The Curious Case of Community Involvement: The Surprising Things You Get When You Give
Telling a business owner that they need to get more involved in their community is probably not the best way to inspire action.
And I get it. You and your team are pouring everything you’ve got into completing projects, making customers happy, and just keeping the lights on. So how can you give more?
Being true to who you are
Maybe the question isn’t about giving more. Maybe it’s about being true to who you are.
In other words, when it comes to the things you say you care about, do the actions of your company show that?
I can’t answer those questions for you. But what I can do is give you examples of how our company tries to stay involved in ways that reflect what we value. Who knows? Maybe you’ll get an idea or two, or at least a little inspiration.
But just to be clear, our outreach and involvement is a work in progress. We don’t have it down pat by any means, and we’re always looking for new ways to get involved.
That said, in my almost 30 years in the business, I’ve learned this firsthand: When it comes to community involvement, the line between who’s giving and who’s getting gets pretty blurred. And the biggest benefits aren’t necessarily measurable, or even predictable.
Talent takes on many forms
I’ve written before about my company’s “secret weapon” — our special needs workforce. For the past 20 years, and with the help of some incredible local organizations, we’ve been giving special needs adults a chance to do valued work.
In the process, they experience the satisfaction of a job well done and learn the responsibilities that come with being an employee. And this isn’t just a gesture of goodwill. These workers help broaden our scope of capabilities, especially for intricate and repetitive hand-assembly projects.
But more importantly, our special needs workforce has transformed the fiber of our company. These workers are happy to be part of our team, and the joy they bring is infectious. I seriously can’t imagine what our company would be like today without them.
The two-way street of working with young people
We regularly bring in high school students from local school districts so they can learn about business and about the print industry. They get valuable experience working in a professional environment and see firsthand just how cool printing can be.
Meanwhile, we get a morale boost. Helping these young minds understand and appreciate something a lot of my staff have devoted their life to can be powerful. In fact, that’s especially true when it comes to working with classes from the nearby Cleveland Institute of Art. (I’ve written more about that here.)
Printing is a dynamic world where creativity and technology meet — a perfect environment for these brilliant art students. Every semester, they get real-world exposure to the printing world. At the same time, it’s exciting for us to be around their fresh perspective. We even get a jolt of creative juice because they actually help us create new marketing campaigns!
Reaching other crucial communities
When it comes to our definition of “community,” that definitely includes the local businesses in our area. After all, when your business community is strong and vital, everyone benefits.
One specific way we try to do our part is by donating our time and money to the Geauga Growth Partnership, a local public-private group that creates valuable opportunities for businesses to help — and learn from — one another. We also help underwrite the printing of a local business magazine, Geauga Business.
Another part of our community is our local Graphic Media Alliance chapter. Through our membership with this industry association, we’re helping them do important work — like promoting the industry, keeping us informed on evolving regulations, and offering scholarships to those pursuing careers in graphic communications.
And thanks to our member activities, we’ve established networks with other outstanding printing companies, marketing agencies, and supply vendors. Our involvement has even allowed us to showcase the innovative print projects we do on a national level.
A note for the practical
For the super-practical-minded out there, let me wind down with a few simply stated points that I hope will make the value of community involvement abundantly clear:
- You strengthen the visibility and the reputation of your business. That can lead to greater name recognition, more sales, and more dedicated customers.
- Your employees take pride in where they work. When staff form an emotional connection to your company, it helps create dedicated, long-term employees who don’t just show up to punch a clock.
- You stand out from competitors. When potential customers are impressed by who you are as a company, they’re one step closer to choosing you rather than someone else.
Your next step …
If you’d like to wade into the community involvement waters, the best advice I can give is, first, just start looking around. With the right mindset, opportunities are going to start jumping out at you.
Then the fun begins. You’re going to learn more about who you are by fostering the things you care about.
Community involvement may even change you and your company in surprising and profound ways. But I wouldn’t overthink it. This is one time to lead with the heart. When it’s in the right place, the head will follow.
About the Author
Chris Yuhasz founded POV Solution as a basement desktop publishing business 28 years ago in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, just outside Cleveland. Today, POV Solution provides printing services to customers coast-to-coast, including commercial printing, graphic design, and spot UV printing for finishing services.
Chris Yuhasz founded POV Solution as a basement desktop publishing business 27 years ago in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. POV Solution provides printing services from Cleveland, Ohio, servicing clients coast-to-coast with commercial printing, graphic design and spot UV printing for finishing services.