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A “Small Business” asks: “Where is the love?”
Peter Panda

We’re not ones to be politically motivated, nor do we often blog about one political party or the other. And hopefully this comes off as rather non-partisan, but paying our federal payroll taxes on Monday while listening to how “small businesses” were going to save the economy on the radio inspired this post. There is no larger point to make that hasn’t been said before, so if you are so inclined, you can get everything you need to know about my point of view from the title of this post. For the rest of you, here is the basis for my question.

We are one of the “small businesses” that have the overwhelming charge of providing all the jobs that are going to bring this economy out of neutral. A big responsibility to say the least. And so some extent, I think that we are doing our part. We provide salary and benefits to a core group of employees (categorized by LinkedIn as 1-10 employees), but also provide work and money to a cadre of freelancers, vendors, and other agencies that help us in our client deliverables. Two of our freelancers were recently laid off from larger agencies and we’ve given them the platform to start their own companies.

And we’re proud of that. We doubled our size from 2009 to 2010 and were able to purchase ourselves from our parent company to own ourselves outright based on our own client work in under 2 years.

But enough of the braggadocio. Here’s the point:

Since we’ve spun off and created our small agency, we’ve received several things from the politicians looking for us to help pull this economy out of the ditch. We’ve received our tax vouchers to send in with our payments, we’ve received account IDs for workers compensation, we got letters from the local tax authority explaining the penalties of not paying them their money in a timely manner. Money generated from our payroll nonetheless. We have plenty of schedules, coupons, instructions, and 5 folders worth of information on how to pay our money.

But you know what we don’t have? Help.

We don’t have a letter from the city mayor’s office thanking us for setting up shop in downtown Saint Louis vs. Saint Louis county (where there isn’t a local tax). We don’t have anything from the State of Missouri asking if there is any way they can help us become a successful (tax-paying) business in the State of Missouri. (And believe me, there have been plenty of people asking why we are in the Midwest and asking that we move). No state senator or congressman/woman has offered their assistance in any way. Or even acknowledged our existence.

We haven’t even gotten any recognition from local organizations whose job is to attract companies to the region and create jobs. We’re helping them do that job for them by quietly being successful on our own merits.

Well, our own merits and the help of other small businesses. You see, everything we’ve gained, any help we’ve received, and the talent pool we draw from to help us with our business has all been other small businesses. Everything around us from the printing shop for business cards, to the places we eat lunch, to the freelancers we use in client work are all small businesses out to help each other. Our landlord, our CPA, even our bank is a small, local bank who was willing to loan us money when the national banks drug the process out.

So what’s the point of all this? It’s simply to say this: If you are going to make speeches about how small business is the economic engine and driver of jobs to get this economy going, then you need to do more than state the obvious. Don’t just send tax deadlines and ignore the part where we need to be successful to make those tax payments. On a national level, this may be more policy-related, but on a local level, there is so much improvement that is needed and can happen. Somebody just needs to actually pay attention and genuinely be appreciative of what small businesses do for the region. Don’t just pay them lip service.

Peter Panda

Pioneering social media panda bear Tagawa “Peter” Panda was born on a Chinese game reserve in 1969. He emigrated to the United States in 1987 speaking no English, with only the fur on his back and $97 stored in a Jansport fanny-pack wrapped around his waist.

In 2003 while searching for food on the campus of Washington University, he discovered a computer lab where he would ultimately teach himself web development, graphic design, and immerse himself into the growing digital media evolution that was erupting at the time.

With his trademark surly demeanor developed during beatings on his boat ride from China to the U.S., as well as having a penchant for eating vast quantities of bamboo, and enjoying Scotch and cigars, Peter is broadly recognized for coining the phrase “social media” in 2004. He joined Elasticity in late 2009 as the agency’s director of social media strategy and wildlife relations. Friend him on Facebook here.

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