How much do Americans love small business? A 2012 Princeton study revealed 88 percent of Americans surveyed—that's nearly nine out of every 10—proclaimed their favorable views of small businesses and those who run them.
As big businesses work to increase their reach across the nation and around the globe, bringing more goods at lower prices, Americans' deference to the small business seems counter-intuitive, doesn't it? What is it about small businesses that has this nation's population saluting them in their endeavors?
Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness
The fondness many Americans have toward small business is that it is one demonstrable embodiment of the American Dream. To paraphrase James Adams from his 1931 book, Epic of America:
"…Life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement… regardless of social class or circumstances of birth."
Those who sought to better themselves might take steps to offer their unique wares, skills or expertise by way of establishing a business. While subsequent definitions of the American Dream have gone on to specify equal access to education, career prospects, home and land ownership, and continued upward mobility, all are part and parcel of the core concept of pursuit: seizing an opportunity, through hard work and dedication, to improve one's situation.
The fondness many Americans have toward small business is that it is one demonstrable embodiment of the American Dream
It is a noble pursuit and is among the most inspiring narratives that has underscored this land of opportunity.
But it's going to take work
The American Dream, no matter how broadly or narrowly defined, is all about seizing opportunity. Americans are particularly moved and motivated when they see others among them taking risks, making bold moves and clawing their way to prosperity. These successes are realized through hard work and "sweat equity," not via unearned charity or petulant insistences of entitlement.
Scant few of us are blissfully laid into the lap of good fortune—though some envious stone-throwers would like to convince us otherwise. Most small business stories are told through the trials and tribulations of common folk trudging along the pathway to success. What's different about these everyday people, however, is their commitment to try, to learn, to stretch and to attain their goals.
The small business owner is an unlikely hero in many cases and, as such, they earn true hero status and accolades when they succeed. This underdog stigma, when overcome, typically elicits cheers of support from their community (peers and professionals, alike). Americans acknowledge and applaud hard work and persistence, two core elements of many small business owners.
Remembering where they came from
This aspect of the small business journey has taken a bit of a beating in recent times. Many big companies started out as small companies and the most noble of them have never forgotten their roots. Well, as the decades wear on, this feel-good notion has become somewhat tarnished.
While under the stewardship of the original owners and their partners, many of the most respected corporations of our time had garnered respect by way of their unyielding commitment to the ideals of quality, experience and leadership that served to grow their once-small ventures (think Ford, Disney and Hewlett-Packard). Unfortunately, after the departure of the original founders, some corporations have lost their way-and their stature-in the era of pleasing shareholders and buffeting bottom lines. We can only hope those that stray will find their way back to what made them great.
Nearly two-thirds surveyed saw small business at the heart of job creation and economic growth
Some small business owners, however, nobly choose not to grow their companies but, rather, to keep them small, personable and connected to their customers. They set out to make a difference in their local setting and have kept that vision alive despite temptation to commoditize and corporatize. These are the business owners who have a strong view of their roots and who skillfully and willfully navigate away from the lure to go big for the big bucks. For this, they are admired for adhering to making an impact, one customer at a time.
Setting the example, enabling others to achieve the dream
Perhaps the most telling data in Americans' high regard for small business is that nearly two-thirds surveyed considered small business to be at the heart of job creation and economic growth.
Small business owners work with passion and seek out others to share in that passion—and profit! As new businesses are created and take hold, they require more hands to achieve the goals set forth; that means hiring others. As the business grows, it taps even more resources, human and material to continue on.
This puts more folks to work, whether they be directly employed by the business or are contracted to provide supply, fulfillment or administrative services needed by the business. Americans recognize the ripple effect a small business can have within a community and beyond. This often works to motivate others to attempt their own ventures, seeing how their friend or neighbor is making a difference. It becomes an entrepreneurial inspiration that can have exponential positive impact on the economy.
For these reasons, Americans continue to cheer on the small business owner. Though their road may sometimes be rocky, their drive to succeed and excel can move economic mountains—even just one stone at a time—and encourage others to realize the American Dream for themselves.
No, it isn't easy, it isn't free and it isn't without risk. It is, however, a rewarding pursuit and one that this nation continues to support, year in and year out. Thank you, small business owner. We're rooting for you.