Business.com's CEO Tony Uphoff reflects on the importance of small business in America.
Earlier in my career, I ran InformationWeek, the leading media brand for tech professionals working in large enterprises. We developed an editorial advisory board that included senior technology executives from some of the largest companies in the world including Dupont, General Motors, Microsoft, General Electric and Sprint.
At our very first meeting when we asked what additional coverage they’d like to see, they all said they wanted more content around start-ups and smaller companies. Frankly, we were surprised. To us this felt like 747 Pilot's asking for information about learning to fly Cessna 172’s.
As the discussion went on, their interests made more sense. These extraordinarily accomplished executives were frustrated that their big corporations were slow, stodgy and stuck in legacy models and infrastructure. They were inspired and taking practical lessons from the agile movements of smaller businesses and applying them in their organizations.
Small Business: The Heart of the American Dream
These IT executives aren’t alone in their interest in start ups and small business. America loves small businesses. A 2010 poll by The Pew Research Center found that the public had a more positive view of them than any other institution in the country – they beat out both churches and universities, for instance.
So why do start ups and small businesses matter to everyone? Starting a business is part of the American dream. It is an inspiration to the middle manager in a big company and to the soon to be college graduate. And everyone in between. It is also where the vast majority of job growth as well as business buying power resides today.
There are 28M small businesses in America. The vast majority of these, 23M, are sole proprietorships that don’t have payroll or employees. The remaining 5M businesses fall into 3 main categories:
- Local Businesses: serving consumers and other local businesses
- Suppliers: Suppliers to other business (B2B)
- High Growth: Fast-growing, innovation-driven businesses
These 5M companies are creating the vast majority of jobs and and represent a highly lucrative buying audience for business to business marketers.
Small Business: Inspiring the Big Guys
Business.com serves as a fascinating example of this dynamic at work. The majority of our readership is made up of executives in growing companies (i.e. those with between 20-1,000 employees). Our 2M+ monthly visitors are a virtual match to the distribution of U.S. business, which means that we also have readers in companies with less than 20 employees as well as readers in companies with 5,000+ employees.
As we study the interests and behaviors of our users, it’s fascinating to see how often the full breadth of our audience engages with the same content and contextual advertising. We regularly see examples where executives in large companies read and engage with content on starting a business. At the same time, we see leaders of small businesses engaging with content on large company issues like computer infrastructure, or business process optimization.
This shouldn’t really be a surprise. We learn by hearing the stories of others. Often times, it’s the story of how a leader of an early-stage company attacks a new market or deals with a challenge that is most inspiring to the business leader in a larger company.
Related Article: What Does Age Have to Do with Starting a Business?
At Business.com we are committed to helping executives in growing companies acquire the knowledge, products and services they need to run and grow their businesses. We also realize that by doing this, we effectively help executives in large organizations do the same thing.
This week we are celebrating National Small Business Week and you will be seeing an expansion of the content we do focused on start-ups and small and early stage businesses. We encourage you to engage with this inspiring, applicable and sharable content, regardless of what size of business you are currently running. By thinking small, we can have a big impact on the full landscape of businesses of every size.