Emmett Dulaney: It takes a village in business - Part II

Wed, 2012-05-02 13:51 -- univcomm
May 2, 2012

Last week, I wrote that it takes a village to start a business. It also takes a village to support an existing business.

After I finished speaking at a nearby Chamber of Commerce the other day (not Anderson’s), the host stood up. She mentioned a local business in that town and asked that all in attendance — or as many who could — stop in to that business after the meeting and buy something. The idea was to overwhelm the merchant with sales and engage in what is now referred to as a “cash mob.” Inspired by flash mobs, where dancing breaks out at predetermined locations, the cash mob is intended to support local businesses and the community.

While I like the intent of the action, I am not sure I agree that it is the right way to go about it. To illustrate: imagine that 60 people heard the idea to cash mob the merchant and 40 (a high number) actually did. According to the rules for such activities, as posted on the ever helpful Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cash_mob), each participant is to spend $20. Forty participants at an average of $20 each gives the merchant an unexpected gross of $800 for that day and makes them feel good — but only for the day. I would have to put the odds of repeat business from this undertaking very low.

An alternative? What if the well-intentioned $800 went not into buying trinkets from the company, but instead toward promoting the business? $800 may not seem like a great deal, but it is larger than the promotional budget of many small firms. It can be stretched quite a distance with Google/Facebook ads, newspaper inserts, and other efforts that might catch the eye of advantageous customers. My definition of “advantageous” is any who have a likely possibility of becoming profitable repeat customers.

Promoting a business is but one possibility for helping and not every business will need help in that way. It may be that the $800 can be best used to help them bring in a consultant, to buy software to assist with a particular function or operation, to join an industry association, etc. The unexpected windfall can be used in a myriad of ways, but the important thing is that it be used to better the business.

There are any number of local businesses in this community that could benefit from support and encouragement. One of those worth spotlighting is the Shadeland Bicycle Collective (a part of the Shadeland Project) that was written about at the beginning of the year. Now in full operation, it strives to empower individuals by giving them transportation, a sense of responsibility and confidence. For an overview of what it offers, watch the short video. They are doing everything they can to support the village and could greatly benefit from some support in return.

Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,600 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson University continues to be recognized as one of America's top colleges by U.S. News and World Report, The Princeton Review, and Forbes. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, education, music, nursing, and theology. The Falls School of Business is one of Anderson University’s largest academic departments offering eight undergraduate majors as well as MBA and DBA programs. The school is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) and is a member of the Christian Business Faculty Association (CBFA).

Columns from Anderson University’s Falls School of Business are published Tuesdays in The Herald Bulletin. Tuesday’s columnist is Emmett Dulaney, who teaches marketing and entrepreneurship.