Sunday, April 3, 2011
True Confessions About Small Business Owners and Tradesmen
There are two photography shops in the area. One has been around a lot longer, is bigger and has more inventory. The scuttlebutt is that they aren't that nice and will try to sell you things you don't need. Regardless, that is where I went, first. They certainly weren't ugly to anyone, but they were swamped with customers. From what I could tell, they were trying to spend time answering the questions people had, which is great, but while I waited, there was a lot of hawking going on and the clerks looked frazzled trying to keep up. They rushed from one customer to the next, just trying to keep from falling too far behind. After nearly thirty minutes waiting for a free clerk, I decided to go to the other shop in the next town over.
Who knew the photography business was so brisk?
The second shop was completely different. Smaller, less inventory (but plenty), good parking and the owner took the time to look over my camera, check the metering, etc. He then spent over thirty minutes going over what I could do to fix my exposure problem, including taking me outside to take sample shots in the glare. While he worked with me, a steady stream of customers came through and he greeted many of them on a first name basis.
He was an excellent teacher and had me take a number of shots under his direction, indoors, as well. I felt bad to take up so much of his time but he was patient. Moreover, he didn't try to sell me ANYTHING. In fact, he told me I didn't need a lens hood and said I already had a really good start on my gear. I ended up buying a UV filter for my zoom but I was going to get one, anyway, and I was the one who brought it up. I will definitely be going back there the next time I need help or supplies or want more equipment. He has classes every couple of weeks and I wouldn't miss that experience. I went home and tried out the tips he'd given me and it made all the difference.
A number of companies we've dealt with since we got back have been family owned and run. It's been so nice to be back home in Oklahoma where you deal with real people who own their small companies, live in the community, take pride in their work and will do whatever it takes to make things right. I don't mean to suggest that other places don't have the same attitude towards their work when they own the company. I think it is more a question of dealing with a service company that is small enough that the owner gets his/her hands dirty, has long term employees and doesn't just send out a crew or hire short term employees just because they're cheap.
I also credit my husband who has taught me about respect, empathy and admiration for tradesmen and small business owners. I spent many years of my life in academia getting my undergrad and law degree, followed by more years working with white collar professionals. I never thought that I was snooty about small businessmen and tradesmen and certainly wouldn't have wanted to come across that way. Still, I now realize that I just didn't get it. I just didn't. And that embarasses me. I was all educated up but missed something fundamental. By virtue of working closer to the top of the consumer food chain, and, frankly, greatly influenced by a higher education filter and the types of people I hung around with as a result, I missed the forest for the trees. These people, as a group, are real. But so often, some of us don't even see these guys - they are dismissed as irrelevant or, embarassingly enough, as sort of losers/under achievers because they don't wear a suit to work or make a living with words or college degree.
I feel like a city girl who never really understood where beef came from, despite eating more than my share of steaks.
Here is a photo of Evelyn I was really pleased with even though the exposure was off:
Tomorrow is my birthday and Father-in-law is going to come over to help his son tear out the dropped roof in my kitchen that has been vexing me for over two years. Yeah!
Happy Quilting, Penny, Evelyn and Pearl