What Small Towns and Local Partners Teach Us About Small Business
As a member of our local VFW (Veteran of Foreign Wars) Auxiliary, I have observed the partnership between our Post and Auxiliary and our village where we are located. The village is small and the VFW has grown into the social center for the village and the surrounding area, with community breakfasts and suppers, Bingo, the winter fishing derby, the Easter egg hunt, Thanksgiving and Christmas meals. They also have a flag program, essay contests for students, a food pantry, and a service officer to help veterans with benefits questions. I have only scratched the surface of all the VFW does. They are an integral part of the village fabric.
This year, we were able to celebrate Memorial Day once again with small town parades and Memorial Services across our nation. As Historian for our local VFW, I get to run around with a camera, capturing public moments and sharing them with our members and community. What I observe through the lens are also lessons that small towns teach us about local partners and small business.
Our Memorial Day celebration has grown to a 4-day Springfest event, Friday to Monday. The VFW is responsible for the parade and Memorial Service, a solemn duty to honor our fallen veterans that they have fulfilled for years. The parade has fire trucks, police cars, tractors, floats, and decorated cars…and candy, candy, candy!
We had several fire departments represented in our parade. That means they all had to collaborate with the village and their various “mutual aid” partners to make sure the entire area was covered in case of a fire during parade time.
The VFW and village both put on events, and they need to collaborate to ensure there is not overlap. Beyond coordinating the parade and conducting the Memorial Service, the VFW has a Barn Sale, music under the tent, breakfast and lunch, and raffles to raise money. The Village puts on the tractor and car shows, craft fair, coordinates the food vendors, and puts on lots of events for kids.
This huge event, run primarily by volunteers, could not happen by either entity alone. They do not compete and shut each other out. Quite the opposite. They collaborate on everything from events to applications to road closures to event promotion. Together, they are stronger.
Celebration and Reflection
The VFW and village understand the value of celebration, of helping us commemorate our freedom, our heritage, and our hope for the future. The smiles of everyone I saw on Memorial Day were contagious! As humans, we need joy and happiness. We also need to honor what has gone before us. At the Memorial Day service, we were challenged by the speaker with this question: What are you doing with the freedom gifted to you by our Veterans? Such a powerful question, heard by young and old ears alike, for us all to reflect upon and answer.
The true purpose of Memorial Day is to recognize and honor our fallen soldiers. That theme was woven throughout the entire event and was its centerpiece.
We also took time to recognize the many volunteers who made it happen, those who coordinated and participated in the parade and Memorial Service, volunteered baked goods, served meals, promoted the events, played music, entertained children…and the list goes on. That recognition was heart-felt, and our volunteers know we appreciate them and all they do in support of our veterans, our organization, and our village.
Supporting Your Community
I was with my brother and sister-in-law during part of the parade and saw them waving at every single parade entry from tractor to semi to walking person. I told my brother later how much that touched me. He said, “They are volunteers, and they make the parade a success. They don’t have to be in the parade, they want to be, to support our community. I want to support them back!”
The kids are waving because they are kids and there is candy involved! My brother and his wife did it to say thank you and to support their community. I loved learning his “why”, and the pure, unselfish goodness of it all.
Every single person, business and official at the celebration was supporting the community, giving back.
What can small towns and their local partners teach us about small business?
Collaborate, don’t just compete. There are millions of customers for most small businesses, more than enough to go around. Usually, collaboration will help you both grow faster and do better than simply going it alone and competing head-on. Small business is hard work, but it can diminish your health if you don’t also take time to celebrate your wins and have some fun. Also, take time to reflect on the bigger questions, striving for ways to do better, be better. Freely recognize those in your business world who do great things! From employees who go out of their way to help clients, to clients who sing your praises to others, find ways to recognize others for good deeds regularly. Finally, there are multiple ways to support your community. The parade tractors advertising local businesses are only one example. There are many sponsorship and volunteer opportunities open to you, no matter where you live and operate your business.
Robin Suomi, MBA, is an experienced small business expert and founder of Startup to Growth. She has worked with thousands of small business owners through coaching, mastermind groups, education and training. Robin believes success is rarely accidental and her passion is to help her clients set and reach their goals. Working with clients remotely through video platforms, she helps clients answer their technical business planning and execution questions as well as supporting them while they explore their potential.
Robin encourages clients to dig deeper, dream bigger, and works with them to create their tangible Success Steps. Check out the website for ongoing virtual Small Business Coaching, Small Business Blueprint Coaching, Sales Workshops and the MEG (My Entrepreneurial Group) Membership program. From time to time we launch new MEG Connect and MEG Startup mastermind groups. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions or to set up a free 1-1 consultation.