As I watched the first two presidential debates between Secretary Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump something struck me about the current narrative around small business and the U.S. economy.
With the debates twisting towards talk of tax returns and emails, we need to re-center - to focus on what will move the boulders currently blocking growth in our economy. In 2013, roughly half of all jobs and wages earned were through small businesses and that's why there is a lot riding on small business during this election. Both candidates understand the importance of small business for the economy, but neither are really getting on the level of the small business owner.
We need to pay deep attention to what each candidate says about our largest, albeit most fragmented, segment of the US economy. Our future president needs to pay deep attention to the issues small business owners face day in, day out. Education, financial literacy, access to capital for the many. The idea of signing the back of a check is very different to signing the front. These small business owners often need to decide whether they pay their bills or the employees, and oftentimes have to make sacrifices that impact their families and personal lives. These are real problems that need real discussion. Having deep, thoughtful policy on how these issues will be addressed will be the next President's legacy.
How The Candidates Differ On Small Business Policy
Hillary has vowed to be the "small business president" and she is putting plans in place to help startups get access to capital and find the best trained and skilled employees across the country. Trump hasn't touted small business as part of his platform, yet. Rather, he has a lot more specific things to say about tax reduction to help fuel more jobs and growth. He plans to reduce taxes for all, especially working and middle-class Americans, close special interest loopholes and ensure the rich pay their fair share of taxes.
Both of these approaches have some merit and we will continue hearing about the candidates' plans to make these a reality in the month leading up to Election Day. They will also discuss knocking down the many hurdles and government regulations that small businesses have to jump through to get started. These are all very important issues but we know from the many small businesses and their accountants that there are also other things keeping them up at night. Things that have more of an impact on the health and survival of their business.
Small Business Owners Need The Support Of Politicians
Enter cashflow, enter a true financial picture, enter healthcare costs and minimum wage impacts-the list goes on! These are the issues that wake them up from a sound sleep as they think about ways to stay ahead of competition and connect to more customers. While the presidential candidates duke it out on how to raise or cut taxes, immigration laws and new wage regulations, it is the day-to-day issues that matter most to small business owners. In fact, a recent survey by my company, Xero, found 65 percent of small business blamed financial issues, including cashflow visibility and access to funds as the reason for business failure.
Increasingly, small business owners are using central systems of record to manage their finances in the cloud and help improve their financial visibility. We call this the Financial Web and it really is a massive shift in the way small businesses can manage their financials.
By working on a connected platform, larger financial institutions are able to meet small business owners in one spot, and small business owners can see their true financial picture in a single view at any given time. They can also give access to their accountant and financial institution so that everyone is on the same page. Putting these enterprise-level capabilities into the hands of mainstreet is exactly what is called for as small business continues to be one of the country's biggest contributors to the GDP.
Technology can help bridge some of the big gaps in capital, productivity and talent that small businesses face but policy must understand the problems and the tools that can help keep this engine running.
Technology will continue to open the doors and keep small businesses competitive. It's an investment to prioritize, one that will carry the small business workforce beyond the election season. With small businesses being one of the largest engines for job growth, it's important that they are supported by our political leaders in every way possible, and this includes access to the resources and skills training they need to be successful. In a few short weeks we will know which candidate will win over the hearts and minds of small business owners. In the meantime, we have more entertaining debate-watching to do.
If we build small business, we will build the economy.