By Brett Cafferty

“I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat” from a speech by Winston Churchill in 1940, warning the British people of the hardships to come in fighting WWII. 

Did you know that small businesses (fewer than 500 employees) make up 99% of all businesses and create 64% of the new jobs in the U.S.? 

It has been another challenging year for our small business community. As we have gotten to know our advertiser partners better this past year, we are increasingly impressed and humbled by the amount of time and energy they put into their businesses. Running a business is already more than a full-time job, and when the adversity of the past 20 months is added, it reminds me of Churchill’s phrase above and the name of that great band of the ’60s and ’70s, Blood, Sweat, & Tears. 

Recent conversations with business owners in a variety of industries have increased my awareness of the new challenges ahead, as the uncertainty and gaps in the supply chain are expected to continue. Shortages of raw materials, reduced manufacturing capacity, constraints in the transportation of goods, labor shortages (where did everyone go?), and the resulting price increases may be around for a while. 

In the midst of this holiday season and beyond, we should extend an extra measure of grace to our local small business community. While most are optimistic and see brighter days ahead, there are significant challenges to deal with. 

Almost every business is short staffed and trying to find solutions to alleviate overworked employees – from retail clerks putting in longer hours, to the wait staff pulling a double-shift when there is no one else to step in, to service providers with far more demand than supply capacity. While these front-line issues require creativity and daily attention, business owners are also working to source goods, keep an inventory, and maintain cash flow while wages and cost of goods rise. It’s a juggling act not for the faint of heart!

On our part, this “extra measure” could include patience, understanding, and flexibility when what you need is out of stock or on backorder, an encouraging word to a frazzled employee, and a conscious effort to support and spend dollars with the local, small businesses that make up our community. 

Everything Knoxville is thankful for our small businesses and local area organizations for the good work they continue to do and strive to do, and we wish you all a joyous holiday season and healthy New Year.