Hello in there.
Sean Dietrich is a national treasure. He writes about the south the way my Dad and my brother John plant fields: deliberately and dutifully with pride and pleasure. Here’s his opening to a small story about a small business in a small town…
Dietrich has a podcast you need to hear and books you need to read, but before you do, I want to encourage you NOT to buy his books on Amazon, but not because it’s “Small Business Saturday.” (If you re-read that passage above, you’ll notice Dietrich never uses the word “small” to describe either the town or the business. Never met the man, but I suspect it’s because he knows neither of them are.)
I dislike—and disagree with—pretty much everything about “Support Small Business Saturday.”
I reject the premise of a small business. Anyone who’s ever owned or cared deeply about one will tell you there’s nothing small about it.
Mine doesn’t keep me up nights because it’s small.
And… why Saturday? So, it’s okay to elbow your way through Target on Friday and pointedly click your way through Cyber Monday, but what—one Saturday a year we condition our community businesses to dramatically discount their goods and services in exchange for our support?
I’m unclear on how exactly that supports them. Don’t get me wrong: Please shop locally today, tomorrow, and again the next day. I’ll have a few more ideas for you here in a minute.
But first, I want to remind the folks who own, run, and work for the local shops: You have to meet the customer more than halfway if you’re going to compete against the convenience of me sitting in my stretchy pants and Amazon Priming my way through my entire Christmas list. I’m sorry if you think it’s unfair, but it’s reality… but it’s not the entire reality.
Being Good Company
Shopping local isn’t a slogan. It’s a committed community partnership.
As a community’s consumers, if we let ourselves value convenience and speed over joy and relationships, are we really better off seeing our local shops shutter? Sure, shopping online can be faster and allow us to sit on the couch for longer periods of time, but does it make us better?
As owners and stakeholders in community businesses, shouldn’t we look for opportunities to engage, help, delight, entertain and be relentlessly neighborly to our customers and potential customers?
As community consumers, that means you should share your positive local experiences: with your friends on Facebook and other social media, as a recommendation on the business’ Facebook page, on Google as a review. Like those companies’ Facebook and Instagram pages and their YouTube Channel or their Pinterest page. Subscribe to their emails.
As community businesses, that means you treat your email list and social media followers as partners, not prey. You answer their questions and entertain them and help them in ways they may not have even realized they need help. You curate their online experiences just as you do in store, and you always remember it’s not about you. It’s about them.
As community consumers, that means you commit to “reverse showrooming”—shopping online for ideas, then making the effort/adventure to find the gifts locally or allow a local company to order those gifts for you.
As community businesses, that means you make sure your website is clean and clear and fast and friendly. Spend an hour researching how to make your Google My Business page as helpful as it can be, then schedule time for regular maintenance on both.
As community consumers, that means in addition to using your phone, you use your feet, and you make the effort/adventure to walk your downtown streets and remember how enjoyable it can be.
As community businesses, that means you get creative with what you can offer—free gift wrapping, bounce-back coupons (that reward existing customers), possibly even delivery.
As community consumers, that means making the effort and knowing it’s worth it.
As community businesses, that means making the effort and knowing it’s worth it.
Not just on Small Business Saturday, but every day.
Keeping Good Company
As the holidaily-theme-train rolls on, we’ll arrive at Giving Tuesday before we know it. Once again, I believe you’ll be amazed by devoting more than just a day to donating. I believe it’s easier—and infinitely more valuable to your company’s culture—than you might suspect.
When it comes to employee culture and loyalty, Rosabeth Moss Kanter is pretty much the smartest person on the planet, and in an exhaustive study (I wrote more about it and some cool connections here), she discovered the key to employee loyalty wasn’t money (turns out it was a factor, but in a distant fourth place), but rather that employees wanted three things:
- To feel like part of a team.
- To feel like they were getting better.
- To feel like they were making a difference.
You can accomplish all these things in part by making every Tuesday a Giving Tuesday at your company! Overwhelmed by that thought? Okay, how about once a quarter? Then once a month?
Choose local non-profits that align with your core values. Ask your employees what organizations matter to them. And do more than pass the hat or write a check.
Treasure is always a helpful “t,” but don’t forget about time and talent. Go as a group to a local food bank. Build something. Volunteer.
When you work together to make your community a better place, you work together to make your company a better place.
Making Good Company
In my professional world, conventional wisdom will tell you—whatever you do—do NOT send out your emails on a Saturday. It will also tell you to keep them short… and to include several promotional links to your speaking and consulting and workshop pages… and to include affiliate links when promoting anything.
