Published in 2012, I finally got around to reading the romance novel, ME BEFORE YOU by Jojo Moyes. It’s a good thing my friend placed the book directly in my hands, because the genre, Romance Novel doesn’t set off any MUST READ flags for me.
The premise isn’t complicated – and is a straightforward “Girl meets boy in wheelchair” story. While the road, ME BEFORE YOU travels down doesn’t contain many twists and turns, it does provide an ending that avoids clichés and an eye-rolling happily ever after. Instead, it lays bare what is most important for human kindness, and the difficult task of being selfless.
ME BEFORE YOU – An entertaining and thought-provoking read. Oh…and a romance.
And why the death of golf has been greatly exaggerated
“Good morning,” I said as the door opened, revealing a young woman pulling her mask up over her mouth. She hesitated, looking at the variety of golf attire, clubs, and accessories in the pro shop. As she made her way to the counter, I could see the smile in her eyes. “Welcome,” I continued. “How may I help you?”
“Hi,” she replied. “My son and I needed to get out of the house, and we’re just glad that we’re able to come here. It’s been a while.”
IT’S BEEN AWHILE – The most spoken response in golf pro shops across the country. Well, in Michigan, anyway. While the Coronavirus has had a devastating affect on the economy at large, it has resulted in a surprising uptick for a select few businesses—one being golf courses.
Although, it didn’t start out that way. Back in early April, golf courses were on the same lockdown mandated by the Governor of Michigan, as most other businesses. But with the argument that golf is an outdoor activity that requires little to no physical interaction between players, the golf course industry was soon granted a refreshing pass by Governor Whitmer. As people rejoiced, owners of golf courses, quickly saw a return to business as usual. However, they were not prepared for what happened next…
Families that once enjoyed taking their children to the beach or bowling alley, or even the city park, were suddenly met with CLOSED signs and warning tape encasing park playgrounds. With limited options, Mom and Dad found their old clubs hiding in the basement, dusted off the driver, and said, “Kids, we’re going golfing.” And as bars struggle to remain open, young adults are finding that golfing with friends is a safe, healthy and entertaining alternative to the bar scene.
The golf industry had been declining in growth as the younger demographic chose different sports and activities from what their parents enjoyed. Many country clubs that once thrived, were struggling to remain open, and golf courses were quickly turning into housing developments.
And then came Covid-19.
Only time will tell if the growth of golf continues after the pandemic subsides, but as I send another family with young children onto the course already bustling with many other families and friends enjoying this great sport, something tells me we just might be growing the next Tiger Woods.
I looked at my glasses, which had just previously rested on the top of my head. With one of the temples (the arm of the glasses frame) turned at a 90 degree angle, I contemplated the chances of the temple surviving my attempt to bend it back into place. Even as it withstood the bend back, I could see the break, and knew the temple would soon snap into two detached pieces.
I have always taken my business to RX Optical, and as I talked to the salesperson at the location nearest me, I reiterated my loyalty to the store, and explained my current dilemma, and my request for a new temple.
“I’m sorry,” she explained. “We can’t replace a part; we have to replace the whole frame.” After looking at my purchase history, she continued. “You purchased your frames in May of 2018, so your 2-year warranty has expired. You will also want a new eye exam since we request that they be made every two years. You have insurance for that right?”
She then continued to schedule an examination for me for a month down the road, even with my insistence that my frame wasn’t going to make it another 30 days, and I feared having to wear taped-up glasses. I hung up the phone, realizing that I would now be down hundreds of dollars for what I had hoped would be the replacement of a simple part.
Something wasn’t right here. I knew there was a better way for this tale to end, so I picked up the phone again. But this time, I called the RX Optical located in the Oakwood Plaza, and had the pleasure of talking with Paige Miller.
“I’ve looked up your records,” Ms. Miller said. “And it shows that your 25-month warranty ends in just a few days, so you’re good! We have your frame in-stock so come on in whenever you want, and we’ll switch it out for you.”
I won’t remark on the first salesperson because I don’t know if she is the product of bad sales practices or more aptly, poor training. I will however applaud the actions of Paige Miller, who didn’t feel the need to sell me a car when all I needed were new tires.
Imagine riding the high of being a businesswoman with a new store that is due to open. You research everything, making sure that the inventory is being delivered, the bookkeeping is up-to-date, and your staff is in place—ready to go! Then the pandemic hits. It was enough to knock some off their feet. But it was not enough to stop Jessica Thompson.
