To say that small businesses are the backbone of America is an understatement, given that they comprise 99.9 percent of all firms in the U.S. and employ more than 50 percent of the working population, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).
Defined by SBA as an enterprise with less than 500 employees, there were 28.8 million small businesses in the U.S. in 2013 (the latest figure available), 23 million of which had no employees – giving true meaning to the term “small” business.
It appears the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in North Texas, which is home to more than 147,000 small businesses, ranking fifth in the country, according to a report in the Dallas Business Journal February 24. “The State of Small Business Report” also identified the vitality of small business sectors in major markets across the U.S., ranking Dallas Fort Worth 24th out of 106 metro areas. NOTE: This report defines small business as less than 100 employees.
It is easy to look around Southlake and determine that small businesses comprise a majority of the city’s 2,230 commercial enterprises. Although an exact number is unknown, the Southlake Chamber of Commerce reports that 99.24 percent of its membership is small businesses. Results from the Southlake Chamber’s most recent member survey revealed that approximately 92 percent have less than 10 employees and 55 percent have five employees or less.
In addition to company size, Southlake Chamber members also shared their challenges and obstacles to business growth.
“On a national level, the top challenges that are keeping small business owners up at night are burdensome regulations, healthcare and tax reform,” stated Mark Guilbert, president and CEO of the Southlake Chamber. “Small business owners are enthusiastic about what the current administration is doing to relieve the regulatory hardships so far, but they are concerned by the recent failure to pass healthcare reform which is causing concerns that tax reform might fail as well.”
Serving the needs of its members is the Southlake Chamber’s highest priority and no one has taken this more to heart than two-term Chairman of the Board of Directors (2014-2016) Ian MacLean, who is also president of an award-winning small business in Southlake, Highland Landscaping. In addition to his executive role in the Southlake Chamber, he serves on the Council on Small Business of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a group of more than 120 business owners throughout the nation who share their perspectives on issues including taxes, energy, healthcare, regulations and employee relations.
According to MacLean, serving on the Council on Small Business provides him a platform to represent Southlake businesses at the national level. This came to fruition first-hand when Tom Sullivan, vice president of small business policy at the U.S. Chamber, was in town recently for business and requested an in-person meeting at MacLean’s office.
Seizing the opportunity, MacLean gathered Guilbert, the Chamber’s current Chairman of the Board Peter Ermish, Southlake Mayor Laura Hill, and other local business leaders for a roundtable discussion about doing business in North Texas.
“We talked about the labor shortage, employee retention, increased construction costs, and unique challenges in the area,” MacLean explained. “This was a great opportunity to highlight the value held for small business by the City of Southlake, as well as the initiatives and growing partnership between the Southlake Chamber and the U.S. Chamber that give our local businesses a voice on Capitol Hill.”
Acknowledging the Trump administration is more willing to cooperate with small businesses, the main message expressed to Sullivan was the need to do research and have conversations about the long-term effects before taking legislative action.
“In Washington, DC, we are all about policy. When we get on the road, it is all about listening to leaders like Ian to help inform how things can work better in our nation’s capital,” stated Sullivan, who outlined his top five priorities for the group:
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has an ongoing campaign to help small businesses get the tools and information they need to succeed. Partnering with local and state chambers of commerce, they will host a Small Business Series event June 13 in Irving. In addition, National Small Business Week, sponsored by the SBA, is April 30-May 6. This annual event recognizes the critical contributions of America’s entrepreneurs and small business owners.
“Southlake is the perfect example of a vibrant community built on a foundation of small businesses. In Southlake, our small business owners work, volunteer and often raise their families here. They have a fierce level of loyalty and commitment to Southlake’s success,” stated Southlake Mayor Laura Hill.