- For every $100 you spend at local, independent stores, $68 returns to your community. Only $43 stays if you spend it at a national chain.
- Independent retailers offer a unique mix of products, while national chains lean toward a guaranteed mix of popular products.
- Independent local businesses support neighborhood schools and community events with their advertising dollars, while national chains rarely step in unless there’s state-wide or national exposure for their ad spend.1
As a business in the Greater Seattle area, do these facts represent your relationship to our community? Are you partnering with local businesses to meet your needs for products and services? Are you involved in building our local economy?
I agree with Kevin Leahy of Oregon’s Small Business Development Center when he says, “Small businesses need to work together in order to compete with their larger counterparts. It’s only by joining forces that small businesses can achieve economies of scale and have a voice loud enough to compete with larger corporations. There is power in the collective, and businesses can harness the power of togetherness to move forward in unity and accomplish so much more than they could alone.”2
What does this type of cooperation look like?
- You stop looking at others who provide similar services as competitors. Instead, you recognize the benefits of getting to know each other’s strengths. You look for opportunities to collaborate, support and develop connections that are profitable and rewarding.
- You develop strategic partnerships where you are working toward mutual gains such as improved customer service or better products.
- You recognize that supporting other local businesses strengthens your community by building relationships. This is true whether you are serving a metropolitan population or a small rural community.
- You realize that the small increase in ’cost’ for buying from a local business instead of the big box store or online is offset by the benefits.
Are you one of the businesses Ernst & Young and the Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund talks about when they report that 89% of the entrepreneurs they surveyed in 2011 donated money personally and/or through their companies? Are you one of the 62% who believes “giving back makes their companies more successful in the long run?”3
Beyond keeping more dollars in our community, there are additional reasons giving back benefits your business.
When you and your employees spend time supporting community projects, it creates feelings of well-being that flow back into the workplace.
- When skills are tested and nurtured in volunteer settings, they rebound to benefit the business as well.
- When employees participate in community activities, it develops more than teamwork. It may nudge hidden talents into play that you would never have discovered otherwise.
- When you are seen in the community doing something that doesn’t produce profit, people find it easier to believe you are truly in business to benefit them.4
Getting active in your community doesn’t have to be difficult.
- Contact a non-profit you want to support. Ask if they would be interested in you placing a donation collection box in the office or in your store. Would they be interested in you adding a ’advertisement’ to your website at no cost to them?
- Hold a fund drive or food drive.
- Sponsor a local athletic team.
- Organize an employee volunteer day. Habitat for Humanity, a soup kitchen or a homeless shelter are just a few ideas.
- Accept a volunteer position on the board of a local nonprofit.
- Do like a local community bank that serves Seattle Metro, and give your employees paid time off so they can ’volunteer’ at the nonprofit of their choice.
- Spearhead an event if you see an unmet need within your community.
Start with a sustainable idea and remain open to increasing your activity within your community. In the process, you’ll discover more than the rewards of being part of your local place, you’ll enjoy the community being part of your life and business.