You’ve got to love January. That wonderful time of the year when you can treat the past like a magic slate and wipe it clean while making endless resolutions for the New Year. Since 2017 was my first year in retirement, I resolved to become a better and healthier person with the following resolutions.
Let’s see how I did:
- Reduce my daily intake of chocolate chip cookies. My addiction to chocolate chip cookies is well known. (FYI, raisin cookies are the reasons I have trust issues) But I did go cold cookie for three full days. However, not my fault. A good friend of mine made me a batch of two-dozen cookies for the New Year. I could hardly let them go to waste. I mean, what kind of friend would I be if I didn’t honor her kind gesture and eat the cookies she had made?
- Go gluten-free. I made it 14 hours, but again, it wasn’t my fault. I went to the store on Jan. 2 and bought $122 of every gluten-free product I could find. And then I tasted the gluten-free pizza. I had to check twice to see if I was eating the pizza or the cardboard disk that had been underneath it.
- Exercise regularly. I made the mistake of not defining what “regularly” meant, or “exercise” for that matter. I’ve done pretty well with this one though. Every day I walked down to the bakery that is half a block away from my home to pick up a pastry. Halfway through the year, I was able to make it back home without calling Uber.
- Step away from economic development. If you’re reading this, then you know that this is still a work in progress.
As you can see, if resolutions for 2017 were a report card, I would be grounded for all of 2018. As the old saying goes, new years resolutions are like babies. They are fun to make but difficult to maintain. But in my defense, according to US News (which is not fake news) approximately 80% of resolutions fail by the second week of February. (I was in the 1% that did not make it a week). I did prove that author Wes Moore was correct when he said that resolutions are “promises that sound hopeful in December, challenging in January and historic in February.” I always wanted to be historic.
Since economic development is still bleeding out of me, I do have some suggestions for resolutions that practitioners can use to help their community grow and prosper. Hopefully, you will have better luck mastering these than I did with the ones above and that the New Year becomes the new you.
- Find a mentor or become a mentor
Every aspiring leader needs a role model who’s been there before to provide guidance. If you’re already a leader, find someone to mentor. Mentoring improves retention and productivity. It also enhances your professional life, whether you are the mentor or the mentee.
- Asset map your community
This is a great investment in your community. It will help you identify existing community strengths and manage finite resources. It will also get other stakeholders in the community involved.
- Coordinate a business plan competition
A business plan competition will help entrepreneurs take that first important step in creating new businesses and jobs. It will also help you retain intellectual capacity that would otherwise gravitate to urban centers.
- Create Local investment network
Capital is key to every economic development endeavor. Providing access to local funding sources will keep dollars in your community, provide a pool of dollars for projects and support entrepreneurs and businesses in your community.
- Update your website
Your website is usually the first place visitors, investors and businesses go. Keep it informative and more important, up to date. You want your stakeholders to know what you’re doing. A well maintained and up-to-date website will also generate leads and build your brand.
- Start a co-working workspace
A community co-working workspace serves as a gathering point for small businesses, startups and entrepreneurs to network and pool resources. It offers entrepreneurs an affordable “business” space instead of a home office, which can be off-putting to some clients and can be filled with distractions, most notably, the aforementioned chocolate chip cookies.
- Beautify and celebrate downtown businesses
Making sure your downtown core has “curb appeal” will build tourism, promote commerce, keep visitors in town longer and serve as a central gathering point for events, celebrations and activities.
- Visit 2 to 3 small businesses a week
Visiting local businesses is a great way to learn more about the issues that will help them become more successful. It has also been shown to increase business retention and can provide an avenue for helping businesses prepare a disaster plan to weather manmade and natural events that can disrupt business.
- Communicate with community development groups
No economic developer is an island. Regular communication with stakeholders and other practitioners in your community promotes inclusivity, rapidly surfaces new ideas, creates lasting partnerships and spreads out the cost of community projects. Make them your partners, not your competitors.
- Plan an event for Global Entrepreneurship Week in November
GEW is a great time to encourage business and job creation in the community, introduce youth to new career ideas, recognize economic drivers in the community and piggyback on national and international publicity surrounding the weeklong celebration.
To some practitioners, this may look like a strategic plan. But many strategic plans go the way of New Year’s resolutions. I am proof of that. Perhaps the only difference between these “resolutions” and strategic plans is that strategic plans tend to sit on a shelf, accumulating dust while these 10 economic development resolutions sit in your mind, collecting guilt if you don’t act on them.
But the best thing about these resolutions is that they are all inexpensive and relatively easy to implement, even if your “to do” list is already long. You can also measure them more easily than something like job creation, which is an inexact science at best. Contrary to what elected officials think, economic developers do not create jobs. Economic developers create healthy communities where businesses will grow and prosper, creating jobs in the process. These 10 Resolutions for 2018 will definitely move you in the right direction with measurable data, successful stories, and community prosperity.
It’s important to understand that when making any resolutions, they should be things that you can control. You can’t control how store bought gluten-free pizza tastes just as you cant control how many jobs a company will create. But the 10 resolutions I have proposed are things you can definitely control and you can start January 1 without depending on someone else. After all, good resolutions are like babies crying in church. They should be carried out immediately.
My 2018 resolution in retirement will be very simple this year and one which I will paraphrase from a wise sage with a deep growly voice, covered with blue fur, and possessing a pair of googly eyes going by the pseudonym, Cookie Monster. I resolve to live in the moment unless it’s unpleasant, in which case, I will eat a chocolate chip cookie.
Frankly, entrepreneurship should be celebrated 365 days a year. But GEW and WED give you a great excuse to give entrepreneurship a little extra love in your town, increasing its visibility and importance in creating and sustaining a local community and also providing another reason why your small businesses and entrepreneurs should not leave the community.
Now, I can hear you lamenting, “Maury, November is a long time away! Blog me closer to the date”. But November really is sneaking up fast, at least from an event planning perspective. I’m sure you don’t invite people over to Thanksgiving on the Tuesday before. As my grandmother Bubba Bluma used to tell me, “if it’s worth doing, it’s worth planning five months out.” Or something to that effect. (it gets lost in the Yiddish translation).
But, I can also hear you saying, “Maury, what does this have to do with Paul Simon?” Well, Paul Simon claimed to have 50 reasons to leave a lover but only gave us 5. In my quest to identify truth in economic development, and in the interest of spurring ideation for this year’s Global Entrepreneurship Week, I have compiled “50 Ways to Start a Business” where success requires advanced planning.
These are actual events coordinated and promoted from the Kauffman Foundation’s Idea Bank and Washington State’s own GEW celebrations. The intent is that you begin to think about, refine and coordinate GEW or WED in your own community now.
The “50 Ways” include different events and activities directed at all ages. The idea of starting a business can begin with our youth and continue well into retirement years. The rewards are many, but for rural communities, perhaps the most important reward is that you may retain all that intellectual and financial capital that may otherwise move to urban centers.
I strongly encourage you to start planning for GEW/WED right now. I can safely tell you that from my own experience, it will be one of the highlights of your community’s economic development activities even if my entrepreneurial music career never gets off the ground. Of course, just as there are more verses I could serenade you with, there are also many more ways to showcase entrepreneurship in your own community.
50 ways to Start a Business (to the tune of 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover)
Learn how to bake, Blake,
Invent a new toy Roy
Just learn to sell, Belle
Recruit a great crew, Drew
There are 50 ways to start a business…
What’s New This Month…