How to Do Your Part in Saving Small Businesses

More than 100,000 US small businesses have shuttered since the onset of the pandemic in March. As the threat of more closures piles on, we’re becoming more conscious of our spending habits. Many of us, including me, are asking, how can I support small and local business owners?

It’s not just about being nice. Small businesses typically create up to 67% of new jobs, they drive competitiveness and innovation, and last year, they were responsible for 44% of the US economic activity.

Right now, they need our help.

Here are four ways you can support small businesses:

Buy stuff: This one is obvious. Putting your money where your mouth is, can be a fast and effective was to support small businesses. Giants like Amazon are making billions as the pandemic roars on because of convenience, but they’re not the only option.

Thousands of small businesses have transformed, overnight, to ship products to their customers, instead of relying on a traditional storefront. If you’re perusing home furnishings, gifts, really just about anything, ask yourself, do you really need it by Tuesday. Or could you buy it from an artisan on Etsy? Or a locally owned store? Or someone on my network? They will be grateful, and you will have something more unique.

Use your voice. Advertising is expensive but your tweets and Facebook shares are free. It costs $0 to retweet a local business, recommend them to a friend, tell everyone on Next Door how great they are or leave a positive review from a previous experience. Use your voice to amplify the business you want to succeed.

As small businesses pivot and evolve, continuing to serve customers through a pandemic, help them raise awareness and reach new customers.

Look at your payment terms. If you’re not paying for 60 or 90 days, you’re killing small business. Lengthy payment terms cause immense cashflow challenges for smaller organizations. This is true in a business to business setting, and also for smaller service folks. Slow payment terms can make or break service people like landscapers, housekeepers, and nannies. Pay people up front for their work when possible.

In our business, we often work with large corporations whose supplier agreements require us to wait up to 120 days for payment. That means, as a small firm, we incur tens of thousands of dollars in travel, facilitator fees, and material costs. We’re fortunate; we have an established business and can make it work. That wasn’t always the case. The idea of running your business on other people’s money sounds good in theory, yet the reality is, in many cases, lengthy payment terms only shift the burden to small suppliers. Waiting months for payment prohibits potentially great firms (who can’t afford to front the money) from putting their hat in the ring.
Be conscious of the costs small businesses are fronting to provide a product or service to you or your company. If possible change your own terms, and ask your firm to change theirs.

Be gracious.  Small businesses may not offer 24/7 support and they don’t control FedEx or UPS delays. You’ve experienced disruption, strain, and anxiety over the last several months, the same is true for all business owners. Grant people some grace. Be patient and kind in the way you communicate, and forgive honest mistakes.

The upcoming months will require unparalleled intention, innovation, and resilience from all of us. As we march onward, let’s do so with some graciousness and purpose