Earlier this month, I had the great pleasure of attending and speaking at the Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Small Businesses Summit in Washington, D.C.
At the Summit, thought leaders, titans of business, and politicians gathered together to share their experience and wisdom with more than 2,500 small business owners.
The experience was an energizing breath of fresh air for me. Seeing small business owners, many of whom I had taught, building lasting relationships and learning how to cope with the grind of running their business effectively was overwhelming. Allowing me to become a meaningful part of their journey left me feeling nothing short of grateful.
The state of small business
Think about it. Ninety-nine percent of businesses in the U.S. are small businesses. These enterprises also account for 64% of the new hires made every year. Still, they fail at an alarming rate.
One in five businesses shut down within a year of opening. Half of them close within five years. Once you hit year 10, only about 33% of small businesses will remain. But why?
The reasons vary, but there are a few common culprits of business failure. Lack of market demand, poor cash flow, and insufficient funding are the leading causes of small businesses closing shop. But competition, poor planning, lack of strategy, and an ineffective team can also bring the ship down.
A key factor is support—the people working for a small business can make or break it. And unfortunately, finding quality team members is a huge hurdle for most companies. More than 50% of business owners say finding effective help is their biggest operational challenge.
But we all know that small business challenges go far beyond finding a good support team. Entrepreneurs lead a frustrating, overwhelming existence. The ultimate responsibility for your business falls on you and if you aren’t careful, you’ll be driven to live a lonely life of servitude to your enterprise.
Forging a different path
No one wants or deserves to be subsumed by their own business, but it’s a very real side effect of owning a company. The fact is that no one will ever care about your company as much as you do. Despite this reality, you can get support from peers who understand you.
And that’s exactly what Goldman Sachs’ designed the 10,000 Small Businesses Summit to do.
The Summit provided a strong sense of community and belonging for thousands of small business owners who had graduated from or are currently enrolled in the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program. Additionally, the Summit took small business owners away from their precious enterprises and into the capable hands of more than 20 distinguished speakers and educators who collectively possess the skills and experience to catapult any small business to lifelong success.
Asking for help can be difficult. Being vulnerable can be daunting. The sense of responsibility an entrepreneur feels for their business and employees can be overwhelming. When you’re in that situation, you need to be reminded that you’re part of an even greater community of people running small businesses in every corner of the country and the world.
Creating a small business community
The sense of community created at the Summit was simply unparalleled. There’s something magical about watching thousands of business owners who would otherwise be strangers become bound to one another with connectivity and a mutual love of what they do.
These individuals had a shared experience as a part of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program. The Summit allowed them to share their unique business experiences while feeling valued and supported in a way that rarely happens for most small business owners.
Our time on this planet is fleeting, and our opportunities to make supportive, lasting connections are few. So when isolated entrepreneurs are given a way to build a community with others who share their burdens, obstacles, and difficulties, great things happen.
Watching this unfold was food for my soul. And by the end of the Summit, I observed with pride entrepreneurs, my students, going home with their heads held high—feeling seen and valued—something they should've felt all along. Memories were created, relationships were formed, and connections were strengthened. This was an experience none of us will soon forget.
After more than two years of a pandemic and severe economic downturns, the Summit allowed them to pause and celebrate their ability to survive and even thrive during the worst of times and emerge hopeful, connected, and hopefully proud of their resilience and grit.