Preserving and Promoting Access to Digital Tools
Perspective on protecting the tools small businesses need to thrive in the 21st century
Starting your own business is a leap of faith no matter who you are, but in the digital age, building a business on your own terms is simpler and faster than ever before. Today’s digital platforms offer inexpensive ways to build a business’ operation and reach consumers. Small business owners can build complete online stores in a matter of days, process credit card payments, design products and develop cost-effective and targeted advertisements all from their own laptops.
Small businesses are the heart of Colorado’s thriving economy.
Approximately half of Colorado’s workers are employed by the 611,000 small businesses operating here. When these businesses thrive, all Coloradans reap the benefits. But there is a mostly unknown hazard facing small businesses today: Regulations aimed at a so-called reining in of technology firms – data collection, privacy rules and advertising restrictions – that would unintentionally inhibit small businesses in their ability to harness the power of digital tools and platforms.
The benefits of digital tools don’t stop at convenience.
Digital tools lower the barrier to entry for small businesses and empower smaller companies to compete with their larger counterparts. Studies show businesses leveraging technology earn twice the revenue per employee and are three times more likely to create new jobs than they would have without those tools. These machines and applications act as a stimulus for growth and job creation.
Across the country and in Washington, D.C., national lawmakers speak with vigor about how they want to support small businesses; the truth is, they don’t always know how. Lawmakers publicly praise the achievements and positive impacts of small businesses, but sometimes fail to consult those very entities and their leaders on policy decisions that affect their industries.
There are 535 voting members in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, and the majority are career civil servants and lawyers. How many of these representatives have built a business from the ground up? And how many did so in the digital age? Some lawmakers can’t even manage their own Twitter or Instagram accounts, let alone build an online presence for a small business.
There is a clear disconnect between D.C., politicians and the small business owners they represent, and that divide can lead to policies that will do more harm than good for business. Amid the debate about internet privacy and data collection, there is momentum in D.C., and several states around the country that could hinder small businesses’ ability to utilize digital business tools through overzealous advertising, data collection and privacy regulations.
This disconnect is taxing for growing businesses and worsened by the fact that the government consistently lags behind private industry in harnessing new technology and new ideas. Coloradans are forward-thinking people and are ahead of the curve on several issues, including environmental protection and the legalization of marijuana. It’s unsurprising that Colorado’s business owners are more technologically adept than many politicians, but the policy implications of this growing divide can hold serious consequences for businesses in the Centennial State.
Instead of jumping to quick-fix solutions, politicians should to listen to the needs and concerns of their constituents. Technology issues don’t just affect big corporations like Facebook and Walmart. These issues extend to, and disproportionately affect small retail startups, freelance artists and most likely the new coffee shop down the street from your office.
The Connected Commerce Council (3C) understands the value of digital tools to businesses and wants to help Colorado’s small businesses succeed in the digital era and make sure politicians in Washington D.C., and Denver know that small businesses have skin in the game when it comes to tech policy. The organization is a nonprofit membership-based entity with a single goal: To promote small businesses’ access to the digital tools and technology they need to succeed.
3C works with lawmakers to promote members’ interests and provide education, training and mentoring opportunities to small businesses, striving to match members with digital tools and services that will stimulate business growth, reduce waste and increase profits.
3C will host its inaugural Skills Connect workshop in Boulder on August 16. Member businesses from Colorado and across the western states will gather to learn best practices from industry leaders, expand professional networks and gain knowledge that will empower their companies to flourish in the digital age.
Jake Ward is president of the Connected Commerce Council. Andreea Matei is on the Board of Directors of 3C and is the founder of Launch Grow Joy, a marketing company focused on assisting small businesses. For more information about 3C and Skills Connect, please visit the website.