As local business communities are increasingly challenged to compete with online commerce and national chains, it’s time to talk about “alliance.” Let’s explore what joining this battle as part of a group really means.
PoasterBoard’s goal is to help urban villages, suburban strips or small town Main Streets in their quest for sustained success at the local level. Alliance is all about cumulative impact, and it is the filter for every choice we make as a company. Perhaps this idea was captured most memorably by the late Senator Paul Wellstone: “We all do better when we all do better.”
Alliances are born from an intersection of interests. When local businesses unite as Booster Associations or Chambers of Commerce, for example, the core idea is to “float all boats with a rising tide.” As your experience with any such alliance begins, it may be a heady rush toward the unknown. A vague fervor for getting the stuff done that needs doing. It feels like capitalism getting closer to godliness.
Selfishness Is Natural. So Is Constipation.
But after you’re all in and the honeymoon fades, there’s inevitably some “what’s in it for me” to be dealt with. Even the collaborative ideas and innovations that answer this question get chucked right back into your ME Pile: that won’t work for ME or that’s great for ME! In both cases, individuals who guard their ME Piles most assertively do not grasp the power of an authentic alliance and often fail to feed its engine.
Alas, it’s frequently the most successful local businesses who don’t understand the role that other shops, restaurants and service providers in their neighborhood play in creating the awareness and driving the traffic that sustains them. An “influencer” business has the most to lose if an alliance falls short of bolstering its host community.
Alliances can enable growth for all, but for the individual they require more skin in the game than your annual dues and regular meeting attendance. Alliance as a concept demands that we look at the bigger picture of us – like one of those antique, panoramic photos of a giant graduating class. You may be that kid in the front (thirty-six from the left). But the picture’s Wow! arises because of the group.
A Real Sharing Economy
What does “skin in the game” look like? Well, it can mean promoting a live music night at that corner pub by handing out flyers in your hip vintage clothing store. But it can just as easily mean the corner pub hosts a quarterly fashion show for your hip vintage clothing shop (and throws in a drink special).
In fact, striving for growth collectively isn’t about Group Think as much as it’s about Group Act. The idea is central to our PoasterBoard philosophy, and it’s why we developed our integrated PB Amplify tool.
PB Amplify populates a repository of “Sharables” — content prepared by your association leader or by PoasterBoard. From provocative Shop Local memes to local promotions and event news, it’s all there so you can broadcast it regularly (and religiously) to your own social networks, thereby benefiting everyone on your local PoasterBoard.
Getting these Sharables out there is crucial — even when they’re not directly about your business. That’s because customers who follow a link to your community PoasterBoard, for whatever reason, have an opportunity to browse every business on there.
Relax, This Isn’t Communism
Your business will always be your special, precious baby. And that’s okay. But alliances are helping small business communities succeed across the country. If myopic attention to your own priorities isn’t meeting all of your goals, it’s time to re-imagine yourself as part of an ecosystem. Not all of the growing will happen to you, of course, but as part of any healthy alliance, that’s sort of the point.