To everything there is a season and after more than 1,000 blog posts on behalf of the Reynolds Center – that’s somewhere north of half a million words, I figure – it’s time for me to move along and make way for other talented business journalists to share their tips and advice.
Over the past five-plus years, my topics have ranged from the global financial meltdown to pet sitting, from Ebola and tsunamis to baby concierges and bacon. That’s the privilege and delight for business writers everywhere – there is no sphere of life that excludes us, because economics pervades every human relationship, transaction and activity. Weather, sports, love, politics, science – financial writing offers the smorgasbord of anything you care to explore.
To narrow down this farewell message to one last piece of advice, I’d say the simple question “How’s business?” is the most useful two-word phrase in your toolkit. It’s rare for me to get through a day, or through any sort of exchange or encounter without making that inquiry, whether I’m on the clock, out on the town or on vacation. And it’s amazing how eagerly workers and business persons and executives respond to sincere interest — and how many fascinating story nuggets you can derive from a simple, non-specific question. Their answers reveal what’s top of mind.
In a cab en route to an airport, the driver regaled me with details about how a competitive limo contract at the airport was affecting his personal finances. The massage therapist fretted about a new competitor rumored to be moving in across town. The construction worker at the house next door railed about the rising cost of roofing shingles and the nurse practitioner staffing a drugstore quickie-clinic gave me the lowdown on local supply and demand for flu vaccine. The CEO of an international tactical-driving school worried about meeting demand for trained chauffeurs – the kind diplomats and executive rely on to get them out of trouble, fast – because of recent world unrest.
The stories that illustrate your community’s economic ebb and flow are there for the asking of “How’s business?” A couple of years ago, my auto mechanic had some fascinating anecdotes about broke and out-of-work patrons exhorting him to fix up their cars just enough to get them out of state to a different jobs market. And then time passed, and the appliance repair guy told me when people started loosening up, post-recession, and buying new washing machines instead of fixing old.
Obviously you have to follow up with solid reporting, but never let an opportunity pass to get some candid insight from tradesmen, ticket agents, restaurant servers, sales reps, ice-cream parlor proprietors, UPS drivers, hair stylists, produce managers in grocery stores and pretty much any one you deal with who can be persuaded to chat for a moment or two. You never know what will have you reaching for a fresh notebook.
To the readers who have shared comments and inspiration, many thanks, happy writing and feel free to keep in touch via Melissa@MelissaPreddy.com.
To the Reynolds Center’s recently departed-for-new-challenges Digital Director Robin Phillips and Executive Director Linda Austin, my most heartfelt gratitude for offering me such a stimulating challenge and for your wise guidance; you’ve each helped me to become a more vigilant observer, more pithy writer and avid student of the economy. And to newly appointed Reynolds Center Director Micheline Maynard, all the best as you steer the Center into its next chapter.