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What is the best thing about running a small business?
Most business owners and operators will tell you the best thing is the customers.
You may say, “Well, duh. Without the customers, the business wouldn’t have any money.”
And that is true. Serving and taking care of customers is necessary for any business to survive financially. But most businesspeople will tell you they truly enjoy working with their customers. Meeting people’s needs and solving their problems creates satisfaction for both the customer and the business. Those valuable professional relationships often become important personal relationships, too.
Not every business lends itself to frequent customer interaction. I mean, we are all very grateful for the folks who make sure our sewer systems function properly, but we probably don’t know them on a first-name basis. Chances are much better you have friendly interactions with a favorite server at a local restaurant, the guy who sells you tires, the barista who whips up your Wednesday afternoon coffee or the lady who cuts your hair.
Last week here at the Bulletin, in one great morning, I had the chance to visit with three customers, the kind of conversations that remind me how much I enjoy being publisher of this newspaper.
There are no perfect jobs, and there are no easy jobs (at least I’ve never had one). But the difficulties, and the challenge of overcoming difficulties, help make a job fulfilling. In the Time of Coronavirus, the challenges and difficulties are increased and complicated.
One of my favorite things about working in newspapers is the variety of people they employ. Newspeople are always different from salespeople, who are always different from circulation people, who are always different from accounting and administrative people, who are different from graphic designers.
When it comes to customers, we have two primary constituencies: readers and advertisers. We have to have a lot of both to make our business work.
My calls last week happened to be from readers.
CALL ONE: This reader called asking about a store where we distribute our Bulletins each week. Our supply of newspapers often diminishes as readers come in and out, and by the time this reader got there, all the Bulletins were gone.
I gave her a list of alternative locations, which she was grateful for, but let me know that particular location was her favorite, because it was within walking distance from where she lived. We distribute the Bulletin to about 15,000 homes in the Las Cruces area, so many people only have to walk out their front door to pick us up. But I hadn’t thought about how many people might live within walking distance of our 250 or so public distribution locations.
We always hope the Bulletin provides some mental and intellectual stimulation, but if you incorporate picking up the paper into your Friday morning walk, we can provide some physical exercise as well.
CALL TWO: This gentleman called to say he is a longtime reader of the Bulletin, wanted to give a tip to the delivery person in his neighborhood. So I connected him with our circulation manager, Teresa Tolonen.
Then he and I had a brief but nice conversation about the Bulletin’s news and feature coverage. He had some great questions and thought-provoking ideas, and I appreciated his saying he recommended us to other people.
CALL THREE: Got a call from a lady in Kansas who wanted a mail subscription to both the Bulletin and our monthly regional publication, Desert Exposure. Curious why someone in Kansas would want our newspapers, I asked what prompted her interest.
She and her husband, who have a three-year-old, are looking to move away from Kansas, and Las Cruces is on their short list of finalists for a new home. On a past visit here, they discovered the Bulletin, and thought a mail subscription would help them get to know the community better.
I get a handful of these calls every year, and I love them, because it gives me a chance to talk up all the great things about Las Cruces, many of which this caller had already discovered.
“The last time we came,” she said, “there were lots of storms. Someone told us, ‘Don’t’ judge Las Cruces by this. We really don’t have a lot of rainstorms.’ But I said, ‘No, we love it. Just look at those rainbows!’”