Small Businesses are Going the Way of Large Dinosaurs, Even Though Mine May Survive

Annie Lowrey, writing in The Atlantic today, has an article entitled “The Small-Business Die-Off Is Here.” And I have to agree with her: we’re in trouble. I’m one of those who had been complaining about Amazon’s monopolistic behavior, and trying to support small businesses for the variety of thought and product they engender. We’re about to lose all of that, and the corporate behemoths are about to have all their tiny competitors wiped out through no action of their own.

On the other hand, my professional views are bifurcated. On the positive side, Gray Rabbit Publications and Fantastic Books will most likely survive this die-off, because I’ve taken the company into semi-hibernation. Our entire catalog of books is still available for sale, and still selling (albeit, much more slowly than I’d like). I’ve cut expenses to the bone, and then some, so we’re not burning through our cash in the bank. It may be a struggle to get back on the upward growth trend we’d been experiencing before all this, but that’s what entrepreneurs do: struggle.

But the bulk of that linked article talks about the failings of the government bail-out programs, the PPP [paycheck protection program] small business loans and grants, and that’s a case in which my company is not receiving any help. We’ve all heard about the huge companies taking advantage of the small business loans (rightly or wrongly), but we haven’t been hearing about the companies like mine: those too small to qualify. This is my fifth start-up, and after the failures of the first four, I was deathly afraid of taking on debt. As a result, I’ve built the company on sweat-equity, and grown the company very slowly, never committing to spend more than the cash on hand and conservatively expected income allowed. As a result, the company is alive (see previous paragraph). Unfortunately, it means I have no direct employees (other than myself), but rather some freelancers. And I’ve never taken out a loan for the company. So I have no loan history to qualify for a loan, and my payroll is nowhere near three-quarters of my usual expenses (which is what would be required to turn a PPP loan into a grant). And yet, ironically, at the beginning of the year, I was considering the advisability of seeking a loan, to finally enable the company to grow a little more quickly. I have several projects I expected to launch this summer—but which I’ve now delayed until the economy seems more ready to support them—and I was considering a loan to get them all started with a bang.

So I continue to grumble that the company is too small, while at the same time relishing the fact that it’s so small that it may well survive the Small Business Die-Off of 2020. Difficult times are ahead for us all.

#publishing #smallbusiness #fantasticbooks

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