8 Slices
Medium 9781576753712

4 Business networking for local value

Laury Hammel Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

It’s likely that one reason you’ve chosen to become an entrepreneur is to be free and independent, but when you open a business, you’re actually joining a network of literally thousands of interdependent businesses. Not only are the partnerships we form within this network critical to our success and the longevity of our businesses, but they also present tremendous opportunities to grow local value.

The three basic categories of businesses that you can form partnerships with are businesses traditionally referred to as vendors or suppliers, businesses in your industry, and local businesses in your community.

If you run a grocery store, hardware store, or other retail establishment, you are dependent on the companies that supply you with the products you sell. If you are a manufacturer, you rely on suppliers, distributors, and retailers. Even if you own a software company, you require the support of companies that construct computers as well as those that market and package your product.

In some companies the relationships with vendors are perhaps less obvious, but no less important, and include insurance agents, HMOs, and janitorial services. When these relationships work, your business can focus its time and energy on upgrading existing products, creating new products, and improving customer service. When these relationships don’t work, doing business can be problematic. In extreme cases, poor vendor relationships can actually bring down a business. For example, a poor relationship with an insurance agent can mean not having an appropriate policy when dealing with the aftermath of a hurricane.

See All Chapters
Medium 9781576753712

3 Partnering with your employees

Laury Hammel Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Staff members are the heart and soul of a company. They create the product and deliver it to the customer, and their skills and attitude make or break a business. In fact, when you get right down to it, the very essence of your company culture and the values you hold dear are expressed through your employees.

It’s no secret that building strong and vibrant relationships with your employees is essential for business success! The futures of your business and your staff are bound together, and it only makes sense to move your business-staff relationship to the level of partnership. The strongest partnerships are those in which both parties have much to lose and much to gain. The larger the stakes, the greater the potential for a robust partnership—and your employees have a great deal at stake in the success of your business. Having a satisfying and well-paying job is essential to living a good life. Full-time employees structure their lives around their jobs and spend a majority of their waking hours (and usually their most productive time) working for the business and giving their creative energy. For longtime employees, building the company can become their career or even their life’s work. Our careers say much about how we think about ourselves and greatly influence our self-esteem.

See All Chapters
Medium 9781576753712

6 Making sustainability your competitive advantage

Laury Hammel Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Like most business leaders today, you are concerned about the environment and you want your business to be environmentally friendly. But what many entrepreneurs want and how they do business may be two different things. You might lack specific knowledge, or maybe business is just too crazy, so recycling and conserving energy don’t quite move up to the top priority. Most of us are guilty of not paying enough attention to how our business impacts the environment. This chapter will demonstrate the awesome potential of local businesses to be successful and help save our planet.

Over thirty-five years after the first Earth Day and the enactment of significant government environmental regulations, and despite efforts by environmental activists of all stripes, the footprint of business on our natural world remains massive. The issue of climate change resulting from doing business on this planet is no longer a debate. The critical question now is, how much time do we have before it’s too late to reverse the disastrous trends?

See All Chapters
Medium 9781576753712

8 Building a bridge to the future

Laury Hammel Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

As an entrepreneur you can build a business that contributes to your community in ways that go far beyond selling a good product. You can leverage your relationships with all of your stakeholders to help strengthen your community and contribute to the common good.

This becomes even more profound when you consider that you are helping create a feeling of home and a sense of place for people in your community. Having a home is important to all of us. It may not be perfect, but when we think of home we want it to feel comfortable and safe and to bring warmth to our hearts.

Not everyone has a home. Even people who own a house may not feel secure or might even feel homeless. When we are physically or psychologically disconnected, we feel alienated from our world. We may have more technological conveniences today, but these devices don’t help us feel grounded in a community.

Feeling at home comes from those invisible social, emotional, and spiritual parts of us that we experience through relationships with other people. When no one is around whom we know or love or can talk with, we feel isolated and not a part of a community. We may be surrounded by people and yet be lonely.

See All Chapters
Medium 9781576753712

1 Customer and community first

Laury Hammel Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

An entrepreneur finds a need and fills it. However, if you’re one of a fast-growing group of people starting and running companies all across the country (and that includes us), you want to build a business that goes a step further and fills real needs that will improve the quality of people’s lives.

Unfortunately, not all successful businesses sell products that make our lives better. A consumerist culture driven by omnipresent marketing often influences us to buy things we really don’t need. When products are designed to meet artificial needs, they generally have a negative impact on our communities.

Of course, determining which needs are real and which are not can be tricky. You may be thinking that no one should pretend to determine your real needs. And you might even ask, “Shouldn’t the marketplace alone determine whether or not a product succeeds?” Yes, the marketplace is the absolute ruler when it comes to the success or failure of a product.

But it’s also true that in most cases, long-term business success is directly related to the ultimate value of the product to society. We’re sure you could point out plenty of examples of products that have been around for a long time that don’t serve real needs, but as a rule, the products with the longest staying power tend to be the ones that meet actual needs. And going a step further, plenty of us are looking to make purchases that offer genuine value and also match our values. Whether we’re considering a hybrid car or Seventh Generation paper towels, we’ve definitely become more discriminating customers.

See All Chapters

See All Slices