There has been a lot of ink used about small business in Canada since the government introduced ideas about taxation. From these discussions it is generally agreed that Small Businesses are good for Ontario and Canada. They support community non-profits, create jobs – first jobs and spur growth in our local economies. There is more to it, there’s what small business does socially, yes, small business is a good social addition to our society.
By social, its not social media, but actually being social; social with customers, social with co-workers and social with supervisors. I recall my first job at 17, clearing a parking lot of grocery carts and looking after the parcel pick-up. It was also where I learned my first lesson of employment. I will have more about that first lesson later.
The social lessons of the small business employer have helped many youth with their first jobs. While as children we learn a lot from our parents, there are lessons that can only be learned from others. In our first jobs we experience different cultures, different languages and finally learning to have someone other than our parents as being figures of authority – someone else that we have to listen to and follow instructions from.
In our first jobs we have to listen to others, that can be challenging, but what saves us when have a new boss that is ‘challenging’ in their ways is our enthusiasm that we have for that first job and the regular pay cheque. We learn that what drives our employers is their need to succeed. Their business is their future and the future of their family. What we learn is not obedience but a respect for authority. While we learn respect in our first experiences of employment it also teaches us that we can also earn the respect of others when one day, we are in a position to supervise and employ others. While we might not know it then, we do learn good and bad leadership styles and hopefully keep the good lessons and learn outcomes from bad leadership.
The first job is not likely to be in an office cubicle, it’s also not likely to be behind a computer. It will probably be in retail, or a service industry – a Tim Horton’s or McDonalds. What is learned in these social settings will set us up for how we treat others for the rest of our lives. I learned in my first job to work with people of all different personalities, how to work for people with different personalities and how we serve so many people in our communities with different backgrounds. It can be very challenging, not everyone can ‘survive the bad boss, but these first jobs teach us the meaning of ‘being’ social to so many and smiling through it all.
In these jobs as service counter clerks, cashiers, grocery clerks is knowledge gained about business from so many that we worked for in those first jobs. When small businesses are lost, so to are opportunities to learn the social lessons by youth in those first jobs. When small business is called the backbone of the local business it should also be known as the great educator of our future business leaders, the leaders who will be better than we are because they will learn from our lessons and our weakness.
My first real lesson of employment came from the words of Roger Kingston, Store Manager of the old Woodchester Mall Dominion Store. After working for a few weeks he asked if I liked my job, I said yes. He asked me “why does it look like you don’t? You know, you won’t hurt my feelings if you don’t want to work here, but if you do, when you come for your next shift have a smile and have fun when you’re working.”
Boy did have those words helped, I went on to work at that store for 7 seven years and worked in many different positions. I never forgot to work with a smile. and always made sure I enjoyed working, whatever I was doing. I’ve had lapses when I let emotion get the better of me and suffered for it, but I’ll never forget the second chance that Mr. Kingston gave me. Because of that I have paid forward second chances to those I thought deserved it.
Small business is not just business, it’s social and the social lessons learned in those first minimum wage jobs we all had. We kill those job opportunities and we also lose those invaluable lessons that build the character of next generation leaders.
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