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Purpose & Small Businesses

Purpose & Small Businesses

Hello and good day!

My great Aunt Opal, my dad's aunt, was a prolific writer. She didn't publish anything, but she wrote a lot.

My most cherished possession is a book of letters she wrote for me when she was in her mid-nineties. Every two weeks for a couple of years, she put a handwritten letter in that book.

She wrote about getting old. She wrote about life in New Haven, a suburb of Fort Wayne, Indiana. She wrote about baking cookies. She wrote about my dad when he was a little boy.She told me what I was up to as a six- and seven-year-old, so that I'd have a historical record.

Every page is written in the shaky cursive of a 95-year-old woman. She lived to be 97 and she was a powerhouse right up until the very end. When she passed, she left the book for me. She never sent me the letters. She saved them in my book and the book was given to me after her death.

My mom is in town now. My dad gave her something to bring along. My dad was digging through some of his old stuff, and he came across a second book of letters from Aunt Opal.

She'd written this one for my cousin Kristen. Kristen's mother, my dad's sister, had the book in her house. Unfortunately, my aunt passed of breast cancer about 7 years ago. When my cousins cleaned out her house, they sent this book from Aunt Opal to my dad. My dad didn't know it was there until just recently. He found it cleaning out his garage.

I've been reading some of the letters and they are really great. They are musings from a bygone era.

My aunt was born in 1898. Her uncles walked back to Ohio after fighting for the north in the Civil War.

There is an entry in the book about my dad's mother, Valore. It said that she was working in the restaurant all the time. Aunt Opal became a widow and moved in with my dad's family to take care of the kids. Valore's husband, Victor, died when my dad was just 4 years old.

Valore was left sole owner of a chain of restaurants she had been running with her husband. They were called Vic's Diners. Since Opal son was grown she was living by herself, she decided to move in with her sister.

I'd like to interject something here. I love to write. I didn't know I would, but I do. I didn't start writing until about 3 years ago and I did it by necessity. I took a marketing course on how to promote an ecommerce business.

One of the suggestions was a newsletter for customers. I decided to take it on. Prior to that, I was our company's accountant and sales rep.

For a very long stretch, maybe 9 years, my main job was to call on pastry chefs in restaurants, and on chocolatiers, to try and sell them our chocolate on a wholesale basis. And I did the accounting.

Writing started out as an obligation. But now it is one of the most fulfilling things I get to do every day. Also, we own and operate two retail chocolate shops, one of which houses a commercial kitchen. Retail food locations, what do you think about that?

My Aunt Opal loved to write, and my grandparents ran restaurants. Somehow, as if a magnet was pulling on me from across the decades, I find myself engaging in the same activities as my forebearers.

It is a very strange coincidence because none of it was planned. I sort of drifted into it. Every man in my brother Brian's family is an engineer. We have the same mom and different dads.

All of Brian's uncles and cousins do some type of engineering. But for the longest time, Brian didn't do any engineering work. And then we got into the chocolate business, and he was forced to do all kinds of engineering to bring our chocolate into the world. He designed processes for visiting cacao farms and transporting cacao. He built our post-harvest processing facility out of an abandoned rice mill. Over the course of a decade, he built a vibrant operation from the ground up.Nobody else could have done it but him.

Based on the foregoing, I'd have to conclude that what a person is built for, our purpose in this world, lays somewhere in the past. It is in DNA that we have inherited.

If we are looking for what to do next, we should look backwards. The future is tied to the past in a continuum. My experience is anecdotal of course. I haven't done a widespread scientific study on the issue, but the evidence in our case is uncanny.

Now, I'd like to apply this to business. I believe that many small business owners are attempting to pursue their callings. That is the reason they started their business. And the reason their business doesn't get big and huge is because they like the work their business does more than they like running a business.

Running a business is very different from the work your business does. The work of a chocolate shop is making confections, serving customers, and mopping the floor at the end of the day.

Running a business means looking at financial statements and managing employees. A lot of us small business owners enjoy our work and wish we didn't have to worry about the business stuff. We've come to be good at business because we have to be. But we don't love it.

On the other hand, huge businesses tend to be run by professional business managers. Their work, what they love to do, and what they are good at, is the business side of things. The actual work their business does is a secondary consideration.

And this is one of the main reasons why I'd like to encourage you to shop with small business owners. They care more about the work. They are dedicated to the work. They are called to do the work.

Work isn't results on a spreadsheet to us. It is what we can do for you and what we are called through the decades to bring into existence.

Our work is a manifestation of what is in our hearts. You are not just an entry in the accounting software for a company like ours.

Beyond the book from my Aunt Opal, what got me thinking about this was seeing a bunch of business owners working Saturday. My brother and I work an owners' shift together in our chocolate shop on Saturdays. Most small business owners work at least 6 days a week. When I pulled up to the store, I saw all these business owners opening up their little shops.

I was honored to be one of them.

I went outside to put out our promotional signs and I saw one of our neighbors, a restaurant owner, sweeping his shop. He almost went bankrupt a year ago. I watched him go through it and I talked to him a lot while it was happening. He was right on the verge of going under, but he just couldn't let his baby die. He turned over his entire staff and now has a great team. Things are going much better for him. Sweeping is a sacred act for this man. As an aside, he is a Mexican immigrant whose parents ran restaurants in Mexico.

Another uncanny piece of evidence. His restaurant is one of my favorite places to eat because I know I am supporting a good man who really cares.

I am starting to run long now, so I am going to sign off. I thank you so, so much for your time today.

I hope that you have a truly blessed day!