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The Type of Change No One Wants to Talk About

Avatar photo by Casey Woods, Executive Director | July 8, 2014
The Type of Change
No One Wants to
Talk About
  Substance Over Style
I received an e-mail from a local acquaintance that talked about business trends in 2014.  The list wasn't so much about "trends" as it was about responsibilities businesses have in their quest to become better businesses during the calender year.  I understand that the relationship between businesses and the community is a two way street, so I thought it might be refreshing to review a type of "rights and responsibilities" between the public and local businesses.
So, here is an updated ten rights and responsibilities list for consumers and businesses.
1.  Business hours must accommodate the times that consumers can shop.  Conversely, when businesses extend hours, consumers must shop at the businesses or they'll quit extending their hours!– Not every business needs to have extended hours, but most retailers and restaurants should consider their customers shopping availability.  Remember, most small businesses have a small staff.  If extended hours are offered over a long test period and people don't take advantage, it's hard for a business to justify the time and expense.
2.  If you don't shop at locally owned businesses, they won't carry the items you want.  If a consumer asks for a particular type of item, businesses have the responsibility to do what they can to obtain the item.  This one seems pretty self explanatory, but businesses buy to satisfy the needs of their customers.  If they can get products in to produce a profit, they generally will (at least a reasonable facsimile).  Remember that some products have "minimums" that require bulk orders (you might not want to purchase 50 of an item as a consumer), but creative searches occasionally offer businesses lower quantity purchasing options.
3.  Locally owned businesses have the responsibility to provide great customer service.  Consumers must appreciate the fact that those services have a cost associated with them.  Locals compete onKari Crumpservice.  Generally, they don't have the benefit of bulk pricing, though you may be surprised at the low comparative prices offered.  If a business doesn't offer good service, they will face a declining customer base.  Customers must understand that these services have costs associated with them.  Utilizing services and then searching for cheaper pricing is unfair to businesses doing their best to educate and serve the public.
4.  Mom and Pop businesses need to support the local community.  The community can't expect continued support (donations) if they aren't customers of the business.  Locals donate at about twice the rate of national chains (on average), so most local businesses do a good job of supporting local causes.  Many local businesses get upset when they constantly get "hit up" for donations from people that don't support their business operations but recognize when their actual customers ask for support.  Support is a two way street.
5.  Understand that Small businesses can't have every product or service under the sun.  Small businesses have the responsibility to know where consumers can obtain other products (from other local businesses).  Most small businesses fill a niche.  But, if a business doesn't have something, a referral can help diffuse customer frustration.
6.  Businesses must have a mobile/social/web presence so modern customers can find out more information about their business.  Consumers need to share positive information with their social networks about local businesses to introduce people to unique concepts.  Communicate with people in a format they can access.  If people can't find you, your location, your hours and what you do on-line, then you probably don't exist to them.  As a customer, if you do find something cool, or have a good experience, make sure you share it with online friends as an encouragement for a business doing the right thing.
7.  Local businesses need to support unique local events and institutions.  Those local events and institutions should try and find ways to support local businesses.  Getting people to your area to attend an event helps the community.  Good activities find different ways to expose guests to the people that support them.  Events are a winning partnership when people think about the "we".
8.  Small businesses should seek every opportunity to advocate for the community.  The same goes for consumers.  Things get better when we all take the responsibility to make them better.  When identifying opportunities and advocating for the community isn't "my problem", then it's harder to develop a solution.
9.  Small businesses should advertise in local media.  Local citizens should subscribe to and utilizeShop Local Posterlocal media.  Local media does a good job of letting the public know about businesses, events and the community in general.  Traditional advertising is a good way to reach out to the community.  Community members that complain about not knowing "what's going on" can remedy that simply by subscribing to, tuning in or accessing local media.
10.  Consumers should find ways to shop locally and encourage others to shop in their community (even if they live outside of the community).  Businesses (and their employees) should also shop locally and encourage others (even their staff and vendors) to consume in the local community.  Dollars spent in the community represent an investment.  Investing in local businesses means more potential investment in various parts of the community.  Advocacy starts by setting a good example.  Beyond the economics, we have some cool local places to shop, and some awesome people running local businesses that appreciate your support.
The rights of businesses and consumers aren't absolute if either expects success.  Businesses can't succeed without satisfying the needs of the consuming public.  Consumers can't have a successful community without supporting locally owned businesses.  We have a symbiotic economic relationship.  Businesses can ignore customer needs, at their own peril.  Consumers that fail to support local businesses have to bare some of the blame for vacancies or the lack of economic diversity.  It's just the reality of the situation.  So, both businesses and consumers (that's all of us) need to find ways to help support the community.  We all have an impact.
Luckily, Emporia has a growing group of people that are looking beyond the "what can you do for me" and starting to think about how their actions can have a positive impact on the community.  If this "we" ideology continues, all of us (businesses and consumers) will benefit.
What business and consumer rights and responsibilities did we miss?  If you could add your own items, what would they look like.  What, as a business, do you wish consumers knew about your operation.  What, as consumers, do you wish businesses knew about your buying decisions?



About the Author

Casey Woods, Executive Director

Before accepting the director position in March of 2009, Casey worked in both retail and agricultural jobs in the family businesses. A lifelong resident of the Emporia Area, Casey was a ten year volunteer for Emporia Main Street prior to his appointment as director. During that time he served as the board president and chair of the Economic Vitality Committee.

Casey also serves as a partner in PlaceMakers, LLC, a consulting firm that routinely works with both large and small communities, and their businesses, to promote sustainable economic growth through community and economic development practices. Casey consults with businesses, organizations and communities to understand their market capacity and fill vacant spaces. He has been involved in two projects that included crowdfunding as a part of their overall business funding strategies, Radius Brewing and Twin Rivers Winery & Gourmet Shoppe.


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