Writing a monthly column is different than writing a blog post. Blog posts are great for quick thoughts or short observations. Columns, on the hand, require more content. And if you want someone to read it, the content should be at least mildly entertaining. That isn’t always easy to conjure up. I figure that in a good year I get it right about half the time. Last month I graded my effort as mediocre.
This month I feel a little better about the end product.
As usual I approached the deadline without a cogent theme to build a column around. By the time the absolute final drop dead deadline was upon me and I still hadn’t come up with anything, I started to panic. Two mediocre columns in row is one column away from getting the hook.
Fortunately I found my muse after attending Peanuts Back to School night. The icing on the cake came the next morning when Elijah Cummings spoke at the Base Business Imitative meeting and shared a story about his daughter and her once favorite restaurant. When he offered to take her there recently she told him that she no longer liked the place. Elijah was surprised at the sudden change in her opinion of the establishment so he asked her what caused it.
“The last time we went there,” she replied, “I didn’t think they treated us nicely.”
The congressman pointed out that this small business lost a once and future customer that night because they dropped the ball on customer service. The key, he told the assembled small business people, is not to get bogged down in what is going on in the rest of the economy and instead “focus on that which you can control.”
I sort of felt he was being a little condescending with this remark. It’s easy for him to say. He isn’t out there on the front lines of the economy. There could be a whole range of reasons why his daughter thought they weren’t being treated nicely that are out of control of that business owner. Their server could have just gotten some bad news that put them in a sudden funk. Stuff like that can happen with a snap of a finger in a small business. By the time you realize an otherwise good employee has suddenly become postal some damage has likely already occurred.
And what can we really control anyway?
That is the question I pose in this months column.