How Small Businesses Can Help Their Communities
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Be Small in a Big Way

Small-business owners often are self-conscious about being small. We are often very conscious of the ways that we compete at a disadvantage to bigger businesses. They have the big budgets, the high-powered executives, attorneys and banks at their beck and call, they have all the advantages… Well, maybe not ALL the advantages. There are some great things about being small.

How Small Businesses Can Help Their Communities

One of the greatest advantages to being a small business is having the ability to know your employees, customers and community. Most likely, you have no choice but to know them. A small company has only a few employees so you work with each of them directly; you need the whole team to pull together to deliver the service or product, so everyone mets your customers at some point. You are accessible, so community members can stop by to talk with you. In truth you want to be known, when more people know you, your business grows!

While all this work may sound exhausting, it gives you a clear edge over bigger companies. After all, when you know the community and our customers, you know how to complement it. You have the knowledge & freedom to shape your product, service and business to specifically fit with the community you are a part of. Larger businesses focus on consistent performance across the board; they don’t have the ability, or time, to get to know their community. So they end up simply taking (dollars) from the community without ever really giving back. Sure, they may make contributions (again in dollars), but that’s not the same as the contribution of the small business owner who helps shape the community by embodying and reflecting the community’s values.

In addition, a community that knows you is a community that can trust you. Humans don’t trust people we don’t know. Large companies like McDonald’s or Starbucks often tout their ability to deliver consistency; in that way they feel like a known quantity. But when a small business is known in the community, it can be relied upon to deliver consistency because of its reputation and personal stake in the community. Having that business in the community, makes a difference in a way that a chain store cannot. When your customers and community get know your passion and integrity, it can make a real difference.

Make a Big Impact

Becoming known in the community doesn’t happen by default. You have to work at it, and be genuine; people can spot a fake a mile away. Mary Kay Ash said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” When you put yourself out there, you will see how much your contributions help the community and your business.

Want to get noticed in your community? Try some of the following approaches:

  • Personally passionate about a cause? Get your business involved in it. Volunteer, sponsor a fundraiser, or participate in raising awareness.
  • When one of your staff members or customers does something special, like running a marathon or winning an award, tell people, make an announcement or issue a press release.
  • Get your customers together in a non-business setting-just to meet each other and let them meet your staff. Throw a party and have a good time. You can even invent a holiday in order to do it.
  • Be different, off-center or quirky, but in a way that doesn’t communicate lack of professionalism. Use some company slang (like the way Starbucks’ fans order beverages – “Double No Fun Latte”).
  • Use the community as a resource to recruit clients, employees, partners and causes. People love to connect their friends and those they trust. Find ways to introduce new products or services to those close to you first, and let them carry your story to people who don’t know about you yet. Post jobs locally and through your current employees first.
  • When the community comes looking for support for a parade, festival or other event, think about how you can play a role in the event. Pick one local event to support in a big way, but don’t say no to the others. You can always put up a poster, send out coupons in your invoices or otherwise support other events in a smaller fashion.

If we focus on what’s “great” about being a small business we can be the “big fish” in our community, and then those big companies will have to watch out for us!

Photo credit: Kevin Dinkel

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