It's the little guys and gals that are the unsung heroes in these depressing economic times. They are the small business owners…the ones who keep others employed, oft times at their own personal expense and well-being.
These economic champions borrow on their own lines of credit to keep the economy going and their shops open, most with no end in sight until their borrowing options run out. They maximize their business lines of credit. They raid what savings and retirement funds they have and endure horrific credit card interest rates to keep their neighbors, and America, at work.
Many struggle to avoid downsizing their businesses as they stare into the dark, unable to sleep night after night and searching for answers. Some put off cutting their staff and salaries as long as possible because they understand the impact on real lives that will result by slashing and laying off. Each pay period, against overwhelming odds including cash flow impediments, they sacrifice and keep things going, hoping for signs of sparks that will promote increased business and result in enhanced revenue. Now some 13 plus months into this "recession" (which the government just recognized in December) these individuals are the real warriors of main street who put the Wall Street egos to shame. These protagonists make the cogs of our economy run even in the toughest of times and will continue to do so.
These owners and opeators of private corporations, partnerships and other business entities put off paying some of their own bills to support those that work for them. They refuse to utter the words "bankruptcy," "defeat" and "quit." They steadfastly toil to avert economic Armageddon every hour. And each pay period that passes with obligations met, they pause, reflect with a sigh and a whisper of relief…as they start the whole process again to keep their workers and businesses afloat for another day.
When times were good, these business leaders (millions of them) got by and sometimes flourished. Now that the pendulum has swung toward a new economic reality, these economic heros need help. President Obama gets it and says help is on the way for small business…but as of today, no one knows even the slightest about the details or what that promise means or how it will materialize. The need for "economic change" grows not by the month but by the day for these business denizens, who operate on solid good faith and an ingrained sense of optimism that they, and those employed by them, will survive and enter a new and better reality.
For them, failure is not an option.
The tolls of stress and survival effect them physically and mentally. Meeting payrolls is not an easy task. The distraction of simply staying in business eats away at productivity due the need to concentrate on survivial. The pressure is almost overwhelming to those who run small businesses. They make it up by getting through the day, reaching for tangible and creative methods to survive and keeping their doors open. Each paycheck they hand out is a singular accomplishment.
These people have pride. They have fortitude. They will not give up. Some are finding inner resources of financial creativity they never knew they had. Business owners exercise to maintain their sanity, they vent…and so far, the vast majority have kept it all together, while increasingly worried about tomorrow's headlines and the psyche of those who are supposed to understand the complex economy of this new century.
There are business heroes in all sectors of the economy. They build homes and products, they provide essential services as professionals, they run the stores grease the economic engine of our nation. They keep American productivity flowing through the stream of commerce, even in tiny and almost imperceptible ways. And with all that is happening, they keep on persisting…believing…and working.
Those at the forefront of small business need genuine recognition from Congress. "Push the pork aside and lead" is their mantra. It's not all about huge corporations that need help. It's about the shop owners, the small manufacturuers, the people who provide essential services through unnoticed business enterprises. America's economic heroes need a "bailout" much more than banks who seek to put their names on stadiums or who hand out billions of taxpayer dollars in bonuses while the rest of us look on in disbelief and disdain.
We will get out of this. And when the financial history of this period is committed to the books, the small business operators will get their credit…much more than they are getting right now.
Update: MSNBC.com, citing the 2006 Census, reports approximately 70 million people work in small businesses that have less than 500 employees. That is "about half the total U.S. workforce" which is paid by 12 million companies nationwide.