Unencumbered, small businesses can help America recover from the pandemic
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Decisions being made in Congress since the COVID-19 outbreak have not prioritized the true needs of American small businesses and the people who work for them. In addition, the actions of most states’ governors and federal policymakers have been outright naïve and ignorant to the realities of how small businesses operate, leading to the collapse of many.

Tragically, the COVID-19 “relief” and stimulus bills, with their opportunistic pork barrel spending, ultimately will be a heavy burden on every small business. While politicians will claim victory for the common citizen, history will prove the bills to have been little more than a “sugar high” for the economy, resulting in punitive long-term results for the very citizens that policymakers desired to help. The ascendance of a new administration and one-party control of Congress will further expose small businesses to the long-term vulnerability that comes with the consequences of permanent, hasty decisions being made to address temporary problems.

In all the chaos and political upheaval, what policymakers often seem to miss is that American small businesses and their owners across the nation are set up to help in a situation like the pandemic. To borrow from Theodore Roosevelt, American small businesses are the ones “in the arena” — the local transportation company, the regional machine shop, the niche distributor, the specialty manufacturer, and so on. They are the ones that keep moving, keep “showing up.” Indeed, the government has recruited many to shift gears and help address pandemic needs.

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As we look to the future, employers with fewer than 100 employees, as well as “gig” employees, will be poised to be part of the solution to keeping America economically strong and physically healthy. Why? Because we are nimble, agile, and can flex and stretch where large bureaucratic governmental organizations cannot.

To give some perspective of our strength and potential: According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), small businesses account for 45 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product and employ 48 percent of American workers. Thus, we are talking about one of the main drivers of our nation’s economy.

To all policymakers, state and federal: As we move forward, please understand the mind of business leaders. We are better citizens when you present us with a carrot (incentives to invest, spend, and hire) rather than with a stick (lockdowns, capacity limits, and operational mandates). We carry a lot of risk, and we care about our employees and our customers.

Contrary to what is often implied, most of us do not own a business simply to make boatloads of money. Every business has a greater purpose — a mission — greater than money: to build something or to provide a service that enriches lives.

The American Dream has never been simply to get rich. Rather, it’s about the freedom and liberties (but with the risk, accountability, and personal responsibility that come with it) to pursue “impact and influence” in a manner that affects and advances positive change. The American Dream transcends temporal success. In most circumstances, business owners care more about their reputations and legacies than about their profits.

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Each small business across America is part of a greater economy and a greater society.

We are all role players in the greater narrative of American economic greatness. Every small business across the nation is an instrument in the even broader context of the overall American economy.

So, while every business across the country has an individual mission that it pursues for the benefit of the company, its employees, and its customers, every business is also part of a broader community mission to contribute to American economic greatness.

It’s time for policymakers to recognize the greatness of American small business and to support main street by promoting and incentivizing growth. When one business struggles because of stifling government encumbrances, the entire economic system suffers.

Brian Slipka is CEO of the Minneapolis-based Honour Capital, CEO of Sunbelt Business Advisors, and founder of True North Equity Partners through which he is sole or managing owner in more than ten main street and lower middle-market businesses.