Posted by: Mike Clough

Twas The (fort) Night Before Christmas…

Twas The )Fort) Night Before ChristmasNewscasters have called the snowstorm we had last Saturday in Minnesota which dumped between 17 and 20 inches of snow, “the great blizzard of 2010”.  Of course, snowstorms have little, if any effect on me since I do most of my shopping online.

On the night of the storm, content to be homebound, I leaned back in my chair, casual and cozy with a warm puppy curled up in my lap. Just as I settled my brain for a long winter’s nap, out on the street there arose such a clatter, I sprang from my chair to see what was the matter. Away to the window I flew like a flash, tripping over my slippers and tipping over the trash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow gave the luster of mid-day to objects below. When, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but eight sets of headlights, roaring engines and shouting men pushing cars from the rear. A short time later, all the cars and shouting men were gone, leaving the night quite peaceful and calm.

I hope my readers will forgive me for taking license with Clement Clarke Moore’s, “Twas the Night Before Christmas”, published in 1822. I meant no disrespect. I just couldn’t resist the temptation to compare the magic I witnessed outside my window to what Moore described in his poem.

Of course, there is nothing unusual about heavy snowfalls in Minnesota. In Minnesota, when the weather gets bad, oftentimes schools, government offices and various community activities are canceled. Unfortunately, yesterday’s storm dealt yet another blow to many Minnesota businesses. You might say that the sales they had been counting on yesterday were “canceled due to weather”.

But, Minnesotans are hearty and helpful folk. It takes more than a blizzard, a tornado, a flood, or a collapsed bridge to keep them down. If I ever had any doubts about that, they evaporated as I watched the scene on the street outside my window last night. Actually, what I witnessed got me thinking about the enormous capacity we all have to help each other in a crisis.

In case you haven’t noticed, small businesses all across America are facing a crisis. Where can they get help? What can they do to help?

Well, there are many resources for help. SCORE is a non profit that offers free mentoring, advice and low-cost training for entrepreneurs and small business owners. They provide services and information online and in-person through one of over 350 offices nationwide and over 13,000 mentors.

The Small Business Administration (SBA) also offers many free and low-cost services to entrepreneurs and small business owners. Services range from information and online training on business plan writing, financial assistance, grants, contracting opportunities, compliance assistance as well as current laws and regulations.

Chambers of Commerce such as the MainStreetChamber™ offer numerous opportunities for entrepreneurs and small business owners to network, promote their business and develop professionally.

What can small businesses do to help? For one thing they can make a concerted effort to do business with each other. Why wouldn’t you give your business to another small business if you can get the same quality, customer service and cost?

Big businesses are often able to offer lower prices because they have lower costs. Therefore, it may be difficult for a small business to justify doing business with another small business based on costs. However, there is another option.

Have you ever considered trading (bartering) products and/or services with another small business? This situation allows two businesses to purchase one another’s products/services without discounting their prices or spending any money. Bartering is an excellent way to find new customers while conserving cash. If you Google barter services, you can find numerous resources.

The Holidays have always been associated with giving. And, in keeping with my focus on this blog, best business practices, I can assure you that giving is definitely a best business practice. If you’ve read any of my previous articles on social media, you may recall that a driving force in many social media communities like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter is giving and getting help online.

As the State Director for MainStreetChamber™ Minnesota, our philosophy is to give first, receive later. When you do this, you often find that you receive rewards worth many times what you gave in the first place.

Actually, there are many ways you can put “giving” into practice. You can give something to your customers, employees, suppliers and vendors. You can give something to charity or the community. However, when it comes to Holiday giving, did you know that of all the major and worthwhile charities, The Salvation Army has the lowest administration costs? This means that they have the highest percentage of each dollar donated going directly help to the less fortunate.

I am sure you have seen the Salvation Army volunteers standing outside businesses ringing their bells by a red kettle. Recently, America’s Best Business Practices joined the MainStreetChamber™ Red Kettle team to help collect online contributions to the Salvation Army. You can help us raise money by making a donation (none is too small).  Even better, you too can become a virtual bell ringer for the Salvation Army if you make a commitment to raise a minimum of $150. Either way, we appreciate your help. Simply click on the Red Kettle on the right and make your choice. Allow me to thank you in advance.

You don’t have to wait for the Holidays to begin the practice of giving. If you look for them, there are countless opportunities to give each and every day of the year. Why not let a stranger go ahead of you at the check out? Why not let another car go ahead of you at a four way stop? Why not pay the check for a stranger at a restaurant?

I am sure that the notion of “giving is better than receiving” is not new to my readers. Some may even smirk a little at the notion. However, I am one who truly believes that giving without expectation of receiving is rewarding. The rewards may not necessarily come directly from the person to whom you gave. And, the rewards many not show up immediately. Except for one; the good feeling you get from making a difference in somebody else’s life. So, what kind of a difference are you making?

Wishing You and Yours The Happiest of Holiday Seasons!

If you would like to contact me, you can do so by visiting my LinkedIn page or emailing me at mike.clough@bestbizpractices.org.

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Responses

Hello Mike,
Very true; it is times like the “great snow storm of 2010″ that make people come together. Also
it always good to know that resources for small businesses are available.
Take care,
Eric

Eric, are you dug out yet? It took us a couple of days but we are dug out.

Have a fabulous holiday season!

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