While much of the country hunkered down, restaurants switched to take-out only, retailers ramped up online sales, and women everywhere discovered the true color of their roots. This is the snapshot into the lives of three women who are a part of our community, and learning how to succeed while adjusting to our New Normal.
We’re talking to:
Jeannie Henderson: Owner of Jeannie Cleaning – Home & office sanitizing and cleaning services.
Katie Timber: Executive Director at SPCA Southwest Michigan – a not-for-profit no-kill shelter.
Jessica Thompson: Owner of Bee Joyful Shop, Michigan’s first zero-waste market.
Q – What about opening your business turned out to be much harder to accomplish than you expected?
Henderson – One of the biggest challenges I have had to overcome is to create a positive, rewarding, and engaging work culture that attracts the best talent and improves employee retention. Business is always about the people and having the right people in the right seats. At Jeannie Cleaning, we started to get on the right track by defining our purpose and our values and we put them up on our wall for everyone to see. We live them out in every decision, every plan and every action. It has been so rewarding to work with our team now that we are all committed to the same set of values and headed in the same direction. Our business went from frustrating to joyful – just by going through the process of defining our values and then living them out.
Timber – I think the challenging part is that most people assume we are part of the ASPCA or a nationally funded organization. We aren’t! We are your local No-kill shelter that exists thanks to the generosity of our community. Animals do not qualify for funding from most corporations and foundations. Partnerships, donations, adoptions, and volunteerism are the driving force behind the success of The SPCA of SWMICH.
Thompson – Obviously, the COVID-19 outbreak presented an unexpected roadblock because it kept the store from opening when I had planned. But I know that’s only temporary. Before COVID-19, the answer to the question would have been finding vendors who are strict adherents to a no-plastic philosophy, particularly when it comes to shipping their product(s). I’ve been occasionally surprised when opening a box of plastic-free product to find it wrapped or surrounded in plastic shipping material. Being plastic-free is intentional because in many cases, it’s not what we’ve been trained to do. So when I get product that is packaged and shipped plastic-free, I know that vendor and I are on the same wavelength.
Q – Share with us, an unexpected bonus about running your business?
Henderson – The unexpected bonus of running Jeannie Cleaning is meeting so many great people throughout Kalamazoo and seeing parts of our beautiful county where I had never ventured before. Our customers are so friendly and kind, and it’s a joy getting to know them and to help them to have more free time to do the things they love to do. The additional networking that I’m doing has also been a blessing as well. I love all the new friends I have, and how we are able to help each other succeed. One can NEVER have too many friends!
Timber – Relationships—I have a pretty nontraditional family. The SPCA makes up mine. My board, the staff, volunteers, and our partners are all very close. Some people may think that looking at our pets as members of our family is odd, but fortunately for me, my family is not only supportive of my relationship with animals, they also feel the same. The support of my SPCA family inspires me personally and professionally every day.
Thompson – Community support has been great! First, the local business community has been helpful and welcoming. To have so many neighboring small businesses offering advice and support has been very encouraging, and sets an example for me to follow in years to come. Also, I’ve been happily surprised by how many have reached out to me on my social media pages to offer encouragement and to let me know that they plan to shop at the store as soon as we’re able to open. There’s a demand for plastic-free products in our community. I know because people are telling me every day!
Q – What advice would you give women starting a business today?
Henderson – Whenever someone asks me about starting a new business, the first thing I suggest is to find a great coach or mentor who has been there before you. Someone who has been successful and who enjoys helping others achieve their dreams. It took me a year after starting Jeannie Cleaning to find my coach. I had to fix a lot of mistakes which could have been avoided. Having a coach has inspired me so much that I am now in the process of becoming a certified Cleaning Business Fundamentals Coach so that I can use what I have learned to help others find success and fulfillment in their businesses.
Adopt a cat or dog. We all need the emotional support.
Listen and be realistic while being passionate.
Be willing to learn, and include the opposite perspective.
Be confident, and know that sometimes things aren’t going to go your way.
Be humble, but also remember what President, Lyndon B. Johnsons said. “I’d rather have him inside the tent peeing out, than outside the tent peeing in.” YOU can do this.
Thompson – As trite as it sounds, I would say, “go for it!” If you have a strong passion for something, find a way to make it work. Do your homework and have a good plan, of course, but don’t let fear stop you from giving it a shot. That’s what I’m doing!
Here’s a thought… as the economy rebounds, it will likely do so at a slower pace than we would all like. Not only will it be helpful, it will be critical that we do our part in shopping local, and supporting our locally-owned businesses. At the end of the day, we need them as much as they need us.