What’s the Point?

CUs can erase some of the challenges business members face.

September 23, 2013

Finding success means something different for everyone, and we are all unique in determining what motivates us and in finding where we might make our mark in life.

A creative man in New York has made himself a success story by sharpening pencils at $35 apiece. 

David Rees, a former political cartoonist, found his passion in #2 pencils and felt the world needed to be more appreciative of the writing implement that is “a completely transparent communication tool. There’s no secret to it.”

Rees pointedly made pencils an art form and a career path. He invested in superlative sharpening devices, wrote a book, and taught classes to eager students who now surpass their teacher with their finely honed skills.

We, too, can find success with healthy doses of inspiration, passion, creativity, and motivation. The lesson Rees demonstrates is that an unusual scheme may hold earnings potential and possibility when carried out with purpose.

Research this week is rich in findings that prompt consideration of important issues for small business owners and entrepreneurs. What can you do to help these folks find success? Do you know the finer points in serving them? Can you help erase problems they may find along the way as they write their success stories?

‘A number two pencil and a dream can take you anywhere.’—Joyce Meyer, author and speaker

Entrepreneurs and small business owners are dreamers, and proper preparations can help make their dreams come true. How might your credit union help?

There are several things entrepreneurs need to do with their money to succeed, according to Entrepreneur. Among them:

Further considerations for business growth are presented in an Up and Running blog. Here we learn that to facilitate growth, business owners need to:

Are there financial implications in any of these goals for which you might provide assistance?

The Census Bureau provides an extensive list of resources for small businesses. Investigate this interesting compilation of data tools and find information about business size, surveys of business owners, county business patterns, a population survey, and The SmallBizOmbudsman among other helpful sources.

You may be able to further inspire and assist your members when you direct them to important data.

Migrants may be some of the biggest dreamers, according to Gallup in “Migrants Show Entrepreneurial Spirit.” Some are born entrepreneurs, and those living in high-income economic environments “are more likely than the native-born to have three characteristics that differentiate entrepreneurs from the rest: they feel optimistic even when things go wrong, they never give up, and they are willing to take risks.”

This interesting article provides detailed geographical statistics regarding the attitudes and resulting likelihood of migrants to become business owners.

The bottom line, says Gallup, is “While governments cannot imbue people with entrepreneurial spirit, they can make it simpler for those with entrepreneurial ambition to start a business.”

How can you do the same for ambitious migrants?

‘The average pencil is seven inches long, with just a half-inch eraser—in case you thought optimism was dead.’—Robert Brault, American operatic tenor

Conflicting reports exist this week on small business lending market opportunities.

SBA and America’s Banks Continue to Increase Small Business Lending,” says the Small Business Administration (SBA).

“Two years ago… 13 of the nation’s largest banks had committed to collectively increase lending for small businesses by $20 billion over the course of a three-year commitment,” says Jeanne Hulit, acting SBA administrator.

These banks “have already increased their total lending by roughly $17 billion in the past two years, putting them on track to meet their goal by the end of 2014.” It would appear that lending opportunities do exist.

And, “U.S. Small Business Borrowing Rises to Six-Year High,” according to Reuters.  

“The Thomson Reuters/PayNet Small Business Lending Index, which measures the volume of financing to small companies, rose 11% in July to 117.7, the highest level since August 2007.”

This is good news as optimism returns to small businesses. “Because small companies typically take out loans to buy new tools and equipment, more borrowing could signal more hiring ahead” and “Low financial stress at small businesses, with more of them paying back loans on time, could also bode well for future borrowing.”

Bloomberg, however, reports “small business advocates complain that banks have lost interest in making small business loans since the financial crisis. Bank executives point out that the ensuing recession curtailed loan demand. Both sides blame tougher government regulations for making small business loans harder to get.” 

Further, “A combination of reduced creditworthiness, the declining value of homes (a major source of small business loan collateral) and tightened lending standards has reduced the number of small companies able to tap credit markets… The confluence of events makes it unlikely that small business credit will spontaneously increase anytime in the near future.”

What is your take on the existing small business lending market? Is the commercial lending “pencil” sharp or dull?

Despite the financial success David Rees has found in his innovative pencil-sharpening business, he is starting to grow tired of the project. He remarks, “You do anything long enough for money, it just starts to become a job.”

He may erase the job as he approaches the landmark number of 2,000 pencils sharpened, “leaving the world a much duller place.”

But we can only imagine Rees will write new success stories as he finds other creative ways to make interesting impressions. He appears to be living proof that small businesses can indeed thrive and succeed in schemes that at the outset may seem a bit farfetched.

Small businesses can and do make big impressions. As American musician Dave Mustaine observes, “It’s not how big your pencil is, it’s how you write your name.”






Lora Bray is a research librarian at CUNA.