Monday, March 23, 2009

US launches small business community

The US website has launched an online community for small business owners, providing a place where they can discuss business-related issues across a range of topics.

While there is a slant towards topics related to business engagement with government - from registration processes through to how to successfully do business with government, the topics are far broader as US small businesses discuss the current business environment, their planning processes and procurement strategies.

I see this as a very valuable public good for a government to provide for small businesses. A government can provide a fair and effectively moderated environment, without commercial bias. This supports smaller businesses in expanding their network of contacts, building their knowledge and sharing experiences to reinforce the individual commitments of owners to success.

Besides the benefits in helping small business to grow, thereby employing more people and expanding the economic basis of a country, there are benefits to a government in having a close finger on the pulse of one of the largest contributors to national economic growth.

Rather than relying on business 'interest groups' and peak bodies, who may on occasion not fully represent the diverse interests of their members, a government can form a broader view of the outlook of businesses, gauging sentiment and identifying blockers to growth which could be addressed in legislation or policy.

It also provides access to a group able to critique proposed policies and initiatives, to help fine-tune them to deliver greater value - therefore greater return on investments from the public purse.

The benefits above to business (or communities) and to governments is not limited to this particular segment of the community.

Online communities form around interests - from child care to transport - and can be tapped into or facilitated by government to inform and support policy creation, service delivery, communications and consultations. Effectively they are 'aggregators' which can be used to both build discussion and to improve awareness of services.

They can also provide a 'blackberry' for politicians to keep touch with their constituents where otherwise they may become isolated from market concerns due to workload and minding.

Note that it is not easy to build a community from scratch and often government is best served in participating with existing communities rather than trying to create its own, however there are circumstances where government is best placed as the facilitator rather than simply as an involved party.

1 comment:

  1. When we think of Starbucks today we think of one thing coffee. Or more specifically some form of Mocha Latte or Frappuccino. Although many coffee companies have done fairly well in their own right during the last decade and a half Starbucks is by far the leader of the pack. And what started as a small unknown coffee shop in Seattle, Washington in 1971 has grown into the global leader of coffee today. All because of the vision of one man Howard Schultz.

    Now to be perfectly clear about this Howard Schultz is the man that had the vision of what Starbucks could become but he is not the founder of Starbucks. That title actually belongs to three other men. The three men are Jerry Baldwin, Zev Siegel, and Gordon Bowker and they are the actual founders of Starbucks. Now the original Starbucks was a bit different than it is today. The three founders actually opened their store so that they could sell just coffee beans. Their inspiration actually came from another store called Peet's Coffee & Tea which they would later buy.

    It wasn't until 1982 that Howard Schultz joined the company as the director of marketing. And while on a trip to Milan, Italy he learned of the Italian coffee bars. Once he returned from his trip he tried to convince the owners that they needed to start offering traditional espresso beverages. The owners weren't particularly keen on the idea though as they thought that coffee was meant to be brewed and enjoyed at home. They did let him try out a small bar within the store but while successful they decided not to pursue it further.