Congressional Small Business Summit logo

The Entrepreneurial Free Agent and Dejobbed Small Business R&D Lab
Sohodojo gets involved...
The 2000 Congressional Small Business Summit
Sohodojo Finds Inspiration in Participation

Anyone familiar with Sohodojo knows that we are about new business models and their associated technologies to enable 'Small is good' in the New Economy. Our nanocorps are 'ruthlessly small' small businesses dedicated to growth through collaborative 'elastic networking' among independent entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial free agents.

A nanocorp never grows by getting bigger. A nanocorp never adds employees. A nanocorp develops a 'portfolio approach' to business with concurrent ventures in which it engages. Some ventures involve temporary networks of collaborators which come together for transient projects. Other ventures take the form of long-term ownership positions in dejobbed virtual companies. Still other ventures are yet to be defined. Although nancorps never get bigger, neither the goals nor the potential returns of a nanocorp business are limited.

This commitment to peer-collaborations rather than to employer-employee relations means that we simply do things differently and we think differently. We don't measure social and economic impact in terms of job creation but rather in terms of opportunity creation and community building. It's not about being better or right, our nanocorps are simply a different way to responsibly participate in the New Economy without buying into the 'built to flip' get-rich-quick mentality that too often seems to predominate the new business psyche.

Given this rather extreme non-traditional approach to 'ruthlessly small' small business, one might wonder why Sohodojo has joined and actively participates in one of the oldest, and by some folks' assertions, 'most conservative', small business lobbying groups, the National Federation of Independent Business, NFIB. Answering that question was one of our motivations for attending the NFIB-founded 2000 Congressional Small Business Summit, June 7th-10th, in Washington, D.C..

Similarities Overshadow Differences

North Carolina delegates, (l. to r.) Jim Humphries, Timlynn Babitsky, Jim Salmons, Vanessa O'Neal, Frank Goodnight, Mary Wells, Al Allison. Not shown is Donna Bean.
North Carolina Summit delegates (l. to r.)
Jim Humphries, Timlynn Babitsky, Jim Salmons,
Vanessa O'Neal, Frank Goodnight, Mary Wells and
Al Allison. Missing from photo is Donna Bean.

While we are very different from conventional businesses in some respects, we share profound and important similarities with our fellow delegates -- small business owners of every shape and size from all 50 U.S. states. Over 35% of the 600 plus delegates at this year's Summit were owners of businesses with less than 10 employees. A significant proportion of the businesses represented were family-owned and operated, with multiple members of a family actively working together in life and in business. And, although this summit has a U.S.-based agenda, we can't help but feel that the spirit and demographics would be the same if we were to hold a similar summit in any of the many countries represented within the Sohodojo community.

What we found out at the Summit was just how much we share the concerns and aspirations of small business entrepreneurs regardless of our motivations and methods for starting and growing our businesses.

We Share Concerns over the Crisis in Affordable Health Insurance

Foremost on the agenda and certainly one of the most hotly debated issues at the Summit was Health Care reform. It was moving to hear just how many hard-working small business people are in a crisis over the future viability of offering health insurance to themselves and their employees. Misguided public policy and special interest exemptions have tilted the playing field so far in big businesses' favor, that nothing short of significant policy reform will save the day.

We know by recent personal experience just how badly tilted the marketplace is away from small and independent businesses shopping for health insurance. It was nearly a full-time job for a number of weeks for us to find, negotiate and secure something close to a decent health insurance policy for us after we left our corporate jobs. As we participated in the policy discussions at the Summit, we learned the full scope of this most significant and under-appreciated national problem that has been a top concern of the NFIB membership for many, many years.

Worker Shortages Are Not Just about High Tech Visas

Sohodojo Info Alert
Be sure to check out the on-line archive of our Advisory Board member's provocative newsletter, The Taxman86 Speaks..., for the latest on Enterprise Communities, Empowerment Zones, HUB Zones and other topics relevant to entreprenurial social action... and hey, there's a bunch of good tax planning and financial planning advice in there as well!

