Category: Entrepreneurship.

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Start with your own. From cleaning up your office to working on your own life, it’s so tempting (and easy) to focus on other people’s messes and problems. The other person’s problem and solutions are so clear and obvious to us. Their mess lures us into a false sense of a simple answer and quick solution. We are so tempted to say, “Why if you’ll only do this, everything will be fine.” Solutions aren’t always as simple as they appear — especially in other people’s lives.

What is difficult and far more bold is to start with your own mess. Start making changes in your own character. Start improving your own attitude. Start that habit at work that you want everyone else to emulate. Start cleaning your own desk and taking control of your own life.

I’ve been working on paring down and simplifying at the office and at home. It feels really good to be organized and uncluttered. In the process, I’ve noticed my tendency to want to “help” others with their difficulties, their messes, and their problems. That silly desire sidetracks me from what I really need to be doing. That distraction stops me from working on my own problems. It prevents me from thinking about and solving my bad habits.

Please don’t think I’m saying don’t care for others or help others. That is not what I mean at all. I’m specifically talking about focusing on others when we seriously need to focus on ourselves.

Often when someone else’s behavior or mess bothers me, I look to myself as quickly as possible to see if I’m guilty of the exact same behavior.

Leave other people’s messes for them. Allow others the joy of solving their own problems. Focus on your own. It may just start a chain reaction of change at the office, at home and in your own heart.

By Sally Poole

In fourth grade we lived in Holly Park, which is part of the Seattle Housing Authority. We just called it “the projects.” Mom, a high school drop out, was recently divorced with four kids. We were really poor and didn’t mind at all – except we had to eat powdered milk on the commodity oatmeal we had for breakfast every morning. At Holly Park, we had tons of other kids to play with and learned all kinds of new things.

One of our neighbors and my best friend was Tonya. Tonya’s mom would iron her hair in the morning to straighten it. My sister and I would beg her to iron our hair too. We liked it because it made our hair warm. She’d just laugh at us and iron our straight hair too.

Tonya’s brother, Mike was older than us and he was a complete mystery. He would bounce his basketball all the time and tell us frequently, “I’m gonna be a pro.” We had NO IDEA what on earth he was talking about. We tried to find out what a pro was. We even asked adults, but out of context, they had no idea what we were talking about either. You have to remember this was in the 1960’s. Professional sports had not yet become the big business it is today – well, not that we were aware of anyway.

Years later I realized Mike wanted to be a pro basketball player, make good money and have respect.

I started thinking that maybe we should encourage all of our young kids to become a pro. Professionals at something – anything! It would encourage them to work hard on their dream career, practice, maybe go to college or a trade school that they hadn’t considered before. To shoot a little higher (pardon the basketball pun) for a larger goal.

I had no idea what I would do with my life when I was in fourth grade, but I’m proud that I became a pro in my field. I hope Mike became a pro too. I wish all of our kids could grow up to be pros, earn the money they want and get the respect they’ve dreamed of.

The old model of focusing on industry and large business to bring jobs and build our economy is no longer working. We have a new model, but no one is paying attention to it and Northeast Missouri’s growth is being retarded. We could and should be doing better.

Traditionally all economic development in this region has been focused on industry and larger businesses. Because of this, much of what is being done is “top secret” and cannot be discussed. How many large businesses have been brought to Northeast Missouri in the last several years? The answer is none. That’s because our focus is wrong.

A more successful focus would be on small business growth and development. Small business is the foundation of our community and our country. Small businesses when properly attended to, can grow and develop into larger businesses that hire more people. Small business is easier to attract and easier to grow.

Owning a business of your own is part of the American Dream. Colleges and Universities are focusing more on entrepreneurship because of documented need throughout the country. Let’s be proactive and try something different – something that works.

The Provenance Project brought many artists/business people to this region. It’s been proven that a simple invitation is a powerful force. Artists are buying buildings, homes, and building their businesses, with no help from the city, county or economic development. Just think how much better each business could be if there was some place or someone they could go to and get information about incentives, training, incubators, loans and tax credits.

It’s time to refocus. To pay attention to the companies that have chosen to be in this region, to help them grow, and to encourage more small businesses start ups in Northeast Missouri.

Finally, I am also advocating for a more transparent process. If you’ve been to any chamber meetings you’ll have found that all economic development is “top secret” and can’t be discussed. Economic development affects every person in Northeast Missouri and our region deserves better accountability.