I don’t know about you, but since leaving that huge melting pot known as higher education, all of the people I’ve met and hang out with are pretty much like me. Roughly the same income level, kids the same age, live in the same town, share the same basic values and political beliefs. Maybe once in a while someone votes across party lines, giving us something to talk about for awhile. But, as much as we like to think we are all special and unique individuals, we are all fairly similar. I enjoy my friends, but sometimes while chatting at a cocktail party or relaxing at a softball game, all this sameness can make things a bit……boring.
That brings me to one of the coolest things I love about being a Small Business owner: customer relationships enrich your life. In a truly Small Business, you develop an intimate relationship with your clientele. Over the years, the formal proprietor/customer roles change to those of polite acquaintances, casual friends, and sometimes trusted confidants. Although all of your patrons have something in common – they utilize your Small Business, most likely they come from very different backgrounds and experiences. This makes for a highly interesting mix of individuals with which you might not otherwise come in contact.
For instance, in the past ten-plus years of running my Small Business, I have met and gotten to know the following individuals. Some of these people merely provided interesting conversation for a few encounters, others have become close friends.
- A scientist who spends most of his time at the South Pole
- A handful of Fortune 500 CEOs
- An American GI who liberated concentration camps at the end of WWII
- A few nationally- and internationally-acclaimed authors
- A well-known and well-respected theological writer
- A member of the 1940s Olympic alpine ski team who trained US soldiers in the 10th Mountain Division (At 91 he still rides his bike the three miles to my office.)
- A Dutch Indonesian man who was a Japanese POW in Burma during WWII, subsequently escaped, and then was recruited by the Allies to lead secret intelligence missions, all before he was twenty years old (Spielberg wanted to do the movie; my friend declined)
- An apiarist (aka a beekeeper, and yes, they do get stung)
- An Academy Award winner (Oscar is heavier then he looks and slightly too big for Barbie clothes)
- An artist who almost exclusively paints live birds; she lives with about 200 of them
- An Apollo astronaut
- An old guy who carves little baskets out of peach pits
None of these individuals are the typical Dad in the Carpool Lane. They range from the glamorous to the quirky. But, I can’t imagine under what circumstances I would have met these people in my personal life. My Small Business has allowed me to reach beyond the confines of my own age, stage of life, religion, and socio-economic group to meet fascinating people I probably never could have otherwise met. This has added depth to my otherwise small town existence and given my family lots of awesome opportunities, like helping boil sap into maple syrup (did you know it takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup? – hence the high price.)
How has your Small Business enriched your life by introducing you to people you otherwise would not have met? What opportunities have these relationships opened for you?