Small Businesses: Cute, necessary, needy

I use this picture as the last slide of a couple of the talks I often do.

I use it for two reasons. First…

That's a dang cute baby.

Second, the point I'm trying to make in those talks is that we need new businesses and new ideas. And new businesses and new ideas are a lot like babies:

We fall in love with them, but despite their cuteness, they're a lot of work. A lot. They're messy and needy and demanding and, once they get big enough to move on their own, they produce a constant stream of chaos and disasters.

We tolerate that because we know how important they are to our future, and we invest thousands of hours and dollars in protecting them, guiding them, and supporting their growth.

What would happen to that cute baby if no one helped her, taught her, watched and monitored and debated whether they should catch her when she stumbles or let her fall and learn from the experience?

Babies are cute, but they're helpless. Without sometime caring for them, they die.

We talk about the importance of start-ups to the future of our cities and neighborhoods, but too often we see only the cute, and overlook the very real needs that will make the difference between success and someone losing their life savings.

New businesses owners almost never know everything they need to know. No one starts a hair salon because they love accounting. And sooner or later, they pay for it- often with losses to their money and time and energy.

Four out of five small businesses lose the business itself within less than five years. And we can only guess at how much higher that number goes in the disadvantaged neighborhoods and cities that need that investment the most.

Local economic growth requires business growth, but seeding small businesses without paying attention to their growth and development after they come out of the thrill of the start up stage is like birthing a bunch of babies and hoping they will become nuclear scientists without doing anything to support their education and growth.

It takes more than a one-night cheering section, and more than an occasional webinar or newsletter. If we're serious about growing small businesses, we need to raise them, not just birth them.