Business

Time to express gratitude for small business

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I have a love-hate relationship with the New Year holiday. Going from 11:59 p.m. to 12 a.m. at the turn of the year stresses me out because my plans for that moment are usually pretty lame. But I love thinking through plans, goals and resolutions for the New Year.

This year, my brother challenged me to boil down all my many New Year's intentions into one word. Gratitude is my word. I am challenging myself to be more thoughtful and deliberate about expressing gratitude.

I hope to apply this to all areas of my life, but for this column I will focus on my connection to small business.

I am proud to represent small business for a living and to have many family members who own small to mid-sized companies. But beyond that, I am very grateful to the many small business owners that I regularly interact with for making my life easier, more interesting, and more enjoyable.

Here is my plan for expressing that gratitude more concretely.

1. Compliment business owners and their staff out loud I am often guilty of giving compliments to people in my head - where they don't do any good in the world. Yesterday I took the time to tell a waitress that she was great at her job. She beamed and maybe it will encourage her to continue her great attitude to the benefit of the business and its customers. Everyone appreciates genuine compliments.

2. Be mindful about how I pay for purchases Credit cards are convenient but they can be very costly for business owners to accept. Fees to process sales range from 1.7 per cent to 3.0 per cent. So called "premium" cards like Visa Infinite and MasterCard World Elite have even higher fees. I will stick to using lower cost cards (The Canadian Federation of Independent Business has a list of regular and high fee cards on its website at cfib.ca).

I will also pay by cash or debit where possible, as these tend to be much lower cost options and continue to give my credit card a rest on Fridays (creditfreefriday.ca).

3. Never use a small business as a show room. Several small business owners have told me about "customers" who come in to look at merchandise and ask questions and then order online to find cheaper prices. One woman sells wedding dresses and says she will sometimes spend hours with a "customer" to help her find the perfect dress.

Some "customers" bring her back the same dress - purchased elsewhere - so she can do the alterations! I bought a camera last week from a small-business owner who took 45 minutes with me to go through the features. He says "customers" use him as a showroom at least once a day and often tell him exactly what they are doing. Small businesses don't exist to decorate our communities and I commit never to do this.

If readers have other good ideas, I would love to add to my list.

Laura Jones is Executive Vice President of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. She can be reached at laura.jones@cfib.ca. Follow her on Twitter @CFIBideas.

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