How Participating in the Community is Good for Business
“We all have a responsibility to pay civic rent.” — Frank Fiore, “To Christopher: From a Father to His Son”
This idea was reinforced for me early in my career by a former CEO. “There was never a healthy bank in an unhealthy community — it’s our responsibility to make our community strong so the banks will be strong, not the other way around.”
When people learn I volunteer 400 hours or more each year, they’ll often ask jokingly if I actually spend much time working at my job. What they don’t understand is that even if I spent 24 hours a day volunteering, I’d get more back than I put in — personally, of course, because there’s huge satisfaction in making your community a better place, but there are also great benefits to my company.
Being Part of the Community Extends Your Brand
At NCMIC, “We take care of our own.” My contributions and activities in the community demonstrate that in an authentic way. “Our own” is more than our customers, or even our coworkers — it’s also the community we live in. When I’m out in the community participating as an individual, I live as an extension of both the NCMIC brand and the “Tony” brand.
For me, being part of the community is being Vice Chair of a local nonprofit that supports kids. But it’s also playing golf with friends, sharing my financial knowledge with young people and attending events that grow resources for the community. As Keith Ferrazzi said in “Never Eat Alone,” “You can get to know anyone in this world by helping with their health, their wealth, or the children. Once you’ve been helpful in one of these areas, a lifelong connection is made.”
Getting Out into the Community Gives You Opportunities to Tell Your Story
I’m a big fan of telling your story. For instance, NCMIC is one of the top 25 giving companies in Iowa, but we’re not one of the top 25 largest companies, so this is remarkable. Is this bragging? No. It’s showing that we invest in our community because we are members of that community and value the contributions these organizations make.
Sharing your company’s history establishes your sense of identity, sets your purpose and gives insight into your goals. NCMIC was founded by chiropractors, for chiropractors, to create malpractice insurance for chiropractors’ professional liability. Again, this isn’t to boast — it simply shows we saw a need, and took on the challenge, and now thousands of chiropractors know we take care of our own should something go awry.
Demonstrate Your Value Proposition and Let Future Customers ‘Test Drive’ Before They Buy
A lot of people talk about customer service, but when we are working together on a fundraising effort or a strategic planning project, and you see how I deliver for you (or the community, or the nonprofit), I’m walking the talk.
When you live up to your promises, you’re establishing trust that will be valuable in the future. I can sit across from you in a sales meeting and tell you our values are Integrity, Service, Respect, Trust, Caring, Innovation and Expertise. If our relationship is new, these are just words. But if you’ve known me for a while through my activities in our community, you know I’m going to deliver on what I’m promising because you’ve seen me do it.
Build Friendships and Knowledge for Mutual Benefit
One of the friends I’ve made while sitting on the board of the Boys & Girls Club is a huge Iowa State guy, and I’m an Iowa guy. We agree there are kids in this community who don’t have a safe place to learn after school, or access to feeding programs so they can have a warm meal. Even though we don’t agree on football, we do agree on the kids, and that gives us a solid footing for a friendship that I value (most of the time).
As you start to make new friendships outside your core social circle, you may be invited to sit around tables and be part of conversations you’d never be involved with otherwise, and you learn about things you might not have discovered. Your view of, and access to, the community is expanded.
Community leaders are busy, but most of them will give you some time — one time. The value you prove will be the key to future meetings. By being useful and careful with others’ time, and growing long term relationships, I’ve been really fortunate to get to know people extremely well that I wouldn’t have passed naturally.
Never build relationships with the intent to leverage that connection, but if you have capital built up and good will in place, you’ll move closer to your goals and go places you’ve never imagined.
Which leads to the last point — being involved in your community may give you the talent of prophesy. You’ll be involved in conversations about the big picture. Getting to know more people in your community will give you early insight into what’s happening now, next month, next year, five years from now.
A request to help fundraise for the zoo may feel like another demand on your time, until you realize that a best-in-class zoo is part of a strong educational system, and that’s significant to parents, and parents are vital to the workforce, and a strong workforce is key to growth, and growth is the future of the community, and your company.
So, the key takeaways are:
- You always get more back than you put in.
- You’re building trust in future customers by proving your integrity and commitment.
- You’ll get introduced to people and information you wouldn’t otherwise have.
The organizations where you invest your time give so much back to you and your business. You may not realize it going in but you’ll never look back once you’re there.
Named as the #1 Metro with the Most Community Pride by Gallup, Greater Des Moines (DSM) is the fastest growing metro in the Midwest. Learn more about what it’s like to live and work here.