What is it that wakes you up at 5:30 in the morning? Besides my alarm, and its 3-snooze feature, I am awakened each day by the excitement of knowing that I will be able to work with YOU! I have often said that I sleep, eat and breathe Small Business and today I want to talk to you about what exactly that means.

I was having a conversation last week with some people and one of my friends was making a point about small business owners and how we think. I was excited to have somebody share their thoughts about the mindset of the small business owner because I have always had my own observations from my time in the field working with entrepreneurs and I was intrigued to learn that someone else shared my points of view.

Over the years I have learned that small business owners have similar characteristics to one another. Even though the differences in types of business vary so greatly the commonalities that link entrepreneurs are really what make them so fun to be around.

Small Business owners usually are gifted with an abundance of creativity which is necessary because they often operate on a shoestring and they are working constantly to meet the ever-changing needs of their customers. If you've never had the opportunity to get to know the owner of your favorite local business, I would urge you to make the effort. Small business owners are excited to learn about their customers and find out what excites them. Because they don't typically have many "corporate" constraints on the operation of their business they tend to be more flexible in meeting customers' needs. I think you will find them more accommodating than most; you just have to ask.

Early in my career, while working in a local restaurant in college, I had a customer who insisted on sauteed onions with his steak. Although you might think that a steak house should be able to whip up sauteed onions that was not actually the case. None of our recipes called for whole, fresh, onions so the business owner never purchased them. After some back and forth between the customer, the owner, the kitchen and me, we agreed on a price and a process and created a happy customer. As the waiter, in this scenario, I also gained a loyal customer who asked for my section and tipped very well. It was a Win/Win/Win situation and only came about because the customer took the time to ask.

Both my father-in-law and my mother-in-law were small business owners, and I learned a tremendous amount from both of them. My father-In-Law operated a cash register/time clock business and he taught me a lot about sales principles and negotiation. My wife's' grandmother, whose husband was also a cash register dealer, always spoke about how her husband, and her son, both made "a great deal of money by the sweat of their jaw!" and I really understood what she meant. I watched both of my in-laws negotiate pricing for their business, and I watched them carefully watching their bottom lines in order to squeeze out every penny possible from a sale. The focus was not on the profit but on the revenue that was made and paid to the employees. The families that the business fed was always at the top of their mind, and I was extremely respectful of that.

One of the driving reasons why I love interacting with small business owners is that they (we) are all fearful! Fear is a constant driver when it comes to business success! As children we were afraid of the boogey man under the bed, and we were taught that he was a figment of our imagination. As business owners we learn that the boogey man now lives in our mind's eye and he is very real. The boogey man now plants seeds of fear in our minds every day, which we overcome by running a successful business. We all have the fear of failure. We have the fear of the unknown. We share the fear of success and we share the fear of uncertainty. The decisions we make every day push us toward our goals and dreams of profitable business ownership. We face those fears every day and do whatever it takes to win, anyway!

Our role at the chamber is to help you identify your fears and develop strategies to overcome them. We understand that the trick isn't to NOT be afraid but to learn how to use your fear as a tool! It's about taking the butterflies in your tummy and making them fly in formation. You must face your fears head on!

You can do it; your chamber can help!

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