Money & Career
9 Things a Small Business Needs to Thrive
5/3/2018 10:01:43 PM
Small Business

There are currently 436,867 small businesses in the state of Louisiana, accounting for 99.5% of all Louisiana businesses. They employ 910,366 employees – over 50% of Louisiana’s workforce. But small businesses can’t do their vital work without the support of the community they call home. It’s a symbiotic relationship. In turn, small business success contributes to community growth.

What specifically do small businesses need from their local community? We’ve listed here nine essentials for a thriving small business community.

  1. A strong entrepreneurial support system. Entrepreneurs often feel isolated. Our community has established and promoted several groups that allow business owners to connect with other entrepreneurs. The SWLA Chamber – Economic Development Alliance hosts a monthly Business After Hours event that brings local business persons together for fun and networking. Similarly, the Better Business Bureau SWLA hosts quarterly B2B Breakfasts.
  2. A culture of community support. Entrepreneurs need to know that the community supports them and cares about their well-being. This is achieved simply by showing up. Shop in locally-owned retail businesses. Eat in locally-owned restaurants. Use the services of local contracting companies. When small businesses succeed, the community succeeds.
  3. A friendly regulatory environment. Small businesses need easy-to-understand codes from local government, as well as a solid understanding of why such regulations are in place. Too often, whether true or not, entrepreneurs perceive that local governments establish unnecessary hoops for them to jump through. The key here is for new business owners to seek assistance from the regulatory departments when they have questions. These folks, for example, the Sales Tax office, are eager to work with businesspersons. That’s their job!
  4. Access to good employees/talent pool. In order to attract qualified employees and maintain an existing talent pool, a city needs to be a place where people want to live. Citizens desire safe neighborhoods, a strong education system, a vibrant downtown, and other amenities that add up to a good quality of life. Numerous local organizations (The Chamber Alliance, Healthier Southwest Louisiana, the Community Foundation, McNeese State University and SOWELA Technical Community College, to name a few) promote better quality of life initiatives. To attract and preserve a talented workforce, programs such as SWLAWorx, HealthWorx, and the industry-sponsored Workforce Scholarship Program help train potential employees.
  5. Strong community mentors to help entrepreneurs navigate their early years. Not only does this keep new entrepreneurs from making costly mistakes, it helps them feel supported and encouraged to take the risks necessary for growth. Programs at the SEED Center, such as Entrepreneur in Residence and SCORE provide mentoring, workshops, and resources. Trade associations, such as the Louisiana Home Builders Association and the Louisiana Restaurant Association are also valuable resources.
  6. A safe, clean environment in which to operate. Attractive urban and suburban spaces and low crime rates are good for business. If a business is in an unsafe, unattractive area, the quality of the product will be irrelevant. The business will suffer.
  7. Access to capital. Bank loans, government grants, and other forms of assistance can contribute to the success of small businesses and their futures. "For a small business owner, access to financial resources, ease of money management, and having a trusted community banker are all essential parts of your business,” says Justin Holt, Executive Vice President, Lakeside Bank. "Community banks provide loans to small business owners, which allow owners to maintain cash flow, hire new employees, purchase new equipment and inventory to allow their business to grow and prosper. Community banks are relationship lenders, characterized by local ownership and quick local decision making. Small businesses rely on lively communities to thrive, and community banks help support the customers and clients that local businesses need.”
  8. Access to leadership and business training. Around half of all businesses fail in the first five years. Therefore, it’s essential for entrepreneurs to learn the basics of leadership and sound business practices. The Chamber Alliance sponsors Leadership SWLA, a program designed to strengthen the potential leadership qualities of selected community representatives. The Small Business Development Center, located in the SEED Center, also hosts training workshops and is a valuable resource for small businesses.
  9. A commitment to promoting innovation and startups. While large industries may provide the backbone of our local economy, it is our small businesses that give our community heart and soul. We need to invest in our small shops, restaurants, and small- and mid-size businesses and make decisions that benefit them just as much as (if not more so) big box retailers and industrial giants.
With continued community awareness and commitment, we can maintain a culture that promotes the success of small businesses. The result – a great place for people to live and visit – benefits all of Southwest Louisiana.
Posted by: Angie Kay Dilmore | Submit comment | Tell a friend

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