Dear Small Business Owner, You’re a Hero

Over the course of my career at Intuit and now at Infusionsoft, I’ve probably logged more than 10,000 hours talking with and studying small business owners, and I’ve heard incredible stories that have inspired me. Stories of struggle and success. Stories of sacrifice and service. Stories that demonstrate and personify perseverance. But my life wasn’t always on track to make an impact in the small business community.

I grew up in the San Diego neighborhood of Linda Vista. The name means “pretty view” in Spanish, but for many of us who lived there, the view wasn’t always that spectacular. Seeing beyond the day’s circumstances was near impossible for the many poor and lower-class families of Linda Vista.

My mother, who didn’t get her high school diploma until I was in junior high school, worked hard. She was a waitress and cashier at local restaurants, and spent many nights doing her best to help the family make ends meet. My stepfather, who was an enlisted man in the Navy, was frequently away on duty. For them, and for many families like ours in Linda Vista, they thought only of providing and surviving. Changing the future was so far beyond their grasp that it wasn’t even a dream — let alone a goal.

As I went from elementary school to high school, I watched hope fade in my classmates like the hand-me-down clothes that many of us wore. For some, unfortunately, it caused them to give up, perform poorly in school and get mixed up in things they shouldn’t have. Today, many of those kids are trapped in the same circumstances as our parents. Some have been in and out of prison, and some died tragic and early deaths.

A turning point

I could very well have traveled the same path had it not been for my ability to face challenges with optimism, combined with a little talent, perseverance and some luck. I also had people who believed in me and who showed me another path.Among those mentors was my high school physics teacher, Mr. Owen. Mr. Owen started a lighting consulting business with Mr. Thomas, our high school’s biology teacher. They wanted to help school districts save money on their electricity bills and started a small business on the side. They helped me to see another reality beyond the limits of my experience and imagination.

This was my first experience with small business and as knowledge-worker. I didn’t punch a time clock. I didn’t do manual labor. I used my mind to solve problems. And I was helping two entrepreneurs succeed. Mr. Owen and Mr. Thomas created an opportunity for themselves, their families and their school district customers that hadn’t existed before. This and other experiences profoundly changed how I thought about my future and gave me the confidence to change it for the better. It also gave me an early glimpse into small businesses and the folks who make the brave decision to start and sacrifice so much to build them.

This initial experience ignited a drive in me to take ownership for and define my future. My ability to learn and to envision a future not shaped by my current circumstances has shaped my career in profound ways. It paved the way for me to embrace a career in the new field of computer science and to navigate my way from software engineer to business leader. It helped me lead teams that conceived of products that had never existed before. And finally I found Intuit, where I led businesses that have helped make a material, positive difference in the lives of millions of small business owners. Among those was the establishing of our payments business, growing our payroll business and running QuickBooks Online.

A new leg in the journey

After fifteen years with Intuit, I joined Infusionsoft as our Chief Product Officer this month. While I loved my tenure at Intuit and will be forever grateful for my time there, I knew it was time for a change. With many options in front of me, I kept coming back to my love for serving the small business community. And in the end, the choice was clear.

As part of joining the Infusionsoft team, I spent the last week and a half in our On Ramping Experience (ORE), working shoulder to shoulder with a group of new employees ranging in function across the whole spectrum of the organization. I can tell you that the level of commitment and passion these amazing people have for small business is real and palatable.

As part of the ORE experience, we do a number of self-assessments, among them a StrengthsFinder analysis. I have taken this test before, but this time the results, as I’ve grown as a person over the years between my last test, were a bit different … and enlightening.

Why are you in business?

Among my top strengths was Belief. What this means is that while I love the process of building product and achieving goals, those efforts must have meaning beyond simply making a good living. Everyone needs to provide for their family, but there is something beyond survival that infuses work with meaning — a “why” that you can hold onto in the face of challenges and that you can celebrate in the midst of success.

For me, that “why” is helping small businesses succeed. And, thankfully, that’s also Infusionsoft’s “why.” (Sometimes things just work out in life.) It’s a why I’ve been living for the better part of my career by building products that help owners make material impact to both their bottom line and quality of life.

But more than just serving small business success, I know that I participate in a chain of effects that lead to the success of families, communities and more. When a small business succeeds, there’s a ripple effect that extends beyond just the entrepreneur. The employees, families, customers, and their local community at large all benefit, which results in a more vibrant and diverse place for everyone to live.

In each of our lives, we can get so bogged down by the demands of the day-to-day that we sometimes forget to take a step back and re-remember why we do what we do. This is especially true for small business owners, who have so much that pulls at them and who carry such heavy loads.

A moment of clarity and gratitude

So, I’m going to ask you to take just a few moments today to slow down and reminisce. Remind yourself of why you started your business. Relive your moments both of adversity and victory. Review how you’ve changed lives of many around you for the better (because you have). And rekindle your passion for your “why.”

Secondly, and this may feel a bit weird but bear with me, take a moment to express gratitude to yourself for the difference you make. Never forget that you made a choice to serve, not just yourself but your family, your employees, your customers, and your community. Your contributions are not unseen and they are definitely felt and appreciated.

So, let me thank you. Small business owners are true heroes and the lifeblood of our society and economy. Thank you for serving, and thank you for letting us serve you.

This was originally published on the Infusionsoft Blog. If you enjoyed it, please recommend it and share with your friends. At Infusionsoft, we are transforming sales and marketing for small business. Our software, services and educational content help small businesses get organized, grow sales and save time.

Terry joins Infusionsoft at Chief Product Officer after 15 years in leadership roles at Intuit. He understands how the right software solutions, services and access to a strong partner network can positively impact the lives of small business owners. He led the creation and growth of numerous businesses and QuickBooks ecosystem offerings including QuickBooks Simple Start and QuickBooks Online Payroll, and established from the ground up the now $600M payments business. In his most recent role, Terry was vice president and general manager of Intuit QuickBooks Online, where he grew the business from 450,000 US subscribers to more than 840,000 subscribers in over 120 countries.

Terry drives the company’s global product strategy, including product management, payments and business development. He also leads Infusionsoft’s Marketplace, which is comprised of a full suite of services, integration APIs, and apps designed to help small businesses succeed. He’s passionate about small business success and works to simplify the lives of entrepreneurs around the world.

Follow Terry on Twitter @TRHicks10