Small Business Owners are the ‘NCOs’ of the Current Economic Struggle

I just finished watching an HBO series called The Pacific, which recounts in brutal detail some of the hardest fought battles of the Pacific Theatre during WWII. There is a scene, which I’ve clipped from YouTube, where the company commander is speaking to a group of NCOs regarding their role in winning the war.

As I watched the scene it dawned upon me that, while Washington politicians do what they do, the “NCOs” of this current economic struggle are small business owners.

We are the ones who will wage this war in the trenches – meeting payroll, dealing with continued government encroachment, rising healthcare costs and the like – all the while keeping our spirits up even as times get progressively worse.

During the series, one of the things that caught my attention was how poorly supply lines were maintained in provisioning the Marines. Often, they would be left without adequate food, water, ammunition or medical supplies. Still, they got the job done.

Similarly, we can’t depend on Washington to provide everything we will need to survive the coming economic crisis – if we can depend on them at all. As was evidenced in nearly every battle, the Marines survived because they took care of each other. We will need to do the same.

I know this sounds melodramatic, but I am convinced the parallel is adequate to make my point.

With that in mind, I urge you to support your local small business. The big chains will survive, but small business owners stand to be the first and highest casualties. If given a choice between shopping at a large retail chain or a local business, I encourage you to choose the latter.

It’s a given that we should support local small businesses with our dollars, but there are other ways to do so using online media. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Write positive (though genuine) ratings and reviews on sites like Yelp and Angie’s List.
  • Share word of mouth recommendations via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
  • Check-in to businesses using Foursquare and Facebook to let our friends know where we are.
  • Encourage local businesses to leverage the power of social media themselves.

I’m sure you have suggestions for other ways we can support local small businesses. If so, please leave them in a comment.

Let me express my gratitude to organizations like NFIB on the national level, local Chambers of Commerce and small business development centers (including those funded by the government), as well as groups like SCORE. Each of these is dedicated to helping small business thrive, not just survive.

Also, let me encourage you to read this article: Buying Local: How It Boosts the Economy, which was published in Time magazine in 2009. It is an excellent treatise on the benefits of buying local.

Washington politicians may set the strategy in this economic crisis, but, to borrow a line from the video, “the victory will be won by you,” the small business owner and those of us who support them.

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