Myth-Busting: Small Business Edition

December 9, 2019

From mainstream media headlines to Millennial public opinion surveys, “Big Business” isn’t the most popular kid on the block. The businessman (or woman) is commonly associated with the “one percent”—the segment of American society that purportedly plays by its own rules, at the expense of others.

According to the most recent Deloitte Global Millennial Survey, only 37 percent of Millennials believe that business leaders leave a positive impact on the world. Think about that for a second.

The segment of society that creates millions upon millions of jobs for workers of all socioeconomic strata is largely reviled by the youngest members of our workforce. The same people who rely on business owners for career opportunities and financial security scoff at their contributions to society.

This is partly driven by a misconception of who business owners are. When they hear “Big Business” or “business leaders,” many Millennials conjure up visions of $100 whiskey drams and smoke-filled cigar bars. The typical business owner, to those who don’t understand the makeup of the business community, is presumably Ebenezer Scrooge. In contemporary terms, Scrooge is an investment bank executive or an oil lobbyist.

But the business community isn’t here to ruin Christmas. Your typical chief executive doesn’t have three European villas or a $1 million expense account. Of course, there are those who live lavish lifestyles, abuse their power, or even break the law. That happens in all segments of American society, whether the culprit is a professional athlete or your former member of Congress.

However, the entrepreneurs and job creators who power our free-market economy are often anything but extraordinary—at least, on the surface. Among U.S. chief executives, the median annual wage is $189,600. That’s right: Your typical “CEO” doesn’t even crack $200,000 per year.

Granted, that is still a lot of money, especially outside of major urban hubs like New York or San Francisco. But the “chief executive” position also comes with added responsibilities little understood by the general public. From hiring employees to managing payroll and making technological investments, the chief executive is expected to understand the ins and outs of the entire business, making high-level decisions that will determine the short- and long-term sustainability of that business.

How many employees have to worry about the bottom line on a daily basis? That’s hard work!

Nor is our “business community” primarily driven by the Fortune 500 companies that have become household names. In truth, businesses with fewer than 500 employees represent 99 percent of all U.S. businesses. Many of them have only one employee—that is, the owner. Sole proprietors account for roughly three-quarters of all small business owners.

Ironically, the Millennial generation is prominently featured within America’s business community. About 16 percent of all small businesses are run by Millennials, and yet countless members of our generation still demonize that segment of society.

They need to grow up. Naive misconceptions do nothing to support the entrepreneurs and job creators on whom we all depend for career opportunities and financial security. Those anti-business sentiments only undermine their ability to make a positive difference—the positive difference they are currently making, day in and day out.

Business—large or small—is not the problem; it’s the solution, in more ways than one. And it’s time for all Millennials to realize it.

Luka Ladan is the President and CEO of Zenica Public Relations and a Catalyst Policy Fellow. Prior to founding Zenica, Ladan served as Communications Director at a leading public affairs firm in Washington, D.C.
Catalyst articles by Luka Ladan