Tag Archive for 'The Great Recession'

Next Main Street movie: “Small Business Shrugged”

At this moment four years ago we were in the middle of The Great Recession whirlwind. We didn’t know how bad things were going to get because all of the shoes had not dropped in reaction to the financial crisis. Millions were still being laid off, GM and Chrysler had not yet taken bankruptcy and the federal government was injecting the first of trillions of dollars into a shell-shocked economy.

Today, 43 months after the technical end of The Great Recession, surveys I report about on my radio program (NFIB, Tatum, our online poll, etc.), indicate that about a fifth of small businesses are doing well, about as many are doing poorly, and the middle 60% are doing just okay. This economy should be a rising tide floating all boats; but it isn’t. Instead, as in 2009, every small business owner is still anxious about the next 12 months.

During recoveries of past recessions, concerns were about market dynamics created by the usual suspects: inflation, global trade, supply and demand, technology disruptions, fear and greed, etc. But this not-so-great recovery is different.

For the first time in my long career (seven recessions), the origin of what will wake up small business owners at 3am in 2013 are mostly challenges created by the federal government. Here’s the short list: higher taxes; unsustainable budget deficits and debt; hundreds of Obamacare mandates, regulations, penalties and taxes (Galen Institute); thousands of new 2013 regulations costing businesses $123 billion, plus 13.6 million compliance man-hours (American Action Forum).

But alas, there is one more thing which may be more troubling to this market sector that produces over half of the U.S. economy: A zero-sum philosophy coming from Washington that the financial success of “fortunate” Americans is at the expense of others. But successful entrepreneurs are only fortunate because, like every American, they have a Constitutional right to pursue success, not a guarantee of success.

Small businesses take economic headwinds in stride because they know the marketplace is self-healing with the passage of time. But government-created headwinds not only don’t heal, they compound, and this truth does not motivate small business owners to take risks.

Most small business owners want to grow and hire, but they don’t have to. So far, that’s not a government mandate. The next movie the political class may see playing on Main Street could be titled, “Small Business Shrugged.”

Eventually government expansion and economic expansion become mutually exclusive.


This week on The Small Business Advocate Show I talked more about America’s lack of small business optimism and why political policies are to blame for the slow economic recovery. Click here to download or listen. Afterward, please let me know what you think.

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Re-engaging employees in a time of great workplace stress

One of the unfortunate markers of the Great Recession is significant evidence of fear and anxiety in the workplace.  There is fear about job security, anxiety about financial loss, both real and imagined, and a general concern for the overall wellbeing of the country.  Sadly, even months into the recovery, vestiges of these emotions still prevail.  So, in a workplace charged with so much unproductive emotion, how do we as managers create an environment where our employees get and stay engaged? 

Recently, on my radio program, The Small Business Advocate, I talked with engagement expert, Leigh Branham, about some of the motivational challenges that are unique to this recovery for most employers. We talked about how re-engaging employees in a time of great workplace stress is a discipline that can and should be cultivated and leveraged.

A long-time member of my Brain Trust, Leigh is Principal of Keeping the People, Inc., and the author of The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave. Take a few minutes to listen to our conversation. And as always, leave your thoughts about your best motivational practices and greatest challenges. Listen Live! Download, Too!

Small business victory over doubt

One of the tolls the Great Recession has taken on small business owners has been the tendency to allow ourselves to be overcome with doubt about our abilities as managers and leaders. But perhaps even more painful is doubt about who we are and what we stand for as entrepreneurs.

- When nothing seems to be working, “How could I let this happen?”

- When sales aren’t coming in fast enough, “Why can’t I fix this?”

- When there isn’t enough cash to fund the operation, “This is my fault.”

- Waking up at 2am, “Who am I fooling? What made me think I could actually be a real business owner?”

For small business owners there is a paradox inside of the emotion of doubt: If we never had doubts about our entrepreneurial intentions, excellence would not be possible. Doubt is part of the crucible effect that helps us create a stronger entrepreneurial alloy as we forge self-analysis with vision, planning and execution. Paradoxically, doubt, like fear, can be an immobilizer if we allow it to become personal. Consequently, small business owners must leverage doubt as a motivator.

Recently, on my small business radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show, I talked with Brain Trust member, John Dini. John is a world-class business coach and mentor to hundreds of small business CEOs in his work with The Alternative Board organization. In our discussion, John talked about how doubt has gained some traction among business owners as a result of the tough economy. Take a few minutes to listen to this interview. Listen Live! Download, Too!

Also, a while back I wrote a poem titled “Victory over Doubt.” You might benefit from reading it today.

And, as always, be sure to leave your own thoughts.

Small businesses leading us out of The Great Recession

In 1998, I began predicting that the 21st century would be the century of the entrepreneur. And every year that goes by proves that my prophecy was accurate. Even with all of the unfortunate economic conditions we’ve endured the past year or so, I still believe that whatever the economic recovery looks like, it will be led by small businesses to a much greater degree than big businesses.  Here are just a few reasons:

1.    Entrepreneurs are pathological optimists and, as such, refuse to have their dreams suppressed for very long by the upwind quadrant of an economic cycle.

2.    Small businesses can recover from a downturn more quickly to redirect and redeploy their business models in a way that is customized to fit what the new marketplace demands.

3.    Technological innovations continue to incrementalize powerful tools and applications which give small businesses the ability to compete at higher levels, for higher stakes and with less overhead per dollar of opportunity.

4.    In a world where credit and capital acquisition are part of the recovery challenges, small businesses can still get the money needed to capitalize growth plans because the financial instruments they require are not very big or complicated, and often fulfilled by an independent community bank.

5.    In the future, customers will want more connection and less marketing.  Small businesses don’t have big marketing budgets but have always been the world’s gurus at connecting with customers. But now, with the growth and maturing of low-cost online customer communities (a.k.a social media), its advantage: small business.

I could go on, but you get the picture. And remember, what’s good for small business is good for the world.

Someone who agrees with me about the impact entrepreneurs will make on our future economic success is Carl Lavin, Managing Editor at Forbes, who set out to find the small businesses that will be among those to lead the U.S. into the coming expansion.  Out of thousands considered, Carl and his crew picked what they call America’s Most Promising Companies for 2009.

Here is a link to this group of America’s finest, which hail from all over the country and represent a wide variety of industries.  Brett Nelson, Entrepreneurs Editor at Forbes.com, has done a great job of turning information about these 20 companies into valuable resources for you. Check it out.

Carl is also a member of my Brain Trust and, recently, he joined me on my small business radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show, to talk about what you and I can learn from these companies. Take a few minutes to listen and, of course, be sure to leave your thoughts. Listen Live! Download, Too!

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