archadeck network of professional deck builders, one of my newfound colleagues said something I’ve never forgotten: Owning your business is not a job; it’s a way of life. Not until I was in this small business world, did I understand the commitment it takes to own your own business. Not until I was in this small business world, did I understand what owning a small business brings to your sense of community. The closest (not the same) parallel I can draw is that its like not knowing what parenthood is really about until you’ve become one…and not knowing what that does to your sense of family. Mothers get their Day in May and Fathers get their Day in June. And we all know parenting is an everyday…”thing” (for lack of a better word)…as is business. Thanks to American Express, small business is getting a day, too. Thanks to your support, we’re trying to raise some good children for our community.
To the second point, to me it seems a lot of this Small Business Saturday promotion is focused on the “small” aspect of small business. Nothing wrong with small….thats the beauty of “small business”…it can be small…or it can be big. Big, you say? Well, at least big to me. Which raises the question: What, really, is a small business? Here are some definitions:
- Google “small business definition” and you’ll find a list to over a dozen links that try to define “small business.”
- The Small Business Adminstration’s web site provides a “Table of Small Business Size Standards Matched To North American Industry Classification System Codes” (did you expect anything less from the government?). Beware though, it’s a 45-page document that defines parameters for small business classification for many industries. There, small business classification is based on a combination of annual sales and/or number of employees. The industry where our outdoor living spaces, rooms and accessories is found is under Subsector 238 of Sector 23 (Construction) found on page 4. We’re considered a Residential Remodeler. And we’re a small business if our annual sales are less than $33.5m. We are a small business.
I’m sensitive to the definition of “small business” for two reasons:
- I own a franchise-based, small business – Archadeck of Central Iowa. A lot of folks maybe don’t consider franchise-based businesses as small businesses. But, they certainly can be…and in fact, many are. So, don’t forget the McDonald’s and Starbuck’s and Meineke and Golf USA and Ace Hardware and Archadeck businesses out there. There is a local owner behind many of these (definitely is with Archadeck)…local investments, local employees, local suppliers, local decisions…moreso than most folks realize. Yes, many franchisees (Archadeck included) also pay some fees or royalties back to their franchisor…a separate, independent, not-necessarily-local, but many times still a small business. But, these fees or royalties are providing us support (awesome support in Archadeck’s case) to run our business – and what good business isn’t doing that? In this global economy, aren’t we fooling ourselves if we think everything is “local?” Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for local (see “sense of community” above). But, specific to Archadeck, the last time I checked, neither Trex or TimberTech had any manufacturing facilities here in Central Iowa…or Iowa. Behind the scenes, the folks who bring that product through the supply channels to your deck or porch are generally small businesses. And the folks who do that best generally are as focused on the “business” as they are the “small.” Personally speaking, a franchise system helps me with that. The benefit to you is that it gives you the small business, personal, experience with the security of larger business support structure behind it.
- I recently had a conversation with a homeowner regarding a potential project. As often occurs, there were some preconceived notions of what the franchise system I operate in brought to me…and to their project. When I sat down with them and discussed in detail – and at the same time protecting my business interests – how we really operate and what we really do…they were actually more comfortable doing business with us as a result of that understanding. An understanding that I am a small business, operating within a franchise system.
The point of that wasn’t to discredit non-franchise-based businesses, small or big. Nor was it to say that you shouldn’t patronize non-franchise-based businesses, small or big. There are many ways to run and structure a business; there are many reasons to patronize a business. Small or big. But, today is about small businesses. So, the point really was to highlight, on Small Business Saturday, that franchise businesses can be small businesses, too. And, in fact, Archadeck of Central Iowa, is a small business.
So small, in fact, that we can’t physically have our office/showroom in Urbandale open on Small Business Saturday. We’re still recovering from Thanksgiving Turkey Thursday and Black Friday. But, our phone lines are open; leave a message and we’ll return your call Monday. Or, visit our web site and complete the “How Can We Help” form.