Building Main Street, not Wall Street: Hope is a poor business strategy

Jim Rohn once said, “Successful people do what unsuccessful people are not willing to do. Don’t wish it was easier, wish you were better.” 

We have all known or been associated with business owners that failed to make it. They had big dreams, great work ethic and small budgets. They hoped word of mouth would spur business growth. They hoped great customer service would set them apart. They hoped they could overcome the poor, yet affordable location. They had a passion for what they do and hoped hard work and a stick-to-it attitude would overcome all the normal obstacles normally encountered. But when the dust settled, they learned through the school of hard knocks that hope really does make a very poor business strategy, and it takes far more than hard work and perseverance to succeed. 

It isn’t the community’s job to assure all new businesses succeed, after all, many new businesses lack many of the skill sets and funds needed before they get started. It is however in a community’s best interest to provide the winning business climate and support network that increases the odds of success for new or expanding business owners. Expanding and forward-thinking communities understand this very well. What are some of those best practices that communities can employ to further create an innovative and entrepreneurial mindset throughout their community?

First and foremost, foster a hyper-local state of mind throughout the community. Forward-thinking communities have embraced this concept from the top down. They would never consider a government purchase outside of the boundaries of their community before exploring all hyper-local options. Every tax dollar kept local benefits the city many times over.

Secondly, they will create networks aiding and supporting local business development. The more diverse the local business community, the more it conveys the vibrancy needed to foster further growth. We all want large employers or manufacturers to come to town, but the reality is communities can have equal results one new local business at a time. Ten new local businesses opening yearly with five employees, equals one 250 employee business moving to town every five years. Additionally, local businesses need fewer tax breaks, fewer amenities and are more active in the community.

Thirdly, communities can work with local businesses to meet some of the local demands not currently filled by local businesses. Helping to support local steakhouses, entertainment, various retail or services are great starts. It is true some businesses may not make sense for every community, but knowing the kinds of local businesses you need can be helpful as you seek to expand your community. Often times community leaders seek out national chains because of their track record of success to fulfill their needs. Doing this comes at the expense of your local entrepreneurs that are more than able to fulfill those needs with a little push and assistance to meet those same demands.

Lastly, we’ve mentioned on more than one occasion that developing the tourist mentality is critical. Most communities have the ability to create or attract tourist type events and destinations that can succeed. Communities must look at each new tourist as $1,000 walking into your community. Look at each hundred as $100,000 walking into your community. Communities often overlook the most basic and logical way to foster growth and development. A community need not be New York, Chicago, Branson or the host spring training of MLB to draw tourism. In today’s world where tourists are staying closer to home, tourists seek out unique attractions, unique events, unique downtowns, unique retail experiences and in short – something different or outside of the norm. Find your niche, build upon it and then let the world know. You will be amazed!

These certainly aren’t the only things a community can do to battle the economic woes so many small and mid-sized communities experience. But these are some basic ideas every community can start building their foundation with. Communities doing all the above and also those local things unique to them and their area will find a way. They will find a way because doing all the above items show that they are willing to do what it takes to win. Make no mistake, this is a high stakes competition, there are winners and there are losers – which side will your community line up on?

John A. Newby is the author of the "Building Main Street, Not Wall Street" weekly column dedicated to helping local communities keep their consumer dollars local. He can be reached by email at: john@360MediaAlliance.net.

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