The world lost a great man a couple years ago in Clayton Christensen. The Harvard School of Business professor authored some of the finest business books that have impacted hundreds of thousands of business executives and others. I well remember chatting with him years ago at a conference. He was a genuine gentleman and is missed. One of his greatest pieces of business advice was very simple and profound. Paraphrased, he said, "Success is measured by the lives you touch and impact". It was no secret that this was his guiding philosophy regardless whether it was in his business or his personal life.
One might ask, while that might be great advice, what does that have to do with my community or business? When I look at our community, I believe how we positively impact the lives of those in our community is the ultimate measurement of success. As Newton's third law of motion tells us, "For every action, there is an opposite and equal reaction". Every supportive action we take in our community makes an impact. Every dime we spend at a local establishment makes an impact. Casting a vote in a local election makes an impact. Every volunteer hour we spend helping or lifting people up in our community makes an impact. Every time we say a kind word to others impacts our community. When you view it through this lens, we can all have a great impact in our community and in the lives of those in our community.
We have all heard the term "unintended consequences" used, usually in a negative light. But let me share a positive economic "intended consequence" of our actions we can have control over.
While the community size impacts the final numbers, the following example remains the same. Let's say you live in a community of 20,000 residents. For this example, let's assume the residents will travel to other nearby communities or cities to do some of their shopping, dining, and entertainment. Let's also assume like most, many in your community are starting to shop online more and more each year.
What would be the impact if each resident were to make a conscious effort to spend $25 more each month at a locally owned and operated business, they might have otherwise spent out-of-town or online? That small commitment to the local community would be enormous. That would equate to five hundred thousand dollars each month or six million dollars a year circulating throughout your small community. This "intended consequence" becomes a game changer in many communities.
How would an additional six million dollars impact the locally owned and operated business community? How many local jobs might that help create? How many more tax dollars would be available to assist with local roads, infrastructure and so forth? How would it feel to intentionally assist with the paving of your own roads in lieu of paving the roads of some far-off corporate headquarters?
Yes, we can surely impact so many lives in our community by our small and intentional actions. Not only how we treat people, but how we choose to spend our money can make a significant positive impact. When we look at our friends, co-workers, and neighbors, we can have a greater impact on their lives right here and right now more than we can imagine. We are all in this epic economic struggle together, local communities need to not only think truly local, but act that way as well.
I'll close with the quote I shared at the beginning by Clayton Christensen with a slight modification, "Our local community's success is measured by the lives we touch and impact." Are we measuring up to that challenge or do we need to evaluate our lives and rededicate and commit to our local community? You can't go wrong in thinking local, in fact, when it comes to measuring impact – it may very well be the only right thing to do.
John Newby is a nationally recognized columnist, speaker and publisher. He consults with communities, businesses, and media. His "Building Main Street, not Wall Street" column is enjoyed by more than 60 communities around the country. As founder of Truly-Local, he assists community and business leaders in building synergies that create vibrant communities. He can be reached at [email protected] Opinions expressed are those of the author.