Small business: Build it and they will come?

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — Two of the most popular positions to take in today’s political realm are “business-friendly” and “small business supporter.”

An April 14 Rio Rancho Observer editorial challenged Rio Ranchoans as a civic duty to patronize small local businesses rather than “down-the-hill” “big-box” chains. And an op-ed column in the Observer on April 28 listed 10 traits common to most successful startup entrepreneurs.

But in real life, the market is merciless. Ultimately, it’s the small-business owner’s responsibility, not the public’s, to make the venture a success.

Offer a unique, affordable, high-quality product; sell it effectively; and the customers will come. Manage finances and operations competently, and the profits will come.

Small business is credited by the U.S. Small Business Administration with creating 47 percent of all private-sector jobs and stimulating 54 percent of U.S. sales. But those statistics are almost meaningless since SBA’s definition of a small business varies from 250 to 1,500 employees (full- or part-time), depending on the industry.

I would argue that a “small” business with, say, 500 full-time employees, has more in common with a Walmart store than with a neighborhood barber shop.

It has become popular recently to criticize paying public incentives to lure large corporations to our community. But “big-box” businesses, especially retail, generally deliver significant gross receipts tax (GRT) revenue — the primary funding source for local government.

GRT helps strengthen public services and build a local economy at a pace and on a scale that small businesses cannot. And Rio Rancho is running out of time to pump up its local economy as state government — with the largest surplus in recent history — continues to cut back on local revenue distribution.

As a city councilor, I took the unpopular stand of voting against a proposal to create a full-time “small business ombudsman” at City Hall. My feeling was and is that a small-business starter who lacks the savvy and persistence to navigate the city’s permitting process won’t stand much chance of competing in the marketplace.

If, as has been alleged, some city staff members are not “business friendly,” the city needs to fix that, not spend money to mask the problem.

Meanwhile, websites like smallbiztrends.com have identified top reasons why small businesses fail, including:

• Bad business ideas;

• Leadership failure;

• Product or service lacking uniqueness and value ;

• Out of touch with customer needs; and

• Poor financial planning and management.

Notably absent from these lists are tepid community support and difficult permitting requirements.

Luckily, would-be Rio Rancho small-business startups and current owners can easily access almost unlimited resources — including loans, training, financial advice and business plan writing — from agencies like SBA (SBA.gov), WESST Rio Rancho (wesst.org) and SCORE Albuquerque (albuquerque.score.org).

Being in business for yourself is an American dream, like owning your own home. But it’s not an entitlement.

It requires supreme effort, skill and timing to create and sell a product or service that resonates with consumers.

Build it, market it and then we will come.

(Cheryl Everett is a Rio Rancho resident and former city councilor.)

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