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Challenges Create Opportunity, People Create Change - 4/20/21


There are so many great things that have been said over the years about overcoming challenges, pushing aside the roadblocks of life, dealing with difficulties.  And these are important points of discussion because challenges are all around us.  There are challenges with our personal health or in our personal Read more

The Passive Predicament - 4/13/21


The employee is speaking to you.  Do they have that look in the eyes like they’re hanging on your every word, like they’re processing, interpreting, and getting ready to quickly respond to your key points and questions?  Or do they have the look of somebody in the 2nd hour Read more

Regain Lost Motivation - 4/6/21


For many of us over the last 12 months, our home has also become our workplace.  Our work interaction has been 2-dimensional through the computer screen as opposed to the 3-dimensional experiences we’re used to with co-workers and customers. We are all motivated in our own unique ways.  Some are Read more

The Answer is Right, but the Service is Wrong - 3/30/21


Maggie was irate.  The gift she ordered needed to be received by the 20th of the month so she could give it to her cousin for his birthday.  It was the 19th, and Maggie couldn’t find any shipping update online, so she called the company.  The employee said “Oh!  Read more

Question Everything, but What’s the Question? - 3/23/21


The new leader joins the organization, and she decides she wants to question everything.  She wants employees to question everything.  Why have we always done it this way? Why do we continue to do it that way? Is this the best way to work? Sometimes it’s a great management Read more

The Resourceful Rep - 3/16/21


One of our clients is seeking to develop Customer Service Standards.  We’re working with them to identify those key expectations of staff that will enable the organization to deliver a consistent high-level customer experience.  One of the key attributes that this organization is seeking from its team members is Read more

Be Proactive like a Pro - 3/9/21


We constantly work with clients, encouraging them to become more proactive with customers.  Don’t just be reactive, waiting for the customer to ask questions or to complain.  Instead, go to the customer, anticipate their needs, suggest something to them. But many of us, frankly, don’t know how to be proactive.  Read more

Find One Unique Thing - 3/2/21


Many of us are not in a position to develop long-term relationships with our customers.  Our encounters are often one-time only with a customer - very brief and likely to be our only time chatting with this individual. And even though there may not be a long-term professional relationship developed, Read more

Should I Stay or Should I Go? - 2/23/21


Should I stay or should I go?  That’s not just a classic song by The Clash.  It’s also the question customers ask more and more, especially during difficult economic times. A recent study in the Charlotte Business Journal noted that 50% of North Carolina businesses are concerned with how to Read more

Optimism – A Force for Good in Customer Service - 2/16/21


Will 2021 be a better year than 2020?  I have absolutely no idea.  Maybe it would be nice to see into the future and know for certain, but I can’t and I don’t.  But as I wade further and further into this year, I can hope that the water Read more

Go Back to Where You Started in Business Retention & Expansion

Posted on in Business Advice, Government Please leave a comment

Have you ever been deep into a conversation and then stopped, and tried to backtrack step-by-step to see how you got there?

The back-tracking can go something like this: We’re talking about the recent national elections because we were discussing local political elections because we were discussing a nearby zoning issue because we were discussing the property that adjoins our neighborhood because we were discussing putting a fence in the backyard because we were discussing getting a dog because we were discussing how much fun we have with a friend’s dog because we were discussing the dog’s name Pete because…well…you get the picture. We were talking about a dog named Pete, and we ended up talking about the recent national elections.

For an Economic Development organization’s Business Retention & Expansion (BRE) Program, it’s often helpful to do the same sort of exercise – not just to have fun, and not necessarily in a conversation, but about the life of the BRE program. Frequently, relatively young organizations (particularly those under 10 years in business), find themselves at a certain place, and they’ve evolved to that place. They may have had a grand plan to start with, but over time the strategic planning ended and the day-to-day fire-fighting and daily operations took over. And a great question to ask at that point is this: If we had to start this organization over again, how would it look different than it is today?

A great way to answer that question is to go back to the start of the BRE Program. Consider what were the initial goals, the initial focuses, the initial planned allocation of time and resources. How do those goals/focuses/time allocations differ from the reality of today?

