communities

Full Steam Ahead: Fueling Our Communities for Growth

By Brent Tilson

Three months into the new decade and the U.S. economic locomotive was “roaring” into the 20s. She was full steam ahead, with a growth rate of 2%, unemployment at its lowest since 1969, and the stock market indexes having grown more than 20% in 2019.

And then COVID-19 hit. Sending our economic train right off its tracks. Seemingly overnight, non-essential businesses were forced to close or operate entirely differently. Since then, millions of Americans have been laid off, the unemployment rate now at 14.7% – the highest since the Great Depression.

As business leaders, we know that markets are cyclical and economists warned our engine would soon slow down, but none of us could have imagined the impacts the coronavirus would bring upon the health of our country both personally and economically.

Stimulus checks and PPP loans are not enough to get the nation’s engine roaring again. We need individuals to collectively make small impacts to make an exponential difference.

It begins with our communities. Now more than ever we must pour into them. That is the fuel needed to re-vitalize and rejuvenate our friends and family, our towns and cities, our states and our nation.  It’s going to take a giant interconnected community to get the wheels turning again. And we are each one piece of coal in that fire.

There are several things we can collectively do together, while apart, that will help our communities come back to life.

As a business leader or individual, here’s where to start: Identify Your Communities. What categories of community do you have? Perhaps your place of worship is one of them, along with your neighbors, your co-workers, the gym you attend and the local businesses that surround you.

Now, support these groups in as many ways as possible in order to help make an exponential impact. Here are some ideas:

  1. Online shop, locally. Have you been making a lot of online orders recently? Rather than ordering through giant retailers, think about what local businesses in your area sell that same item. Could you get that from the mom-and-pop store in town? Better yet, are they providing curbside pickup?
  2. Order takeout or delivery. If you are in a financial position to eat out (or in) a couple times a week you should. You can worry about the Quarantine 15 later. Better yet, partner with a local restaurant, coffee house, ice-cream parlor, etc. to order a pick-up order for your entire staff or other community group. Don’t forget beverages – several local breweries and distilleries are offering free local delivery or pick up.
  3. Collaborate with others – Revitalizing the economy means supporting people as much as businesses. I recently started a Facebook group for my staff and it’s been a great way to stay engaged while we work remotely, and have some fun during an otherwise lonely period. We’ve started weekly challenges for a chance to win a gift card, too. Could one of your identified community groups use a group setting like Facebook, Zoom, or group text message to chat in? Houseparty is an app that allows you to play games virtually. Thanks to the Internet, the options for virtual group engagement are endless. Moreover, once you’ve identified different ways to engage with groups, be collaborative. Share those recipes you’ve been honing. Your wine recommendations, great books you’ve been reading, hacks you’ve discovered. Promote your favorite local companies and those experts around you. Let’s better one-another.
  4. Write one review a day for a company you support – You don’t need to spend money to support your local and favorite companies. All you need to do is simply write a review. Think outside restaurants and retail, too. Who is your realtor, your plumber, your landscaper, your handyman? What vendors does your company use? Offer them a referral and a testimonial for their website (bonus points if it’s video-recorded).
  5. Buy gift cards – Remember this idea of exponential impact? Buy gift cards from local businesses, even if in small increments, for members of your community groups. Think upcoming birthdays, holidays, special occasions. It may just help that local business be able to re-open in the future.
  6. Keep those memberships – That gym you used to attend still needs to pay their bills, as does the dance studio your child attends. If you are still able to pay your dues, do! Try out the virtual exercises they have available and connect to classes via online conferencing. You’ll keep off that Quarantine 15, entertain your child and keep the economy going!
  7. More for business owners – This is an unsettling time for employees, and your clients too! Frequent communications coming from the CEO is comforting. Let them into your world. Share encouraging videos or emails, set up a happy hour for your staff over online conferencing. Start challenges to nurture the team culture. Get some of your clients on a group call to see how everyone is coping and to share ideas for adapting to current challenges.
  8. Accelerate cash flow – During this period, cash is king. Your small and local providers rely on cash, so encourage yourself and others to pay within seven days of receiving service. In addition, merchants typically pay a processing fee for credit card transactions. Therefore, pay cash when able. And where possible, increase the tip for service.
  9. Give to charities – Most non-profits will need to work harder to raise money this year. Many are having to cancel their usual programs and fundraisers. The financial pressure put on by COVID-19 is causing a lack of resources to support their causes and keep their organization running. Donate if you are able to support your community and local charities.
  10. Gain momentum – these actions will not produce an exponential impact if done alone. Encourage others to do at least one of the items included above so that we can all work together to get our community’s economic locomotive running again! *If you like these tips, please share this article with your network!

With the states beginning to reopen in some manner, it is more critical now than ever to give our local communities and businesses the push they need to get the wheels turning again for a healthy and “roaring” 20s.