“Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change.”
Most will agree that there are several potential pathways a downtown or a business might take on the road to a successful transformation or revitalization effort. It certainly isn’t a one-size fit’s all journey. Every downtown or business has their own issues to overcome and their own mountains to climb. Each must identify those issues and mountains tackling them in such a way that fits their abilities and expertise.
One of the largest mountains to climb for many downtowns and businesses is a term I recently heard referred to as a ‘poverty-minded’ mindset. Yes, many communities and businesses have to overcome the economic issues of social or demographic poverty, but that is not what ‘poverty-minded’ refers to in this context.
Poverty-minded as it relates to this column refers to the mindset of those that are actually in a position to make transformation and revitalization happen. Despite being in this position, they are stuck in a poverty-minded mindset due to the their long-term battle and association with poverty and community decay.
I was recently made aware of a great example of this mindset on the business front. There was a business that wouldn’t accept credit cards because it cost a few percentage points on each of the transactions. When convinced to move into the 21st century, they were thrilled as business increased nearly 30%. Trying to save those few pennies was costing them hundreds or even thousands in potential business. These same problems exist on an even greater and more devastating scale in city governments and those who control the future and financial destiny of a downtown.
Make no mistake; this poverty mindset is an easy mind-set to have. As one watches the decay of their community, downtown or business accelerate around them, it is easy to believe that decay is normal and to be expected. After all, decay has happened and is in the process of happening to hundreds of towns across the country.
How does a downtown or business overcome a poverty-mindset and begin transforming? What is the common ingredient that successful downtowns and businesses have adopted that flows through all their transformation and revitalization efforts? I believe that common ingredient is found by simply looking at what might be the opposite of a poverty-mindset. That common ingredient is something we all seek, that of a positive can-do attitude.
The first step in any transformation and revitalization of a downtown or business is a strong vision coupled with a large of dose of optimism. When you couple a strong vision with optimism, many downtowns and business ills can be overcome. The poverty-mindset crowd or thought process must be overwhelmed with vision and a positive can do attitude that is infectious. Everyone wants to be associated with a winner; few want to claim to be a member of the losing team.
Yes, the vision must be realistic. Yes, the optimism must be based on that realistic vision. Far too many downtowns and businesses fail to understand just how much ability they have to succeed. Never under estimate the ability of the residents of a community and business owners to do outstanding things. Many downtowns and businesses are wallowing in their self-pity while others across the country are undergoing transformation that is incredible and sustainable.
Oftentimes, those biggest obstacles are our own citizens and those in a position to enact the greatest change. The greatest task is converting them to the vision and the dream. Of course, you have quite a bit to lose as no change usually just means more of the same decay and demise of your downtown.
As you might have determined, this column is short on actual specifics and long on mindsets and attitudes. That is by design as it is the vision mindset and positive attitude that must be present in order to succeed. I have seen few if any downtowns or businesses succeed without first having this strong will to win and succeed. The time is now for change, and change we must or be rendered inadequate in the world that is transforming around us.
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@UniquelyUSA.net