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Some years ago, in calling on a friend who operated a small business, with his wife, in Billings, as he busily continued his work, he said to me, “I envy you so much, because you get to go around town and get to know all the amazing people who own and operate businesses here.”

He lamented that as one of them, he was always so busy that he never had the opportunity to get to know many of them himself, because, he said, he knew they had to be among the most interesting and highest caliber people.

I have often recalled his words on occasions when outstanding business people are actually recognized for their achievements and contributions as they are with the SBA Small Business Awards. He is so right. Up and down every main thoroughfare in every Montana community are thousands of amazing people who dare to live life to the fullest and who give back the most, to their communities, as they pursue their own visions and passions. There are so many of them who have the most amazing accomplishments to their credit, that to be singled out from among them all, for an award is indeed a great honor and the attainment of a high pinnacle.

It’s a shame that more of them aren’t more frequently recognized because there simply are so many of them, and more people should know about them.

And, they deserve the accolades! It is so true that even though they do what they do for their own self-interest, in the process they do so much for so many others. That is one of the most profound points made by Adam Smith in the “Wealth of Nation” about a free market system – that entrepreneurs or business owners, even though acting in their own self-interests, wind up serving their community in ways beyond any intent, and far more effectively than any other system delivers.

But just because this is what naturally happens because of the free market environment, makes their achievements no less meritorious, nor their challenges less difficult. Nor are their ideas, inventions and production less brilliant, nor are the values they generate in goods, services, jobs, and outright contributions for their customers, employees and communities – nor are they in any way lessened.

My friend’s observations and confidence about the kind of people involved in running a business was spot-on, and I knew immediately what he meant. It takes a certain kind of person to adhere to the demands of a business and a market. It takes dedication and hard work, integrity, curiosity, creativity, knowledge, skills and honesty about the nature of things and in dealing with others. It takes the kind of person that most people find worthwhile knowing.

I am indeed fortunate for the many, many business people with whom I have become acquainted over the years and especially for getting to know their stories. They all have wonderful stories to tell, and they all deserve to receive an award. But most won’t ever receive an award, but then none of them are doing it for awards or accolades, but still . . . all the rest of us benefit so much just to know about what they have done and to know the sagas behind all the shop signs, business logos and business advertisements.

So while we applaud these worthy winners featured in this issue, just know they represent so many more for whom we should be most grateful.