The recent article City announces business retention program gives us some of that view of the start. These are some of the highlights from the article:

  • Use the BRE program to better know specific needs from specific companies.
  • Set as a goal of the BRE program to help businesses make profits and grow.
  • Leverage the BRE program to proactively identify growth opportunities and business issues.
  • Promote with local businesses the desire to keep them and have them hire and invest more locally.
  • Target key companies and businesses.
  • Look for macro-issues that impact multiple businesses – have a coordinated effort to address the concerns.
  • Don’t be an island – create a stakeholder system to support research, relationship development, retention, and ongoing funding.
  • Identify dedicated resources for the BRE program.

I’m not suggesting that what we do today is wrong, but what I am suggesting is sometimes it helps to refocus, and a great way to do that is to look at the initial plans, goals, and strategies. Then use those as a guide to redirect and refocus current efforts.

To reenergize your program and reallocate your time, go back to where you started in Business Retention & Expansion.

See more BRE blog posts at: http://brebuzz.com/bre-blog-posts/


From Lament to Leading the Way – 3 Steps to BRE-Building

Posted on in Business Advice, Government Please leave a comment

I was having a conversation with an economic development professional (a Business Retention & Expansion manager), and he was sharing his organization’s approach to retaining and growing with existing local companies. It started positively, and then the more he talked, the more he described his issues:

  • He wanted to a “real” and robust BRE program.
  • The current program was too limited to conducting site visits once/year with key businesses.
  • He wanted “to have a continual dialogue with companies.”
  • He needed to more quickly use the results of the interviews in issue-resolution for the client and community.
  • There’s no system to their relationship-building with companies. It was too much of a task-focused endeavor.

Much of what the BRE professional was lamenting is common in the industry. Too much work, and too little time. So the focus is on hitting a targeted number of site visits, helping when issues arise in a manner that’s not efficient or systematic enough, having large lag time between gathering information and acting on well thought out strategies, and getting activities done more than relationships developed.

This is common…but it doesn’t mean it’s the step to greatness.

To take that next step, even if staffing resources don’t increase, several other aspects of the program should change:

  • BRE programs need to have a mix of research activities; overreliance on site visits (the most labor-intensive data collection method) reduces capacity for issue-resolution, planning, and real relationship development. Phone/web-based surveys, and BRE News Research are efficient ways of complementing site visits.
  • Creating 12-month Touch Point Plans helps organizations build client knowledge and relationships, often without having to take a step onsite. These need to be developed/executed to make relationship-building happen on an ongoing basis.
  • Developing resource databases and detailed search capabilities such as exist in some BRE applications expedites identification of people/grants/processes/services that can be used to impact business needs and issues. These databases can also expedite the sharing of resources with the business itself.

If you’re lamenting the difficulties in moving your BRE program to greatness, take these 3 great steps.

See more BRE blog posts at: http://brebuzz.com/bre-blog-posts/


For BRE, Get Your Hands on the Plans

Posted on in Business Advice, Government Please leave a comment

If you deal with a customer base of businesses, you have a very specific opportunity not enjoyed by those whose customers are consumers. We’re talking about getting your hands on their plans.

As an example of this, go to this BRE Sample Surveys/Reports page, and click on “Raymond Terrace.” This includes a PDF document that provides the results of a Business Retention & Expansion (BRE) survey conducted by an economic development organization in Australia. On Pages 16-18, there are questions of local businesses asked about the companies’ business plans, succession plans, and marketing plans. It’s important for BRE professionals to know if these plans exist because that can be an indicator of potential company success or impending change – key pieces of intelligence if you’re trying to retain and grow your local businesses.

But even more important than knowing that these plans exist is for these BRE professionals get their hands on those plans. What do the plans tell you about a company’s Vision, strategic goals, anticipated changes, potential supplier needs, facility constraints, and perceptions of how much their future involves your community?

Anybody wanting to save and grow relationships with their business clients needs to think long-term. A sales mentality is often focused short-term, on getting a transaction closed. A service and retention mentality is focused on keeping who you have over time. And one of the best ways to put that long-term mindset in place is to best understand your business client’s long-term plans.

Get your hands on the plans.

For more helpful BRE information, go to http://brebuzz.com/