An Easy Way To Make A Difference

Posted: June 28, 2014

The Friendly City Files

When was the last time someone complimented you — not routinely, but genuinely and sincerely? When was the last time someone praised or recognized you — not just in an automatic, “Good job,” way but in a specific and even surprising way?

Has it been days? Weeks?

During speaking engagements throughout the last few months, I have taken a moment to ask the audience a question: “How many of you feel you receive enough praise and recognition?” Each time, a scattering of hands raised. I’m guessing out of approximately 20,000 people maybe a total of 40 or 50 raised their hands.

Then, I asked, “How many of you wish you got more praise and recognition?” Each time, a sea of hands filled the air.

So, last week, I received an email that made me pause. I ran an Inc. article naming a few companies that provide useful social media tools. In response, the founder of one of the companies said, “Many thanks ... and let me tell you, making the news really helps keep the team motivated ... “

Although entrepreneurs rarely talk about it, starting and running a business can be incredibly lonely, even if you have dozens of employees and even if you have hundreds or even thousands of customers.

Why? Because ultimately, it’s still all you: your hopes, your dreams, your passion and energy and vision. Every potential customer holds the power to validate or reject your vision.

Every person who walks out of a store empty-handed implicitly rejects a hopeful owner. Every visitor who abandons a shopping cart — much less browses for a few seconds and leaves — implicitly rejects the owner of an online retailer.

Every app or tool that gets launched and barely creates a ripple in the digital ecosystem causes its founders — and their teams — to feel not only professionally rejected but personally rejected, because every product, every service and every business is an extension of its creators.

Reject my product and you also reject me. That’s just how it is for small business owners. And that’s how it is for people who work for small businesses, because many care almost as deeply.

And that’s why we all have the power to make a real difference — and why simply buying a product or service isn’t enough.

Most of the time, we only hear from customers when there are problems. Though we all understand, at least on a rational level, that no news tends to be good news, wouldn’t it be nice to actually hear good news once in a while?

Wouldn’t you appreciate hearing from people who appreciate the work you do, the effort you produce, the extra miles you go? Wouldn’t you like to feel that what you do makes a real difference in another person’s life?

Of course you would. Unfortunately, though, we can’t control whether people praise or compliment or recognize us. But we can control whether we recognize someone else. And it takes only a minute.

Pick a product or service you really like and post or tweet about it. Or email a comment to the company. Or leave a comment on the company’s blog. Do it publicly, so your praise can be seen and shared by everyone at the company.

You probably have hundreds of people in your network; extend that by their hundreds and their hundreds. Pretty soon, thousands of people will have praised and recognized all the passionate, hardworking, hopeful people who spend most of their days wondering if they really are making a difference.

At the heart of every person is a dream. Support that dream. Provide a moment of appreciation. Offer a moment of hope. Sometimes, a little spark of recognition and praise is all someone who is struggling needs to keep going.

It only takes a moment to provide that spark, and that is something we not only can all do but should all do for some other person — if only because that is what we wish another person would do for us.

Jeff Haden lives in Harrisonburg. He is a ghostwriter and business columnist for He can be reached at

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