Great advice from a local restaurant owner
We (my local business network) had a meeting of the minds this morning. We had a lively discussion about how local business owners can work better together, and ultimately drive more awareness and foot traffic to the stores that are, historically called the “backbone of our community.”
Our host, a local restaurateur participated in the conversation, and helped re-ignite my passion for small business, which for the last 8 years has been at the core of everything I do.
Owning a small business is hard. In the initial stages of building and growing, it seems there’s little time for rest. We’re pulled in hundreds of different directions, and that’s not even counting the direction of “home.”
As big box brands have strengthened their grip in our small towns, and made it more and more difficult for the mom and pop to survive, friends and loved ones are warning new entrepreneurs against starting a new business.
And yet, here we are, in the trenches. Believing not only in ourselves, but also in the communities we choose to build our business, that we can make it happen. And, it creates a contradiction – We know, in order to succeed, we must compete, but not at the risk of isolation.
Most of the time, my involvement in these conversations circles around what we can do as consumers to raise awareness. But today, the conversation was packed with wisdom that we can all apply to ourselves. We have to remember that we’re not in this alone.
The message he shared caught me off guard, and yet struck a chord deep inside:
“Get over yourself”
It wasn’t said in anger, or frustration, but out of love. The tough love that we’re not so used to these days. We’re soft. But there’s no room for soft in the small business trenches.
I have paraphrased what this wise, young entrepreneur shared:
“We, as business owners have a duty to bring our best. We can’t keep thinking it’s the customers’ job to “shop small.” We have to make the shopping local experience BETTER. We need to work together, share and talk about what makes us choose Lakeland. We also need to support other small businesses — outwardly. We might not like everything about them, but we ALL have a duty to SUPPORT LOCAL and encourage others to do the same. We need to get over ourselves. We chose this for ourselves. We choose it every day. So, the only way to improve our situation, is to make it possible for all of us to thrive.” — Marcos Fernandez, Owner 1961
To apply this to anyone, regardless of their chosen profession, it might read like this:
“We, as human beings have a duty to bring our best. We can’t keep thinking it’s someone else’s job to support our efforts. We have to make what we do BETTER. We need to work together, share and talk about what makes us choose to do what we do. We also need to support other human beings — outwardly. We might not like everything about them, but we ALL have a duty to SUPPORT HUMANS and encourage others to do the same. We need to get over ourselves. We chose this for ourselves. We choose it every day. So, the only way to improve our situation, is to make it possible for all of us to thrive.” — Awesome Human
If we want others to support us, we have to commit to supporting others.
Because I work with and live the life of a small business owner, when I look another micro-business owner in the eye, I can see my reflection. I know they know. And that is all it takes for me to charge my batteries and ignite the passion to carry the flag of my brothers in arms.
We, as human beings are all fighting the same challenges. We’re not alone, we’re in this together.
We don’t need to explain the challenges, but we do need to stop blaming and resenting the big box (or whatever our personal challenges might be) and focus our energy on uniting on the one thing we all believe — that the lifeblood of our work is being awesome!
If small business is the backbone of a community, an alliance among all of us, arms locked in unison, becomes the arms that embrace and connect the community together. It’s not their job — it’s ours.
Also published on Medium.