Small Business, Big World

Growth in technology offers opportunity to expand and adapt in an ever-changing world.

Throughout the month of May, the Chambers of Commerce throughout the country recognized small businesses for their achievements and contributions. One look at the statistics and it's easy to see why they deserve our praise. Small businesses have generated 60% to 80% of net new jobs annually over the last decade, according to smallbusiness.com, and according to the Small Business Association, small business owners represent 99.7% of all employer firms.

But even 15 years ago, small businesses were often limited by their geography to local or regional customers. Today, thanks to advances in technology, many of the 26 million small businesses in the U.S. can operate globally. A stronger and faster Internet has paved the way for small businesses to reach beyond traditional borders. Now a store in Springfield, Ill., for example, can receive purchase orders via computer from a customer in Oslo, Norway, who found the product on a blog.

Today's savvy small business owners define their businesses not only coast to coast, but continent to continent. Yet despite the global horizon for small businesses, small business owners still face several challenges, among them the many hats they must wear -- from CEO to administrative assistant. Small business owners are often knee-deep in immediate objectives -- sales goals, finance and people resources, marketing and advertising campaign -- even pitching in on administrative tasks such as large mailings or office moves. Add to the mix unexpected changes to the economic landscape, and small business owners can have trouble seeing over the top of the desk let alone across the continents.

One obstacle small businesses will face takes effect May 14 when the U.S. Postal Service increases its postage rate, not just for its First-Class stamp, but for weighted mail as well. This new increase comes barely 18 months after postage increased by 2 cents to 39 cents in January 2006. Many small businesses, no matter how technologically savvy, depend on mailings to drive their business and keep customers, and potential customers, informed.

A postage rate increase will mean additional trips to the Post Office, which will cost time, and additional guesswork on package weights, which will cost money. This is where new technology can help. Small- and home-based business owners no longer have to choose between buying an expensive postal meter system and standing in line at the Post Office. Companies like Sanford L.P., whose DYMO division has provided solutions to small business for many years, have come up with a way to make the postage rate increase easier on everyone. The DYMO Desktop Mailing Solution is a mailing system that allows users to access and print USPS-approved postage online from the convenience of their home or office. It comes with a postal scale for determining postage needed, and when connected to the Internet will automatically adjust to reflect the new increase. And unlike other online stamps systems, there's no monthly service fee. This is just one example of a product that can save small businesses time and money -- resources that could be earmarked for global pursuits.

While some of us started in the business world when it was "low tech," adapting to changing technology has paid great dividends. It will continue to play a growing role in the success of small businesses -- the backbone of our economy. Last month's celebrations were designed to applaud the contributions of small businesses, but the term "small" may be misleading for many of them. For in today's ever changing global and technological landscape, there is a good chance your local florist, realtor or art gallery owner has just made a sale with a new customer -- 1,000 miles away.

Joseph R. Cardamone is president of the United States Federation of Small Businesses (USFSB). Founded in 1983 by small business owners, USFSB advocates for the rights and interests of small businesses and the self-employed. Their mission is to help their members grow and prosper by joining together and effectively promote small business interests before local, state and federal lawmakers. http://www.usfsb.com/

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