George was an unlikely success story, and certainly no hero. Reluctantly drawn into the family small business, year after year he went about all the duties of an owner, from manager to visionary. And he experienced all of the realities of ownership, including the occasional brief indulgence in self-satisfaction, as well as the deferred gratification that is usually heavy on the deferred part.
In his own eyes, George never quite measured up. His best friend left their small town and went off to make a fortune and travel the world. His brother went off to war and became a national hero. George stayed home in boring Small Town, America and minded the family store.
At a particularly low point in George’s life, when it seemed all was lost, our small business owner did more than contemplate suicide - he stepped right up on its dark threshold and looked inside that abyss.
What created this sad scenario that threatened to put George over the edge? He was visited by one of the usual culprits that cast their shadows over so many small business owners, like a ghost of decisions past. It was something about finances, and George wished he had never been born.
But before he could carry out his act of desperation, George was given a gift. He was shown how the world would look if he had never lived. It wasn’t pretty.
Yes, it’s that George
By now I’m sure you are getting ahead of me. You no doubt recognize our friend as George Bailey, the owner of The Building and Loan in the Frank Capra classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” I’ve seen that movie at least a hundred times and never get tired of it. (But even though it’s critical to the plot, I still can’t watch the part where Uncle Billy loses the $8,000.)
The reason I’m retelling this story here is because everything said previously - right up to the part about the gift - could be about you and me. To be sure, small business ownership has many advantages, and can be extremely fulfilling. But it can also be lonely, frightening, and frequented by ghosts of decisions past. And sometimes, like George, we feel that we just don’t measure up.
Here’s your gift
Remember George’s angel, Clarence ASC (Angel Second Class)? Well, let me be your angel, and here’s your gift: You make a difference to your family, your employees and their families, your customers and their families, your community, your marketplace, your nation, and this planet. Without you, small business owner, the world would be like Bedford Falls without George Bailey - not a pretty picture.
Next time you are visited by a ghost of decisions past or some other setback, dwell on it long enough to take corrective action. But never forget to take stock of all the important things that you do for so many.
I may be the only one who tells you this every day, but you’re not just my hero, you’re a hero to a lot of people. And I don’t want to see what the world would look like without all the good that you do.
The spirit of small business - your spirit - is a wonderful gift to the world.