I grew up in Geneva, Iowa population 141. We had a grocery store, gas station, implement store, Methodist and Catholic churches, post office, locker, school and ball parks. (for you urbanites: an implement store is where they sell farm machinery and usually repair it too and a locker is where you take your farm animals to be butchered, packaged, labeled and frozen for future eating) The next largest town was 4,000 people, 10 miles away and we went there once a week, at most. Everything we really needed was either on our farm or in Geneva.
Small communities learn very quickly how to get along. You speak kindly to everyone, help others when you can and share what you have. If you’re mad at someone, you take your problem right to them and usually don’t spread gossip all over town. If you need help, you never ask for it – but the community knows anyway and helps you.
Growing up I learned to be observant and patient. Things are not always as they seem, and patience helps prove that out. I learned to help others. For one day, it may be me that needs the help. I learned tolerance; everybody has a story and a reason for being the way they are. I learned that hard work always wins out. It’s good to be smart, but it’s also good to earn what you earn. I learned to be friendly to people. Strangers were not strangers for long, we relished newcomers in our community and wanted to hear their stories! I learned what the right questions to ask were, how to find out someone’s story, and how to listen.
All businesses are comprised of people. People just want to be heard, listened to and noticed. If you have a retail business, you sure want to be listening to your customers. They will tell you what they need. If you’re smart, you’ll figure out a way to provide what they need. If you own a factory with many workers, you want to be able to listen to your workers. If you’re not treating them right, they will tell you. A smart manager will hear them.
As we get older, sometimes we forget these early lessons. I think in 2012 I want to listen to the stories of those around me. I want to hear your story!