Charles Dickens is famous for the quote: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair."
I sense many towns, communities and businesses across the county have some of these same thoughts when dealing with issues impacting their communities.
The famous college football coach Lou Holtz said, "Ability is what you're capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it."
I remember a sign I saw years ago. It read, "When you support a local small business, you're supporting a local dream."
Thinking of this sign and coupling it with the two quotes above, I see how it all comes together. Local businesses can have dreams and motivation but it really takes the community with a dream-supporting attitude to ensure those dreams come true in the face of trials and adversity.
I once had a college professor ask, "What is the difference between creative people and non-creative people?" Many offered responses, many of which had a morsel of truth. He stated the difference between creative and non-creative people is that creative people believe they are creative while non-creative people don't feel that way.
In chatting with those from vibrant and transformative communities, a common element permeating throughout the communities is an element of confidence and belief. They have a winning attitude and expect to succeed. They believe they are creative and will overcome any obstacle to succeed. Likewise, when I chat with communities still trying to find their way, they view obstacles as unclimbable mountains and have little confidence in their abilities to overcome adversity. I find this not only in communities but in their business bases as well.
This brings us back to that sign in the shop. No matter how hard they work and are motivated, their success remains largely in the hands of the local communities and what they believe they can accomplish. This shows the importance of a local community having a winning attitude and a belief it can win. Thus, the importance of community leadership instilling confidence and winning attitudes at the leadership level and throughout the entire community. Great leaders such as Lou Holtz knew the power of the mind; he knew great things could be achieved with the right attitude. He knew the sum of the individual parts is always exceeded by the total accomplishments of the entire team.
When discussing leadership, we must not assume all you need is a great leader. While a great leader is a great start, it takes a leader willing and capable of spreading a winning vision to all levels of government and community. It takes the second-line leaders pushing the mission to all the organizations and groups within the community. It then is followed by the entire community catching the dream of what can be. When the community truly catches the vision of transformation and what is needed to accomplish transformation, it has the power to make the dreams of local businesses and entrepreneurs come true.
We have discussed the need for the local community to help these dreams come true. But, make no mistake, for this to happen, local business owners must have more than ability, work ethic and motivation. Businesses must still provide what consumers want at convenient times. The success of local businesses depends not just on the consumer but the willingness for both to meet at a point fitting the business and the consumer.
An example of this might be store hours. As I walk through communities full of hungry shoppers, I can't help but notice many of the retail businesses close between 5 and 5:30 p.m. when, statistically, nearly 70% of all business transactions take place after 5 p.m. Closing at 5 or 5:30 p.m. on a busy day isn't meeting the consumer halfway.
The state of Michigan has a branding slogan known as "Pure Michigan." While not advocating you steal Michigan's idea, I am advocating you adopt this internal attitude toward your community and local businesses. The power of a community working together is far greater than the sum of each individual entity trying to succeed on its own, which never ends well.
John Newby is a nationally-recognized publisher, community, chamber, business and media strategy consultant and speaker. His "Building Main Street, not Wall Street" column runs in more than 60 communities around the country. As founder of Truly-Local, he assists community leaders, businesses and local media in building synergies and creating more vibrant communities. He can be reached at [email protected]