Going into 2009, I think that the future of America is in the hands of small businesses (often family businesses) that treat their customers like their friends and care about the employees that they have. Somehow our economy got into a niche where big companies no longer do these things. As the gap between the boss and the “worker bees” widens, the personal touch gets lost. When that goes, sales decline and everything falls apart.
In the old car hobby there are lots of small businessmen — we call them “vendors” — who deal eyeball to eyeball with the people who buy things from them. This personal contact lets the business know what the customer needs. And the vendor often becomes a source of technical knowledge, too. He does not simply sell you a part — he tells you how to install it. The customer may have to pay a little extra for the good service, but it is worth it. Though not the best price, it’s the best value.
All of us — from work-at-home free-lance writers like me to giant vintage tire suppliers and specialty tool sellers are still “small businessmen.” And because we are small, if we keep working and keep working hard, we can grow even in the current economic environment. If you are in this group, put your thinking cap on and get creative. Look for new ways to reach the people you haven’t reached yet and you’ll do well. And never forget to treat your good customers like gold. If we all do this, the old-car hobby can help lead the country’s recovery.