Sunday night I met up with James, who I’d known for years but not very well. He and his wife were hosting a monthly film series in their holistic bed and breakfast out in the country in the mountains of western North Carolina.
We made a great connection when we realized we were both Asheville natives. I learned that his childhood best friend, who he’d lost track of in adulthood, was a cousin of mine. But I had the sad task of telling James that my cousin had passed away earlier this year.
I was reminded simultaneously, both by James and by my own memories of my dad telling me, about James’s father’s kindness and connection to my father. Whenever James’s father, the pastor of a large church a block away from my parents’ store, was visited by a homeless or needy person asking for help, he’d send a business card with a message scrawled across the back along with the needy person to just the right neighboring business owner who could solve that person’s problem.
It might be a note taken to Tom’s Grill up the street for a tube steak and fries. Or a note, that my dad would often receive, saying, “Please fit with shoes [or a jacket] and send me the bill.”
My dad would, of course, always respond by doing as he was asked and sending a bill to James’s father amounting to my dad’s wholesale cost.
David and Goliath
This was during the 1960s-80s. A time when small business owners ruled and big box stores barely existed. Can you imagine a big box store dealing with this?
“I have to ask headquarters. I’ll get back to you next week.” Yeah, right. Maybe they will; maybe they won’t. But you won’t find out for a week. And by that time, the person you talked with probably doesn’t work there any more.
Friends by Proximity
The take-the-bull-by-the-horns aid that James’s father set in motion had nothing to do with church allegiances. We didn’t belong to First Presbyterian. We were Jewish. And Tom at the Grill belonged to the Greek-Orthodox church.
What this boils down to is that small business owners hold the reins in their own communities. We can make our own decisions. And we often do.
Statistics show that local businesses keep money in our communities. We employ locals rather than bringing in outside workers. We contribute more to local non-profits. We provide more consumer choices. Environmental impact is reduced. And customer service is often better.
One thing we do really well, as pointed out in the story at the top of this blog post, is create relationships. Relationships with customers. Relationships with other business owners. Relationships with those living and working right around us.
Take Time to Discover Your Small Business Heroes
At this time of winter darkness, holiday much-needed cheer, and giving, let’s take a little time to reflect upon the choices we make to relate to our customers, neighboring business owners and neighbors who may not be business owners.
It’s people who make the world go around. Not big boxes.
It’s a very good thing to support very small business.
Did you know that the Small Business Association considers a small business to be one with 100 employees and fewer? Well, I’m talking about 5 and fewer employees—the real small businesses out there.
They’ll support their community while also supporting their family.
And ultimately that will definitely help make the world a better place.
Oh yeah, and BE a Small Business Hero yourself.
What do you do to be a Small Business Hero?
Tell me in the Reply section below.