small business

By Bill Brunelle

These days, plenty of small business owners talk the talk: They hang “buy local” signs in their windows, they join buy local groups and they teach their customers to support small business. It’s all important work, but that’s only half of the equation. To truly make a difference in the small business community, local business leaders have to walk the walk by buying local themselves.

Earlier this year, Independent We Stand, the North American Retail Hardware Association (NRHA) and Civic Economics released new data on the impact of business-to-business (B2B) purchases made locally. The “Home Sweet Home: Pros’ Edition” study revealed that a building contractor’s purchases would generate more than twice the local economic activity if made at independent retailers than at national chains. For context, the study reveals a total of $243 billion was spent on single-family residential construction in the private sector in 2016, requiring more than $133 billion in purchases of tangible goods. According to the study, if contractors shifted just 10 percent of those purchases from national chains to independent suppliers, hometowns around the nation would enjoy the benefits of an additional $1.5 billion in economic activity.

The Home Sweet Home: Pros’ Edition study analyzed the hardware and building industry, but its findings are universal. Like consumers, local businesses can have a substantial impact on their local economy by supporting other small businesses. That’s because small businesses in every industry reinvest a higher proportion of money in their local economy through taxes, wages and spending than national chains.

To walk the walk of buying local, consider the purchases you make on behalf of your business. Local suppliers for office equipment, vehicles and other necessary materials can make better partners than big-box stores that offer a one-size-fits-all approach. Similarly, local service providers can offer small-business-friendly solutions for IT support, accounting, human resources and legal work. With each local retailer or service provider you enlist, you’ll increase the local impact of your business and the dollars you work so hard to generate.

Beyond supporting the local economy, working with other local businesses also offers the unique advantage of networking. When you collaborate with other small business owners or leaders, you share common ground, regardless of industry. It’s likely that the local suppliers and service providers you rely on face similar challenges to your business, such as name recognition, high overhead costs and competition from national chains. By working with your fellow locals, you’ll simultaneously coordinate your business needs and build your professional network. In turn, you can leverage your network to spread the buy local message to a wider audience of local consumers through word-of-mouth, coordinated campaigns and more.

Small business is a team sport. You can’t do it alone, and neither can your fellow locals. When you shift your B2B purchases to small businesses, you can bolster your local economy and find valuable partners at the same time. Continue to talk the local talk with your customers, but be sure you’re also walking the local walk with your business needs.

Bill Brunelle is co-founder of Independent We Stand, a cause-marketing campaign sponsored by STIHL, which is dedicated to educating communities about the importance and strong economic benefits of supporting locally owned businesses. Independent We Stand inspires small business owners across the country to celebrate their locally owned status and help consumers understand the importance of supporting them.

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