Legendary Bostonian, Irish political pontificator extraordinaire and one-time Speaker of the House Tip O’Neil famously said, “All politics is local.” What he meant by that is that no matter how big you think you are (or really are), you risk falling from grace if you forget to take care of your base. You can be Speaker of the House and spar with the President, but if you fail to get that pothole on Quarry Street fixed, you may not get re-elected.
This is also true in business.
Even in this digital age, when so many of us do business with people across the Internet, it can be a big mistake to forget that even still, “All business is local.” After all, you bank with a local banker, you hire local people, you shop in local stores and you likely sell to the local community. So having a good relationship and establishing a solid reputation with people in your community is usually good for business.
Here are five ways to get more involved in your community:
1. Sponsor something: In this time of less funding and tight budgets, there are a few things you can do to endear yourself to the community. One good way is to sponsor a worthwhile cause. Some local sponsorship opportunities include:
- A youth sports team: The tried and true option, sponsoring a team helps the team itself, helps the league and helps you get business, as parents are likely to support someone in turn who is supporting their kids. Downsides? What downsides?
- A community event: It could be a concert in the park or the local farmers market, but whatever the case, event sponsorships are a great way to build community loyalty.
- A show: Again, there is no shortage of options: You could sponsor the local PBS station, the opera, or anything in between.
2. Network: Networking groups are great because they actively encourage members to give business to one another. Your local chamber of commerce undoubtedly has a very good networking group. Additionally, you might want to check out Le Tip International, a professional leads organization, or an online MeetUp group that gathers in your area.
3. Start an internship program: College students need a place to gain experience and hone their skills, and you need extra help at no extra cost. Offering internships, then, can be a win-win situation. Not only does it help connect you with the interns and their friends and family, it also gives you an “in” with your local university or community college. As with many things in business, you never know when that connection may pay unexpected dividends. For example, you might get the opportunity to serve as a case study for a marketing plan.
4. Volunteer: Volunteering is of course its own reward, but it can also help your business grow. It establishes you as a solid, engaged member of the community. By encouraging your staff to volunteer with local worthwhile causes, your business will become known as a community team player. People reward that sort of thing, you know.
5. Become a resource: One final way to get involved in your local community is to establish yourself and your business as a “go-to” resource. Let’s say that you own a lumberyard – if it becomes known that you are willing to donate time and materials to worthy community events, your name, brand, reputation and business will certainly grow.
Or here is a personal example: My high school-age daughter recently completed a project that required someone donating office space to her debate team every weekend. A local law firm stepped up to the plate, and for months we talked about dropping her off and picking her up at that firm.
Not only were all of the families indebted to the firm for their generosity, but you can bet we said the name of that law firm so many times, scheduling drop-offs and pick-ups, that we will never forget that firm’s name.
Doing well by doing good – that’s the value of community involvement for a business.
How has your small business actively participated in your local community? Share your examples below.
About Steve Strauss
Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here.