Finding Work & Life Balance in 2020 ….
I am sobered by the article in The Atlantic on the dire struggles of small businesses, and the potential long term impact. It’s time for big business to step up for small business.
(I was also disgusted while reading The Atlantic article. 50% of the initial Paycheck Protection Program – PPP – went in loans over $1 million. This indicates most of the money did not go to the small businesses that most desperately need it.)
Consider the Long Tail Effect, which is a statistical pattern where the largest share of instances are away from the center. Notable tech-driven innovations such as social media, online retail, ride-sharing attach to big names: FaceBook, Amazon, Uber. These names are at the center and surviving if not booming during the pandemic. What we need is for the “Long Tail” to extend all the way through small businesses.
The application of these innovations can create a positive long tail, which has become evident as our daily life has become limited to our homes and immediate communities. I am somewhat heartened by examples of innovation in my own community:
- Small, local retail businesses building online shopping portals in a matter of weeks. Example: The Makery in Durham, NH, offering its local crafts through online shopping portal.
- Local farm stands going to Venmo to enable touch-less payment. Example: Dogrose Farm in Lee, NH, where I’m now buying local produce, bread and meat.
- Local restaurants offering flexibility with delivery, curb-side or in-store pickup. Example: Wing-Itz in Dover, NH, who brings it out to your car.
Online shopping, online food menus and peer-peer payments are not new. However, because of these past large scale innovations, small scale business can participate in the digital economy and make the customer – the beholder – have a great experience and easily support local business at the same time.
It is in the collective best interest to help small business survive through this. From main streets to single-office suites in strip malls, when any business fails there is a ripple affect through the economy. If many small businesses fail, the impact is more than the sum of the parts. If big business is too big to fail, then lots of small businesses are also too big to fail.
How can large tech and consulting firms help small businesses, who rarely have the personnel or capital to invest and quickly implement digital solutions?
- Provide Talent: Let your experienced personnel donate their time to small businesses in their community. A few hours a week can make a massive difference.
- Local Business Support: Encourage employees to support local businesses. Examples: Do a “dinner at local restaurant day” where the company provides $10 to each employee to eat local. When offices and businesses start to re-open, use local catering rather than national chains (or at least do a balance). No business is too small – don’t forget farmstands, recreation (bike rentals, kayak lessons, yoga studios).
- Local Partnerships: Diversify and open up your procurement and seek out partnerships with local businesses where your employees live and work. Employees in specific communities can provide lists of local businesses, and the company could actively seek partnerships – open up your procurement
- Tone from the Top: Leaders can talk about what they are doing in their communities to support local business.
We need to think now about the world we want to have in 2021 and beyond.
At my mother’s home, the hummingbirds have returned every year on May 4th. No matter what the weather. Amidst the choppy waves of new normal, the little birds faithfully arrived at the red feeder to partake of fresh sugar water.
Little birds. Small businesses. We need both.