There Are Community Winners and Losers

"Successful people do what unsuccessful people are not willing to do. Don't wish it were easier; wish you were better."

Jim Rohn

We have all known or been associated with business owners that have failed to make it. They had big dreams, small budgets and great work ethic.  They had hope that word of mouth would spur business growth. They hoped that great customer service would set them apart. They hoped that they could overcome the otherwise poor, yet affordable location.  They have a passion for what they do and they hoped that hard work and a stick to it attitude would overcome all the normal obstacles they would encounter. But when the dust settled, they learned through the school of hard knocks that “hope” makes for 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 that all new businesses succeed; after all, many new businesses lack many of the skillsets and funds needed before they even start.  It is however in the community’s best interest to provide the winning business climate along with a 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 up and down Main Street?

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 purchase outside of the boundaries of their community before exploring all hyper-local options. Every penny kept local benefits the city many times over.

Secondly, they will create networks that can aid and support local business development. The more diverse the local business community, the more that it will convey the vibrancy needed to foster growth. We all want the large employer or new manufacturer to come to town, but the reality is that communities can have the same results one new local business at a time.  Ten new businesses open each year with -3-5 employees is no different than one 150-200 employee business moving to town every five years. Not to mention the local business will need fewer tax breaks, fewer amenities and is more active in the community.

Thirdly, communities can work with local businesses to expand and meet some of the demands not currently filled by local businesses. While it is true that some businesses may not make sense for every community, what kinds of businesses can be helped to expand and meet local demands? Often times we go out looking for the big National chain because of their track record of success when we have local entrepreneurs that are more than able with a little push and assistance to meet those same demands.

Lastly, develop the tourist mentality. Most communities have the ability to create or attract tourist type events and destinations that succeed.  Look at each new tourist as $1000 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 host spring training for Major league baseball to draw tourism. Tourism seeks 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 that so many small and mid-sized communities experience. But these are the basic things that every community can start 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: