Small Business  :  Big Difference

Small Business : Big Difference

We stand in a tumultuous time.  there is upheaval in the world, in our nation, and often in our community.  There is political acrimony and financial uncertainty.

It is a combination of forces that we in the U.S. have not experienced for several decades, and to this degree, in several generations.

In the midst of all this, life goes on. 

We get up each day, raise our families and run our businesses.

While we are impacted by the ongoing crisis in many ways, from rising costs, to more regulations and other business challenges; in a way, the issues at hand can seem divorced from us.

We look at the decisions being made as someone else’s responsibility.  Someone else’s fault.

We are just here, running our little business.  What do the problems of the world have to do with us?  What can we possibly do about them?

ronald reaganThe other day I was watching a clip of Ronald Reagan’s last presidential address.

When Reagan first came into office, we were in the middle of another dark time.  Unemployment was high, gas prices as well as everything else was skyrocketing, the term stagflation was coined.  Our economy was really a mess, much like today.

To add to that, we were in the middle of the Cold War with Russia with a constant fear that a button would be pushed and a nuclear World War III would begin.  Not to mention the fanatical Ayatollah calling for the death of all infidels and the 52 Americans who were being held hostage in Iran.

I was just at an age when I was becoming aware of what was going on in the world beyond my immediate circle and I remember it as a scary and dark time . . . much like today.

Regardless of what you think of Reagan’s politics and fiscal policy, the thing he brought to American was encouragement.

He believed that it was Americans who made the U.S. the greatest nation the world has seen.

In his farewell address, he attributed the success and prosperity that the U.S. experienced in his two terms in office to the industry of individual Americans, not his policies or initiatives.  He credited Americans, not the government, with creating 19 million new jobs and propelling the U.S. out of the recession of the late ‘70’s and early  80’s.


I think that is what we have lost, that belief that “We the People” are the ones that make the difference.

It’s not even a matter of just job creation and economics either, it’s about building a community.

When I think about our local community in Kingwood and the Lake Houston area and who makes things happen, it’s not the big corporations with huge budgets, it’s the small business owners and individuals.

it’s Rick pulling out his BBQ and feeding hundreds of his friends and neighbors.  It’s Tony turning Town Center into a community gathering place five times a year.  it’s the trifecta of Karen, Donna, and Gwendolyn seeing a need and filling it.  It’s Suzanne and Ellen with a heart to help each in their own way.  It’s a group taking their love of nature and sharing that beauty with the community.

I could go on.

When things need done, they step up, dig in, and and they make things happen.

That is what makes our community special.  It is not government programs or legislation that create that, it is about individuals stepping up and answering the call.

That is the way it is here.  If you are reading this and live somewhere else, I’m pretty confident that if you stop to think about it, that the same thing is true in your community.

Who are the people that donate to the community events, the school carnivals, the charity fundraisers, and the sports teams.  Who is it that is stepping up and making a difference in your community.

I’m sure that you will se the same thing that I see here.   It is the same people, small business owners and individuals, that step up over and over again.

Maybe you are one of the community builders, the World Changers.

If so, I want to give you a phrase from one of my favorite verses, 1 Chronicles 28:20:

“Be strong and of good courage.”

The words in the original Hebrew mean to be “steadfast and single minded” and to “fix upon or to seize.”

I’m not an economist, but I think we still have some rough waters ahead.  Sometimes circumstances can seem overwhelming, like you have to do more and more with less and less.

Persevere, be strong and of good courage, because your actions do matter and they do have an impact on others.

You are making a difference.

If you aren’t one of those people yet, if you are someone who is focused solely on your own business and affairs, here is a thought I would leave you with.

You may think that you’re “just” a plumber, or a hair stylist, or an accountant, or a retail store manager, or whatever it is that you do.

There is no “just.”

You play an important role in your community.  You can make a difference.


In your business you impact people on a daily basis, even if it is something as simple as a smile and encouraging word for a customer as they check out.

Your business can play an important role in your community and be someone that people know that they can count on for honesty and fair dealing.  It may sound basic, but it is not a small thing.

If someone has a car that needs repaired, they want to know that the shop they go to is going to tell it straight and isn’t going to pad what needs to be done.  Of if someone needs a plumber on a holiday weekend or their air conditioning goes out in one of our record breaking hot Houston days, they want to know they can trust the business they call.


As a business owner, you not only create jobs, but you have an impact on the lives of the people you employ.

My very first job working for someone else was at the local Dairy Queen when I was 16.  Some of the things I learned were:

  • How to multitask.
  • How to deal with difficult people with a smile.
  • That it didn’t matter what my coworkers did, I was responsible to do my best.
  • To look for what needed to be done and do it without being asked.
  • If there was a task I didn’t like, to learn to do it really well.

The DQ wasn’t a glamorous job, but I learned from it.  And I learned from every job and every boss I had.

Honestly, not all of those lessons were positives one.  From one, I learned that there is occasionally sexism in the workplace and that equal efforts doesn’t always result in equal pay.  But even that in itself was a lesson for it taught me that it was my responsibility to go out and find a job situation that was more just.

They all had an impact on me and I’ve brought something from every job I’ve had to what I do today.

What is the impact you are having on your employees?

Are they leaving you a better person than when they started?  Are they learning that ethics and fair dealing pay off and are rewarded or are they learning to cut corners and skate by?

Is the example you are setting, both in the way you treat customers and the way you treat them, congruent with your expectations for them?


You also make a difference in your community.  As I said at the beginning of this post, we may think of the huge corporations with the big money as the ones that matter, but it is the small businesses that make the big difference.

Are you doing your part to make a difference in your community?  Are you investing back in the community that supports your business and helping it grow or are you simply taking what you can get?

Are you pitching in and helping in community efforts or do you stay holed up in your shop absorbed in your own “stuff?”

If your business closed tomorrow, would anyone besides you and your employees care or would your former customers just go to the competitor down the street?

In this struggling economy we find ourselves in, I’ve seen some great businesses go under.  Some I didn’t see much of other than an ad here and there.

But there have been some, one in particular, that was just heartbreaking to see close.  The owners were such a part of the community, always giving and always supporting.  When that business closed it wasn’t just their loss, it was our loss.  The community was diminished because that business wasn’t a part of it any longer.

All Congress can do is moderate outcomes, the power to change comes from us.

“We the People.”

You as a business owner have the power to impact and change lives:  for your customers; for your employees, and for your community.

Are you?

Are you doing what you can to make a difference?  If not in money, in time?

If you have your health and a way to make an income, you are blessed.  Are you giving back?  Are you doing your part to bring light and relief where you can?

The next time you are tempted to complain, to blame this party or that politician for the economy and the rest of the issues we face today, step back and ask yourself, “What am I doing to make a difference?”  and “How is my business making an impact?”

Because the change comes from you.

On Being Congruent

On Being Congruent


It’s a word that has been on my mind recently.  It’s an interesting one.  It means “the quality or state of agreeing or corresponding.”

In geometry, congruent is  “coinciding at all points when superimposed.”

In other words, do all the elements of a picture align when you put them together?  Do they match up?

Being congruent is important.  I know there are a lot of people who subscribe to the belief that you can have one persona at home, one at work, and one at church.

But looking at that belief logically, the situation described above could be taken from a psychiatric diagnostic manual as evidence of a personality disorder.

I just don’t agree with that philosophy.  Character matters and all of your actions define you . . . not just the ones when you put on your Sunday face.

It matters in our personal life and it matters in our business.


In a world that tries to reduce everything to the lowest common denominator, where there are no absolutes, where one thing is not necessarily better than the other and everything is relative, many have lost the ability to discern between truth and a lie and between good and bad simply because they refuse to acknowledge that there is a difference between the two to begin with.

That is a problem.  If you don’t know how to discern between the truth and a lie and how to apply standards, you are at the mercy of every con that comes along.

How can you decide who to put your trust in, who to confide in, or who should advise you if you have no idea whether or not the person is worthy of that trust?

The first step in developing good judgment and discernment is to recognize that there is a standard that we should aspire to and that some actions do have a higher value and are more desirable than others.

It’s not a crapshoot.  People show us who they are every day.    To tell whether or not the persona someone is presenting is the truth or a façade, look at whether their words and actions are congruent.

Do they match up?  Does every area of their life tell the same story about who they are as a person?

Congruence in Business

The divorce of character and accountability from many areas of business is disturbing and, in my opinion, a large factor in the decay of the business landscape and the economy as a whole.   Cutting corners in exchange for short term gains and petty deceptions that build into widespread corruption of corporate culture aren’t isolated incidents.

What we are experiencing now in our current financial crisis is the bitter fruit of those actions as a consequence.

Starting From a Firm Foundation

Just as it is important for us to have standards of behavior in our personal life, it is also important to set standards of practice for a successful business.

The core of that starts with a company mission.  Why are you in business?  What value does your company bring to your industry, to your community, to your employees, and to your customers?

How does your company make a difference?

When you can answer that question, then the rest will fall into place.  It will be a guide for what services and markets to go into.  It will help in decisions on which vendors and suppliers to use.  It will illuminate the best hires.  Your marketing message will fall into place.

Because when you start with a firm foundation and keep your focus on that, it is easy to be congruent in every other area.

Lead by Example

While you can create reams of policy manuals the most effective way to inculcate a strong corporate culture is leading by example.

Don’t expect employees to treat customers with respect if you don’t treat them with respect.  If you want your employees to be good representatives of your company, start by being a good one yourself.

You can’t get upset about a questionable comment they made on their Facebook profile if you have a habit of getting drunk at a local restaurant after work every Friday night.  Don’t expect honesty from your employees and then go home and cheat on your spouse.

It comes back to congruence.

When you have a small business, for better or worse, you are the face of your company and the one that will have the most impact.

Lead by example and demonstrate the character that you want your business to be known for.