(This article originally appeared in The Guardian)
We read a lot about the “typical” small business owner. The store owner on Main Street. The talented restaurateur. The plucky entrepreneur selling products online. Those make good stories. But what doesn’t make the news very often is the typical small business owner. That’s the 50-plus-year-old who’s running a family business out of a dilapidated warehouse near the city airport, making and distributing boring and unsexy products that actually make the world turn and in turn are used by other businesses in their boring and unsexy production facilities. Those are generally my clients.
Faced with tight margins and unattractive environments, they struggle to find and compensate their people competitively, let alone comply with local and federal regulations to operate safely. These are the business owners that would jump at the opportunity to reduce their headcount if they could do so while still meeting customer demand. Like Amazon, Toyota, FedEx and Coca-Cola, they are always thinking of technologies to help them accomplish these goals. But unlike those companies, few have been able to afford these tools. But that’s changing.