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Friday, October 23, 2020

Council Post: Community Mayors: What They Are And How Business Leaders Can Be One

Clare Moore is the Head of Franchising at Tide Cleaners.

If you’re looking to be a more successful business owner, you might want to consider how to think more like a community mayor.

I’m not talking about actual mayors. From my perspective, community mayors are the leaders in our neighborhoods, the people who care deeply about where they live and the people who live there. They’re the ones who know what needs to be done and promote action to get things done. If there’s a traffic light that needs to be put in place, they petition for it. If there’s a charity fundraiser that needs organizing, they do it. If their neighbors are in trouble, they’re the first ones in line to help.

Obviously, being a community mayor is a selfless act, and it should remain so. But it also makes smart business sense for a company leader to consider how they can give back to their community. Being a business owner and a community mayor is a symbiotic relationship. The more you do for the community, I believe the more your business will benefit.

So, how do you become a community mayor? As someone who tries to support their community however I can, I have a few ideas.

Invest in your community. The moment you open a business, whether it’s a franchise you’ve purchased or a startup you’re working on in your garage, you’re poised to start giving back to your community. The taxes your business pays to the community helps to fund roads, bridges, schools and libraries. If you’re hiring employees, you’re providing much-needed jobs and helping families put food on the table. If your business provides a valuable service or product, you’re making your fellow citizens’ day a little easier.

But to me, every business owner, once they really get moving, arguably has a responsibility to support their communities in other ways. And community mayors, as you’ve likely noticed, are always happy to do that. That’s the wonderful thing about being a business owner: You may be in the position to help people.

For instance, if your business sponsors a soccer or baseball team’s uniforms, that’s a fairly low-cost way to give a helping hand to children in your community, as well as get the word out about your business. If your business spends money to help a local organization put on a festival (socially distant, of course) or assist the town or city leadership with a charity, that, too, means you’re involved with a good cause.

It’s a noble deed that should be done for no other reason than to help people. But as it turns out, people like to reward businesses that are doing the right thing. The premise that you’ll likely attract more loyal customers by investing money in your community is simply an added benefit.

Also, keep in mind, the more that businesses invest in a community, the stronger it is and the more attractive of a place it is to live. When people are moving into a city and your customers are doing well, you do well. No, your business can’t pay for an entire community’s needs on its own, but if all businesses could invest at least a little into their community, I believe all communities, and their businesses, would be better off.

Invest time in your community. Just as important as money is your time. When you allow your employees to volunteer for good causes in the community, and when you yourself do it, so much good comes out of that.

From my perspective, there’s nothing like the feeling of helping out at a soup kitchen, teaching a child to read or giving blood at a blood drive. Even if nobody sees you or your employees helping out and your time doesn’t inadvertently translate into future sales, you and your employees know what you’re doing. It’s going to lift your morale and simply make you and your employees feel good about your business. That’s a priceless return on your investment of time.

Invest yourself in your community. In other words, join a group. Become a member of your local Chamber of Commerce or perhaps the Rotary Club or Lions Club International. Those are just a few classic examples.

Yes, during a pandemic, it might seem off-brand to join a social organization. But, in a way, I feel that’s all the more reason to do it, even if many of your meetings are going to be over Zoom or from six feet away. These are tough times, and we all need to work together, more than ever, and your community needs you.

When you join a group, you have a place and a face in your community. That’s going to pay off in ways you can’t imagine. You’ll likely meet entrepreneurs who will have sage advice for you and who can commiserate with you when you go through tough times (and there are always some tough times with any business). You might find big clients, vendors or suppliers by mixing it up with the business community.

I see no downside to getting involved and supporting your community. In the worst case, you’re making connections with people outside of your circle, and, hopefully, that means your business gets more visibility in the community. So go out there and run for community mayor. You’ve got my vote.

Forbes Business Council is the foremost growth and networking organization for business owners and leaders. Do I qualify?

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