Posted by: Susan Fronk

Who do you need to thank?

Who do you need to thank?In America, Thanksgiving is the season for gratitude, goodwill and generosity. And, I am one who believes that no matter what level of success someone achieves they probably didn’t do it alone. So, I would like to devote this article to all those unsung heroes who have done so much to help small business owners succeed.

Every successful business owner, if they were honest, would admit to having hard times. If you think about it, you probably have known people who were there for you, lending a helping hand when you needed it most, whether it was financial assistance, professional expertise, business advice or other types of support.

As an example, when my Dad first went into business, with a family of six kids to support, he didn’t have nearly the money he needed to get started so a friend offered to back him. Over the years, my Dad developed strong relationships with his suppliers who often carried large balances when he needed them to. He developed equally strong relationships with his clients who continued to give him their business over a 30 year period.

Although I am not Jewish, I was fascinated by an article titled, “Interest-free loans steeped in tradition”, by Kristin Holmes of the Philadelphia Inquirer. The roots of this tradition can be found in the Torah where it is referred to an act of “lovingkindness”.

The Bible, in Exodus 22:25 states, “If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not be like a moneylender; charge him no interest.” Other references in the Bible can be found in Leviticus and Deuteronomy.

According to Mark Meltzer, co-founder and past president of the International Association of Hebrew Free Loans, there are 50 groups in the US and abroad that lend millions in interest-free loans annually. Founder and chairman of the Israel Free Loan Association (IFLA), believes that our lives are a short-term loan that has to be returned – with interest. That interest is what Jewish tradition calls ‘tikkun olam’ – making the world a better place.

Other ethnic and religious groups also offer interest free loans. According to Masood Ghaznavi, professor emeritus at Rosemount College, in Islamic law, interest is prohibited as stated in the Quran and by the prophet Muhammad.

Of course, I couldn’t write about being grateful for small business assistance without mentioning three organizations. SCORE has over 13,000 volunteers (including me!) in more than 350 chapters across America providing free mentoring and low cost training for aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners. The Small Business Administration (SBA) provides financial advice and loan guarantees to qualified entrepreneurs and small business owners. Together, these two organizations help millions of aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners each year realize their dreams of owning their own business.

The third organization is MainStreetChamber™, a national membership organization dedicated to advancing the growth and profitability of micro and small business. As President of the Twin Cities chapter of the fastest growing chamber in the US, I confess to a bias, but, we fill a real need for small business owners to have the opportunity to connect with prospective clients, build relationships with local referral partners and promote their business for free. That’s right; there is no obligation for small business owners to pay a single penny to belong to MainStreetChamber™. If there isn’t a MainStreetChamber™ chapter near you, please contact me and I’ll provide you with the information you need to establish one.

I hope that my readers do not mistake my focus on thanksgiving in this article as a shallow manipulation of sentiment and a trivialization of the plight of millions of small business owners who feel virtually abandoned by the very institutions that purport to support them. Far too many small business owners have had to close their doors or are hanging on by a thread waiting for help that has not arrived. I know only too well what that is like.

Several years ago, my husband was diagnosed with bladder cancer. Although it was generally considered very treatable, the type of cancer he had was very aggressive, resulting in a long and painful journey that ended in death. This process took a huge toll on our family emotionally, financially and ultimately led to the demise of our business which had been operating for over twenty years.

Soon, my husband was unable to work and I couldn’t because I was his primary caregiver. Like many small businesses, we had a very high deductible health insurance plan. Consequently, we quickly amassed huge medical bills, not to mention the cost of his drugs which at one point were close to $800 a week. Without an income, we very quickly found ourselves on the verge of losing our home. As my husband lay dying in our bedroom, I worried about where we were going to live when they threw us out.

Enter a cast of literally hundreds of strangers who came to our aid as a result of a letter that a friend of ours sent to his enormous mailing list asking them to help us in exchange for products we had in inventory. Then, for the next several months, I would start my day wondering how in the world I was going to keep paying for my husband’s drugs, food and other bills. Then, I would go to the mailbox and find several checks from complete strangers!

There is not enough room in this article to thank every one of those wonderful people who came to our aid. So, if any of you are reading this article, I just want to say Thank You! There are, however, a few people to whom I owe an extra helping of gratitude. They exemplify the kind of courage, dedication, resilience, intelligence, savvy and sheer grit that is required of all successful small business owners. However, it is their generosity, kindness and steadfast support that represents all that is good in people. To each of you on the list below, thank you for proving to me that in spite of the evil things that some people do, some people are very, very good! You can click on the names of those who are small business owners and it will take you to their websites so you can learn more about their businesses.

My husband, who is my best friend, business partner and inspiration.

My children, who have become wonderful people whom I consider friends.

My grandchildren, who bring me immeasurable happiness and delight.

Bonny Zerr,  my sister-in-law, who is a gentle soul and a source of strength.

John Arp, who passed way a few years ago was a great friend and business associate.

Jim and Dana Melton (Biz Owners) have always reminded me to look for the beauty, joy and love  in the world.

Tom and Cheryl Faranda (Biz Owner) have been there for me and my family through thick and thin.

Tom and Debbie Hopkins (Biz Owner) sent the letter that ended up keeping us afloat financially for a year.

David McNally (Biz Owner) has been a dear friend and trusted business associate for many years.

Tom Gegax (Biz Owner) has been a loyal friend for many years.

Kim Howard (Biz Owner) has been a generous and supportive business associate for many years.

So, who do you need to thank this year? Please leave your comments at the end of this article. If you would like to contact me, you can do so by visiting my LinkedIn page or emailing me at susan.fronk@bestbizpractices.org.

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My grandfather owned a small clothing store in a small town in ND during the great depression. He helped many a small farmer by extending them credit at his store during the depression. When our family occasionally visits this small town the stories of my grandfather’s generosity are still remembered. The farmers in this area of ND are to put it mildly very successful today.

David,

Thank you so much for sharing that delightful story about your grandfather. Actually, my late husband grew up in ND. He used to say that ND was so flat that when he was a little boy, he sat on his porch watching his dog run away-for three days!

Thank you for sharing the thoughts coming from such kind of experience. I think that no evil or good can be judged. Everything is just an experience. Because the worst thing can bring you the greatest happiness.
I want to thank my timeless love, endless love, for keepeing me alive, giving me a reason to live and giving me continuos back-up and lively hints in this lifelong earth experience. I love you ever after. You’re my light, my companion, my mirror. In the end and at the beginning, you are everything.

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