How will you know where you are going?

Everyone needs a map at some point. It can be the old-fashioned fold-out paper kind, or the latest GPS software loaded in your car or on your cell phone. 

The thing I enjoy the most about freelance writing is meeting a wide assortment of personality types and learning about their individual philosophies that apply to their specific scenarios. Among my favorites are the small business owners. 

I have a new writing assignment for our newspaper and the intent is to help the community get to know some of our local business owners. We don’t spend time listing food menus and prices, or talking about their product suppliers and the like; we get into talking about what got them started and what keeps them going. I ask them questions like: what keeps them up at night and would they do it again, were they to start over? The superficial, obvious questions don’t help people get to know anyone. It’s the deeper stuff that tells us who a person is. 

Today I’d like to share a few of these tidbits from some of the people I’ve written about. These are people who are putting in 12-16 hour days because if they don’t, they won’t make it. 

Restaurant owning mother/daughter team: 

  • The mother: “You absolutely have to write a business plan. You have to have a goal; you need to know where you are going.”
  • The daughter: “Always make sure you do something that you’re passionate about, no matter what type of career you choose. Just make sure it’s something you love doing.” 

One business man shared a Bible verse that he uses to steer his business:

  • Colossians 3:23 in the Bible: “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord . . .” He told me he believes that no matter what people do, they should do everything they can to produce the finest results. He also advised people to “Look for an area that has a need, and then fill it by working very hard and being honest.”

From the son who now runs his family’s 60-year old appliance business: 

  • “We’re more interested in getting the customer something they would like rather than just selling them something just to be selling them something that we want to sell.“ 

From a chiropractor/spa owner:

  • “Have a business plan!” She’d written her own plan over 20 years ago. “I figured up what everything from staples to paperclips would cost me at start up, and then I set an amount of money that I knew I had to earn to cover that figure. You have to set that figure for yourself or you won’t have anything to aim for.” 

From a public relations director:

  • “It’s all about relationships.” She said this is her key philosophy in all situations and settings, instilled in her a long time ago by a fellow newspaper woman. “If people call me for information, they know I’ll go after it for them as soon as we hang up.”

And one final thought from another long-time carpet cleaning business owner:

  • “The reason you succeed is because you strive for excellence for the purpose that the only way you can succeed is to make sure that no matter how good your competition is, the best they can do would be to equal you.”

There is much valuable advice within the examples of these business owners whether the product is soup, pies, refrigerators or carpeting. These pieces of advice are also useful for writers who want to be paid for their work.

Author Note: The restaurant owner above shared that she used a software package called SmartBusinessPlan to create their baseline business plan. I know nothing else about it.  

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4 thoughts on “How will you know where you are going?

  1. What a great series of articles. Small businesses are the backbone of each community and I can honestly say mine spent as a small business owner were the best years of a varied life embracing several “careers”. IT was the gift I gave myself before I retired. I can only say each has their own story, but it’s “different strokes for different folks”.

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