There’s a two-way communication going on between Cal State Long Beach (CSULB) and the local business community that finds its clearest expression in the Long Beach Small Business Monitor.
Overseen by marketing’s Scott Flexo, founder, owner and senior partner of Flexo and Partners, Inc. founded in 1995, the Small Business Monitor is a quarterly survey that provides an understanding of the expectations and challenges of Long Beach small businesses. The survey series is sponsored by the CSULB’s College of Business Administration and supported by community businesses and organizations.
The Monitor consists of surveys of small business owners, managers and supervisors with the goal of providing the community with an understanding of the expectations, attitudes and desires of Long Beach small businesses. The surveys are based on telephone and Internet surveys conducted by professional interviewers with the assistance of CSULB students among a randomly selected sample of small businesses in Long Beach.
“What we’re trying to do through the Monitor is to form a better connection between CSULB’s College of Business Administration and the local community,” said Flexo. “The Monitor, now in its third year, represents an attempt to understand the issues of small business and communicate those issues back to the community.”
The Monitor’s readership represents the majority of Long Beach’s working population. In the Long Beach region, more than half of those employed work for small businesses with 50 employees or less, and women and minorities are overrepresented in those small businesses, according to Flexo.
”I see this as a very important thing to do in terms of letting people know how small business is feeling and what its expectations are. What goes on with big businesses like Boeing is important but how do you give voice to thousands of small businesses? It’s a challenge met by the Small Business Monitor, he said. “I am a Long Beach resident who owns a small business here. I feel the same challenges faced by other small business owners. To be able to take my expertise and experience and use them to help small businesses gives me a lot of satisfaction.”
The data collected by the Monitor is represented by a random sample of Long Beach regional small businesses contacted by professional data collection interviewers, and a panel consisting of more than 1,000 small business owners in Long Beach who have participated in past surveys. These surveys have collected a bank of data which can be used to gauge expectations for the coming year. The Monitor reviews such topics as the impact on local business by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). In its second quarter issue, the Monitor compared the results of his local survey of the Act’s impact with a national survey.
“This enables the Monitor to place in context what is happening in the Long Beach region,” he said. “I was surprised to discover local business owners were more open to the ACA than the national average. There was great discussion about why that is the case and there is pressure to re-visit the issue at a later date.”
The current third quarter 2014 issue of the Monitor addresses digital marketing and small business. Ninety percent of California consumers go online first to check out products and services offered by small business before heading in to stores, according to a recent study. To meet the needs of today’s consumers, small businesses must be online and have an integrated Internet, social media and mobile presence. However, many Long Beach small businesses lack the time and financial resources to manage a professional digital marketing presence. Of the total, 75 percent create and maintain their Internet presence by themselves, solicit an acquaintance or family member to do it, or assign an employee to manage it part-time. Just 25 percent hire professionals to develop and maintain a firm’s digital marketing.
In response to the survey data Flexo is able to connect CSULB students with local business and organizations. For instance, Flexo pointed to recent requests from local small businesses for support with their digital marketing spurred by the release of the latest survey data.
“In one case, I helped link up our students in the College of Business Administration with a local organization called `Feed the Kids,’” he recalled. “Now CBA Marketing students are conducting a digital marketing campaign for them and I think that’s wonderful. This is an opportunity that comes directly from a real connection with the small business community the survey results provide and the work that goes into the Small Business Monitor surveys.”
Surveying local business has changed the way Flexo sees Long Beach.
“Small business contributes a significant amount to the Long Beach community and without that contribution, the vibrancy of the community is not the same,” he said. “The more small businesses we have that thrive, the more vibrant the community is. The Small Business Monitor puts these issues in people’s minds and encourages discussion. Who would have thought about digital media 10 years ago? But today, 97 percent of people looking at small businesses use the Internet. If local business is not sophisticated enough to take advantage of that, that business will have a problem.”
The latest issue is available at http://www.csulb.edu/colleges/cba/lbsbm/documents/2014_Q2LB%20Small%20Business%20Newsletter%20-%20Small%20Business%20and%20the%20ACA.pdf.)