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Economic Development is . . . (increasing the flow) of capital through the community and reducing its leakage.

Which Came First?

Bill owned and ran a successful landscape gardening business. The business had been in his family for three generations. Customers loved to visit the store. The staff enjoyed working on projects and making deliveries. In fact, for as long as anyone could remember, Bill’s father and grandfather were both extremely positive happy people. Most people assumed it was because they ran a successful business.

In reality it was the other way around.

A tradition for all three generations was that the manager always wore a big lapel badge, saying Business Is Great!  The business was indeed generally great, although it went through some very tough times like any other. What never changed however was their attitude, and the badge saying Business Is Great!

Everyone who saw the badge for the first time invariably asked, “What’s so great about business?” Sometimes people would also comment that their own business was miserable, or even that they personally were miserable or stressed. Through it all the Business Is Great! badge always tended to start a conversation, which typically involved the owner talking about all the positive aspects of business and work, for example:

  1. the pleasure of meeting and talking with different people every day
  2. the reward that comes from helping staff take on new challenges and experiences
  3. the fun and laughter in a relaxed and healthy work environment
  4. the fascination in the work itself, and in the other people’s work and businesses
  5. the great feeling when you finish a job and do it to the best of your capabilities
  6. the new things you learn every day – even without looking to do so
  7. the thought that everyone in business is blessed – because there are many millions of people who would swap their own situation to have the same opportunities of doing a productive meaningful job, in a civilized well-fed country, where we have no real worries.

And so the list went on. And no matter how miserable a person was, they’d usually end up feeling a lot happier after just a couple of minutes listening to all of Bill’s infectious enthusiasm.

It is impossible to quantify or measure an attitude like Bill’s, but to one extent or another it’s probably a self-fulfilling prophecy, on which point, if asked about the badge in a quiet moment, Bill would confide: “The badge came first. The great business simply followed.”

The fact that being positive is a critical factor for business-building is not a new insight. The tougher code to crack is how to remain positive when in reality there isn’t much going right. Here are five key ways to do so:

1. Aristotle said that happiness is an activity, meaning that people who are more active will be more positive.

2. Living in the present is always best. People who dwell on the past are likely to experience many regrets. Longing for a better life, wanting to be more appreciated in the future is a recipe for negativity.

3. Appreciating excellence is an underrated path to positive thought.  Whether it is the color of a flower petal, the music of a bird, or catching sight of an amazing sunset, these experiences affect our brains like a stimulant drug; take time to notice what is around you.

4. Celebrate! When something good does happen, revel in it.

5. If possible, avoid people who bring you down. Cultivate positive people. Positive rubs off.

As we build Tama County we need to look into the mirror and see if our attitude is close to that of Bill and his family.



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