OPINION: Building Main Street, not Wall Street; The business of building dreams

Eleanor Roosevelt said, "The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams."

While traveling a while back, we noticed a sign in a small local retail establishment conveying what I believe captures the essence of a small local community. The sign read, "When you support a local small business, you're supporting a local dream". Local businesses can have capability and motivation but it really takes a community with local dream-supporting attitude to assist these local dreams in becoming true.

I once had a college professor ask, "What is the difference between creative people and non-creative people?"

There were several responses, all of which may have had an element of truth. But he went on to state the difference is that creative people believe they are creative while non-creative people don't feel that way.

When working with vibrant and transformative communities, there is always a common element permeating through the community. That element is confidence and self-belief. They have winning attitudes. They expect to experience success. They believe they are creative and will overcome any obstacle to win and succeed. Likewise, when I work with communities still trying to find their way, they tend to view obstacles as unclimbable mountains and have little confidence in their abilities to overcome adversity. I find this not only in the various communities' leadership teams but in their business base as well.

This brings us back to the sign we noticed in the local shop. No matter how hard they work and are motivated, their success largely remains in the hands of the local community and what they believe they can accomplish. Thus, the importance of a local community having a winning attitude and a belief they will win. Thus, the importance of community leadership instilling confidence and winning attitudes not just at the leadership level, but throughout the entire community. Great leaders understand the power of the mind, they know great things can be achieved with the right attitude. They know the sum of the individual parts is always exceeded by the total accomplishments of the entire team.

When we discuss leadership, we must not assume all is well if we have a great leader. While a great leader is a great start, it takes a leader with the willingness and capability of spreading a winning vision to all levels of government and community. It takes those second line leaders pushing the mission to all the organizations and groups within the community. It then is followed by the entire community catching the vision of what can be. When the community truly catches the vision of transformation and what is needed to accomplish transformation, they have the power to make dreams of local businesses and entrepreneurs come true.

We have discussed the need for the local community to help these dreams come true. But, make no mistake, for this to happen, local business owners must have more than ability, work ethic and motivation. Businesses must still provide what consumers want at times convenient to the local consumer. The success of local businesses depends not just on the consumer but the willingness for both to meet at a point fitting the business and the consumer. A great example would be store hours. As I was walking through a community full of hungry shoppers, I couldn't help but notice many of the local businesses closed by 5:30 p.m. When statistically nearly 70% of all business transactions take place after 5:00 p.m., closing by 5:30 p.m. on a busy day isn't meeting the consumer halfway.

I love the branding slogan for Michigan; it is very simple and concise; it is known as "Pure Michigan." While not suggesting you steal Michigan's idea, I am advocating you adopt the internal mindset of a "Pure Local" attitude towards your community and local businesses. The power of a community working together is far greater than the sum of each individual entity trying to succeed on their own, which never ends well.


Editor's note: John Newby, from SW Missouri, is a nationally recognized columnist, speaker and publisher. He consults with Community, Business & Media. His "Building Main Street, not Wall Street" column is read by more than 60 communities around the country. As founder of Truly-Local, he assists communities, media and business leaders in building synergies that create vibrant communities. He can be reached at: [email protected].