My favorite things as a small business owner


This is our twentieth year in business! I know I said that in last week’s column, but I’ll say it again because it’s hard to believe. In my very first column for this newspaper, I shared why i started a small, local business.  It’s been a great ride with lots of ups and downs.  Most people say that the top two reasons they start a business are: opportunity to make more money and ability to have more free time.  Neither has been the case for me.  I actually make less money than when I was someone else’s employee and (as most business owners know) I actually have less free time.  Is that bad? I don’t think so, please read on.

Last week, I wrote about my least favorite things as a small business owner.  Most of those items were related to money and people. I’m not a negative person, so let’s talk about the good. Interesting, this list doesn’t mention money much but it does mention people in lots of positive ways. Here’s my top 10 list of most favorite things I have the ability to do as a small business owner.

  1. Making a positive impact in the local community – This may be my most favorite item on the list. In previous jobs, my focus was regional and national. However, my company purposely serves the local community where I’ve raised my family, currently live, and spend most of my time. Having the opportunity to direct resources to the local area is both a great responsibility and the source of great pride. It’s very satisfying to see our work products in the community – logos, websites, signs, and other marketing. Knowing that our work helps make the community a better place makes me very happy, and it’s hard to put a price tag on that.
  2. Helping organizations reach their goals – Providing services that help businesses and non-profits reach their goals is actually part of our mission statement. In today’s busy and cluttered world, marketing is an essential service that helps organizations create awareness, interest, demand, donations, sales, volunteers, and so forth. In addition to online marketing, we also go out of our way to introduce people to other people in order to help foster connections. I love doing that, even if I don’t directly benefit from the connection.  I’ll mention connections further on down in this list.
  3. Creating jobs and opportunities for people – In this era of outsourcing and Artificial Intelligence (AI), the trend in my industry is to not have employees. Indeed, we would probably be more profitable if we followed those trends. But we’re not trend followers. I personally believe companies have an obligation to the community to create economic opportunities for people in the way of jobs. When someone hires us to build a website, they can take satisfaction in knowing that it was designed locally, by local staff who understand the area and are completely invested in the community. Our firm hires full-time, part-time, and paid interns from the local schools and colleges. We love our team. Providing employment not only sustains livelihoods but also empowers people to grow both personally and professionally, which is a remarkable feeling.
  4. Developing personal connections – Meeting people, making connections with people, and helping people in a direct personal way is something that was hard to do when I was an employee in a big company. Most of my personal interactions back then had a very specific business purpose. As a business owner, I can purposely do that now and make it a priority no matter what the reason. I attribute our success over the past 20 years to the ability to develop personal connections in the community. It’s given me the opportunity to help others in need and also seek assistance when I need it. Community is all about people, not things. These genuine relationships foster a sense of trust and loyalty, creating a supportive network that benefits everyone involved.
  5. Fostering innovation and creativity – Running a small business requires me to be nimble and innovative. As I mentioned in last week’s column, business challenges cause me to have to react and make things happen quickly and effectively. The pressure of making a payroll has always provided a great incentive to focus efforts. I don’t have to wait for board approval or a committee to do things. Our small team gets to experiment with new ideas, implement creative solutions, and adapt quickly to market or client changes. This freedom to innovate keeps me and our team inspired. It pushes our business to thrive in a dynamic environment. I actually feel sorry for organizations that stifle creativity and innovation.
  6. Mentoring others -Over my military and work careers, I’ve had some great mentors. In fact, I’ve mentioned some of them in my columns. As a Generation X, middle-aged man, it’s my turn to mentor others and let them shine. Mentoring aspiring entrepreneurs, creative professionals, community leaders, and future executives is very rewarding. In addition to mentoring full-time members of our team, we’ve also enjoyed participating in the Fayette School System Work-Based Learning Program (WBL). The program gives us an opportunity to mentor high school seniors interested in creative marketing careers with a paid internship in our company. We also work with top-notch college interns. Sharing knowledge and experiences with others and witnessing their growth and success are incredibly fulfilling.
  7. Learning from others – Owning a small business has also given me the chance to learn from other entrepreneurs, industry experts, members of our community, and (most especially) younger members of our staff. It’s truly amazing how creative and innovative our young people are. Yes, they’ve even taught me how to make a TikTok and use Canva instead of Powerpoint. Learning in a larger company tends to be more formal and less flexible. I think some of the most effective learning is experiential. It’s hard to read or study creativity without actually practicing it. Out of necessity, a small business like ours tends to learn by doing. It makes the learning more relevant and less theoretical. This continuous learning process not only enhances our business but also enriches my life on a personal level.
  8. Contributing to the local narrative – In addition to supporting other local businesses and non-profits with our services, I’ve also had special opportunities to contribute to our community in other ways. It’s been my honor to serve on local boards, including our Fayette Chamber of Commerce. I’ve been asked to sit on steering committees, advisory panels, and other groups committed to making our community a better place. Our firm has donated services and sponsored local events. As an individual and as a company, we’ve donated volunteer time to organizations. We’ve participated in community forums and discussions. We’ve chimed in with our very vocal support for diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. Without being overtly political, we’ve also supported several political campaigns – from both parties. In fact, my writing this column in our local newspaper is an attempt to contribute my voice to the local community narrative.
  9. Enjoying greater flexibility and adaptability – Unlike larger corporations, my small business can swiftly adapt to changing circumstances and customer needs. This agility allows me to seize opportunities and overcome challenges, making every day a new and exciting adventure. Running a small business is never routine or ordinary. In fact, I tell prospective new team members that if they’re looking for routine – that’s not us. Members of our team can expect the extraordinary and not the ordinary. That holds true for our clients and those in the community who interact with us.
  10. Having freedom to direct my energy to worthwhile things – As long as it doesn’t break a law, I have the freedom to direct our company resources in any direction I see fit. While I do consult our leadership team and employees about major business decisions, I don’t have to run it by anyone else. I have the freedom to focus energy on endeavors that align with my values and passions. This purpose-driven approach allows me to direct a business that reflects who we are and what we stand for. The freedom to act allows us to be intentional about supporting worthwhile things in our community.
The author leading a meeting about a local marketing initiative in the community. Photo/Joe Domaleski
The author leading a recent meeting about a local marketing initiative in the community over at Trilith (Fayetteville, GA). Photo/Joe Domaleski

The good definitely outweighs the bad of being a small business owner. The list of my favorite things as a small business owner highlights the unique opportunities and privileges that come with running a local business. Each aspect of entrepreneurship has enriched both my professional and personal life. The freedom to direct my energy to worthwhile endeavors gives me an opportunity to create a lasting impact in the community that goes beyond monetary success. As I reflect on my journey as a small business owner, I am grateful for the many blessings and opportunities this role has brought into my life, and I am committed to continuing this fulfilling journey while making a positive difference in the lives of others.

[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. ]