Small Business Owner

Calling someone a "small business owner" in your marketing communications is a big mistake.

Consider this: the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) did a poll asking small business owners what they would do with a sudden profit of one million dollars.

Forty-four percent replied "pay down debt." Twenty-two percent said "expand facilities," and another 13.2 percent said "expand staff." Only 20.3 percent said they would increase their own salaries/bonuses.1

Ask some average consumers what they would do with a million dollars and they'll tell you about the exotic places they would visit, the European cars they would buy, and the homes they would build. Yet over 80 percent of small business owners would put that money right back into their companies. People who would forgo almost everything to see their businesses succeed do not take kindly to being referred to as a "small" anything.

It's not a small business if you own it.

One game I like to play when I talk to small business owners is to ask them what they do for a living. The most common answer I hear is something that refers to their expertise: "I'm an architect" or "I'm in the computer business". Occasionally I hear a reply like "I own a manufacturing business" or "I have a company that sells wholesale T-shirts." I have done thousands of interviews with small business owners, and I can count on one hand the number of people that have identified themselves as "small business owners."

So if you can't call them small business owners, what should you call them? Try simply business owner, CEO, entrepreneur, founder, president—anything but small business owner. If you know which type of small business owner you are trying to reach, so much the better:

■ Craftspeople™: Refer to them by profession—massage therapist, architect, or plumber. Craftspeople are

1. American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), Private Companies Practice Section, Sixth Annual Survey of Small Business Decision Makers, 1996.

more proud of their skills than they are of owning a business.

  • Freedom Fighters™: They have businesses with payrolls, leases, and lines of credit. Their businesses are small by almost any standard except their own. To Freedom Fighters, nothing is small about their businesses; you should refer to them simply as business owners.
  • Mountain Climbers™: They are attempting to grow an important business. Therefore, they are even less likely to think of themselves as small in any respect. Instead of small business owner use entrepreneur, founder, CEO, or president.

Don't be afraid to refer to small business in the third person, as in "this widget is perfect for a small business that makes X." They have the self-awareness to know their own business is smaller than most, but they will think more highly of a company that acknowledges the difference between a small company and a small person.

Internet Entrepreneurship Survival Guide

Internet Entrepreneurship Survival Guide

Master The Backwoods of Internet Entrepreneurship All Distilled into a Single Most Powerful Guide! Like a long pole, that can shift a great weight with little effort such is the case with succeeding in business. Your chances of succeeding-as an 'army of one' fall somewhere between zip, zilch and nill.

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