While health care reform is a perennial issue for small business, we also resonated with a relatively new issue for the Summit delegates, that of worker shortages. While the difficulties of finding high tech workers, even in small businesses, brings up the policies around immigration quotas and visas, we were encouraged to hear the debate over welfare-to-work and job training programs which dovetail with the creative programs being brought forward in the Distressed Communities legislation and New Market initiatives.

It is essential that we channel the entrepreneurial spirit into helping to solve the problems of urban and rural economic development. We learned that we are certainly not alone in seeking opportunities to address social needs through private enterprise.

The Thrill of Political Action

But by far the most profound experience for us, quite literally for our first time, was the sense of hands-on participation in national politics. We felt an energizing sense of purpose, a shared belief that collective action can and will bring about change despite the inertia and deflections of well-heeled special interests.

For many years as high-tech entrepreneurs, our lives were filled with bits and bytes. There literally were not enough hours in the day to accommodate a balanced life. We felt so disconnected from the dynamics of national politics that it was little more than a soap opera played out in our national media. We were like Bill Gates and the Microsoft folks (minus the billions), national politics was a venue that had little to do with the hyper-competitive world in which we lived.

But our perspective has changed since we popped out of the bubble of high tech big business. Not only have our concerns both broadened and become more local, but we have made time to seek out and become informed on issues and problems other than those strictly limited to esoteric technologies. We have moved from the realm of the specialist to that of the generalist, to the place that most entrepreneurial small business people live all the time. Small isn't necessarily a place you pass through on your way to big.

Three issues -- the Death Tax repeal, pulling the plug on Ted Kennedy's health care reform bill that would have subjected employers to punishing law suits for the inadequacies of care provided under employer-offered health insurance, and a move to block OSHA from enacting any intrusive ergonomic standards for home-based businesses and telecommuters -- these three issues were actively under debate while the Summit was being held in Washington.

Delegates mobilized for grassroots, door-banging, phone-ringing appeals to our respective representatives whenever the Summit agenda did not require our active participation. Early mornings, between sessions, after meals and in the late afternoon and evening, delegates were there to be heard and to hold their elected officials accountable for constituent concerns. It was, quite literally, American democracy in action.

The Journey Will Be the Reward

If we were to dwell on the past, we could chastise ourselves for being so insular during the years that high tech monopolized our time and thoughts. But the past is past. What is more exciting is that we have experienced a transition which awakens us to a wider world; one where politics are an active part of life and business, not a sideshow of inconsequence.

Where do we go from here? Well, time will tell for sure. The opportunities which are opening up to us by joining and becoming active in an established and broad-based community such as the NFIB are just starting to affect our nanocorp-based business. One thing is for certain, however. We won't go it alone. And our heads will not be buried in the high tech sand. The time and the opportunity is now to stand up, join in and be counted among those who want a New World to go along with the New Economy.

At Sohodojo, we welcome all entrepreneurial free agents and small business owners who want to show just how powerful 'Small is good' can be as a path to social action and personal fulfillment.

Additional Summit coverage and reflections are available on the Sohodojo website.

© 1998-2010 Sohodojo, Inc. | Our Privacy Statement
"War College" of the Small Is Good Business Revolution
Website design and hosting by Sohodojo Business Services,
A Portfolio Life nanocorp

Support Sohodojo, the Entrepreneurial Free Agent and Dejobbed Small Business R&D Lab exploring Open Source technologies to support 'Small is Good' business webs for social/economic development
[ Support Sohodojo ] [ Translate page ]
[ Search site ]


About Sohodojo

BIG IDEAS for small business

TechSIG area

LegalSIG area

LifeSIG area

Nanocorp reading


Donor/Sponsor Information

Go to the Visitor Center

 Go ahead, we can take it... Give us a piece of your mind. Complaint? Irritation? Suggestion?
Tell us, please.