The past year has shown why sound public policy is needed to support Main Street. From the New Deal to the Paycheck Protection Program, laws and programs have helped small businesses weather crises, and legislation in between has spurred entrepreneurship. More than ever, the past year has shown why sound public policy is needed to support Main Street.
Our economy is starting to reopen thanks in part to Covid-19 vaccines, but it may also take smaller businesses longer to recover than larger ones. Some, especially those with mainly overseas customers, may even need additional assistance. Legislation to support and rebuild Main Street over the coming months will be essential.
As president of the National Small Business Association (NSBA), Todd McCracken leads all activities of the oldest small business advocacy association in the country. He became president of the NSBA in 1997, having been with the association since 1988.
I recently reached out to Todd to discuss the efforts of the NSBA and the impact of Covid-19 on small businesses. I appreciate that he took the time to talk to me and here is a summary of our conversation.
Rhett buttle: As the premier national small business advocacy organization, what kinds of policies has the NSBA successfully championed that have improved main streets across the country?
Todd McCracken: The National Small Business Association has become the first and foremost advocate for the small business community in times of crisis. The country was still in the grip of the Great Depression when we were founded in 1937, but small businesses were also struggling to cope with the policies and regulations of an increasingly involved federal government. These two challenges – promoting economic growth and ensuring that government policies are supportive and non-intrusive – remain at the heart of our work. We are proud to have helped create systemic safeguards within government that ensure the voice of small business is heard within government. We helped create the Small Business Administration (SBA) Advocacy Office and have been at the forefront in advocating for the Regulatory Flexibility Act, which created mechanisms for small business concerns. companies are taken into account in a unique way. We have been the voice of small business in all national debates affecting small businesses: increasing access to loans and credit, reducing health insurance costs, reducing the complexity of the federal tax system, and improving access to high quality employees.
Rhett Buttle: What has been the impact of Covid-19 on American small businesses and what kinds of policies are needed for Main Street to reappear stronger?
Todd McCracken: The impact of the pandemic has been both widespread and highly targeted, depending on the type of business and its location. It has been incredibly sad to see too many small businesses being forced to shut down unnecessarily. In fact, only a third of small businesses said they were very confident they would fully recover from the pandemic and the economic downturn. But I was also extremely proud to see the resilience, ingenuity and innovation of the small business community on full display, and I am optimistic that these characteristics can help us create an even stronger economy for all of us. .
The government can help in several ways. First, this period underscored the importance of improving our broadband infrastructure to enable small businesses and their employees to connect from anywhere and thus compete locally and globally. We also need to improve the skills and accessibility of a skilled workforce – as small businesses begin to emerge from the pandemic, one of the most common frustrations I hear is the lack of skilled workers. . Finally, access to credit is more important than ever; cash is the key for small businesses to take advantage of the growth opportunities available to them.
Rhett Buttle: Can you describe the factors that the NSBA considers in determining whether or not a proposed policy will have a positive impact on small businesses?
Todd McCracken: At NSBA, we use a “problem filter” which helps us determine how we should deploy our limited resources. After all, there is almost no end to the policies that affect at least some small businesses, and the impact of policies on our members can vary to a great extent. Being a very member-driven organization, with a diverse membership in industry, geography and political ideology, our issue filter is essential to ensure that we make the most of our resources while ensuring that proposals from each member are taken into account in the same way. Any policy advocated by our organization must: Have a broad impact on the small business community and must be something that we can impact effectively.
Our positions and priorities are entirely in the hands of our member small businesses who are deeply connected to their own network of small businesses in their cities, states and regions. They are at the heart of what is happening with real small businesses across the country and what the real needs and opportunities are.
In addition to this, we supplement with ongoing surveys and research so that we are sure to always be in touch with trends and developments in Small Business America.
Rhett Buttle: NSBA was a founding member of the Small Business Roundtable? Why did you join SBR and how does the NSBA work with coalitions like this to achieve its goals?
Todd McCracken: Much of the strength of the small business community comes from its incredible diversity; we have all kinds of businesses run by all kinds of individuals across the country with countless different priorities. It would be the height of pride to think that a single organization could fully represent all the needs and concerns of this rich tapestry. The wide variety of organizations within SBR means that we can reach even deeper into the small business community – each can specialize as we also come together to speak with a stronger voice on these important issues for a broad base of. small enterprises.
Rhett Buttle: What resources are available for small business owners who want to become more active in advocating for the public interest?
Todd McCracken: Information is the key. At NSBA, we are a constant source of inside information on the latest developments regarding issues affecting small businesses. Our members receive updates at least once a week on all things small business, but also tips on how and when to use that information to engage with decision makers. We also provide our members with a wide range of policy briefs and backgrounders for their own use, but also to share with their contacts. Finally, we help with messaging and provide key talking points needed on current issues. The NSBA has identified key leaders of small businesses across the country and invited them to be part of our Small Business Leadership Council, a grassroots-type group that meets with their elected representatives and is in regular contact with members of the media to help. to tell the story of small business.
Rhett Buttle: Can you describe how a stable democracy and a vibrant Main Street go hand in hand?
Todd McCracken: Dealing with government and our elected officials can often be deeply frustrating for small business owners. Translating the realities of running a business for public servants who have never had this experience can be difficult and sometimes overwhelming. Plus, a slow-moving government can be maddening to a fast-paced entrepreneur. The dissatisfaction of small business owners with politics in the United States is unacceptably high – 86% of small business owners say politics has become more partisan in the past 10 years.
But these facts always remind me of Winston Churchill’s famous quote that “Democracy is the worst form of government except all these other forms.” . . “
The small businesses on Main Street would never have a significant influence on government outside of a democracy, as we can see repeatedly throughout history. In addition, small businesses are likely to be the first and hardest hit by any form of political instability. Instability leads to economic worries that push lenders and investors to pull out (small businesses first) and consumers to cut spending. I am totally convinced that the long history of stable democracy in the United States has been a key ingredient in creating and sustaining the largest and most innovative small business economy in the world. Anything that endangers this tradition endangers small businesses.
In our frustrations, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that we CAN have an impact on our government and that most of our public servants want to help small businesses. It is only through strong and stable democratic institutions that these two truths can sometimes come together.
Rhett Buttle: What kinds of resources does the NSBA offer small businesses to help them establish a digital or online presence?
Todd McCracken: While the primary mission of the NSBA is to represent small businesses in policy and regulatory development processes, we have cultivated a number of partnerships to help small businesses navigate business online. Our long-standing partnership with Dell has resulted in unique member-only discounts on various products and services for which Dell is known, as well as a series of webinars on key topics. We also have an ongoing partnership with Cisco to provide high level training and webinars on remote working, cybersecurity, etc., and we provide resources through our partnership with RingCentral which hosts all of our webinar services, video conferencing and meeting. We will partner with Facebook to create educational tools for members to refine their social media marketing, and we have worked with other solutions companies like GoSite for online payment platforms and business solutions.