The Mom and Pop Business Meme Must Die

The Mom and Pop Business Meme Must Die

I’m sure you’ve seen it. It’s spread across Facebook and the rest of the internet like a plague.

Every time I see it angers me. And it astounds me to see the people that perpetuate it.

When you buy from a small “mom and pop” business, you are not helping a CEO buy a third vacation home. You are helping a little girl get dance lessons, a little boy get his team jersey, a mom or dad put food on the table, a family pay a mortgage, or a student pay for college. Our customers are our shareholders, and THEY are the ones we strive to make happy.
Thank you for supporting small businesses!

What’s wrong, you ask? What could possible be more American than supporting small business? Now, obviously, I support small business. We are a small business. ALL of our customers are small businesses. Small businesses represent everything that has made and continues to make America great. In fact, supporting and empowering small businesses in the face of competition from large corporations is central to what we stand for and what we do every day.

Unfortunately, the implication that by supporting big business you are supporting greed and by supporting small business you are supporting all that is good and pure is not only wrong, but dishonest and divisive. Do people really believe that more than half of Americans employed by large corporations don’t have families to support, children to feed, and mortgages to pay? Or that all small business owners are altruistic and self-sacrificing? I can assure you they are not. There is good and bad in businesses of all sizes. But, I like to think in most cases the good far outweighs the bad. The truth is, large corporations are just as important to dads trying to pay for dance lessons, moms trying to pay the mortgage, and couples hoping to retire one day, as are “Mom and Pops.”

Lines have been drawn in our own industry like so many others: the independents on one side, the mega-corps on the other. There is unquestionably a market out there for both. But, when the glaring difference is size and demonization of Big-[insert your favorite industry here] is so popular, it becomes tempting to fall into the trap of “big is bad.” In reality, it’s truly not the size that matters. Businesses large and small come with their own unique advantages and disadvantages. It boils down to what matters to you, what you need and want for yourself and your business, and who can best deliver.

We don’t ask you to support our small business because of our size. We prefer to stand on our own merit, toe-to-toe with the big guys, and ask you to support us because of who we are, what we stand for, the connections we share, and the unique value we can provide. There will always be a market for the small and unique, just as there will always be a market for the big and ubiquitous. In the meantime, I hope we (small business) can come up with a more positive message to spread through the internets.

4 Comments

  1. I don’t think the meme is trying to make a distinction between the moral performance of the CEO versus the small business owner. It’s just a question of agglomeration of money. The large amounts of profit agglomerated at the corporate level or the high sums paid to upper level managers responsible for thousands of employees are more likely to spent on “wants” whereas small amounts agglomerated at the local level are more likely to spent on “needs”. It’s just math.

    The way the meme presents it is a bit extreme. Hopefully a mom who can barely put food on the table isn’t the typical business owner. It’s probably really a choice between helping several small business owners buy their caribbean cruises versus helping a corporate CEO buy his third exotic vacation home, or helping support the local marching band versus supporting the New York philharmonic (you can judge which is more worthwhile).

  2. Thanks for your comment, tebici. Again, I’m not a big fan of how large corporations in our industry do business (which is why we choose to spend our resources elsewhere when possible), I would just say that it’s not only about CEO vs. Small Business Owner, but also about everyone they employ and everyone their vendors employ who also have hopes, dream, mortgages, and children.

  3. As a libertarian with 30 years experience in the optical business, I can say I agree with this editorial wholeheartedly. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the “big” in “big business.”

    Small, quick-on-their-feet, adaptable SMALL businesses have huge advantages over huge, bureaucratic, lumbering megacorporations.

    Unfortunately, those huge, lumbering megacorporations do have one advantage–they can afford to lobby the politicians who can write laws in their favor.

    But left to a free market (we don’t have a free market anymore, by the way…), small businesses can almost always out-compete the lumbering megacorporations in their own, focused marketplace.

  4. 12.1 million in compensation foe the CEO of Lowes in 2012…that’s a big expense for a 2-billion dollar company. Priorities are what drives me to the mom-and-pops.

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