Business is built on relationships that start with individuals and grow to include groups and institutions. Community involvement is an excellent means of creating opportunities to meet individuals and develop meaningful relationships.
Whether you are a large company or a small, family-run operation relationships built through community involvement pays big dividends. For companies considering how to get involved in the community, here are some pointers for choosing the best activities for your company.
1) Don’t choose too many activities. Stay within the bounds of your financial and human resources. The goal here is to have a successful business that grows and participates in the community.
2) Choose activities that help employees grow in the community and develop new networks. Most Chambers of Commerce have Leadership programs for developing community leaders. These programs are excellent and bring long-term benefits for the organization and the employees.
You’ll find +AT&T involved in most chambers of commerce, leadership building programs and broad based community philanthropic efforts. This is clearly good for the community and good for AT&T. It is the individual employees that represent AT&T and sit on the chamber boards. These individuals benefit from an elevated standing in the community and this has a positive halo effect on AT&T.
3) Get involved in supporting programs that benefit the community. Whether it is a program to clean up the city, help the needy or attract a major convention or business, the benefits to the community and to those involved are significant.
In Texas, +HEB Grocery Co. is a large, privately owned chain of grocery stores that has been a prominent business fixture for a century. For as long as I can remember HEB has contributed to its communities by providing philanthropic support to a wide range of efforts. I can recall a time after a hurricane that HEB had its large trucks deliver free water and dry ice to communities to combat others who were trying to benefit off of the community’s misery. HEB provides support for medical, education and civic programs in every city in which they have stores.
4) Be willing to serve on the Board of Directors or even as Chairperson of the organizations and activities that you support. As you serve in the positions you will be recognized as a community leader. This “halo effect” transfers to the business community.
In Corpus Christi, Texas, Caller-Times, which was part of a group of newspapers owned by the Harte Hanks Corporation, still had as its publisher +Ed Harte. Ed had managed the newspaper for years and had become very involved in supporting efforts to improve the community. The newspaper under his leadership worked to bridge differences between the Hispanic and Anglo communities, build hospitals, improve the local economy and increase the importance of the community in the state and national arenas. He served as Chair or on the Board of Directors of most of the major community projects.
I think his leadership is a reason that other newspapers trying to enter the market failed. I am certain his leadership is why in a community that was over 50% Hispanic, no Spanish language newspaper was able to gain a foothold.
When I joined the Houston Chronicle, +Richard J.V. (Dick) Johnson and +Gene McDavid held the Publisher and President’s roles respectively. They were true newspaper professionals dedicated to community involvement and leadership. Dick spearheaded the effort to purchase the land that belonged to the Shamrock Hilton that is now the site for much of the Texas Medical Center. Gene oversaw the construction for Jones Hall, a major theatre venue and home of the Houston Symphony.
Dick and Gene were always involved in the community and served on numerous nonprofit boards. They were committed to the community and under their leadership the newspaper continued to prosper.
Without continued community involvement, businesses fall from the public’s attention and when business is discussed they are less likely to be considered. Every instance in which a company is involved in the community provides an opportunity to enhance its image and reputation and increases the likelihood that it will be considered in business making discussions.
In recent years I have found that my many years of community involvement opened doors that has allowed me to grow my business and when I was at the Chronicle I am certain it contributed to the outstanding growth in revenues and profit.
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