If you take a bit of a step back and review the topics of this issue as a whole, you may notice an underlying theme.

It isn’t something that we consciously planned, and I didn’t even notice it until seeing the many pieces together.

But it’s a theme of optimism, encour- agement. . . and, at the risk of seeming all “new-agey”, it presupposes us all as cre- ative, ethical individuals committed to grow and prosper as business owners and mentors, to help others do the same, often in the midst of change, con- flict and at times chaos.

An accurate supposition in my opinion. Which got me to thinking: Our greatest strength, this commitment to serve, to lead, can also be a grave weakness if we assume, take for granted, or go through the motions. . . if we conveniently overlook that the trust of our vendors, cus- tomers, employees, and family requires constant tending.

I was recently reminded of this by a memo Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz sent out to all 190,000 Starbucks employees/partners during the stock market melt down last month. And regardless of your opinion of that coffee behemoth, a key passage in his email spoke to this very point. . . and could have been directed at us all:

“Today’s financial market volatility, combined with great political uncertainty both at home and abroad, will undoubtedly have an effect on consumer confidence and perhaps even our customers’ attitudes and behavior.

“Our customers are likely to experience an increased level of anxiety and concern. Please recognize this and – as you always have – remember that our success is not an entitle- ment, but something we need to earn, every day. Let’s be very sensitive to the pressures our customers may be feeling, and do everything we can to individually and collectively exceed their expectations.”

I’m not sure I could have written this any better.