Small is Big in Business

Small Business WeekWe probably pass by several small businesses sometime during our day.

While we appreciate the business for the products and services it offers, I would guess that many of us do not think about what small businesses mean in economic terms. Typically, we think of the large companies as the major component of the U.S. economic engine. Or maybe you just haven’t thought about it at all.

This week, May 12-16, is Small Business Week in the U.S. It is a time to recognize these businesses and what they do for us.

Did you know that small businesses:

• Represent more than 98 percent of all business firms
• Employee about 50 percent of all U.S. workers
• Generate more than $12 trillion in receipts each year

These are powerful numbers that do not even take into account the technology they have created, along with new jobs and growth opportunities, and their status as an economic driver for a community.

Small-business owners not only provide dollars and jobs but often can be found supporting local improvement efforts, taking on a leadership role in civic and public organizations, and being available when a call for assistance comes in.

Besides being important to the larger economy, small businesses are a prime entity that supports the owner’s family and the families of his or her employees.

Finally, the small business represents an individual’s dream. Owning a business can mean using certain skills and abilities, the ability to generate income or the opportunity to take a good idea to market.

Given the importance of the small business, growing and maintaining its strength is a high priority. This means working to ensure a stream of new businesses constantly is entering the marketplace. New businesses mean more individuals are trying something they have wanted to do. It also means local revenue and more jobs.

So during Small Business Week, do two things: First, reflect on how the small business is supporting the local, state, national and international economies. Second, stop by and tell local small-business owners how much you appreciate what they are doing.

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I’ve Got Lots of Time

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Time (CC) I_Believe_, Flickr

So here it is Wednesday, the day our team, Entrepreneurs and Their Communities, posts its regular blog. I have known it was coming. And I have told myself to get started or at least to think about a topic.

My answer? You guessed it, I will start tomorrow! But now the time is here and I am scrambling. So let’s talk about procrastination.

Procrastination, from Wikipedia, is “practice of carrying out less urgent tasks in preference to more urgent ones, or doing more pleasurable things in place of less pleasurable ones, and thus putting off impending tasks to a later time, sometimes to the ‘last minute’ “. And that pretty much describes it. I had a great mentor and friend who, when faced with a large, major task, told me that was the only time she had a sparkling clean apartment and went routinely to exercise.

This same driving force is why we often need to remind business owners to work on their business and not in their business. Stocking shelves, unpacking boxes, and rearranging the displays are important but is it really what will move your business forward?

As humans, most of us are driven more by short term issues, tasks or pleasure. This is not to say these things are not important BUT looking ahead, planning ahead, and working ahead offers so much relief. It lowers your stress and gives you time to think about what you have done. Most importantly, business studies show that forward planning and working is linked to greater success. I suspect I may look back at this post and think about everything else I should have said at some point in time.

So how can you stop yourself from putting off the important tasks?

The first step is to recognize you are doing it. Business owners wear many hats (and the smaller your business, the more hats you wear). Every task you do is good for your business. That includes cleaning, stocking shelves, and straightening up your desk. But listen to your thoughts. You know there are things that probably are more important.

The next step is doing something to get you on track. For me, I need to keep a to-do list and regularly prioritize what is on that list. (And yes, I am old school as my list is on paper.) There are online tools that work well but find what you are most comfortable with. For me that is paper. My list is fairly comprehensive but it is the only way I keep things together. I put dates and priorities on the crucial items. It is my routine to check the list every day both adding and deleting items as well as reshuffling existing items based on changes in my life.

Realize that you need to be flexible. Priorities change. Opportunities come along.

I also have to plan when I am going to do certain things during the day. I get lots of email and social media every day. It took some time but I know it isn’t important that I read every piece that comes in. Use tools to screen and don’t be afraid to hit the delete key.

And the big one, learn two things: 1. How to say no; and 2. How to delegate (And that means delegating and giving authority and responsibility and not second-guessing all the time).

Well, there it is. My life as a procrastinator and what I have done to work around it. I and the other readers would love to hear your tips on how to handle this issue.

And as I leave, you can join me as I repeat to myself – I won’t do this next time, I won’t do this next time, I won’t do this next time.