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When you were a kid, at some point you probably received some advice from a family member who advised you not to do something that would embarrass your family – and especially not your grandma.

Back when I was a Scoutmaster, there was a similar thought process in place. One of the things we’d do during a troop outing was make sure we left a place better than we found it. Normally, that meant picking up trash we found (as well as our own) and hauling it back to the green boxes in town. In some places, we might cut up some downed snags or large branches to replenish firewood someone had left for the next camper.

For the same reason that we didn’t want to do anything to embarrass grandma, we knew it wasn’t a good idea to embarrass our community.

We might be halfway across the country at some other town’s store or restaurant, but our actions still reflect on folks at home, on our town, and yes, on grandma. Every town experiences a few episodes here and there where people’s actions don’t exactly improve people’s impression of their hometown – no matter where they’re from. The fewer of those instances we have is generally better for us all.

I don’t mean to say that we should live at the pleasure of folks who live in other places – nothing of the kind. I simply mean that our actions have consequences, and they can reach beyond our town or county. Sometimes the impact can be significant.

Likewise, we might be downtown on the square doing something that will ultimately reflect on our town. Perhaps you’ve seen a video or read a news story where someone’s behavior was a bit (or very) cringe worthy and not necessarily representative of the people of their hometown.

Every time someone sees it, it reflects on their town, their state, and their people. When they’re from here, it reflects on you and I. Your business, mine, and that of our neighbors. Whether it’s a legitimate reflection or not, we’re stuck with it until other actions alter that reflection. Our actions at that moment are often the only thing others have to consider. The person who created this situation gets to reflect on it every time they do business in their town. Someone is sure to realize who they’re dealing with, and perhaps comment on it, leave and/or ask them to leave.

You might not care what people think of your actions. Understand that a fair number of your neighbors care about what makes people decide to visit somewhere else instead of here. Most of us know at least a few people whose mortgage depends on tourism dollars, though this isn’t solely about tourism.

These actions can impact how a potential employer feels when they look at our area and evaluate how good a match we are for them. Perhaps they have the intention of building a facility and hiring some local folks for good jobs that don’t necessarily depend on tourism.

How such things set with people from elsewhere is important at some level, but how they set with us – that’s what matters most. It sets the tone for who we are and what we accept.

Our reputation among ourselves is much like the roadside / campsite trash that doesn’t find its way into the dumpsters by itself. Someone has to pick it up. Our actions work the same way. The actions we take as part of our community make us either better or worse as a whole. Very few are meaningless enough to leave things as they are.

When we embarrass ourselves in front of our town (and in some cases, our nation or maybe even the world), we’re telling everyone in town what we’re like and what’s OK by us. All of us – whether we like it or not. Sure, we can fix it later… but we can’t erase it. You can’t unsee the roadside trash that doesn’t get picked up.

This applies not only to our behavior around town and elsewhere, but to our school sports teams, our businesses, our employees, our government entities, and many others, including newspaper columnists. Each of us sets the tone that forms the impression the rest of us have as we live our lives here.

All of us are the Chamber of Commerce.

Photo by Emmanuél Appiah on Unsplash

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A gift for Bobby?

Yesterday, I was reading a comment from Bobby Rich about this small business (whaaaaa?) post on Hildy’s blog.

Bobby took Hildy’s idea, smooshed it around a little and decided to see if it would work for his business.

I like the idea, but I think we can put a cherry on top of that smooshed idea.

No doubt, it’s a nice giveback to the community to promote these local businesses.

In partnership with the local Chamber of Commerce, regional marketing co-op, etc; it might also be a way to promote that group and its members, introduce new members’ businesses, and maybe urge new businesses to join that group.

Even better for Bobby, I’m thinking it’d be a simple way to demonstrate to a small business owner how well radio/tv ads for that business would work on his stations, particularly the small local businesses who might not even consider advertising on radio/tv.

Imagine the reaction of a small business owner who previously balked at the investment of a radio ad, only to find that a free ad ended up generating 100 new customers in a few week’s time – especially if the ad was designed to make the results obvious and trackable to the ad.

Kinda makes a guy wonder…

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Real business owners aren’t scared

Kick Butt
Creative Commons License photo credit: Teeejayy

While live-blogging the US Chamber of Commerce Small Business Summit, Brad Peck (US Chamber of Commerce official Twitter blogger) said this during Joe Scarborough‘s talk:

Somewhat annoyed by the “scared” comment, I responded with this:

I don’t know a single business owner that’s scared.

