You’ve likely heard a tale or two about a lone cowboy – an independent dude here to save the day without any help from anybody. I’m not really a fan of old Western films, but I’m sure you know the archetype. Or you’ve at least seen that clip of John Wayne driving in a race down one of our Grays Harbor beaches.
Many small business owners, or locals trying to do a community project, have a similar mentality. They think they’ve got something to prove and they don’t want any help.
I don’t want to say that YOU are one of those people… but I think we’ve all been there. At times it can feel like we’ve got a great idea and nobody seems to be listening or willing to help, so we’ll just have to do it ourselves.
I’ve been there too.
If you’ve got a truly great idea and find yourself falling into this Lone Cowboy trap, I have a few questions:
1. Did you ask anyone for help?
2. Do you really think that you can do it all on your own?
The likely answers are no and no. The modern movement called “Community Over Competition” is the definitive antidote to this mentality that I believe we all could benefit from. It’s not just a clever marketing ploy, it’s a complete shift in mentality.
While competition is important and something to keep in mind (and probably an integral part of the entrepreneurial psyche), shifting the idea of WHY you are here is key. The Lone Cowboy is here to prove people wrong and doesn’t mind stomping on a few people to get his way, while the Community Cowboy (you heard it here first), wants to ensure that his business is a good fit for the community and plays well with other businesses.
I do have to point out that my personal interpretation (along with all of my business professors and, you know, the federal government) of business is that your business is here to make a profit. So, that is still a requirement. But, a business that exists puts profit as a sole driver is… well… maybe not a business that many of us want to patronize.
So how can you be a Community Cowboy and make a profit?
You need to differentiate yourself! When you start a business, you need to research the “competition” in a technical sense. If you’re going to become a photographer, make a list of the other photographers in the area. Now, find a way to present yourself in a different way or make a slightly different offering. This way, you can help your other fellow photographers by recommending clients that aren’t the right fit for you to other local resources rather than taking on work that isn’t your focus.
Realize there are many fish in the sea. Yes, we live in a small community, but there are probably more potential customers than you realize. Just because one business is being successful doesn’t mean you’ll fail. There’s enough to go around. As an example, there’s a theory that when a Starbucks opens in a new location, the effects on the surrounding coffee shops is often positive rather than negative, as you might suspect.
Lose the mentality that everyone is against you. This is one of those lessons that you’ve probably been told since elementary school (or maybe should have been told): If you truly believe in yourself, the haters can’t get you down. Stop worrying so much about the opinions of the masses. It’s possible that they aren’t your customer.. and that’s probably ok. (See previous point above)
Ready to be a part of a community? Come to the HYPE meeting TOMORROW, Thursday, September 6th at Tinderbox Coffee. Share with your fellow HYPE members about what you’re up to and look for new and creative ways to work together.
Britta Jackson is a serial entrepreneur and co-owner of alder|creative, providing consulting and graphic design to small businesses and non-profits in Grays Harbor (and beyond) since 2013. She works from her home in Aberdeen with her husband and 1 year old daughter and enjoys live music, reading business books, and vacationing in small towns.