This is a holiday salute to all you men and women who are crazy enough to work for yourselves. I hope you’re reading this column while sitting around in your bathrobe by a tropical pool, enjoying a few weeks off over the holidays. However, I bet that, if you get to this column at all, it will be on the run.
That’s because, while most of America slows down to enjoy the year-end holiday, this is the busy time of year for many small business owners and self-employeds. Maybe this is the first time this year you’ve gotten to actually look at the books, so you’re scrambling to figure out whether to pay your state and real estate taxes and other expenses on December 31 or January 1 (I know some business owners who meet with their accountants on the last day of the year to make those decisions). Or you’re trying to decide if you have enough cash flow to delay billing that big contract into January, pushing the income into 2007.
Or, if you’re in retail, you’re likely eyeballing inventory and nervously hoping you’ve planned just right for the big holiday sales push, or agonizing over when to launch the even bigger mark-down sale…and for how much. You’re manning the sales counter, trying to keep those part-time temps from giving away the store, listening to scheduling complaints, and wondering whether aspirin or whiskey will work better on that headache.
You know darn well that there’s no such thing as an "I’ve-got-two-weeks-off-and-it’s-on-the-schedule-so-I’m-going-ha-ha" vacation for business owners. When there’s work to be done, you do it.
I recall my first Christmas in business. I worked out of an office in my basement. My entire Christmas vacation consisted of a two-hour break on Christmas morning to open gifts around the tree, plus another two hours for dinner with my family.
These days, I get to travel and take pretty good vacations now and then. Still, some things never change. Last year, for instance, the plan was to take off the last two weeks of the year. The goal was to kick back, watch football, be a bum. Heaven!
But then I got The Call! A good and valued client was in a pinch. They needed a package of first-quarter marketing materials. And, of course, they needed it right away…sooner, if possible.
Well, I built my business by helping clients meet their objectives. So I said, "you bet." The good news is that my 2006 income got a terrific jump-start. The bad news? I was pretty much chained to my computer keyboard every day except Christmas day between mid-December and mid-January. Complaints? Not a one. That’s just business.
So, here’s to the hard-working business folks who would rather work 18 hours a day for themselves than eight hours for someone else, and who may in fact be working on Christmas day.
To entrepreneurs like George and Barbara Jaegers, who own Bay Road Place, an assisted living facility in northeast Wisconsin, and who will serve Christmas dinner to their residents so their employees can get at least part of the day off.
To hardworking retail merchants like Denny Wautlet, who survives tight margins and big-chain competition to keep Denny’s SuperValu grocery store in Algoma, Wisconsin, open seven days a week, yet still never fails to greet every customer by name and with a big smile.
And to the hundreds of thousands of other business people throughout the Midwest who make sure that — when the consumer wants to order a nice meal, get a good deal on a new car, wear clean shirts, have the dog groomed, or schedule a long vacation of his or her own — the product and service will be there.
So, to all of you, the best of the holiday season…whenever you get the chance to celebrate it.
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