Annoyed? Sure. Aggravated? Sure.

But scared? Not. A. Single. One.

Thankfully, Brad understood. I say thankfully because I would wonder if he has any business working at the US CoC if he actually *believed* what Scarborough said.

I don’t believe for one minute that an entrepreneur would decide not to start a business because someone in Washington was talking about new taxes.

Do I think new taxes make business people happy? Of course not. But scared? No way.

Hand-wringing by the numbers

What you have to keep in mind when reading Scarborough’s quote is that he is a politician and a TV talking head. My guess is that his speech’s goal is to stir people up about government intervention, regulation, taxation in order to boost TV ratings, get votes or whatever.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Except (and here’s where I can predict the comments) that I really don’t worry about those things on a day to day basis.

Sure, I’m aggravated by higher taxes, especially when they arrive in the same wagon with government waste. And yes, it annoys me when a politician votes for final passage of idiotic legislation and then later speaks as if they are an opponent of the law (eg: Rehberg on the CPSIA is a fine example).

BUT…I don’t sit around wringing my hands about it.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The best “revenge” is success.

While you might get some satisfaction out of passing your competitor on the street and waving at them from the driver’s seat of your new F350 or 911 Cabriolet, that’s really not what I mean. I don’t mean revenge against them, your favorite tax entity or anyone else in particular.

The real revenge is being successful enough to do *exactly* what you want to do – and none of that has anything to do with fear of what happens in Washington.

Real satisfaction

If you observe people like Bill Gates (and you should), you’ll find that the big screen movie theater in his home might give him enjoyment, but wiping out polio via his $350MM+ donation to Rotary is what really gets him excited. Likewise his efforts in the sustainable energy business (see more on that at TED.com).

No one – including Bill Gates – likes paying taxes. Like you, he’d rather use that money for something else.

Here’s a suggestion: Worry about making more gross so you have more net than you need.

More net than you need means that you can do the things you always wanted to do, including helping folks that you always wanted to help. Or maybe it just means a new boat. Whatever.

It isn’t always about that million dollar donation or the new bass boat. Little things mean a lot.

Small favors

For example, when my Scout troop goes camping once a month, we don’t cook on Friday night. Everyone brings a sandwich or eats before they leave home. We cook Saturday and Sunday.

Before I arrive, I typically buy a footlong sandwich and save half because most trips, one of the guys will have forgotten dinner, gotten it creamed by a wayward backpack, dropped in the mud or some such.

The why and how really doesn’t matter.

While you might consider lecturing the boy on “Be Prepared” (and yes, we will talk), what matters to me is the look on the face of a kid who just got a half a lukewarm meatball sub, when he thought he was going to go to bed hungry because of an accident.

Gates could do the same to Rotary. He could lecture them about what they’ve done wrong in the home stretch of their 25+ year polio battle. Instead, he gave them a pot of money (with conditions) to make it happen and when he saw how they used it, the next pile came without conditions because they had earned his trust.

Trust is a measure of success as well.

Control and the flip side of taxes

I’m sure many will read this wrong, but I’m going to say it anyway: I *want* to pay more taxes (all else being equal) than my competitors, because I want to do more, earn more and create more business for my clients.

The more good you’ve positioned yourself to do (as a business person), the more taxes you’ll pay. Part of that hurts, but it sure beats not paying any because you’re in the red.

If the government puts a regulation in place that impacts one of my clients, I enjoy spending time (and earning fees, of course) helping them profit *despite* the regulation, while their competition sits around and whines about it, writes a letter to the Daily Bugle complaining about it and then fades slowly out of business because they whined rather than working.

The point is that real business people don’t have the luxury of sitting around and hand-wringing (or teeth gnashing) about what Washington DC or Helena are up to – only talking heads like Morning Joe have that luxury.

Work like you’re scared

With very few exceptions, folks in Washington are gonna do what they’re gonna do.

Don’t get me wrong – I strongly believe that you should make every effort to right the wrongs (if not fix them in advance), but that’s isn’t enough. In addition, you’d better be working twice as smart /hard as everyone else in your market in the meantime.

All of the stuff that government does affects us, but we have a lot more control than most of us believe. If our businesses kick butt and take names, the government’s so-called “efforts to scare us” are mostly irrelevant.

Work, don’t whine.