(* – If you noticed the asterisk in the caption under the Frasier’s review, it connects here to another piece of conventional wisdom in my professional world: I’m supposed to link that image of the review back to our consulting page to imply that you should hire us, and then I should probably also explicitly invite you to contact us right there in the photo caption. Those are kinda the rules.)
I don’t follow any of those rules, and I like to think I do okay just talking with you here like this. I also like to think that “conventional wisdom” is far more convention than actual wisdom.
There’s nothing wrong with studying best practices, but at best, following them makes you like everyone else. And yes, knowing shortcuts, lifehacks, and practical tactics can help accelerate your business and your life, but at what cost?
Learn the rules. Study the rules. Know and understand the rules. That way, you’ll know when to follow, bend, or break them.
As we often ask, how does what you’re doing align with your purpose, vision, goals, and values?
The conventional wisdom of my world also says not to promote other people who do what I do unless they pay you. Oops. If you’re tired of my lack of industry profesionalism, ignore this cartoon by Tom Fishburne which I paid the rights to share with you today because it’s awesome…. and so is he.
The Back Nine
For new folks here, these are nine-ish little links, videos, or stories that we found helpful or delightful or both… and we believe you will, too…
1. Two other people who know the rules and how and when to break them who also produce consistently great, helpful work are Johnny Molson and Roy H. Williams. Look them up. Subscribe to them. Now, they are my friends and my partners, but there’s a reason they are my friends and my partners. In fact, all my partners and I are very proud of the work and research we freely share here.
2. My favorite online sources for inspiration for gifts are DodoBurd and Wirecutter, but a few years back, I interviewed a fewgiftartists about their secrets, and I learned to keep a running note on my devices to store links as inspiration strikes throughout the year… please see above about reverse-showrooming and trying to find these items locally… may I also suggest an online subscription to your local paper for someone who’s moved away and a few local restaurant gift cards…
3. Local bookstores usually *love* to curate books for you… visit, call them up, or reach out online, and they’ll ask you smart questions and know just what to recommend, and they’ll love doing it, too. Two of my favorites are Parnassus Books in Nashville and Skylark Bookshop in my old Mizzou stomping grounds…
4. Speaking of bookstores, the world-famous Powell’s in Portland is now selling a unisex fragrance that smells like a bookstore. Now, I love Powell’s, and I haven’t smelled the fragrance, but I have to wonder… you think maybe it’s an organic blend of coffee, patchouli, anarchy, and b.o.?
5. Speaking of world-famous, Dolly Parton is another southern national treasure who “while just tryin’ ta do good,” ended up helping to fund the Covid vaccine.
6. She may not be as world-famous as Dolly, but she’s just as world-awesome… and I know the bar I’m saying she clears when I make that claim. Ask anyone who knows Nancy Schneider, and they’ll tell ya the same thing, but not before their eyes light up and a smile comes across their face. I hope you have a Nancy in your network. I hope you have ten. She shared this (among other amazingness) earlier this week, and I asked for her permission to share it with you. She agreed, and I am praying some of her daily joy and gratitude find their way into your heart this holiday season.
7. Since I already mentioned Mizzou, Sarah Fuller is currently in the Show-Me State. Who’s Sarah? Oh, just the first female to play college football in the SEC when she takes the field against the Tigers today.
8. This kid’s love of Cheetos led him to start a business that helped his family move from a shed into an apartment. Read a little bit more about Aaron and his garden, then watch this video:
9. A college student behind a massively popular paint-mixing TikTok page was fired from Sherwin-Williams.
*Tim shakes head sadly*
*Tim hopes Benjamin Moore hires aforementioned college student*
*Tim expects Sherwin-Williams to hire agency to create purpose-driven advertising campaign that “really moves the needle”*
LET’S ADD ONE MORE TODAY!
10. Attention All Personnel! My favorite podcast has a Patreon page. Why not join me in supporting those who support the 4077th?
Welp, that’s it for this week.
I hope you have much to be thankful for. I hope you find happiness exactly where you’re at. I hope you don’t mind people who occasionally end sentences in prepositions. And I hope you’ll come back next week. In the meantime…
Thanks for being awesome,
Oh, and PS – The baby panda has a name, and it’s perfect.
Oh, and PPS – Starting in January, I’m going to switch my email address to firstname.lastname@example.org. To make sure you keep getting these, feel free to add it to your address book or shoot me an email now or anytime. It’s already up and running.