This year, if you want to do something to help your community, the
environment, and yourself, there’s one easy step to take: patronize
your local small businesses. Not only should you shop local stores, but hire
local contractors and use local service providers.
Once, Americans put their trust in local companies. We preferred to buy from
the shop down the street or hire the contractor who lived in our community.
But after decades of incessant marketing by huge corporations, many
Americans now trust national brands more than their neighbors.
As small businesspeople and entrepreneurs,
let’s help reverse that trend. After all, it’s in your own best interest to
shop from local stores and patronize local service providers and
It’s a wise choice to buy from local, small
1. Small companies have gotten smarter.
With such strong competition from mega-corporations, it’s hard for a
small business to survive unless they offer better products or services
at competitive prices with outstanding customer service. Business
improvement districts (BIDs) have brought new life to Main Streets.
2. Big companies have gotten lazy.
A brand used to mean consistent quality. Increasingly, huge companies
are run by CEOs who grow their companies – and their huge reimbursement
packages – by acquisitions and huge marketing budgets. Commitment to
quality and the customer is lost.
3. Local businesses build local
communities. When you use a
local business, you improve all of your local economy, create jobs, keep
money flowing throughout your community, build your tax base, and
support your schools, fire and police departments.
Let’s say you want to remodel your kitchen,
and you’re deciding between using a local contractor or using a home service
from a huge national chain.
A local building contractor is more likely
to buy materials from local suppliers than a national chain. They’re more
likely to discover the local manufacturer of unique cabinet handles, giving
that local company business. They’ll buy their truck from a local car
dealer. They’ll use a local accountant, bookkeeper, and attorney. When they
make profits, they’re more likely than a national company to buy a home
locally and donate to local charities. When they experience hard
times, small businesses are much more reluctant to make lay-offs than huge
Even if the mega-home store uses a local
sub-contractor, they’re going to wring the lowest price out of them, meaning
they’ll hire sub-contractors who are less likely to spend the time to do a
quality job. Profits get sent back to headquarters instead of staying in
your home town. And they’ll cut costs – and employees – whenever they need
to improve their numbers for Wall Street investors.
That means it’s in your own best interest
to use a local building contractor if you’re a local car dealer, attorney,
accountant, home builder, employee, charity, teacher, or just about anyone
Over the last few years, a few things
reminded me of the opportunities and advantages of shopping local and
patronizing small contractors and service businesses:
1. I had shoulder surgery and couldn’t
drive. That year, I did most of my holiday shopping at stores I could
walk to in the downtown area where I live. I discovered unique products
and gifts, not to mention real customer service. Many of these stores
have remained my favorites.
2. Gas prices soared. Before I get in
my car to drive to the big box superstore, I walk to the nearest store
(alas, the local drug stores are now only outlets of national chains).
It might cost a few pennies more for toothpaste, but I’ve saved the cost
of gas and time. And I’m helping the environment and reducing our
dependence on foreign oil.
3. We hired Home Depot to put on a
roof. The roof immediately started leaking, failed three
independent inspections, and we finally had to hire an attorney. We
discovered, too late, that many others had similar experiences with Home
Depot Home Services. Our reliance on a big brand name turned out to be
It’s time to, once again, put your trust –
and your money – in small companies. Patronize your local businesses and
build your local communities at the same time.
Copyright, Rhonda Abrams, 2006