May 4, 2023
Vice President and Managing Director, Federation Relations and Grassroots Advocacy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Executive Vice President, Chief Policy Officer, and Head of Strategic Advocacy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Chef & Owner, Queen's English
President & CEO, Talent Source
Vice President and Editor-in-Chief, CO—
Vice President, Small Business Policy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Senior Features Editor, CO– by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce
In recent years, many small business owners have faced struggles brought on by the pandemic, the rise of inflation, and a lack of available workers to fill vacant roles. Nationwide, entrepreneurs have felt the impact of the challenges, and have had to learn to navigate the ever-changing landscape of small business.
In celebration of Small Business Day, industry leaders and small business owners joined together at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s CO— Strategy Studio: Small Business Day event to share insight into their entrepreneurial journeys and discuss challenges and tips to help overcome them.
Winning the ‘War for Talent’ Requires Adaptability
Organizations have been forced to make big changes with lasting impacts, such as adapting hybrid and remote work models, which allow employers to source potential talent from a broad range.
“Organizations have to get creative on how they are attracting and retaining folks,” Dawn Hendricks, President and CEO of FM Talent Source, said. “[They’ve] had to get really agile in how they're using technology… [and] connecting with resources, and how they're getting creative around connecting with people as we are currently in a … war for talent.”
However, not every business can fulfill its staffing needs with remote workers — particularly service industry businesses, as Queen's English chef and owner Henji Cheung has experienced. Cheung has prioritized employee retention and engagement by including his entire team in business decisions.
“Everybody has something to bring to the team. There’s no wrong answer; there’s no wrong input,” Cheung said of his employees. “We sit down — ‘Here's the problem, let's come up with a solution together.’ I think that's really important in retaining talent because … staff just want to be heard, ... be part of the business, [and] … be able to make decisions on a greater scale.”
The Chamber Has Implemented New Programs to Assist Small Businesses
Inflation is impacting businesses of all sizes nationwide. Of the businesses surveyed for the Q1 2023 Small Business Index, 54% cited inflation as their biggest challenge, according to Neil Bradley, the Chamber’s Executive Vice President, Chief Policy Officer, and Head of Strategic Advocacy.
Though regulations are in place to support small businesses, Bradley warned that Congress isn’t acting fast enough — to the detriment of small businesses.
“We're very concerned that in a couple of years, the 20% small business pass-through deduction [will go] completely away,” Bradley emphasized.
To counter this, the Chamber recently launched a program to promote better business practices between small and large businesses.
“Our Prompt Pay Pledge challenges America's biggest businesses to be good partners to their small business vendors and suppliers by committing to pay them promptly,” Bradley explained. “It's one less thing for you to have to … chase down, but it also means that your business is more profitable because you're not worrying how [to] bridge that gap [of cash].”
Sara Armstrong, the U.S Chamber’s Vice President and Managing Director of Federation Relations and Grassroots Advocacy, highlighted other programs that fight workforce challenges, such as the immigration campaign to push Congress for border security while simultaneously bringing in more legal workers.
“The lack of doing anything on immigration reform has caused a lot of the problems that we have today,” Armstrong said. “There are individuals who are skilled workers who want to come into this country and serve and fill in those roles that we desperately need filled, but the current system is broken and doesn't allow that to happen.”
It’s Never Too Late to Begin Your Entrepreneurial Journey
In the face of adversity and risk, the best way for small business owners to persevere is to surround themselves with those who provide support, motivation, and love, according to Monte Durham, the founder of Salon Monte.
“I had surrounded myself … with people that hopefully saw the spark in me, believed in me, and motivated me to do better,” Durham said. “I want my parents and grandparents always to be proud of the man they raised, but I also want them to see that we did do better.”
Though Durham found success most famously as a TV personality on “Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta,” his entrepreneurial journey to open a small business was a first for him. However, Durham gained transferable skills from his previous endeavors that helped him find success.
“Working with TLC, Warner Brothers, [and] Discovery, you learn … about timing [through osmosis],” Durham said. “We have to show up at a certain time. You had to be dressed a certain way. We could only spend so much money — time is money. You learn that when you're filming. So it prepared me mentally, unbeknownst to me, [for] a skillset that I could put towards a business.”
Introducing America's Top Small Business
During the closing remarks of Small Business Day, CO— Editor-in-Chief Jeanette Mulvey announced the launch of America's Top Small Business, a new awards program that recognizes small businesses all over the U.S. The winner of America's Top Small Business will receive national recognition and a $25,000 cash prize. Businesses can apply here.