The State of the Union address is always one of the most scrutinized events of the year, poured over by ever group to find nuggets that might affect them. Small businesses are no different. In the days leading up to the address, there were even surveys done to find out what small businesses wanted to hear from the speech. While that's still up for debate, what isn't is that there is still a very clear disconnect between the government's perception of small business and what the actual profile of the majority of small businesses really are.
Midway through his speech on Tuesday, President Obama stated, "We should support everyone who's willing to work and every risk-taker and entrepreneur who aspires to become the next Steve Jobs. After all, innovation is what America has always been about. Most new jobs are created in start-ups and small businesses. So let's pass an agenda that helps them succeed."
That statement is 100% true, supporting working and innovation should always be a focus of government, without question. What's disappointing about it is that it overlooks the fact that every small plumber, contracter, electrician, tennis instructor and dog walker has very little in common with Steve Jobs, who built arguably the most influential company in the history of the United States. Your local plumber isn't Steve Jobs, nor does he want to be. It just furthers the popular belief that every small business is really an entrepreneur, which by most definitions isn't accurate. And this came on the heels of the proposal by President Obama to consolidate a number of government agencies, including the Small Business Administration, into one.
The new agency is now tasked with helping small, medium and large businesses. For the really small businesses, that's a problem, because they will likely get less attention than the bigger businesses. Truthfully, what micro businesses need is less headaches when it comes to day to day business, which means a simpler tax code, more certainty around health insurance costs, interest rates and even rent costs. They don't need access to loans or education on how to get their patents through the process. A place to go to get help from the government isn't usually high on their list. USA Today's Rhonda Abrams penned a great piece on what the new agency could mean for small businesses everywhere this week.
As I've written in the past, it's always disappointing to see "small" businesses with hundreds of employees being lumped in with sole proprietors and those with under 20 employees. Their needs, wants and budgets just aren't the same. While the State of the Union isn't any true indication of future policy, it does show that perceptions about who and what small businesses really are continue to cross a very wide a gap.
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Jason Keith has been working for and with small businesses in the New England area for more than 10 years, specifically small, micro businesses. Born and raised in Massachusetts and a former journalist, he provides a unique perspective on the issues facing small businesses locally and nationally.To reach him directly email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is a personal blog. The opinions expressed here are the author's alone.