Why business is important to communities

“I’ve become more aware of just how negative our society is about SMEs and how little we understand about why business is important to communities and the role it plays in our well-being overall.”

My personal journey to talk up business and publish a book first began in 2010 when I accompanied a group of young farmers on a road tour to some amazing places to meet some amazing people. When I introduced them to Tom Smith, a pork grower from Yarrawalla in north-west Victoria, I asked Tom what I thought was a straight forward question on why business is important to communities and got an unexpected response.

Knowing of his long-term community work, I asked Tom what he considered to be his most valuable contribution to the community. His simple but very clear answer has stayed with me to this day.

“Being successful in business is my greatest contribution to the community,” Tom replied. He quietly went on to explain that by being successful in business he was able to employ over 30 people which in turn allowed them and their families to live in the region, attend the local schools, and benefit the whole community in so many different ways.

Since listening to Tom, I’ve become more aware of just how negative our society is about business and how little we understand about the important role that business plays in our wellbeing overall.

“Big business” is constantly bucketed in the media and deemed “greedy” and “unethical” often without any real basis or analysis. Being successful can be subject to the “tall poppy syndrome” treatment. “Social enterprise” has become the preferred choice of terminology, almost as if an apology for it being a business.

None of this reflects all the wonderful business people I know that do so much for their communities.

Tom opened my eyes to why a healthy business sector should be the number one priority of every Australian, regardless of whether they reside in a rural town or a large city.

When it comes to understanding why entrepreneurs and business in general are so important, it comes down to two important points. The first is that we can’t all be employees; otherwise, who would employ us? The second is that we need a majority of our population contributing revenue through the tax system to provide all those essential government services such as health, education and welfare that our growing population relies on.

With baby boomers reaching retirement age, we are fast approaching a catastrophic imbalance, with far less revenue being contributed to support a growing population. Underpinning our entire country’s health and wellbeing is the ability for the majority of our population to be gainfully employed. And this is where the business sector plays an important role.

The CSRIO’s 2016 “Tomorrow’s Digitally Enabled Workforce” is heralding the next 20 years as the era of the entrepreneur and we can only hope that many more will take up the challenge.

So my advice is to be loud and proud if you are successful in business and know that by doing so you are helping your whole community.

(This is an excerpt from my book Entrepreneurship: It’s everybody’s business, which is now available.)

Kerry Anderson – www.kerryanderson.com.au – businesswoman, philanthropist and community advocate from Central Victoria who is passionate about rural and regional small business

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