Will Clinton’s SMB Plan Trump Trump?


In a battle for the hearts and minds of SMB owners headed into the home stretch of this election season, Hillary Clinton has unveiled a sweeping set of proposals that would give power to small players. Here’s how those ideas stack up against Donald Trump’s.

In a push that seems designed to contrast Donald Trump’s business claims of success with an allegedly disdainful attitude toward small business owners, Hillary Clinton loaded for bear on two fronts against the presumptive Republican nominee.

On the personal attack front, she unveiled a video that featured small business owners claiming that Trump — or, more specifically, Trump’s companies — refused to render payment when due, in effect leaving SMBs holding the bag for thousands of dollars.

Separately, with a series of proposals gathered under the umbrella of what the campaign called “making sure small businesses get paid — not stiffed,” Clinton said she would, as president, crack down on practices that “stiff small businesses when the bill comes due” and would “give small businesses recourse to fight back … 64 percent of small businesses face payment delays, which can cause serious cash flow problems.”

Under the terms of her proposals, legal protections would be increased for small businesses, with an eye on extending federal power over bad actors that allegedly “repeatedly exploit” smaller firms by not paying them on time or at all. One measure would allow for such relatively smaller operations to band together to hold the larger players accountable in court under the mindset that such withholding represents unfair trade practices as monitored by the Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice. 

In addition, Clinton floated her intention to “use the leverage of more than $400 billion in federal government contracting to encourage businesses to pay their suppliers in full and on time,” while, at the same time, seeking to boost the amount of business, in terms of dollars, that the government does with smaller firms. SBA loans geared toward working capital would also be expanded, she said. 

Extending the federal contracting focus of Clinton’s new initiative, prompt payment would remain a centerpiece of a federal contracting initiative. The impetus would be on larger firms to pay smaller firms on time — in essence, B2B payments — or else be ready for a rocky road in getting procurement and other federal business. Conversely, federal contractors should be paid inside the 30 days required by law.

The Clinton salvo against Trump in the effort to gain respect and traction among SMB voters comes as the mogul was heavily favored by SMB owners in a survey earlier this year that found that 34 percent of small business owners found Trump more closely aligned with their interests than Clinton (or, at the time, any other candidate). 

Trump, in his own push to grab SMB votes, has said that businesses (regardless of size) will not pay more than 15 percent of their business income in taxes. There’s also, perhaps somewhat predictably for a Republican candidate, the initiative to roll back government regulations as a centerpiece of economic policy. 

Thus far, Clinton’s roadmap seems a bit more detailed than Trump’s, as pertains to small enterprises. In fact, her opening gambit, so to speak, is redolent of the U.K. initiatives that have sought to streamline SMB payments against a backdrop that has seen late payments impact cash flow and even staffing (yes, payroll counts, as do any other day-to-day expenses). 

This is just the beginning of a tug-of-war for SMB votes, and where those votes go, so, perhaps, will the election.