Business is personal. And the two groups of people you have to worry about the most are your employees and your customers.

Here's a little secret from my past: One of my first jobs after college was in a supply house. The company wasn't in the PHCP industry but was a cigar-and-candy wholesaler in Nashville.

The owner hired me to clean up in the warehouse, and apparently I showed such talent at throwing away garbage that he promoted me to work in the back office. He was grooming me to cover a sales territory, but I didn't discover that until after I gave notice. I wanted to go back to school to get a master's degree in journalism.

Little did I know when I left the supply house business that I would be back writing about it 15 years later. I joined the staff of SUPPLY HOUSE TIMES 11 years ago and have been covering the PHCP industry ever since, both with SUPPLY HOUSE TIMES and Contractor magazine.

Over the years, I've written many news and feature stories. Very early on here, I noticed that almost every successful wholesaler that I interviewed would end our conversation by giving the credit to his employees.

I had traveled to the supply house to write about a new process, system or technology that had helped the wholesaler achieve bigger profits. The wholesaler always wanted to get in his plug for his people, though.

Call me a skeptical ex-newspaperman, but at times the repeated references to people struck me as a little calculated. The plugs sounded like politically correct statements that the wholesalers wanted their employees to see in print when I wanted to write about their innovative processes, systems and technologies.

But somewhere along the way, it finally dawned on me: "It is the people, stupid!" This industry has drilled into me the same lesson that my dad taught me by example as a small-business owner in another field, and the same one I witnessed in my time working in a supply house 26 years ago.

Business is personal. And the two groups of people you have to worry about most are your employees and your customers.

Sure, you have shareholders, competitors, creditors and the others, but employees and customers are the ones that matter most.

As for the new processes, systems and technologies, you should use them only to make your employees' jobs easier and to serve your customers better.

Thanks for the lesson. I'm just about to leave the supply house side of the business once again, but I intend to take that lesson with me. I hope that you all remember it too.