What are you thankful for?

   December signifies the holiday season, the end of most businesses’ fiscal year and a chance to reflect on the past year’s accomplishments and successes. One of my constant themes to business owners and managers is to take time to acknowledge the little victories and successes in business.
   Too often we wait for the big home run and don’t recognize the little steps or contributors to our quality of life. One of my challenges is to take time to acknowledge and be thankful for so much around me.
   When we take time to reflect and give thanks, even at work, problems become a little more manageable, stresses less impactful and the day-to-day work even fun.
   As I pause from the holiday shopping, parties, client counseling and the day-to-day challenges of balancing work, family and self, I would like to share with you some of those things I am thankful for this year:

Business Owners/

   You are risk takers, visionaries, tax-payers and employers. You are passionate, willing to put your life savings and your home equity on the line for a dream.
   You are willing to do whatever it takes to actualize your dreams and passions. Because of you we have jobs for our neighbors and paychecks to help maintain a standard of living and quality of life for your employees and their families.
   You are committed to being a contributing member of our community through taxes, hiring employees, and giving donations and time to those in need. You do care about the quality of life as passionately as everyone else. You are the true models of the American Spirit.
   Your tenacity, passion and optimistic approach to life is amazing and humbling. I am proud to be a part of so many of your businesses and lives.

Elected Officials:
   Thank you to the city council members, mayors, port commissioners, school board members, and state and federal representatives.
   You are charged with making the tough decisions on how to prioritize our limited resources. You give so much time and energy to our community for so little in return. Each day you put your name, reputation and spirit on the line for what you believe in. You open yourself up to criticism and complaints from all sides and yet you continue to do what you feel is in the community’s best interest.
   While we may not always agree with you, thank you for risking and being committed to doing what is in our community’s best interest.

   Thank you to the Lummi and Nooksack tribes, the Latino Business Association, the Rainbow Center, our Russian communities, and so many more organizations that promote and sustain diversity in our community. Without you we become homogeneous, self-focused and myopic.
   With you we realize the world is rich with differences that enrich our daily lives and community.
   Celebrate the diversity in each of us.

Bookkeepers and Accountants:
   You help owners keep track of where their money comes from and where it goes.
   I encourage you to continue to strive for accuracy and education in your work with entrepreneurs. With your reports and hard work, owners make difficult decisions each day based on the numbers you provide them and your advice as to what they mean.
   Thank you for helping make those decisions a little easier because of your efforts at accuracy and completeness.

Leadership Whatcom
& Excellence NW:

   You are two local organizations that are truly committed to building leaders and empowering people to be the best they can be. Your programs are top quality and so valuable at helping people realize their potential as individuals, leaders and partners. Thank you for helping me be a better person.

Teachers and our Youth:
   Thank you to our teachers of tomorrow’s citizens. Be they K-12, Western Washington University, Whatcom Community College or Bellingham Technical College, you are there day to day imparting knowledge, values and dreams for our youth. They are our future, our future leaders and employees.
   Thank you for taking the time and energy to teach and mold our children. 
Kulshan Community Land

Trust and Whatcom Land:
   These organizations exist to preserve the quality of life that we cherish in Whatcom County. They are committed to providing affordable housing, land preservation and stewardship for future generations. Because of your efforts we have a more livable community, thank you.

Nonprofit organizations:
   I believe that true societal and social change will only occur through the work of our nonprofit community.
Whatcom County is blessed with so many outstanding nonprofits that make tremendous contributions to our everyday life and help sustain our community.
   Thank you to all the volunteers, staff and donors that make these "community organizations" so successful.
   We are a better place because of your efforts.

   I am thankful for my health.
This year I have experienced the loss of loved ones, a coworker, and a family health challenge. It isn’t until we experience a health challenge or the loss of a loved one that we realize how important our health is. I have learned to not take good health or even life in general for granted.
   Thank you to those that have taught me to live each day to the fullest and be thankful for what I do have.

My Staff:
   Thank you to Megan, Sherri, Syd, Kate, Marilyn, Cate, Peter, Michael, CJ, James, Johanna, Glen and Carol. Everyday you challenge me to be my best, strive for excellence in all we do and recognize what a need there is for helping others. The SBDC is so successful because of your commitment to our community, business owners, and to our quality of life. Thank you for making such a difference in so many people’s lives. I am honored to work with you and appreciate all your support.

My Family:
   Thank you to Jennifer for being my partner, friend and No. 1 supporter. Thank you to Rachel and Kimberly for letting me tell Jack in the Beanstalk stories at nighttime, share goodnight secrets and play games with such passion. Thank you to Danielle for letting me share soccer, basketball and homework with you. You are all teaching me so much about myself in being your husband and dad. You are my No. 1 priorities. I learn how to be a better person and what being truly loved feels like in your presence. Thank you.

What are you thankful for this year?
   I challenge you to take five minutes right now and write down 10 things you are thankful for this holiday season (that’s only 0.34 percent of your day). Share it with someone. May you have a Happy Holiday Season and a Prosperous New Year. May 2006 be the year when your business helps you achieve all your personal goals!

Tom Dorr is the director of the Small Business Development Center at Western Washington University.

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