My son had his first birthday yesterday. I watch him now playing with my husband on the living room floor. The fire in our hearth burns warm and my head is filled with plans for building this newspaper. Should I begin with designing a simplified distribution system or develop plans for a women’s coffee club series? My son rides around the room on his new tricycle — he can’t quite reach the pedals so his father pushes him. Like my son, this newspaper is growing out of its infancy stage. It is now learning how to walk on its own. The greatest thing about having a young child, and a young business, is that they force you to look at your primary aim in life.
Last night I imagined my own funeral. I thought about what I would want my husband, my son, my family, my friends, my employees and even my customers to think of me once I’m gone. I found that I had a common desire with each of them. I want to be known as someone who inspired them, someone who cared enough to help them believe in themselves so that they could live to their full potential. I’m not sure where this desire came from. They say childhood experiences shape the person you become, and the most life-changing event I had as a child occurred in the late seventies.
I was 11 years old, and my family — like so many other families at that time — lost our farm when a bank manager decided that because of the rise in interest rates and the fall in real-estate values, my parents were suddenly a high risk. The bank called in the mortgage giving my parents 30 days to pay it back. And back then, if a bank called in your mortgage no other bank would touch you. The bank sold our home to the first bidder that came along, for a fifth of its value. My parents lost almost everything they had over the course of a few weeks. Suddenly they went from building a farm, to being flat broke without a roof over them. They had no idea where they were going to live, or what they were going to do. The future looked quite bleak and my father seemed to have lost his purpose. I remember the hushed whispers and the emptiness that hung over us.
But then some close friends of my parents learned that we had lost our home and they immediately stepped in to help. They suggested my father find a house to purchase and they mortgaged their own house to finance it. They showed my father that they believed in him. They listened, they gave him their time and he went from a man who had lost everything to one who still had potential to do great things. Over the years my parents were able to pay them back, but I wonder if those friends know the effect their actions had on us?
Although I was only 11, their selfless action had such an impact on me that I decided that helping people to believe in themselves and to see a bright future was one of the grandest things anyone could do with their life.
At that age I didn’t have anything tangible to give, but looking back I think that is when I began truly listening to people, hearing their stories and their problems. I guess that I was trying to give the only thing I had – which was my time and attention. In return I learned so much more than I ever could have without giving the time.
I remember having intimate talks with my classmates and when I finally moved away, my mother got a letter from my teacher a few weeks later. He said that each morning I used to talk to all my classmates before the lessons began and since I’d left, his class was much harder to get going, they weren’t as open. He wasn’t sure what I’d done, but he’d noticed something missing. That was the first time I realised that my actions could have an effect, and that my aim to help people was actually possible.
Today I realise that this newspaper is a reflection of my primary aim. In each issue we try to carry intimate articles that inspire women. I want to make people think, grow, and learn. If this newspaper gives even one person the desire to look to the future, if it gives them hope, then I will have passed on what those friends gave to my family so many years ago.
And now I must sit down and figure out how to get this newspaper into the hands of as many readers as I can. I will have to grow the business and constantly adapt to the changes in the market. I’ve learned that our readers are professional women over 30 who want more than the glossy fashion magazines offer. They seem to appreciate the thought and emotion that goes into each article we carry.
As this newspaper grows I grow with it. I’m learning to step back from the daily problems and see the bigger goal. I also see the opportunities that others have missed. This newspaper is being read by thousands of professional women. They are women that all the other publications haven’t been able to consistently reach. And yet we’ve managed to attract them and it’s because we’re doing it the same way I did as a kid: We’re listening, giving our attention to issues that matter, speaking intimately about those issues and working to inspire each and every individual reader to be all that they can be.
With this issue I would like to welcome Michael Gerber to our pages. His column will focus on the issues and struggles facing entrepreneurs. With over 80 percent of small businesses today being started by women, I believe Mr. Gerber’s insights will inspire many of our readers. Mr. Gerber is author of the best-selling book The E-Myth. He is also a renowned motivational speaker and president of E-Myth worldwide.