I am a self-taught software engineer and serial entrepreneur who loves helping people move up in the world. One of the most important businesses I ever started helped small businesses with creating their digital footprint to grow their companies.
The critical ingredients for small businesses to be more successful are inexpensive and amazing digital tools that help with project management, branding, finding customers and selling products. But I’m concerned because Congress doesn’t seem to understand how valuable digital tools are for small businesses.
So, we may soon have new laws that will inadvertently make small business software more expensive and less useful.
I’ve been hooked on coding since I designed my first program when I was 12. As an adult, my coding skills helped build and launch wireless communications, online education, and virtual real estate companies, and then digital tools that were the cornerstone of our success.
Google Workspace documents and spreadsheets kept us organized, MailChimp was excellent for marketing campaigns, and Asana helped manage big projects. I used these programs and others to help entrepreneurs turn their business dreams into reality.
We helped health and beauty companies, nonprofits, law firms, colleges and universities, yoga studios, and authors.
Our services would be called product development, branding, and project management in business school, but so much of our work revolved around digital tools. We created effective Google and Facebook advertising campaigns that helped businesses identify and reach their target customers. We helped companies improve their rankings in search results, so more people visited their websites. We also created Google Business Profiles that helped potential customers find the business, read customer reviews, and learn important information like location and store hours. We also helped build online stores for local shops. Digital tools have more than proven their value.
A recent survey shows 87% of small businesses use digital tools to grow their customer base, while 73% have greater optimism thanks to digital tools.
One of the best parts about my business was our ability to reach people nationwide. One of our favorite clients was a small business in rural Georgia that was desperate when they found us. After working with them for a few weeks, an improved website had 10,000 clicks in just two months, and business was booming!
With all the success that digital tools deliver to small businesses, it’s bewildering that so many in Congress want to change how the digital economy works.
Legislation that could force Google and Facebook to break into smaller companies might seem reasonable to average folks, but it could really hurt small businesses. If Facebook and Instagram have less data because they are divided, small business advertising campaigns will be less successful and attract fewer new customers. Not only will the business lose, so will consumers looking for a new nail salon or local diner.
Another proposal bans companies from “self-preferencing.”
So, if someone searches on Google for a local Italian restaurant, they might be directed first to Yelp or TripAdvisor instead of the Google Business Profile page that the restaurant populated with accurate data about its location and service hours. Why would Congress create senseless barriers between consumers and small businesses?
After more than 20 years of working with digital technology and many small businesses, including my own, I understand the value and benefits of digital technology. It’s unfathomable to me that Congress knows better. Facebook and Google may be huge, but they help small businesses grow and thrive. Particularly during a pandemic, we can’t run the risk that well-meaning regulations unnecessarily damage small businesses.
I hope Congress stops and thinks carefully before passing laws that could do more harm than good.
Sheffie Robinson is an entrepreneur based in St. Petersburg and a member of the Connected Commerce Council.