Gratitude in the marketplace

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Happy Thanksgiving everyone! It’s that time of the year when we use a traditional celebration of the harvest to express thankfulness for all of the blessings of the past year. We most often associate the Thanksgiving holiday with family and friends. I’d like to extend that spirit of thankfulness into the business world and share some reflections about gratitude in the marketplace.

When we think of the marketplace around the holidays most of us have images of rushed shopping, rude customers, long lines, stock outages, and lots of bills. Those things normally don’t bring gratitude to mind. Stress levels are normally very high around the holidays whether you’re the employer trying to fully staff your business or you’re the employee who’s being asked to work extra hard. Frustration sets in for consumers who are seeking products to buy and sellers who are trying to make their holiday sales quotas. Even without the holiday stress, the marketplace is not particularly known as a bastion of gratitude.

It’s been well established that a feeling of gratitude is associated with good health and well-being. Many cultures and religious faiths extol the virtues of gratitude. So what can we do to be more grateful in the marketplace, especially during Thanksgiving and the holiday season that follows? I’m going to tackle that question by approaching it from several different angles. Bear with me and let’s see where I can go with this.

As a consumer, I’m grateful for all of the choices I have in buying what I want from whom I want. I’m especially thankful for small, locally-owned businesses. As a family, my wife and I will go out of our way and pay higher prices just to support what they do. As a fellow business owner, I know that my money is helping provide local jobs, pay for college expenses, and put food on the table for other people like me. The heart and soul of any community are the local businesses that give it character and soul.

In like manner, as a business owner I’m grateful for my customers. It’s the reason my business exists – to serve our customers. Over the last twenty years we’ve been blessed to work with so many high-quality local businesses and non-profit organizations. I am so thankful that other like-minded people will go out of their way to keep business local. Yes, I know there are valid reasons to source non-local products and services, but when someone chooses local – it makes me very happy and I’m grateful for that. It’s not my place to call out anyone, but It’s highly frustrating when organizations seek the support of the local business community but don’t reciprocate. Nevertheless, I’m very thankful for our customers who have chosen to support my local business.

We’ve worked with a lot of start-up companies and non-profits to help them get launched. I’m thankful for the opportunity to help them launch. During COVID, we were literally a lifeline to many companies who relied on our marketing services to help get the word out about their companies as most of society was hunkered down at home in front of a computer. We had to be creative about payment for our services and did our best to extend generous payment terms or reduce billing in order to help. I’m grateful we were able to help keep the economy going.

Nothing lasts forever. Our company has outlasted some of our customers and we’ve helped some of our clients shut down their businesses due to retirement, business sale, and even bankruptcy. I’m thankful for those customers and appreciated the opportunity and trust you placed in us to see things through to the very end. In many other organizations, leadership change has occurred. In some cases the new leader or board decides to hire another company and replace us. We’ve been both the beneficiary of leadership change and the loser with a leadership change. I’m still grateful for those customers and truly wish them well. Yes, a few customers have even come back to us. It makes me happy and grateful to welcome them back.

As I’ve written about previously, sometimes things don’t go well and we part ways with a client in which they fire us or we fire them. That’s no different than a relationship when people break-up or get together. It’s not easy to handle, but I’m always grateful for the lessons learned after client loss even if it takes a little time for the lessons to become fully clear. We’re a better business because of lost clients and the next new client is normally the beneficiary of our newfound knowledge. In short, I’m thankful for past, current, and future clients.

I’m also thankful for our economy, even if I don’t understand it. Although I have an MBA in Finance and minor in Economics, I still don’t understand our economy! We’re fortunate in this country to have a fairly open marketplace at the national, state, and local level. I can’t imagine what it’s like to start and run a business in a foreign country. Like most business owners, I’m not a fan of big government and lots of rules. On the other hand, I do recognize the need to have some rules to have an orderly market. Yes, it seems like big business gets all of the breaks and concessions. I’m not a fan of that either, but I can’t control that and try to be grateful for what I have in my little corner of the marketplace.

I’m very grateful to have a wife who supported my decision to start this business twenty years ago. We haven’t gotten rich and probably never will, but that’s not our goal. I’m thankful for my now adult children who’ve supported me and our business over the years by promoting it to their friends, working in the business, and continuing to support what we do. Knowing that they believe in me and what our company does means all of the world to me. They’ve given me great ideas and continue to help provide perspective on what we’re doing.

It takes customers, a market, and family to support a business. It takes a team to make the business function and I’m most thankful for our team of employees. Our team members believe in me to have the vision to properly direct the business and I believe in them to provide high quality services to our customers. I know it’s a job and most people call it “work” for a reason. I’ve been guilty of that myself. Indeed, some days are hard. We have our fair share of challenging situations, customers who can’t make up their mind, technology that constantly changes, and other issues that get in the way. I’m grateful that my team can see the big picture and overcome the challenges. Thanks y’all for being part of the team.

So what does my reflection about gratitude in the marketplace have to do with you, my dear reader?

Whether you’re an employer or employee, having a sense of gratitude can help inspire good actions, follow-through, and accountability. One who is appreciative of a situation, person, or job is more likely to do the right things. A thankful person tends to be happier and healthier. Being grateful doesn’t mean being a push-over. It takes a good measure of fortitude and persistence to endure in the business world.

I was recently interviewed for a podcast and asked what inspires me. My answer, “People who can endure adversity with a cheerful, optimistic disposition.” That type of positive approach comes from having a deep sense of gratitude. Thank you for reading this column. I’m grateful that you took the time to read it and hope you and your family have a Happy Thanksgiving and Holiday Season.

[Joe Domaleski, a Fayette County resident for 25 years, is the owner of Country Fried Creative – an award-winning digital marketing agency located in Peachtree City. His company was the Fayette Chamber’s 2021 Small Business of the Year.  Joe is a husband, father of three grown children, and proud Army veteran.  He has an MBA from Georgia State University and enjoys sharing his perspectives drawing from thirty years of business leadership experience. ]