A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to be in Washington with nearly 2500 other small business owners from around the country as a part of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Summit. It was a humbling and exciting experience. No matter where you do business, we all face similar challenges. Here are my takeaways worth sharing. 

1. Screwed up philosophy behind funding small businesses. As part of a roundtable discussion, I actually heard a representative say that 80 percent of small businesses fail within the first year and that makes them a bad risk to receive funding.  I probably shouldn’t have, but I called him out on it. He offended an entire room of small business people who succeeded against those odds. Our government leaders need to support the small businesses because we grow and provided jobs in our communities. Access to capital is crucial for some, and I know it was for my business at key times of growth.

2. Politicians actually talk to each other. You are thinking – no way. But yes, they do. We met with Representatives Gary Palmer and Terri Sewell, Senator Shelby, and a staff member for Representative Bradley Byrne. Apparently, Senator Jones was not available. What struck me is individually in meetings with them they all said the same things, and wanted the same things. But, when you get them on the floor or in front of a camera its partisan politics as usual. My message to them was it has to change. Because when they don’t work together, we suffer.

3. Small businesses have to be vocal. Not every small business gets the opportunity to travel and meet with their elected representatives in person. I feel fortunate and was honored to do so. But, we have to be involved at home and let our voices be heard. They depend on it and we can’t expect to get anything done by sticking our heads in the sand and thinking things will actually get better. Pick up the phone, write a letter, let your opinion be known to the people making decisions on your behalf.

By writing this I want to challenge other small businesses to consider making the trip and getting involved with your local elected leadership. It was an invaluable experience. We need to stand up for each other and be vocal about what needs to happen in the community to improve our ability to provide jobs and grow our businesses.