Small business success is an attitude

Mike is a plumber. John is an electrician. Both have a reputation for doing good work. Both stay very busy. But that is where their similarities end.

John drives a new van with professionally designed graphics. Mike drives a 15-year old van with a tattered magnetic sign. John wears a polo shirt with his company logo. Mike wears whatever t-shirt happens to be clean that day. John works 40 hours a week, spends his weekends with his family, and takes regular vacations. Mike seldom gets home before 6 PM, works most Saturdays, and doesn’t know what a vacation is. John charges the highest prices in town while Mike is known for his low rates. Mike complains regularly about being underbid by the competition. John doesn’t know what his competition charges.

Mike and John are friends. Neither can understand how the other operates. Mike can’t understand how John gets away with charging such exorbitant rates. John can’t understand how Mike manages to stay in business.

The differences between Mike and John go way beyond the obvious. The differences are fundamental. The differences go to the very core of how they view their business and the world. The differences are philosophical.

To Mike, his business is the means to pay the bills. He views the world as limited in opportunity. He operates much like everyone else in his trade. He finds comfort in the status quo and refuses to take risks. When John tells him to raise his prices, Mike complains that customers won’t pay more.

To John, his business is the means to the type of life he wants to live. He views the world as full of opportunity. He continually looks for ways to differentiate himself. He believes that what was good enough yesterday won’t be good enough tomorrow. He regularly offers upgraded services and products, which his customers love and make him more profit.

Mike is afraid to stand out. He is afraid to act on his own judgment, and thus he embraces the status quo. John wants to stand out, to be different. He has confidence in his own judgment, and the courage to act accordingly.

Mike and John could just as easily be the owners of any small business. Indeed, they have many counterparts in virtually every industry. Their outlook on life ultimately determines what they do with they lives. Those who dream and take action will achieve their dreams. Those who seek to learn and grow will learn and grow.

In the end, each of us gets to choose whether we will be Mike or John. Each of us gets to choose what our business will do for us. Each of us gets to choose what kind of life we will have.

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