I think this is an important question and today, I would like to share what change I personally want to work toward making.
It’s the main reason I have created LBL and continue to do the things I think can help bring us to more alignment in the business community. I usually reserve these thoughts for private conversations, for fear that my words might be taken out of context, but the fact is, if BETA is going to lead to something more… if we’re going to encourage participation, we need to know what we’re doing it for…. so, I decided it’s time to share these thoughts, and find out if I am the only one who sees these challenges – and if so, maybe I can rest for a little while (ha!)
And yet, if I am not alone, (and I don’t believe I am) it would be helpful to have insight from others to support or refute my worldview in the Lakeland/Polk County context.
- Small businesses, creative thinkers and entrepreneurs – this group of citizens comprised of multiple generations, skillsets and experience – make an incredible impact on the economy in which we live, work and contribute.
- A community filled with the talent we have is a blessing and I believe we must celebrate them and find ways to listen and keep them engaged and connected!
- There is no single organization (or cohesive alignment between organizations) that truly represents the interests or voice of the small, local businesses. No political action committee (PAC), no representation of what’s best for the “little guys” (Micro-businesses: I use this term simply as a way to establish the difference between the SBA definition of Small Business and to acknowledge that what’s good for a “Small Business” made up of 100+ employees is completely different than what’s important to the businesses with 10 or fewer employees.)
- LBL has made the community aware of these gaps, but has not yet been able to effectively change anything for these smaller businesses – yet.
- There are organizations in place that “could” (should?) be doing more for the “Micro-businesses” in our community, but their hands are tied, mostly because they must follow the money, or their mission is not specifically to serve this segment of the small business community. So, whose job is it?
- There is conflict among these organizations (eg: the history of the Chamber and the LEDC has led to less alignment which has created overlap) – most of this is unspoken, and for the most part hidden from the public eye, but it is present and it has created a culture that has begun to make it difficult to draw the necessary attention to the needs of the small business community, or at least give the small business community a sense of “agency” that they are empowered and even encouraged to bring ideas for our future to the forefront – and have those ideas be considered seriously.
- The passionate people that run small businesses – work tirelessly to serve their customers and make a living – are struggling with time poverty, and likely won’t make time for something that seems pointless. As such, it seems to me that many of these talented people are disengaged and/or are focusing their efforts in places they feel they can make a difference.
- We don’t seem to want to get on the same page and work together. When we see something that might have some value, we splinter off into subgroups to do something “ourselves,” weakening the efforts, duplicating and breaking down the trust, diminishing the effectiveness of our voices. And creating more silos.
- Silos. We’re in a world where everyone and everything can be connected, and yet, we still carry on as if we don’t realize someone else is out there doing something similar. If we all want to serve the small business community, why aren’t we talking about the gaps and finding ways to fill them?
- Who controls the narrative within the community, as it applies to the small (micro) business community? Are we satisfied with this narrative? Does it matter?
These are the changes I am trying to make:
- To bring more power to the voice of the small local businesses, the creatives, the entrepreneurs in our community.
- To make it easier to find the answers to the questions they have, to access the information and resources they need to grow their businesses.
- To help organizations that serve the small business community raise awareness of their valuable content, resources, training and workshops.
I welcome your thoughts. I look forward to being challenged on any of these points. Are there things I am simply not seeing? Are there points I am missing that I need to add?
If any of these points resonate with you, please let me know. This is my honest and raw assessment of the community I love. It’s not perfect, but I believe we can make things better.