Support Small Business – Why and How?

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In my industry a mega-merger was announced this morning with Charles Schwab acquiring TD Ameritrade (Bloomberg Article) in an all stock deal. This does not directly effect me or my clients because I don’t use either one as a custodian, but with $5 trillion in combined assets it certainly will shake up the industry over time.

About the same time I saw the merger news I read this great article – “The Life and Death of the Local Hardware Store” – asking the question does bigger mean better? I don’t think so and in the case of the local hardware store that is certainly the case. Read the article (I’m going to check out the book by Tim Wu as well) but here are a couple of my thoughts.

I am as guilty as anyone about going online to Amazon and clicking away for any number of products, but I also routinely go to the local hardware store for items that either I don’t want shipped (paint, fire starters) or I don’t know exactly what I need (a cotter pin for my tractor.) As the article points out I get help, I get the item I need and the inefficiency of the delivery is taken out of the equation. Overall, a much better experience and I need to shop that way more.

I have my own business and have for years so support for local over mega-corporations is important to me. Also, with the technology available today a small business can offer as good or better service to customers than a large, bureaucratic company. I have in the past used a local IT specialist that does consulting work for people like me with limited tech expertise. I compare that experience to when I have used the Geek Squad – part of Best Buy – in the past and there is no comparison. Hands down the local guy was better, easier to work with and delivered exactly what I needed.

The pendulum is swinging. This is anecdotal only but I think consumers are slowly going back to shopping local. People want to be with people and sure, I’m still going to buy batteries and water filters from Amazon but less-commodity type products I may want to touch and feel and ask questions about.

If you want to support small businesses a good place to start is the “Small Business Saturday” project from American Express. It is November 30th and you can find out more here.

If you have any thoughts or comments email me here.

Have a good Thanksgiving.

Bill Nickles


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