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Last Update: Tuesday December 12, 2017

Key Idea: See The Big Picture

On Deland's main street, host Hattie Bryant, says that all of the merchants pull together.

Key Question:

A: 

Committing to the improvement of your entire neighborhood, not just your business, makes you cause-driven. That is one of the benefits of stepping back and seeing the big picture.

Q: Would some hard-boiled business people think that focusing on a cause could be misplaced concreteness?

A: It could be but not in the case of the companies we have studied here. If you have a cause you believe in and use profits from the business to fund it, the cause is a motivator stronger than any other force could be. The cause is bigger than money, or fame or power.

In 1969, Robert Redford purchased land at the base of 12,000-foot Mount Timpanogos in Utah's Wasatch Mountains. The reason Mr. Redford bought the 6,000 acres was to preserve it and at the same time create a community that would foster artists. That is putting your money where your mouth is.

Debra St. Claire, founder of EcoNatural, maker of vegetarian breath mints, is working to support the Ethno-Medicine Preservation Project. This group is buying land to preserve the medicinal plant knowledge of indigenous cultures. Supporting a cause is good for at least two reasons.

First, customers like to buy products when they know some profits are going to a good cause. Most all small business owners work in their communities and make donations to local causes. But several of the ones we have studied here have had "the cause" as part of a corporate strategy and are committed to a particular issue. Two Hands in Providence works with a school for children with disabilities. Katz Deli gives 10% of its sales from one particular table to Aids Research. Jim Morris T-Shirt exists to help groups raise money to "save the earth."

Second, employees are energized by helping others. Coming to work every day is not just about making money at Sundance or EcoNatural. It is about working hard for the benefit of something bigger than yourself. People who suffer from feelings of uselessness are often urged to go out and do something for someone else. Stop studying your belly button and, by all means, stop your whining. The same is true for companies. If you focus all of your attention on yourself and how much money you and each employee is going to make, cynicism sets in.

Think about it

Is there a cause that you could be involve in that would be meaningful and energizing to you and your team?

Clip from: Feasel of DeLand, Florida and the Rebirth of Downtown

DeLand, Florida: Just northeast of Orlando, this town personifies the statement, "Big business homogenizes. Small business diversifies."

On the Main Street of this town they celebrate the rich variety of one-of-a kind shops owned by locals.  Just on the outskirts of town looms the big-box retailers.  How does a family-owned hardware store on Main Street survive? How can they compete?  

We do not have any simple answers. We do know that small businesses must develop a many-sided customer relation that competes in value against the volume discounters.

When we taped this episode of the show, Feasel Paint & Glass  was being slammed by by nearby discounters, both Home Depot and Lowe. And, we are sorry to report that this downtown store closed on December 9, 2008 (more).

We were fighting for the small businesses.  We still do.  Up until the store's closure, we had encouraged people to drop in on Feasel's on Main Street and buy something.  We talked with the new owner, Mike Woosley.  He's a very nice person.  He was optimistic and we all wanted to encourage their esprit de corps for their role in the continued Main Street revitalization.

This town, cited by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as a "Great American Main Street" award winner, the people of Feasel Paint & Glass are helping to paint that picture.

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Feasel Paint and Glass

John Gregory,

Business Classification:

Year Founded:

See The Big Picture

HATTIE: The Gregory family has sold paint on this street since 1956. John and Pete have owned Feasel's since 1977. What I learned from them is, if you plan for your business to exist for your entire working lifetime, you must see it as part of something big, not as a stand-alone entity.

(Voiceover) The success of Feasel's is dependent upon the success of De Land's Main Street. When Florida Victorian Architectural Antiques and Muse Books and the Doll Parlor do well, Feasel's does well. The structure of anything that's alive is cellular. It has seen and unseen dependencies. It's chaotic and ordered at the same time.

So the Main Street program, with its planning, meeting and marketing efforts, is the structure. The chaos happens every day as merchants serve their customers, refer customers to one another, make many decisions all for the good of the whole.

HATTIE: (Voiceover) At Small Business School.org there is self-help study for people who want to start a business and for those who want to grow the business they have. To learn more about this episode choose the overview. You can read every word you're hearing today when you choose the transcript. And go deeper with the case study. There's streaming video and access to interactive study guides throughout the site.

PETE: My best friend should be my competitor; we need to be talking with each other. We have bigger competitors to fight than each other. And by joining forces and joining heads, you know, we can generally come to a better resolve on what we need to do on a more local basis. And I'm not talking about prices or types of service. I'm just talking about how do we get along? How do we deal with sales tax issues with the state? How do we deal with any issue with the state of Florida? Or codes within the county, codes within the city. How do we deal with that?

HATTIE: What do you think the role of a small-business owner is in a community?

JOHN: Well, I think it's being involved in things like the Main Street program, the Rotary or the Lions Club or, in my particular case, the Kiwanis club, being involved with something where you're giving back or where you're giving, period, not necessarily giving back. Just where you're giving something when--it just makes a better person out of you, and if that can happen, your business is gonna be a better business.

HATTIE: Maureen, as a Main Street director, my guess is that you are a marketer for them.

MAUREEN: Without a doubt. Selling is what you got to do, you know.

HATTIE: So if I'm a small business on your Main Street and I'm a member of the Main Street program, you're out there working for me.

MAUREEN: Without a doubt.

HATTIE: What are you doing to bring me business?

MAUREEN: All kinds of things: promotion. I mean, we're raising funds for different projects that are gonna bring people downtown. Of course, you know, we do that through a lot of different means. You know, one of them, of course, is our mailings that we do, but we do a lot of creative ways for fund raising and...

HATTIE: What kind of mailing do you do?

MAUREEN: Well, we do, obviously, our newsletter on a regular basis. But we also solicit funds through direct mail. We have a wine tasting every year for our Athens Theater project, and we send out a lot of invitations with cards for donors to respond. So we do definitely a lot of mail, not just to our members, but beyond our downtown district also.

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