Small businesses play a big role in society and deserve our support

The Australian, Peter Strong, November 1, 2017

The intangible benefits of small business are well known.

From Bondi to Broome, they play an important role in shaping the suburbs where we work and live. We all have a cafe where we like to start the day, a bookstore where we’ll happily lose ourselves for an hour at the weekend or a specialty store where we’ll go to pick up a gift.

But beyond the sentimental pull of our favourite small businesses, there’s the financial impact of their daily contribution to our communities. And it’s much bigger than you might expect. In fact, small businesses are setting a great example when it comes to keeping it in the community.

The annual Household Expenditure Survey, conducted by the Bureau of Statistics, estimates an average spend of almost $40,000 per household on a broad range of consumer goods and services. This equates to annual spending power of almost $89 billion. When you consider that one of every four dollars spent in Australia goes to a small business, this quickly adds up to a considerable sum.

The extent to which small business owners support their local communities is revealed in the report “The Economy of Shopping Small: Keeping it in the Community”. Commissioned by American Express, and marking the start of Shop Small 2017, the report shows almost half of every dollar is reinvested close to home. It’s paying the salaries of local residents, settling bills with local suppliers, supporting local schools, charities and groups through donations and sponsorship.

There’s a shared sense of community among small business owners and the consumers they serve. Consumers value small businesses for providing employment, boosting the local economy and meeting demand for specific products or services. They bring variety and actively encourage community participation.

Unfortunately, too many of us are failing to match personal values with daily habits. While three-quarters of Australians feel small businesses improve their communities, less than one in three have increased their shopping frequency with these businesses during the past year. While the 2.1 million small businesses in Australia are thriving, we can’t allow this worrying trend to continue.

At the Council of Small Business Australia, we are committed to helping small businesses grow and thrive, and you should be too.

Everyone has a role to play in supporting the people who put everything into the successful operation of these businesses.

The early mornings, late nights and forfeited weekends that go into providing the products and services we value so highly.

We all lead busy lives and this shapes the world we live in. It’s a global village where you can buy just about anything, from anywhere, with the click of a button.

Yet it would be a mistake to put too much value in this faceless convenience at the expense of the local business owners who play an active role in our communities.

That’s why it’s so important to think of the bigger picture and shop small. So next time you want to treat somebody, or need to pick up milk on your way home from work, spend your money with a local, small business.

Running a small business is an incredibly rewarding experience for the people who have the passion to do it. But it’s challenging in equal measure. These small businesses play a vital role in supporting your community. It’s your duty to return that support.

Peter Strong is CEO of the Council of Small Business Australia.