I mentioned in my last blog post that we'd be putting up a thank you column soon to celebrate our six-year anniversary.
Instead of me writing a personal column, Danah helped me turn our thank you message into a broader piece that we ran as an editorial. (We published this in our Dec. 23rd edition.) Here's the piece with the headline we ran. (I never like our headlines, but there's always so little dang room...)
Thank you, now share the love
Last week we were fortunate to celebrate our six-year anniversary and the kickoff of our seventh year. Wow. It seems like such a long time on the one hand, and like just a matter of weeks on the other. Guess time really does fly when you’re having fun.
Except as most of our close friends know, it wasn’t always fun. And as you’ll see in a few minutes, this editorial isn’t about us.
P. T. Barnum wrote in 1880, as part of his small book called the “Art of Money Getting,” the following advice: “If you are losing money, be specially cautious and not tell of it, or you will lose your reputation.” This is advice we certainly wish we’d heeded more in the early years, for as you know, no news travels as fast as bad news.
But thankfully our friends and supporters overlooked our honesty and the real fears we might fail, and continued to invest their money, time, and support into us.
But the reality is that Barnum’s rule is a great one to follow. An older version, if you will, of “Never let them see you sweat.”
And the reality is there are a lot small businesses throughout our town who are sweating. They worry through the night about their rent, their payroll they must meet on Friday, their inventory that moves slower than City Council.
We know this because they tell us. But sometimes we wonder if our readers know this. How could we not wonder with what we hear (complaint-wise) and see (traffic-wise).
Yes, sometimes we small businesses fall short. No, we don’t compare to big-time businesses in Turkey Creek or eateries you’ll find in Knoxville. But, before you criticize so quickly – as seems to happen so often in comments online and those that are thrown around town – and decide never to return, please put yourself in our shoes.
Please imagine starting out your own company. Undercapitalized. Worried. Sleep deprived, since you can’t hire enough help. And all while operating in a city that is about as business friendly as a cow is swift. (Please, Mark Watson, help change this.)
We’re now in our seventh year. We can admit how much we sweated. How close we came to not making it in the early years.
And while your shopping is probably done for this year, please in the coming weeks visit that local store or restaurant that fell short of your expectations at some previous point.
These small businesses have endured nearly two years of a recession, and many are at wits end. They’re frazzled, demoralized, and exhausted.
But these are the small businesses that sponsor your child’s team. That help keep your taxes low. That add character and uniqueness to the town that Wal-Mart and Home Depot just, well, fail to add. BY A LONG SHOT.
So on behalf of our many friends and small business owners, we ask you to show some heart, and certainly some love. Please try to go out of your way to help them as they try to rebuild and find that love and steady income they once had. And maybe their shorter hours, less complete inventories, and other gripes you have just might start to fix themselves.
And on our own behalf, thank you all so, so much for all your love and support. We’ve tried our hardest to put out a paper you could be proud of. We’ve written our opinions without fear or favor. And we’ve tried to do our small part to improve the town.
And we promise to keep pushing and with our greater resources, to do even more for this town we all love. This town that can frustrate us all to no end, but which keeps us within its grasp.
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Stan Mitchell is the founder and owner of The Oak Ridge Observer. He started the paper in 2004 with a $20,000 loan and writes generally on his blog about business practices, politics and local matters.