posted on September 21, 2010 12:46
Editor's note: This week we are pleased to have Scottville Main Street Manager Josh Spencer as our guest blogger. Scottville has been a part of our program since 2007 and has seen some dramatic improvements in the past few years. Josh has been their program manager since 2008.
By Josh Spencer
Main Street Manager
Scottville Main Street Program
Prior to my current position with the Scottville Main Street Program, I worked in sales. I always made it a point to strive to be the best at what I did. I will always remember what one of the best salesman I ever met said to me when I asked about his sales philosophy. He simply said you need to be their best friend or dazzle them with your knowledge. When I asked which of the two was most important, he told me that people want to do business with their friends. Basically the relationship was the most important aspect when small business owners make important decisions. There are other factors of course but if you can establish that personal connection, you can better determine how to appease those other factors.
When I began in Scottville, I saw my first priority was to meet and sit down with every business owner, building owner, and manager in downtown. I did this for two reasons. The first was to assess the feelings of the business owners toward the Main Street Program. The second and probably most important was to begin to establish a connection with those people and let them know that I value all their participation and input. I think too much we dismiss those hard to reach people. When what I’ve found is that many times they’ve never felt like they mattered in the decisions that were made. They’ve never felt that personal connection to the program or the people that are directly involved. People still remember that I made that attempt to talk with every downtown business. This isn’t a one-time effort either. I make an attempt to talk with every business owner on a weekly basis. Desk jockeys don’t make good Main Street Managers.
I’ve also heard people say that you need to work with the people that will work with you. We as downtown managers can’t afford to dismiss hard to reach business owners or community members because in the end, it takes everyone working together to carry out your mission. At times the hardest to reach people can become your biggest supporters or customers if you make that connection and do your best to meet their needs. You won’t be successful in every case but in my short time, I can confidently say that most organizations that are struggling are doing so because they solely focus on getting that low hanging fruit and seem content on achieving only that. One of the best businessmen that ever lived, Bill Gates, once said that “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” If you dismiss those that criticize, you are robbing yourself and your organization of a great learning experience.
In the public realm perception is reality. We as downtown managers are salespeople. We need to sell our programs to our communities. Every program, project, and event that we do has a large element that must be sold to groups and individuals. This is true in both the planning and execution stages. It’s not easy since in our field nothing is black and white. The Main Street Program has a defined methodology that does work and we have to sell that to our communities continually.
Finally, I believe that the personal relationships we forge are what makes this field so rewarding and at the same time challenging. You will deal with many different personality types with different interests and needs. Making an attempt to keep our downtown businesses engaged even if it’s just a short conversation about all that is happening once a week or month will greatly improve the public view. I still have business owners that tell me they don’t believe that what our program does will work, but they do appreciate that we work so hard to improve their community. I don’t mind those folks and in fact we have the best conversations. They have to see it happen. Once they do, I already have the personal connection with them and they will become great supporters. That is the power of establishing those personal relationships.