Muriel Strode once said, "A great work demands a great sacrifice, and who is not capable of a great sacrifice is not capable of a great work." I had the recent opportunity to attend a nearby city council meeting to discuss some of the efforts to transform their community. During the discussion, they indicated all was well, they had a few new store fronts that were occupied, the committees where humming on all cylinders and they had great events and really didn't need more. Having arrived early to experience what the community had to offer, I found numerous vacant buildings, nothing was open, and a look on the calendar indicated not many events. Beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder.
Most communities wanting to transform and revitalize have difficulty doing that without an outside set of eyes to keep things in perspective. A set of outside eyes can look and see what is, while not comparing it to what was. The community I visited sincerely thought they were fine, they were seeing some good things happening, but had nothing to compare it too other than their own declining past. When the past is dismal, any progress can look awesome. They are victims of their own views based on a very low standard of comparison.
It is easy to point out the multiple reasons that businesses or communities fail. However, what is more difficult is showing how communities find the path to success. The difficulty lies in the fact that, so few really find the path to success, they simply keep wandering from study-to-study and one false start after another. They see a couple good things happen and then have a false sense of progress. Let's look at a couple common traits of those communities finding a successful path forward.
Successful communities understand while perseverance and passion are necessary, they also understand dollars are needed. They would never plan community events where money isn't generated for the transformation and revitalization cause. Yes, having community events are an important ingredient to the building up of community pride through local gatherings. But if these events are costing the community dollars to pull off and you aren't generating new income, it is time to rethink your event efforts.
A successful community has very lofty expectations of what is considered a measurable success. They understand the concept that when you shoot for perfection which is typically unattainable, you will fall short, but still may end up with exceptional or great results. They do not let perfect become the enemy of great. They understand a community or business must have lofty goals, and just as lofty of passion and efforts. They know that to attain great things, takes great effort. They know that you can't have too many various components to your strategy, and you can't do too much.
Speaking of events, successful communities have many events. Mediocre communities may have 2-3 events throughout the year, most being traditional or celebrating the past, both of which have little meaning to outsiders and are not usually very creative. More successful communities typically have a dozen big events, some of them multi-day events because they understand the need to not only celebrate the past, but usher in the future of niche experiences and unique atmospheres. They understand uniqueness and niche targets are the future, and they want to travel a path towards the future of sustainability and vibrancy. Yes, events take work, but events are one of the most telling signs determining if a community is on the right path towards vibrancy and transformation.
As the title to this column indicates and the quote confirms, nothing will be easy, transformation and revitalization come only after hard work, perseverance, and massive efforts. But make no mistake, transformation is a choice that a business or community make, nothing more, nothing less. Brendon Burchard said, "we get to choose how we're going to live, what level of energy, what level of vibrancy, what level of excitement." How our community lives is entirely our choice, we choose the level of excitement and vibrancy we want, then we make it happen. Hopefully your community chooses vibrancy over stagnation and continued decline.
-- John Newby, of Pineville, Mo., is a nationally recognized publisher, community, business & media consultant, and speaker. He authors "Building Main Street, not Wall Street," a column appearing in 50+ communities. The founder of Truly-Local, dedicated to assisting communities create excitement, energy, and combining synergies with local media to become more vibrant and competitive. His email is: [email protected] The opinions expressed are those of the author.