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

BRE – Be a Uniter, Not a Divider

Posted on in Business Advice, Government Please leave a comment

When economic developers discuss Business Retention & Expansion initiatives (BRE), problem-solving responsibilities often come to mind.

What issue is ABC Manufacturing having locally? How can I fix it?

BRE is also associated with opportunity identification.

Company XYZ is busting at the seams. We may be able to help them expand locally!

But one area that is not addressed enough but which serves both the goals of problem-solving and expansion is collaboration. In the article 7 Rivers Alliance continues to foster collaboration in region, the alliance (a group of members from three neighboring states) is working to get local businesses in a room together to talk about common issues and opportunities. The alliance “organizes meetings where they can provide updates on projects, discuss best practices, identify available resources and provide a local way to advance their learning. Topics of past meetings have included identifying data available for economic development, increasing access to capital and geographic information system mapping.”

Essentially, the alliance is trying to answer the question: “Are there some best practices that can be shared?”

BRE professionals are not islands. They don’t have to come up with every great idea, every solution, every opportunity on their own. And more importantly, often it’s not efficient to identify and determine a solution purely for one business in one situation. If the issues and opportunities cross multiple local businesses, get them in a room together, and just facilitate their sharing of information and best practices.

Sometimes, helping your customers help each other is the best thing a BRE professional can do.

Know What You Need to Know for BRE Success

Posted on in Business Advice, Government Please leave a comment

When Economic Development Organizations create their Business Retention & Expansion (BRE) Programs, they often have key goals such as:

  • Having a better understanding of business needs and expectations
  • Better matching community and government resources with specific needs of a given business
  • Improving relationships between the local government and its constituent businesses
  • Identifying companies at-risk of relocating or at-risk of job loss
  • Increasing local business retention and job growth.

These are all very good, very laudable goals. But to achieve goals such as these requires that the BRE professionals have resources, information, and intelligence on their local businesses.

If you want to understand needs, bring resources to bear for a local business, improve a relationship, know who’s at-risk of job loss, and grow the local economy, you need key pieces of information. Here’s a checklist for you to use to ensure you have what you need:

  • BRE Surveys – Understand retention drivers, current business outlook, likelihood to be recruited, perception of your local business environment, and many more characteristics.
  • Interviews from Site Visits – Learn about the local industry’s products/services, personnel needs/issues and recent changes, lease details, local customers and suppliers.
  • Business News ResearchGain information on leadership changes, facility closures/expansions, acquisitions, earnings, corporate strategies.
  • BRE Alerts – Get same day/next day updates on information that addresses imminent impact on a local business.
  • Exit Interviews – Learn the reasons why businesses left, so you can apply lessons learned to those that stayed.
  • Resource Updates – Have ongoing dialogue with local resources that help address business needs/issues so that you’re abreast of changes to programs, personnel, and information.

What else do you need? What do you need to know to best serve your local industries?

Get what you need so you can give what your locals businesses need.

Learn more about keeping up-to-date on your local businesses at

Give Your BRE Plan a Check-up

Posted on in Business Advice, Government Please leave a comment

Let’s do some BRE benchmarking. As a business retention/expansion executive, you probably know what your job is on a daily basis – the mission/purpose of your role, your part of the economic development organization. But what are the big picture long-term goals and objectives?

It’s easier to achieve a goal, if you’ve effectively identified the goal, planned the process, and measured progress. Noted below are Objectives/Purposes/Goals taken from three BRE planning documents. Compare your organization to these samples:

Hugo Business Retention and Expansion Research Report

  • To demonstrate support for local businesses
  • To help solve immediate business concerns
  • To increase local businesses’ ability to compete in the global economy
  • To establish and implement a strategic plan for economic development
  • To build community capacity to sustain growth and development

Entergy Business Retention and Expansion Guide

  • To demonstrate to existing firms that the community appreciates their contribution to the local economy
  • To encourage expansion that leads to sustainable job growth
  • To help businesses solve their problems and challenges
  • To assist local businesses in gaining awareness of available resources
  • To develop collaborative relationships for participating in comprehensive long-range retention and expansion activities
  • To build the community capacity and cooperation to sustain growth and development activities
  • To provide better information and understanding for all local leaders of the strengths and weaknesses of the business climate

City of Shoreview Business Retention and Expansion Strategic Plan

  • Support business development that increases the tax base and adds quality jobs
  • Retain quality businesses by creating a positive economic environment that supports and fosters business expansion in the community
  • Plan for and pursue redevelopment opportunities consistent with City goals
  • Promote reinvestment in the community by directing time and financial resources to pre-determined business and neighborhood targets
  • Strive to meet the needs and demands of the community for specific services

Where are the gaps in your organization’s goals that you need to fill based on what these other BRE programs emphasize. How will you plan (strategically) the process to achieve the goals? How will you measure your progression toward the goals?

Make sure your BRE program isn’t simply about making visits and resolving issues. There’s got to be a strategic component. There’s got to be ongoing research on the clients even when you are not face-to-face with them. There’s got to be the goal, the long-term plan, and the measurements of progress.

Give your BRE Plan a check-up.

Learn more about keeping up-to-date on your local businesses at