In 2005, my then landlord, a notorious man of Williamstown informed me I needed to find new digs for my bid’ness. I’d been running the Tsubo Massage Therapy shop for about 4 years and had expanded a pinch but I was not busting at the seams. My landlord, who was both feared and rumored about, was to me, lovely. So while I felt pressure, he did give me reassurances about taking my time, even offered to look at rentals if I wanted a second opinion (I did and he did). What I found was not much. I wanted a spa, and what was available was blah. I was lucky to have support, guidance and a good model for being strong and kind. 2 years later, I did move into another one of his buildings, then last summer I bought the building, and found out why most people don’t buy buildings. Running a business is hard. Not because of payroll and Post-its (I hate Post-its) no, it is trying to figure out if you are doing it right.
Prepare for the sweeping generalization. People who run businesses are good people. Granted not always, but here in Williamstown, I know many owners who like my landlord, are perceived differently than I experience them. Mikki Brown is a great example. Mikki is a silent force behind so many events, ideas, and plans that ignite action here in Williamstown. She has a fantastic store that has recently added a huge line of everyday womens fashions. Lower prices, more inventory, more risk and more work to market. Expanding is no small undertaking, and almost impossible while recovering from a health crisis that would destroy me. Mikki works hard, tries always to live her life with integrity, optimism, and fairness. People know her as cheerful, carefree, but man she works like a dog to keep her vision alive and affordable.
Amy Bryan of The Cottage organizes events, raises children, donates, volunteers, name it and she puts in effort. She too is trying to show up for herself and her community. Nancy Thomas of Mezze, is frankly Olympian in her efforts to create a new positive model for eating, shopping and use of town, community, world. This weekend she is the force behind the Holiday Farmers Market. To have Nancy as a business friend, is to raise your own bar of excellence.
All these leaders have been employing people, paying bills, working overtime and forging ahead without a road map. Getting up and feeling sick doesn’t get you the day off. Vacations? Maybe. Yes, I know, it is their own choice to invest, work, and hunker down in this way, but what is unseen is the next choice. How will they do it? How will they be a boss, leader, a member inside a community? Here is where I have an ax to grind with our Bernie Madoff.
At some point, don’t you say what is my responsibility? Sure, we all ask what was Bernie thinking? Greed, momentum, pride can be answers. He was heady with power. I get it, there may be more excusable excuses, but lets start with that. He is a naughty boy. But what about his staff? Is taking money all by himself? I don’t think so. His business was running awhile with this plan, he could not have run it alone, and as we are finding out, probably didn’t. He was naughty and got people to be naughty too.
So now I ask what were the employees thinking? And who are they? What does The Bernie Madoff employee handbook look like? “What you call criminal at work, we call teamwork! Don’f forget your welcome packet includes a nice choice of denial baskets. They are free and have our company logo on it! So while it is bad stuff, you are not alone. Welcome to Bernies world!”
I blame Bernie for not running a respectable place, but I also blame the people who supported it. Today I am going to call another meeting where I tell my employees to call me on all my criminal activities. I hope it is a short meeting. It may not be the way everyone runs a business, but then again not everyone gets to work with a team full of honest, sincere, massage therapists who would rather saw off their arms than cheat a client.