Just thinking about successful businesses in my area, and who is responsible for making them so successful? I think the answer resides within the mirror of each person running that business. I am a local businesswoman, mother, and real estate agent. I wear a lot of hats—we all do. Why then, is my business growing while other are not?
My answer is simple. I participate. I say yes. I attend meetings and events that are important to my community. I support important local causes when I can. I am open and ready to brainstorm with other like minded individuals who want this my local community to really grow and become as prosperous as the surrounding communities!
However, I’m not just a YES MAN, per say—I set a standard for myself and my business, and have found myself much more successful in the last few years because of it. I’d like to share a few things I’ve learned with you. I hope it is useful information.
Before you decide to have your business make a donation, ask yourself a few questions:
What causes in the community should I support?
The answer to that question resides within the scope of your business. In my case, I am a florist. Often, there are events, occasions, and celebrations that are in need of donations. Many times in the past I would say YES to everything and everyone that asked for my free flower arrangements and/or a gift certificate, only to never see or hear from those individuals or groups again.
I’ve developed a plan that creates a better return on my investment. I use a donation request form. One of the key questions on that document is “What is the name of the person or group who is an existing client of Fuller’s Floral?” The purpose of this question is to establish a client relationship to the donation.
If we donate to a group it is always a group that has an existing client as one of its members. I target specific groups that are in my immediate area to assign my donation dollars. This provides a return on that investment. I know that person or group has used my business in the past, and likely will benefit from the donation that I have allotted to that event.
Otherwise, you have given away some of your donation dollars to an event consisting of people who may never become future clients. Bad business move. The relationship ends when the event ends. You have thrown away donation dollars if you have not established where the donation dollars have gone and had it result in a return.
How much should I donate each year to charitable causes?
Don’t be a schmuck. That is the simple answer, you cannot POSSIBLY, as a small business owner, afford to donate to every single charity that makes a donation request. Have a budget for donation dollars each year, and stick to it. When that amount has been reached, you are finished with your charitable contributions for the year.
Our Accountant assigns an actual dollar amount that would be acceptable for a business of our size, each year, and when we reach that number, our donations stop for that year. We would love to donate to every charitable cause and event, but realistically as a business owner, you have to understand that THIS IS YOUR JOB.
You have to meet your financial needs, just as every other business does, and you have to draw a line that is comfortable for you. Small business owners often make this mistake early in their careers and find themselves in economic peril. Don’t do this to yourself. Place value on yourself, your time, your skill set. Understand that you have a valuable resource that you are offering the community, and that you need to be paid for those services.
How do I know if the donation dollars were spent wisely?
Simple, you gain a client from the relationship you have established. Here’s a little example of how we learned this tough lesson when we started out in business. We had a church school make a donation request for the first three years we were in business, and we always gladly contributed both a floral arrangement and a gift certificate. BIG MISTAKE.
We monitored the return on that investment and found not ONE PERSON FROM THAT SCHOOL HAD SOLICITED US FOR REGULAR BUSINESS as a result of that donation. They collected their free prizes and moved on to use another florist. After the third year, we developed our donation request form that included the question asking who was the client from that organization.
When there was no client of record we denied further donations to that school. This sounds a little cold-hearted and, quite honestly, it is cold, it’s business. This is not your personal life. Your business is how you finance your personal life and feed your family. You have to treat your small business like your life depends on each move you make because it does, literally.
Is it awkward to say, “I’m sorry, we do not see any return on our previous investments in your group and cannot authorize further donations”? Oh, heck yes it was awkward, but it was far more awkward realizing that we were throwing good money after bad into an organization that did not reciprocate the community support we offered to their group.
Life in general is about saying YES. Yes, I’ll support you, in return, you support my small business. If there is no reciprocation, there is no relationship and that is a dead end street you need not go down twice. Respect yourself as a business person and choose recipients of your generosity wisely.
As the President of a small business association, and member of another, I will say that there is ONE INGREDIENT MISSING FROM BUSINESSES THAT ARE NOT EXPERIENCING SUCCESS—PARTICIPATION. Get out there, say yes when the criteria above is met. Do something! Be a part of the community that you are asking for support! This year, just try it, SAY YES.
Just a thought about successful people for the day. I hope you’re one of them and that something was gained from the experience I’ve shared with you today!
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