To Small Business Owners at the Dawn of the New Decade:

I have a mantra for 2011: We all prosper when the village prospers.

Small business is the luckiest business in the world. We are agile, smart, innovative and willing to take risks. In this historic time, we have an amazing opportunity to collaborate and find a new way to fit into the world.
I really believe that statement. This isn’t positive thinking hog wash. I am not a believer in the idea that thinking happy thoughts brings happiness. I don’t believe that we are personally responsible for all the joy and pain in the world. I understand that what is happening around us is bigger than each of us.
In the last few months I have felt many people’s pain. My sister is losing her family’s health insurance in South Beach. Four friends are short selling their homes. Successful professionals are jobless. Marriages are stressed. $10 per hour jobs have others at the poverty level. Savings are gone.
For entrepreneurs the pain may be bankruptcy, debt or the inability to grow. Belts have long been tightened, employees laid off. Now it’s the race for the bottom in many industries. We think that if only we can lower our prices and hold out until this passes we will be OK. We think this will pass. Right? We think that in order to sell our services we have to be the cheapest. That’s what people are looking for, the lowest price. Right?

But the world has been changing dramatically for the last twenty years. Thomas Freidman wrote in (in 1995, mind you.) “The World is Flat” about the triple convergence: access to the internet meets available technology meets outsourcing to BRIC (Brazil, India, Russia, and China) means change for us. This change isn’t just in the financial or technology sectors. It is real and it is meeting us everywhere.

In his book “ A Whole New Mind, A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future”,  Daniel Pink calls this time “The Conceptual Age.” Surprisingly he suggests just six areas that we embrace in order to prosper. They are: Design, Empathy, Storytelling, Symphony, Humor, and Meaning. What they have in common is that a computer can’t do them and they can’t be outsourced for less.
Today, I’m asking you to stop and ask these questions: Are you doing something that a computer can do or can be outsourced for less? Why are you doing what you are doing? Why are you selling what you are selling? Does your business work? Most importantly I am asking: What is your expertise? If you don’t know, ask someone who does. Ask your customer. Your expertise may not be what you think it is. It may have changed while you were busy working.
Today, I want to emphatically make this point: People crave your expertise. We want to buy your unique style, your understanding, your amazing story. We need a guide to help us transverse a new and complicated world. We all need a good laugh. We are looking for meaning in our lives. And we will pay handsomely for it. If you do any one of these things, you have hit the nail on the head.
I believe that when the village prospers, we all prosper. We need each other. We need to collaborate whenever possible. We need to make the world a better place not replace the world with the same place. Small business owners, we have the power. And we are stronger together than we are apart.

Ruth Schwartz

Ruth Schwartz is the author of "The Key to the Golden Handcuffs". She is a high performance business consultant and leadership coach. Connect with Ruth to participate in the conversation. Google+, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube .