How leaders can support small businesses


John is the co-founder and CEO of cake insurance. He has been responsible for overseeing all aspects of Pie since its inception in May 2017.

Small businesses — from your favorite hairdresser and local pizzeria to your regular plumber and handyman — continue to experience volatile times. They are working to overcome inflation, labor shortages and supply chain challenges associated with a turbulent economy and the effects of Covid-19. Small businesses will face additional challenges in 2023.

• Historically, about 20% to 25% of companies went bankrupt within the first year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics facts.

• UBS Evidence Lab (through Markets Insider) found that “so far in 2023, private bankruptcy filings have far surpassed a spike in the early phase of the COVID pandemic.”

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy, nearly half (46.4%) of all U.S. workers are employed by small businesses, which employ more than 61.7 million workers nationwide. Supporting small businesses can help propel the economy, boost the job market and strengthen communities across the country. So how can you as a business leader be an advocate and encourage those within your company to support small businesses?

Honoring small businesses during National Small Business Week (which ran from April 30 to May 6 this year) is a great place to start. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is celebrating more than 50 years this week as a way of recognizing the contributions of U.S. entrepreneurs and small business owners. During this week and beyond, leaders should consider the following ways to support local and small business owners. Last year I wrote about ways your company can be a small business advocate throughout the year, including through mentorship, shopping local, and supporting small businesses from within your organization. This year I’m adding a few more.

1. Pay cash, debit card or mobile for small purchases when possible. Cash flow is often a big problem for small business owners. Getting invoices settled on time, and without paying credit card fees, can ease some of the hardships for small business owners. While larger businesses typically have large cash reserves for essential payments that cover payroll, rent, and insurance costs, small businesses may not have the same resources on hand.

While workplace and employee injuries are covered by workers’ compensation insurance, small businesses need reserves for unexpected emergencies, such as building repairs and technology issues. If you work with small businesses, consider prioritizing cash and debit payments and the prompt payment of bills, as many of these payments can be spent on their essential and urgent business expenses.

2. Don’t be shy about hitting the share button. Top design agencies have found that 71% of small businesses have a website, making it easy for customers to share, like, and post about them to support small businesses. While millions of consumers use the internet and search engines to discover products, restaurants and local businesses, your personal and business social channels are also a great way to promote local businesses. In today’s digital world, social media has become an inexpensive way to help small businesses make big strides in reaching and building their customer base. Following, liking or retweeting your company once can go a long way in reaching a larger audience.

Does your office roof look good after a local company fixes it? Share a review on the roofing community Facebook page. Has your favorite bakery knocked your company’s anniversary cake out of the park? Include the bakery handle in an Instagram story. These are quick and easy ways for your business to bolster its small business presence and hopefully bring in some customers. Just as you could recognize an employee’s great work, you can go a long way by doing this with the small businesses in your backyard.

3. Attend local markets and events with your team. Many artists, bakers and farmers receive income from it setting up shops at local markets and events. While more common in some communities than others, these pop-up events can be great opportunities to support your local entrepreneurs. These types of markets were also put on hold during the pandemic, leading many to make up for lost time. The next time you see a flyer for a farmer’s market, a craft pop-up, or even a networking event a local business is hosting, make the effort to bring your team along.

4. Put your money where your mouth is. Last year I shared ways you can support small businesses from within your organization, but it’s also important to support them externally if you can. For example, my company serves small businesses and this year we are proud sponsors of National Small Business Week. It was important to us to celebrate their hard work on a local and national level. Are there local events you can sponsor or where your team can volunteer for businesses and organizations? Contact your local chamber of commerce and see how you can get involved. When it comes to budgeting, set aside some of your company’s money to pour back into your communities. No matter who your company’s customers are, your local community will appreciate the support you can provide.

Instead of routinely shopping online or visiting a major retailer for your company’s purchases, ask yourself what small changes you can make along the way that can ultimately have a big impact. While often overlooked and under-supported, small businesses need us more than ever, so no action is too small to strengthen the backbone of the US economy. Business Council is the leading growth and networking organization for entrepreneurs and leaders. Am I eligible?