Small-business challenge

“Can any business be ethical?” was the question texted in to ABC’s Central Victoria Radio studio last year when I was chatting about rural communities and the importance of business.

Scrambling to think how to reply live on air, my heart was simultaneously sinking. Is this truly what society thinks of the business sector? Why is being successful and making a profit automatically seen as greedy and unethical?

It was at that moment that I found a new cause.

As any rural business owner knows we ARE the backbone of a community and I know that this is also true of our city counterparts.

Sadly, the general public is easily influenced by the perceived horror stories of the big corporate world. A whole generation is being brought up to consider business in a negative light. “Social enterprise” has become the preferred choice of terminology, almost as if an apology for it being a business.

I have no doubt that there are bad business people in the world at every level. We are all human at the end of the day and that is just the way it is. I am the last person to complain if a bad business person gets caught out. Good riddance to them.

However, the reality is that the vast majority of small-business owners genuinely work hard without acknowledgment of their true worth.

How can we educate the next generation about business? How can we better acknowledge what businesses invest back into their communities through wages, donations, and sponsorships; not to mention the personal service and convenience of not having to drive considerable distances to access that service or product?

Quite simply small business needs to take a stand. Forget about the “Tall Poppy Syndrome.” Forget about being too busy in your business. This is important!

We all need to better communicate what we contribute to our communities so those not involved in business can clearly understand what the impact would be if we didn’t exist.

Start at a local level and display those appreciation letters. And be proud if you employ staff because that in turns allows them to support their families and invest money back in your town or city. You are helping other important local services and businesses remain open. In a small rural town, one or two students can be the breaking point where a school is forced to close. A dip in population can be hugely detrimental to both financial and emotional wellbeing of everyone.

And don’t forget the really big picture. Profits and taxes paid through business and its employees is the basis of the income on which our government relies to deliver welfare, health, education and other essential services.

“Isn’t it in everyone’s interest for business to be successful?” I pointed out to the disillusioned radio listener. Then I wrote a book about it.

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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