Are Small Business Owners Doomed?

A small business warning: Family Business Institute President Wayne Rivers says he's pessimistic about the future of small businesses. But shouldn't a guy like Rivers promote optimism?

Let's face it: Fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) have always been a strong seller. 

Rivers says he's worried about sluggish growth prospects in the macro economy; the financial costs of hyper-regulation; and a cultural shift where today's young people are less likely candidates for entrepreneurship. Those views surfaced in The Wall Street Journal.

I respectfully disagree with a few of those views. Here's why.

1. Economic Concerns?: Regardless of the economy, you can start and grow businesses in sectors that never existed before. Examples: Instead of competing head-on in the slow-growth (and now no-growth) PC market, Apple pioneered smartphones, tablets, , multi-touch user interfaces, digital music and so much more. And you don't need to be a giant to create new markets or disrupt existing markets. To learn about emerging disrupters, check out the annual Inc. 5000 list.

2. Millennials Don't Start Businesses?: That's just wrong. I think millennials often have several irons in the fire -- exploring and nurturing multiple ideas to see which ones can catch fire. Examples: Most studies say millennials are the startup generation. Sure, it's unfair to generalize. Like every other generation, the majority of millennials won't start their own businesses. But, a healthy number of them certainly will.

3. Regulation Could Suffocate Startups: To some degree, I side with Rivers here. Hyper-regulation is a concern on my radar. During our previous business launch together, After Nines Inc. CEO Amy Katz wrestled with a range of state questions from New York and Massachusetts. Each time, the state representatives were simply doing their jobs -- we get it. And each time, everything worked out fine. But nobody reimbursed us for the time and money we spent answering state questions.

Hyper-regulation may kill some jobs and some startups -- but it also creates plenty of jobs. Skeptics should take a look at all the IT startups that address HIPAA, Sarbanes-Oxley and other compliance regulations.

I tend to be a glass-half-full type of guy. Even if the macro economy struggles, there's always opportunity to innovate -- and to be an entrepreneur. Don't forget: Apple, Microsoft and a long list of additional companies all launched during weak or challenging economies.

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