Today I attended a San Francisco Town Hall Meeting sponsored by the National Women’s Business Council–an advisory council that reports to the offices of the President and Members of Congress the issues that women in small business face every day. While it is obviously important to make your voice heard to your representatives in government, our concerns as small businesswomen could have been collected via e-mail or online survey. Such a method might have gotten more more responses (today’s event was limited to 200 participants) and certainly would have cost a lot less than holding a full-day conference in a hotel. But I’m glad the NWBC didn’t go this route and I’ll tell you why:
- Networking. It’s true that as one speaker said today, “women love to help other women.” I had many more people approach me wanting to offer advice or moral support than wanting referrals or publicity.
- Resource sharing. I have four pages of notes filled with nothing but the names of web sites, organizations and business services that other women at this event have used and can personally recommend. I will be sorting through these in the next few days and reporting back which ones live up to the hype.
- Brainstorming. I can come up with several issues I confront every day about which my elected officials should be concerned, but there are also some I almost never think about that are nevertheless important. One example: a woman in our break-out section on micro-business mentioned something about sustainability, which reminded me that sometimes I feel frustrated that there are no incentives for greening home-based businesses.
- Sharing ideas directly. I was able to speak directly to a member of the NWBC about my green home-office issue and she told me that this was an issue on which immediate steps could be taken, and would therefore be sure to bring to Senators John Kerry and Olympia Snowe of the Senate Small Business Committee. Wow! Also, an outreach member of the I.R.S. listened to me gripe about their web site: that the completeness of available information was excellent but that it is extremely difficult to navigate or search. She recommended I use Publication 910 (her professed favorite) to find a list of the I.R.S.’s free resources for small businesses, and a full index of their other publications. I suggested that this publication be made visible in the Small Business section of the web site, and while I was I surprised that she seemed suprised by this suggestion, she nevertheless thanked me for it and said she’d pass it along. You just can’t beat direct results, folks.
Sure, the NWBC could have conducted an electronic survey, or just directed us Biz Misses to Obama’s new web site, but even in this age of online sales and networking, there is still no substitute for being in the company of your sisters.
p.s. If you didn’t a get chance to attend one of their Town Hall meetings, you can e-mail the NWBC at email@example.com with your concerns. There are only four women in the office, so they will read your message and get back to you.