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Businesses make an impact, and so do you

Editor’s Note: Quint Studer is the author of Building a Vibrant Community: How Citizen-Powered Change Is Reshaping America.” He will speak in Elkins on March 5. The Inter-Mountain will publish a column by Studer each Saturday leading up to his local appearance.

I have great empathy for small businesses and their importance to a community.

Depending on which research you read, anywhere from 50 to 80 percent of new jobs come from small businesses. Most small businesses are locally owned. Most of the owners took a great risk in starting a business.

If I had read the statistics on the chance of a small business making it one year, I may never have started one. In the book “The E-Myth Revisited,” author Michael Gerber shares that 80 percent of startup companies will not survive one year.

But if a business makes it one year, it is in good shape, right? Wrong. Eighty percent of companies that make it one year will not make it five years. Another point the book makes is that most people who start a business do so because they are technically proficient in that area. Think about a baker opening a bakery, a chef opening a restaurant, etc.

I have started a company, and it is a wakeup call. When you write that personal check, or sign that loan guarantee, or activate that lease to start a company, it’s a very nerve-racking moment. I’ve been there. Leaving a job with an almost-guaranteed paycheck to not knowing if there will be dollars to cover expenses is difficult.

Here are some very common themes I find in these brave people who start businesses:

1. They are passionate. A common element is that these people are very passionate about what they do. They want to provide quality in product and service. As Jim Collins wrote in his book Good to Great, passion is the key ingredient in a successful leader.

2. They want to control their own destinies. I find these owners have worked well for others; however, they wanted to do things a bit differently, and this allows them to control their own destinies.

3. They care about their communities. Listening to many business owners, there is another common theme: They want to be good employers and they want to give back to their communities. It is common for larger companies, perhaps because they’re supporting a larger geographic base, not to support philanthropy as strongly as a locally owned business.

4. They have confidence in themselves. This does not mean they are cocky, but people do not start a business if they do not feel they have what it takes and can make it work.

5. They feel a great responsibility to their employees. I believe most companies feel this way, but in a small business, you know the employees. You know their families. The fact that people are counting on you to feed, shelter, and clothe their families is never out of an owner’s mind.

So, this is the makeup of a small business owner. Let’s talk about why these small businesses are vital to a community.

1. They often fill a need in the community. Once they prove there is a customer base to make them successful, often the larger chains then move in.

2. They are invested in the community.

3. The dollars they receive stay in the community and are reinvested. Perhaps most importantly of all, if you pay a little more, know that those dollars stay here to support other local businesses, other causes and charities, and families living among you.

Let’s be clear, this is not to say large companies with corporate headquarters are not important. They are. We need to be grateful for them, especially if they have a local presence.

Each time you stay local, in addition to receiving a good product, you are creating jobs and helping families have a better life. You are feeding a child, helping someone get an education, helping buy that home, rent that apartment, take that vacation. These owners have taken a big chance, so please know your patronage can make a big difference.

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