With Thanksgiving upon us this week, it’s a good time for small business owners to stop and consider the benefits of their entrepreneurial efforts. There are plenty of reasons to be thankful for having the drive and ambition it takes to run a business. The personal satisfaction that it can bring is worth a toast on turkey day.
Even the act of being thankful can have an impact, and help to create a positive environment, as described by Mark Miller for Inc.com:
“By activating the right parts of the brain, expressing thankfulness and gratitude actually can make you (and your workforce) happier and more satisfied. Think about the difference between workers who are actively engaged in the happiness of others and those [who] are just at work to clock in and out. There’s a reason why companies are stressing culture and the importance of collaboration — it’s because it directly affects the happiness levels of their employees. So if you can boost happiness by being more grateful, why not do it?”
Here’s a look at some things that small business owners can be thankful for this holiday season.
Of all the great perks of being a small business owner, this ranks at the top for many. It can be the primary reason people make the great leap into starting a business, to get away from the typical corporate structure and to be their own boss. Erin Casey writes about this for Success.com.
“People love the benefits of working for themselves and enjoy the freedom they gain from designing their own prosperity,” Casey says. “You get to choose when you work, how you work and with whom you work. Best of all, you don’t have to make the agonizing choice between time for family and time for business.”
Everyone has a cause that means something special to them, and having the ability to contribute to those causes can create additional satisfaction. Small businesses can connect to charitable efforts in a variety of ways. In a story for Entrepreneur, Mike Templeman writes that focusing on charity “is quite honestly one of the best parts of being an entrepreneur.”
“You control where your company profits go and if you choose, you can … allocate your financial gains to others,” he says. “You can sponsor a charity, a non-profit or just personally give back to the community.”
A bit of a no-brainer, sure, because a business goes nowhere without customers. As Thanksgiving and the holiday shopping season arrive, make it a priority to show gratitude for those who help keep the business afloat, especially longtime loyal customers. In a story for Fundera, Georgia McIntyre lists several ways to show appreciation, from thank-you notes to giveaways to customer loyalty programs.
“Without those loyal customers that keep coming to your door, running your business would be a lot harder,” McIntyre writes. “When customers give you the love — putting their dollars into your small business — it’s nice to give them some love back. In fact, showing a little appreciation might help keep your customers coming back to you — research shows that 68% of customers will switch the brands they shop with because they felt as though businesses didn’t care if they shopped with them or not.”
Employees and supporters
Small business owners should take the time to thank their employees consistently throughout the year, but Thanksgiving and the holiday season can call for an extra effort to show how their efforts are appreciated. Whether it’s a kind word or gesture, a thank-you card or a small gift, that thanks can go a long way. Annie Pilon explores this in a story for smallbiztrends.com.
“Not all businesses have huge staffs,” Pilon writes. “In fact, many small businesses operate with just one or two people. But in small businesses, each and every employee has the chance to make a huge impact on your business. Those team members work tirelessly all year long to make your business a success. And let’s face it, you probably couldn’t do it all without them. Even solopreneurs are likely to have a support system of friends or family members who help them in certain ways. No matter what kind of business you run, you probably can’t do it completely alone. So be thankful for those who help you along the way.”
Nearly everyone who has spent some time in the workforce has experienced the rigid limitations of a typical business. Some of the results can wear on employees, like restricted vacation time or having to be present in the office from 9 to 5 (or longer). Flexibility can be a wonderful thing, and that also goes for the workplace itself — it doesn’t have to be the usual office space. As Casey writes for Success.com, the convenience of modern technology makes a significant difference.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re in a big city or small town,” Casey explains. “Entrepreneurship is an equal-opportunity employer. E-mail, cheap teleconferencing and a new generation of Web tools make it possible to run a fully competitive business from a home desktop. As a home-based businessperson, you can expand your business to Chicago, San Francisco, Hong Kong and London — and still make the soccer game.”
Many small business owners receive valuable advice along the path to entrepreneurship. Mentors can be a vital part of the education process, and that can continue well beyond the early days. As a business develops and grows, so can the lessons learned from those who have already traveled that path. As Templeman writes, business owners can take that knowledge and help others in the same way.
“Having had mentors and getting to be a mentor have been some of the best experiences of my life,” he says. “Learning from the masters and getting to help those less experienced than you gives you such a sense of satisfaction. From my experience (and other’s stories) the entrepreneurial community is very willing to give back and lend a helping hand.”
Small Business Saturday
Another bright spot in the holiday season is this day of thanks, in which consumers are encouraged to shop at small businesses on the day after “Black Friday.” (So this year it’s Saturday, Nov. 25.) The annual event was founded by American Express in 2010. As the company reports, last year’s event attracted 112 million shoppers who spent $15.4 billion at small businesses.
Besides just being thankful for this focus on small businesses, it’s wise to take advantage of the attention. Rose Leadem explores some ways for Entrepreneur:
- Resources: “American Express is doing the hard work for you, offering free signs, email templates, web badges, posters and other marketing materials to get your business’ name out there. There’s still time to download many of these materials and get them customized and ready to use in minutes.”
- Extend hours: “If you usually close at 5 p.m. on Saturdays consider staying open til 8 or 9 p.m. … And if you change your hours for the shopping event make sure to tell shoppers on social media and on your website.”
- Promote other businesses: “Small Business Saturday is a community event, so go out of your way to celebrate other small businesses participating in the shopping day. Re-tweeting them and sharing their social content is a great way to show your support. It’s likely, they’ll return the favor too.”