The Evolution Imperative, Part Three

As I've mentioned, towns have a huge duty to their inhabitants and the businesses that employ them. Helping ensure that there are enough local businesses to employ local people across a broad spectrum of industries guards against inevitable economic downturns by eliminating dependence on a single industry such as tourism. It also reduces commute time and distance, improving both quality of life and the environment. The local tax base also benefits, thus helping support public services such as libraries. Imposing undue restrictions on businesses is a surefire way to reduce revenues, divide a local population into haves and have-nots, and threaten the town's existence.

Businesses have the important duty to be good corporate citizens. This simple task has multiple facets of which I'll mention those few that spring to mind.

First and foremost, hold yourself, your employees, and your business to the highest ethical standards. This begins with the Golden Rule &

treating others the way you'd like them to treat you &

and continues to such concepts as under-promising and over-delivering and being as open and transparent in your dealings as possible. Nothing sends up my red flags like businesses that pretend there is something mystical or secret about their operations. High ethical standards build customer confidence, which is the No. — reason behind their purchase/no purchase decisions.

Sell quality. Sure the $1 plastic knockoff might look tempting but what are its true costs once breakage and other possible problems are factored in? Quality items cost more, which means you must compete on value, never on price. Selling quality gives you the good reputation that fosters repeat and referral business and also helps the environment by reducing waste.

Pay your employees a true living wage and do all in your power to treat them like family. You can always find people to work for minimum wage or even less under onerous conditions and your bank account may even reflect a significant savings. This seeming advantage hides the even bigger loss you are sustaining by not following this rule. My many years of observing and working in/for many businesses reveals that there is a direct correlation between employee treatment and the business's long-term viability and profitability. I know at least one retail store where average employee tenure is measured in years with some having been there decades. Decades!

Do all in your power to minimize your environmental footprint. Reduce, reuse, recycle. Where possible, go one step further to use materials that can be reused endlessly without degrading at every cycle. See if you can eliminate toxic products. Environmental regulations spell out how much poison businesses can release and call for byzantine measures to ensure compliance. Consider following the example of the company producing seat coverings for the Airbus A380 whose wastewater is cleaner than the town's drinking water supply. They need not comply with environmental regulations because they don't release any toxins, which must reduce the costs incurred by their methods.

Realize that competition is good. Everyone benefits when several businesses offer the same goods and services because competition helps ensure value and keeps businesses on their toes. It also proves demand for those products and services.

Champion a cause. From Little League to the SPCA, saving rainforests, and more, business can be a powerful force for good in this world. Besides, customers will pay up to 14 percent more at a business that involves itself in a worthwhile cause.

Support fair trade. Insist that your suppliers, vendors, subcontractors, etc. pay their people living wages, eschew discriminatory practices, and are good citizens in their own localities.

Pay your fair share. Everyone has the right and even the duty to take reasonable steps to reduce their tax burden but there are limits. Tax breaks can encourage businesses and local investment but I've seen some examples of locales caving to unreasonable demands. Beyond taxes, it is your right and your duty to seek out the best possible value when making any conceivable purchase. That said, never drive too hard a bargain. You may save some money in the short term but will end up causing resentment and possible chaos among those you deal with. I know at least one "big box" chain that has wreaked havoc among its suppliers by squeezing every last possible cent from them.

Realize that change is inevitable and do your best to anticipate and plan for it. Evolution is not only a good idea, it's the law. You're either ready for it or not. Businesses that fail to plan, plan to fail. It's that simple.

Learn how ancient survival instincts guide everything you do and how to use those instincts to your advantage. My books, "The Enlightened Savage: Using Primal Instincts for Personal and Business Success" and "Guerrilla Marketing Success Secrets" are available from and , respectively, or from your favorite bookseller.

Coming soon: The Natural Savage (Winter 2007) and More Guerrilla Marketing Success Secrets (Fall 2007). Anthony Hernandez is a Certified Guerrilla Marketing Association Business Coach with over 20 years of business and marketing experience. He lives in Ashland with his wife Robyn, son Logan, and their two dogs.

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