How the U.S Chamber of Commerce Helps Your Small Business – Tom Sullivan, VP Small Business Policy

ASBN recently attended The Small Business Master Class in Atlanta hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and had the pleasure of speaking with Tom Sullivan, VP Small Business Policy for the Chamber. Tom gives ASBN’s Jim Fitzpatrick the 101 on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; how it helps small businesses, the low unemployment rate, high confidence in the economy, and what keeps him up at night. Tune-in to find out his answers.

For more information events hosted by the U.S. Chamber please visit their website at


Jim Fitzpatrick: We’re at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Small Business Series right here in Atlanta. And we got the man himself who’s behind all of this, Mr. Tom Sullivan who is the Vice President of Small Business Policy for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Welcome to ASBN Tom.

Tom Sullivan: Thank you, it’s good Atlanta Jim.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah, sure. So, for the viewers that are watching, the business owners and entrepreneurs that are out there, give us kind of the 101 on what the U.S. Chamber of Commerce does and how it helps small businesses.

Tom Sullivan: Sure, so first of all, U.S. Chamber of Commerce is based in Washington D.C. We represent the interests of three million small businesses.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Okay.

Tom Sullivan: And that includes a collaboration with our local and state Chambers of Commerce.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Okay.

Tom Sullivan: No what many people don’t know, is that 96% of those businesses have fewer than 100 employees.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Really, wow.

Tom Sullivan: Seventy-Six percent of those businesses have fewer than 20 employees. So we really represent the small businesses in the United States.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah, that’s for sure. That’s great, and those numbers are amazing because you think business, everybody’s got a hundred or two hundred employees, but that’s phenomenal.

Tom Sullivan: Yeah.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Tell us a little bit about the series here that you’re … I think this is your second city, Atlanta.

Tom Sullivan: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim Fitzpatrick: Tell us about the concept here and the thought behind it.

Tom Sullivan: Sure, well Jim as you know in Washington D.C., we tend to think we know everything, but that’s not the case.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Oh, really?

Tom Sullivan: In fact, yes, there are some people who think that.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Right.

Tom Sullivan: What we’ve learned is that we do better representing the interests of small business.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Okay.

Tom Sullivan: The more we get outside of the beltway, listen to small businesses, and hear them and engage them.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Sure.

Tom Sullivan: And we do that really in two ways. As you mentioned, we are all around the country with our small business series.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Right.

Tom Sullivan: We were in Dallas a few months ago, we’re in Atlanta now. We’re going to Minneapolis in July, Phoenix in November, and then we’ll be in Washington D.C. for our national summit in October.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Okay.

Tom Sullivan: And that is our, on the ground chance to interact with small businesses. And we do another way as well. So we actually have the small business index we do with MetLife which is our partner for this whole series.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Right.

Tom Sullivan: We ask 1,000 small business owners, ever quarter, how are they doing, how did they do, and how do they think they’re going to do. And that keeps us on track in Washington D.C. to know what we should be advocating.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah. So what are some of the high points that came out of the most recent study?

Tom Sullivan: Sure, so this index just came out last week, shows that confidence in at an all time high. So we have a barometer, and that barometer shows 68.7, and that means that two out of every three small business owners are confident in their economy and they’re optimistic about their future. And that is great news for small business around the country.

Jim Fitzpatrick: It sure is, with unemployment down to three and a half percent and interest rates still pretty low.

Tom Sullivan: Yeah.

Jim Fitzpatrick: I mean, all of the indicators are there for a great environment right now, aren’t they?

Tom Sullivan: Yeah, and I mean we heard it today with all the small business owners who are here, there is an unbelievable vibe and excitement about small business. And you mentioned unemployment, and that’s where the numbers that we found in this index, in this small business index, are so amazing because small business owners still want to hire.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Right.

Tom Sullivan: And we know that the headwinds of a tight labor market are going to hit them soon. I think … we had a speaker today that talked about the war for good talent.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah, oh my gosh, so true.

Tom Sullivan: I think we’re in the middle of that war and small business owners are searching for ways to hire and keep qualified employees.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah, that’s the name of the game. And technology plays a role in that doesn’t it?

Tom Sullivan: It does.

Jim Fitzpatrick: That’s really driving so much of the economy, but then also the workforce as well. We’re looking for an entirely different skillset today than we were maybe 15 or 20 years ago when we’re bringing on new people into our company. They have got to be very savvy about the internet and how that’s changed. [crosstalk 00:03:52]

Tom Sullivan: Yup. Yeah, we had a speaker today talking about how cool … it was Hugh Acheson.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Right.

Tom Sullivan: The restaurateur from Georgia.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah, sure. Yup, we had a opportunity to interview him.

Tom Sullivan: He was great, and he talked about how cool it is that the millennials who he’s hiring are able to do so many different things at once.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Right.

Tom Sullivan: And technology has given them some of those skills to multi-task at a rate that I think he laughed and said, my generation is lazy when you compare it to these multi-task, really talented young men and women.

Jim Fitzpatrick: And I think all too often, the millennial group gets kind of a bad shake in all this, don’t they, because of their crazy work ways. Or at least guys in our generation look at that and say they’re just not doing it, but at the end of the day, sometimes they’re doing it at a much faster rate than we’re taking care of things, right?

Tom Sullivan: I think what we hear and what is backed up in this survey is that when you hire the best, it’s going to be the best. Whether they’re a millennial, whether they’re middle aged, or whether they’re older, and the small business owners who we met with today are excited about hiring the best people for the jobs.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah, sure, sure. So from your perspective, environment is good right now, business environment is good, all the economic indicators are there. What are some of the things that keep you up at night, from your perspective looking down the road as it relates to small business owners?

Tom Sullivan: Well I’ve got two young boys, so they are the ones that keep me up at night.

Jim Fitzpatrick: [crosstalk 00:05:13].

Tom Sullivan: But, when my brain starts spinning, what I worry about is whether or not enough small business owners have sat down with their tax advisors and their accountants and figured out how tax reform is going to benefit their bottom line. Because they can’t wait until February 2019 to figure out how they should be reinvesting tax cuts right now. So that’s what keeps me awake at night sometimes Jim.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah, so it’s an educational process that they’ve gotta pay attention to don’t they?

Tom Sullivan: Yes they do.

Jim Fitzpatrick: So for you business owners out there, and entrepreneurs, get with your accountant now. You know, Mr. Tom Sullivan, you heard it right here, so don’t call him April 15th of 2019 [crosstalk 00:05:49].

Tom Sullivan: Talk with them now. Talk with them now.

Jim Fitzpatrick: You know, we certainly appreciate all of the hard work you guys are doing at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. So thank you for having us out to this great event and hopefully we can Skype you in on an interview and see how things are going.

Tom Sullivan: Oh, I would love that. Thank you.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Great, thanks so much.