Public Policies – helping small businesses grow or holding them back?

Global Entrepreneurship Week was last week and it got me thinking about my upcoming visit to the nation’s capital. Early next month, I’ll be talking with policymakers and elected officials about ways we can help startups and small businesses – and the entrepreneurs that run them – succeed so they can bring economic strength and vitality to the communities where we live and work.

 As “the world’s biggest small business,” entrepreneurship is part of our DNA at Dell, and in the Global Consumer, Small and Medium Business team that I lead, we’re in the business of helping companies grow. We come to work each day focused on how we can enable the 10 million small and medium businesses we serve with innovative technology solutions from Dell.

 Our commitment to the growth of these businesses goes well beyond the products and solutions we sell. In recent years, we’ve pursued programs and partnerships designed to connect startups and growing businesses with the resources they need to maximize their potential for innovation and job creation.

And starting in December, we are adding a focus on policy efforts – advocating in Washington on behalf of our millions of customers to drive policies that help them reach new markets through international trade and global growth.

To date, programs like the Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network and the Dell Social Innovation Competition are cultivating a vibrant community of entrepreneurs who are connecting one another to new sources of financial and human capital, expertise and markets. And Dell’s new Entrepreneur in Residence  is expanding the ways we engage with, learn from and understand the needs of growing businesses.

Partnerships with likeminded organizations that share Dell’s commitment to entrepreneurs and have a bias for action are amplifying our efforts. Our newest partner is the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, the global sponsor of Global Entrepreneurship Week and the leading think tank on entrepreneurship, and one of our longer-standing partnerships is with Endeavor, a New York-based non-profit that develops high-impact entrepreneurs in emerging markets. This year, Michael Dell also took a seat on the founding board of the Startup America Partnership, a coalition of organizations aiming to foster innovative, high-growth firms in the U.S., and we support a similar initiative in the UK called Startup Britain.

In a discussion last week at Ernst & Young’s Strategic Growth Forum, Carl Schramm, CEO of Kauffman Foundation, said it well. In Washington, we operate as if the United States is a big business economy. It is not. It’s the small business, mid-size company or startup – our customers and constituents – who need our support most to increase productivity and innovation and return America to growth.

This brings me to my December visit to Washington and Dell’s emerging policy efforts on behalf of our small and medium business customers. What’s on the agenda? While job creation has rightfully dominated most conversations of late, we’d like to foster a dialogue around the precursor to job creation and what I find to be top of mind for the CEOs I meet with – access to capital to and the growth it helps fuel.  

  •  Access to Capital – While the borrowing environment has changed, small and medium businesses are a safe bet. Dell Financial Services has seen a dramatic increase in its leasing business among these firms in recent years but isn’t seeing a rise in defaults.
  • Trade –Spending has slowed in mature markets, some of the greatest expansion opportunities for startups and small businesses lie in fast-growing foreign markets. With the right technology strategy in place, growing companies can access new customers in fast-growing economies which will help create jobs here at home. We’ll start to explore what corporations like Dell can do to promote trade and connect emerging businesses with opportunities in foreign markets.

In addition to individual meetings I’ll be doing, I’m proud to join Senator Mary Landrieu, who chairs the Senate Small Business Committee, Sean Greene of the SBA, and Jonathan Ortmans, president of Global Entrepreneurship Week, in a panel discussion hosted by the Center for Public Policy Innovation (CPPI), where we’ll explore these topics.

We need entrepreneurs to be successful to reignite economic growth, and Dell is committed to that success. We’re heartened to see that entrepreneurs are getting the respect they deserve. Through our policy efforts, in addition to the technology solutions we offer and initiatives we drive, we want to make sure they are getting the support they need.

I’ll be sure to keep you updated here, and you’ll be able to follow the conversation on Twitter @sjfeliceatdell and #DoMore, #CPPI on Twitter. Additionally, we will be working with the Technology CEO Council to investigate policies that help or hurt global growth opportunities for small and medium businesses and identify key calls to action. If you have input or suggestions – including public policies that are helping your business grow or keeping you from expanding, I’d love to hear them. I look forward to continuing this important dialogue so we can lend our voice to advocating on your behalf in DC.  

About the Author: Steve Felice