Entrepreneurial Optimism: Keeping on the Sunny Side of Life

I saw someone wearing a button the other the day that read, “I refuse to participate in a recession.” I also recently worked on a short issues survey conducted among members of the National Association of Women Business Owners that contained some results with much the same message – that women business owners, gloom and doom bedamned, are holding firm and planning to keep putting one foot in front of the other, and see the economic situation brightening before the end of 2009.
Here are a few interesting facts from that recent survey (and click here to read the full study news release):

  • While most NAWBO members say that the current economic situation is the worst the country has faced in their lifetime, a 52% majority plan no changes in employment levels this year compared to 2008, and 40% plan to keep capital investment the same in 2009 as last year.
  • Fully 24% of NAWBO members are planning on adding jobs this year, compared to just 9% of small business owners recently surveyed by the National Federation of Independent Business.
  • Not surprisingly, the state of the economy is the most important issue facing NAWBO members at the present time, at about the same levels as last year – but the cost and availability of health insurance and business taxes are also key issue concerns.
  • A majority of NAWBO members feel that economic conditions in the country (54%) and in their own businesses (54%) will be better by the end of this year compared to today. Just 30% say that things in their own companies will be about the same at the end of this year, and 25% say that the country’s economic situation will be no better by the end of 2009.

So are women business owners like the members of NAWBO typifying the sunny disposish/hope springs eternal sentiment not uncommon among all entrepreneurs to the detriment of their businesses, fiddling while Rome burns? Or, are they and other small business owners everywhere the very people who can keep our country and all other countries around the world moving forward despite – and in the face of – large corporation and financial institution bail-outs and flame-outs? I certainly think the answer is obvious – and don’t you think it’s time that small- and mid-sized businesses and their stalwart owners are given the credit they deserve (financial and otherwise) for being the true backbone of our global economy?

Time to get back to basics, I say, and to add to our economic balance sheet an accounting of the largely unheralded role that small business owners play in employing people (over half of US workers, according to the SBA), creating new jobs (between 60 and 80% of the net new jobs, again according to the SBA), contributing to community (think support for symphonies, festivals, and sports teams as well as contributing to the local tax base), and bringing a well-needed triple bottom line view to business ownership. I’d say we all derive much greater value from these wealth creators than from the “smartest guys in the room” types who created the financial derivative instruments that are now being bundled together and quarantined in “toxic asset banks.”

All hail the entrepreneur, and three cheers for their “sunny side up” optimism.

“There’s a dark & a troubled side of life
There’s a bright, there’s a sunny side, too
Tho’ we meet with the darkness and strife
The sunny side we also may view

“Keep on the sunny side, always on the sunny side,
Keep on the sunny side of life
It will help us ev’ry day,
It will brighten all the way
If we’ll keep on the sunny side of life.”

(From “Keep on the Sunny Side of Life,” lyrics by AP Carter)

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