Diversity was a hot topic at a recent entrepreneurship summit in the USA with many of the conversations focused on gender and race. We have all seen inequity in the statistics and the evidence that clearly shows the benefits of diversity as an authentic voice for business. And yet we still have a long way to go.
Since returning home, I have been reflecting on another under represented sector at many of our community and regional conversations here in Australia. I feel that this also comes under the diversity banner.
We need more small-business owners to participate in these conversations, not just the token senior employees of the big corporations.
As a former owner of a retail business, I know how hard it is to participate regardless of what time of the day a discussion is held. If it’s during work hours, we either have to close our doors if we’re a sole trader or pay for extra staff to cover for us. If it’s after hours, we are compromising our quality time with family, not to mention our own health and well being. Even in my consultancy business, I am compromising my revenue earning capacity and incurring substantial travel expenses to attend these events.
It truly is a tough decision but, as small-business owners, we need to consider the cost is of not having our voice heard and not participating in what should be a community wide discussion to develop effective strategy and a collaborative culture ensuring our communities and businesses prosper.
As I sit among well-meaning government employees and practitioners, I hear some fantastic ideas and strategies suggested. But what we need are more business people to offer their perspective and, if necessary, alternatives and amendments. Unless these conversations are relevant and authentic they will lack the ability to create positive change.
Business people have to be in the room right from the start. It is counter productive to complain after a decision has been made.
Simple solutions can be to network with other business owners and have a delegate to present ideas on behalf of those that cannot attend. Obviously, business associations help with this role but actual business people still have to be visible. Offer to car pool with fellow business people so you’re not on your own and can use the travel time for networking and reflection. Let the organisers know about the impact on your business to attend so they can consider other alternatives if not already offered. And in the digital revolution why not take advantage of those online surveys and comment pages. Make a habit of logging into the relevant forums each week and adding constructive comments.
What I was reminded of at this recent summit is that any community, no matter how big or small, has the capacity to develop an entrepreneur ecosystem if it can embrace a collaborative culture. This means that everyone, including small business, needs to be sitting at the table.
Our collective future depends on your participation.
Kerry Anderson – www.kerryanderson.com.au – businesswoman, philanthropist and community advocate from Central Victoria who is passionate about rural and regional small business