Respect essential to attract Morley business
COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Showing respect to one's customers is essential if any business hopes to succeed. This is particularly true when it comes to Cochrane merchants marketing their business to members of the Stoney Nakoda First Nation, says Morley entrepreneur Greg Twoyoungmen.
The owner/operator of several tourism and marketing businesses was speaking at Cochrane's just-ended Small Business Week, sponsored by the Cochrane & District Chamber of Commerce.
I've known Greg for a long time. When he stresses the importance of showing respect, I sit up and take note.
Greg, a University of Calgary graduate, former band councillor, and champion of First Nations fiscal accountability, has worked tirelessly to increase public awareness of the beauty of the Stoney Nakoda way and the advantages of doing business with Cochrane's neighbor to the west.
Greg's emphasis on respect is a natural. Respect is one of the highest values among his people.
But what is meant by "respect"? It's not easy to define. From my own nearly 40 years of friendships at Morley, however, I think I can illustrate it to some degree with three parables, or stories.
Respect is like the patience one shows toward others and the pride one takes in their achievements.
My wife Mary Anna and I first met traditional elder Becky Beaver in late winter 1966. Though blind, the granddaughter of the famous chief Hector Crawler refused to be crushed by her disability. Her skill in berry picking, tanning hides, and beading was legendary. Mary Anna and Becky hit it off right from the start, and Becky "adopted" her into her family.
That spring, when the bluebirds returned, Becky decided it was time to teach her new "daughter" some of the traditional ways, starting with tanning a moose hide. Becky set up a wooden frame outside the house and stretched the hide onto it. Then she gave Mary Anna a scraper and had her kneel next to her at the frame to learn how to remove the hair without damaging the valuable hide. When Mary Anna caught on, Becky affirmed her by saying: "Now my daughter is my equal." Becky passed away some years later at the age of 84, but her gracious words live on in our hearts.
Respect is like journeying together with a good friend.
It's been nearly a year, now, since the respected Stoney Nakoda artist Frank Kaquitts ("Sitting Wind") passed away at the age of 77. The summer before he left us, Frank was outside his west-end Morley house when Cochrane resident Bob Bartlett, retired and a relative newcomer to these parts, drove up. He had only met Frank once before, but even on that first meeting he was struck by Frank's genial hospitality and infectious smile. Here's how Bob remembers his second encounter with Frank:
"I knocked on the door and was told that he was around the back working on the truck and to go around to speak to him. When I reached the backyard, I saw a pair of legs protruding from under a pickup truck. As I walked up to the truck, he noticed me and with the same welcoming smile, said, 'Oh, hi! It's nice to see you again!'"
Over the next few months, Bob and Frank saw each other several more times, journeying together to mountain places rich in enchanting memories.
Respect is like a smile that says, "Come back often."
Smiles are a normal part of every-day life in the Stoney Nakoda way. If you have visited the Chief Chiniki Restaurant and Handicraft Centre at the junction of Highway 1 and the Morley crossroad, you may well know what I mean especially if gift shop clerk Amelia Rollinmud assisted you in your purchases. Amelia is the talented traditional native dancer and dance outfit designer who greets all of her customers with a prize-winning smile that says, "We look forward to seeing you again."
This young woman particularly well illustrates Greg's point that respect is good for business.
By the way, Amelia will be one of the speakers featured at the Nov. 8 Tapestry of Women Conference in Bragg Creek. She has much to say on the unlimited possibilities when this most basic human value is given its rightful place.
© 2003 Warren Harbeck