National Small Business Week: Why we need to champion small and midsize businesses

chapioning small and midsize businesses

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has hosted National Small Business Week every year for more than six decades, a week-long celebration dedicated to spotlighting the backbone of our economy: small and midsize businesses (SMBs). These businesses, often overshadowed by the buzzier large corporations, are the unsung heroes driving our country’s economic growth, fostering job creation, and nurturing their local communities.

At the heart of every SMB lies the dedication and resilience of its leader. They are the driving force behind the growth, innovation, and employment opportunities that SMBs bring to our economy. Navigating challenges with determination, they consistently work to find creative solutions to obstacles.

As we approach this year’s annual observance of National Small Business Week from April 28 to May 4, we acknowledge the profound impact SMBs have on our lives. The following are just a few of the many reasons it is important to rally behind SMBs now, more than ever:

1. Job creation and employment opportunities

Small businesses alone account for 99.9% of all businesses and 44% of all economic activity in America. They employ 61.7 million Americans, including 46.4% of private sector employees.

Those staggering numbers speak for themselves, but SMBs play a unique role in employing underserved communities. For example, Cleanlogic — an Audubon, Pennsylvania company that manufactures skincare products — champions inclusivity by purposefully hiring individuals with disabilities and creating an accessible workplace that enables all employees to contribute.

Similarly, Greyston Bakery in Yonkers, New York, has adopted an innovative Open Hiring® model, extending hiring opportunities and apprentice training programs to those with gaps in employment history, past involvement with the criminal justice system, or limited educational background.

When I spoke to Cleanlogic Co-CEO Mike Ghesser and Greyston President Joseph Kenner, it was clear that they care about creating exceptional products. Still, they are equally passionate about their mission of job creation. Businesses like theirs drive economic prosperity by recognizing the value of diverse talent and providing opportunities for all individuals to thrive in the workforce.

2. Innovation and entrepreneurship

SMBs drive innovation through entrepreneurship, contributing to the vibrancy of local economies. Professional soccer club FC Cincinnati exemplifies this entrepreneurial spirit in action. Co-CEO Jeff Berding worked tirelessly to turn his dream for a major league soccer club in Cincinnati into a reality, raising funding for a new stadium and building grassroots support for the team up to record-breaking attendance levels, all while navigating the pandemic. His vision was rooted in community revitalization efforts and a goal for a “Rising Cincinnati.” FC Cincinnati exemplifies the transformative potential of SMBs in fostering prosperity within their local communities.

3. Community impact and social responsibility

What sets SMB CEOs and owners apart is their tight connection to their communities. They are often the first to volunteer to sponsor the local Little League and school fundraisers, giving back to the neighborhoods that support them. Knowing their customers by name and understanding their unique needs allows them to tailor their businesses to serve their communities better.

Darren James, president of KAI Enterprises–an integrated architectural, engineering, and construction services firm in the Dallas-Fort Worth area–demonstrates this commitment to community impact and social responsibility. Through his work as an architect and civic leader, James spearheads community development efforts that directly impact underserved communities, creating jobs and inspiring other businesses to invest in local projects.

The proximity to their communities allows SMBs to forge genuine connections, strengthening the social fabric and fostering a sense of belonging and trust that transcends mere transactions.

4. Recovery and stability

SMBs are vital for economic recovery, particularly in today’s uncertain landscape. Amid economic challenges, SMBs serve as catalysts for stability and growth.

This significance is underscored by the recent recognition of companies honored as National Small Business Week Award winners from all 50 states. Included among the award winners are Vistage members Unified Defense and Prince Service & Manufacturing CEO Eric Williams in Byron, Georgia; Big Blue Bug Solutions CEO Brian Goldman in Providence, Rhode Island; and Dine Development Corporation CEO Austin Tsotsie in Scottsdale, Arizona, who have each focused on job creation and driving economic prosperity in their communities. These leaders represent just a few of the millions of SMB leaders across the country who are driving economic recovery and stability.

5. Resilience and adaptability

One thing almost all of the SMB CEOs I’ve met have in common: They persevere. Resilience and adaptability are core to SMBs’ DNA. On their journey to become better leaders, they actively seek opportunities to share best practices and learn from other CEOs to improve. With humility, they embrace mentorship — both by helping others and remaining open to learning from the wisdom of their CEO peers. They seek out unbiased, diverse perspectives by engaging in peer-to-peer knowledge-sharing in local peer advisory groups, such as Vistage, and provide accountability for one other. Approaching challenges with a sense of curiosity, they embrace change, and remain agile, moving their businesses forward and ensuring the sustainability of our economy.

Although people often think about the small and midsize business on the macro level, each of those companies is run by an individual — someone who came up with an idea and pursued it with determination, who focuses on creating the best working environment for their team, who is seeking to improve their community or create a better product.

At Vistage, we have the good fortune to be able to help empower SMBs through peer advisory groups, and we get an up-close look at the daily challenges they face. We recognize their pivotal role and aim to contribute to their collective progress, as we believe their success correlates to the prosperity of society as a whole. These businesses serve as the cornerstone of healthy communities, driving economic growth, and creating opportunities for individuals to thrive. While National Small Business Week is a great reminder, it is essential to champion SMBs year-round.

Related Resources

Vistage celebrates National Small Business Week

National Small Business Week: Must-read stories of 2024

National Small Business Week: How 3 award-winning CEOs led their small businesses to big wins

Category: Leadership

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About the Author: Sam Reese

Sam Reese is CEO of Vistage, the world’s largest CEO coaching and peer advisory organization for small and midsize businesses. Over his 35 year career as a business leader, Sam has led large and midsize organizatio

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