Independence Day 2013: What You Can Do To Keep the Entrepreneurial Spirit Alive

Independence Day is just a few days away. It is shocking and disturbing that the foundation of what our nation has been built upon is struggling.  The risk taking that defines the entrepreneurial spirit of our great nation is at a critical juncture.  Recent reports and surveys, as well as a Wall Street Journal article written by Ben Casselman, suggest that fewer entrepreneurs are taking risks, highlighting the need for all of us to support startups, small-business enterprises and entrepreneurs.

The economy, as we knew it before 2008, will never be the same.  The so-called recovery is not bringing with it the enthusiasm and power of past economic rebirths.  However, all is not lost.  I can tell you from the frontlines of the economy that entrepreneurs, startup company executives, franchisors and franchisees, and salespeople who represent a cross-section of industries are taking chances, starting new companies, coming up with new ideas and using technology to create, expand and grow businesses.  Although we are in a different environment today, we must embrace the entrepreneurial spirit and our risk taking heritage.  We need to support entrepreneurs and risk takers and do all we can to nurture this spirit which will advance our country and economy.

How can you help support entrepreneurs and small businesses today?

Other than buying products and services directly, we can do a great deal to help startups, the businesses that we like and individuals who are making a difference.   Every effort, regardless of how small, makes a difference and collectively we can accomplish much and point our nation in the direction it needs to go.  It is clear that small businesses and entrepreneurs – not governments, large institutions, multinational corporations, interest groups or those who thrive on discord and disagreement – will lead the way.  While some claim enthusiasm is at a low point, I have presented to rooms of entrepreneurs, salespeople and business owners who are eager to experience growth and prosperity.    

The following are several actions you can take to support entrepreneurs, startups and the creative businesspeople you admire.  Your small actions can play a part in the growth of the next great company or product.

Use social media to promote the brands of business products and services you like or use.  This is easy to do, but to be effective, think carefully about how you are going to support them.  Keep track of whom you are assisting and watch their progress.  Provide feedback and spread the word.

For the restaurants, products and services you like, take the time to write a review on Facebook (or relevant review website), be sure to show photos and video and describe the product or service. Next discuss your experience, talk about the owners and help tell their stories.  Telling stories helps brands to resonate and attract attention.  Let the media know about interesting products, services and companies.  Use your smart phone’s capabilities to take photos and use the video function to do an interview with the owner.  Don’t worry about the quality.  Post these images and videos on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Geographically tag the businesses and use keywords to attract more attention.

Certainly “Like” the Facebook pages of the businesses and innovators you support. Communicate with them and with those who share your interest in their entrepreneurial efforts. Become more than a fan or follower: become a brand ambassador. Introduce people to the business, recommend people to use products, bring them to the restaurant or retail shop.  Be proactive online but also in the real world.  Ask each person that you introduce to a business, product or service to talk about their experiences online.  They should also post reviews, recommendations and invite others to do the same.  Help to create the buzz that will help a business grow, create jobs and support local communities.

Defend businesses you like and support.  If you see negative posts and have a contrary opinion, comment on it.  We don’t encourage arguments but post positive comments that contradict negative ones.  You will be aiding the business by doing something positive and helpful.  If you are a brand ambassador, bring this information to the attention of the owner(s) or others involved. Often, negative reviews and posts provide the information needed to help a business overcome challenges, address issues, enhance customer service and operate more effectively.  A bad comment or post can actually save a business’s reputation and help keep its doors open. It may be hard to believe, but a bad review is often worth more than its weight in gold.  Owners may have no clue about staff people who are rude or other issues that are creating a poor impression.  They need to know about this and address it immediately.   Social media comments, videos and images allow a business owner to promote but also to address customer concerns.  Going silent on issues may make matters even worse, so let those you support know this.

Find the money. With websites like Kick-Starter and other crowd funding sources, we can directly step in and give businesses support in securing funds for growth and promotion.  Even if you don’t want to put money into direct support for a business or startup, you can help by getting the word out. Use social media and direct communications with friends, colleagues and others to support these entrepreneurial efforts.  With financial support, you can be one of the first to get products, apps, services or information or you can simply be part of something that you endorse. It’s fun to be part of a new venture, and the risk is minimal for you.  However, keep in mind, you are supporting risk takers to create and hopefully generate income, profits and jobs.   

LinkedIn is a useful social media tool that people can use to support small businesses and business people directly.  Posting positive information about a company will attract connections and grow support.  LinkedIn allows for personal connections to be made; you can find out who the people are who manage companies and who are responsible for new services, products and technology.  Listen to what they have to say and share.  Share with others what you like and what you have learned.  When used properly LinkedIn can be an effective tool for generating business, creating opportunities and cultivating relationships.

Through social media, video and digital communications we all have the ability to influence others and share information.  Influence is not a negative word or activity. In social media becoming an influencer is a status that we should all seek to achieve. When people like and trust what you have to say, they will follow you and engage with you. When efforts are focused on personal branding and marketing, there is nothing to be ashamed about and there is certainly nothing wrong with advocating, promoting and supporting businesses and individuals whom you like and respect.  These efforts and being proactive can assist startups to grow and help established businesses to adapt and thrive. Finally, and most importantly, supporting businesses and innovators keeps the American entrepreneurial spirit alive.  Now more than ever, the American dream and entrepreneurial spirit can use a helping hand.