VOICES: Congress should listen to small businesses before enacting new tech regulations

Ryan Berry is the founder of Berry Digital Solutions in West Liberty, OH, and a member of the Connected Commerce Council.
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Ryan Berry is the founder of Berry Digital Solutions in West Liberty, OH, and a member of the Connected Commerce Council.

I am not a political person or a public policy expert. But as a small business owner, I am concerned that in their ongoing war with “Big Tech,” Congress is missing how vital digital tools and platforms are to small businesses. And how changing the rules of the road on the digital economy while we are still recovering from the COVID downturn could be disastrous for small businesses. As Congress heads back to Washington, I urge them to listen to their small business constituents and try to address their concerns before passing any new tech regulations.

My business is pretty straightforward. We help other small businesses leverage digital technology. Looking back, it was no surprise that this is the business I ended up starting. My stepdad worked in IT, and I remember building our first computer with him in our living room. By ten years old, I was helping my friends’ parents pick out and set up their computers, learn software, programs, and utilize their new machine best. It was clear helping people with technology was my passion.

In 2012, I moved back to West Liberty, OH, a three-stoplight town, and started a company doing what I love. Today, we have 11 employees and help more than 200 clients reach customers all across the country.

We know firsthand that large digital companies have been a boon for small businesses. We use many of the leading tech companies’ free and low-cost digital tools to promote our services. For example, we use Google Ads to help us find clients that need computer repair or SEO help. In addition, we run our entire digital infrastructure on Google Workspace. Not only do we use these tools in our own business, but we advise our clients on which tools will help them most and how to get the most out of those tools.

Digital advertising has been an especially fantastic tool for us and our clients. The data and algorithms that help with targeting and the fact that you only pay when someone clicks on an ad makes advertising worth the cost. And Google Analytics ensures that digital marketing, ads, and social media are optimized to maximize return on modest investments. It has been a game-changer for many of our clients.

Small businesses couldn’t compete with large companies’ billion-dollar ad budgets and teams of consultants in the past. Now, with a modest investment, they can reach their target audience quickly and cheaply. Moreover, for businesses that operate using e-commerce, their market is now national or global instead of limited to our small town.

During the past 16 months of the pandemic, digital tools’ value has only become more apparent. Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and tools like Google My Business allowed our clients to communicate directly with the public quickly and easily. In addition, for companies that operated brick and mortar stores that were forced to close or limit occupancy, we helped them transition quickly to e-commerce, online shopping, and direct-to-consumer shipping.

Obviously, we would not be in business without the various digital tools and services that we help our clients leverage. But many of our clients wouldn’t be in business or would not be as successful without them.

When lawmakers set their sights on big businesses, their actions almost always have repercussions for small ones. New regulations could mean more expensive and less effective tools for my clients’ businesses. That means less room on my clients’ balance sheets for my companies’ services and less revenue for me to continue to invest in growing my business. It’s past time for Congress to consider what their actions will mean for small businesses and not rush into passing laws that will inevitably harm their futures.

Ryan Berry is the founder of Berry Digital Solutions in West Liberty, OH, and a member of the Connected Commerce Council.