This month’s focus: Not All Business Associations Have Your Best Interest
There are many good trade associations as well as select business advocates that take your business interests to heart, and through the power of association in numbers try to address issues, lobby law makers, offer assistance through red tape and more. Then there are those that try to bridge the gap between public and private enterprise for the sole purpose of being the middleman. Where having one foot planted firmly on both sides of the spectrum makes prudent sense for everyone involved. The problem occurs when the “middleman” forgets their role and acts in its own best interest rather than its raison d’être i.e., They are there for the other parties benefit – not their own.
Case Study: In and around the years of 2000 after an LBO fell through I decided to shed the corporate world and instead go back to my roots and open a free-standing sole proprietor based enterprise. I hadn’t decided exactly what till one day I was driving down the main drag of a town I once lived and saw they were revitalizing the downtown district. As I looked around I thought “this would be a great place for a deli” and then proceeded on the road of a more formal inquiry.
My proposal and ideas were met with open arms and within a few months I indeed went ahead and made the investment and opened its doors within 6 months. At the time I was the talk of the town and things were moving along slow but steady with future prospects looking well. However, within about a years time I began to notice odd talk as well as deeds coming from the entity whose sole purpose was to help and be a liaison for this downtown district as they made moves that seemed anything but.
Many things that were said to be impromptu began taking place, however I felt differently. Over the course of about another year this “downtown director” seemed to be acting as if they owned the downtown rather than worked for it. The warnings signs began to scream danger as I watched with discerning interest. Suddenly a move was made by this director that I could not let stand. The move was in direct violation of any business principles where the well-being of the downtown members should be first. And I made it known just how indifferent to it I was. Then I went around to a few of the other members, as well as a few elected officials, and informed them that something stunk to high heaven. I didn’t know exactly what, but something was wrong, and I was sure it had repercussions for the whole district if this person wasn’t looked into.
It fell on deaf ears, but not the ears of this director – they heard every word and approached me at my place of business. I was told I was off base, didn’t understand the way these types of developments work, etc., etc. I would have none of it and stated why everything they were professing was the abject opposite to not only my business but the downtown as a whole. I followed that with; I felt so strongly on these issues that I would close my business in 6 months and leave this area because anything less would not be good business. Which I subsequently did. However, as I said: anything less was not business in my eyes, and I would be kidding myself to think I could “work through it.”
A few years later I was sitting at my home around the holidays when my wife handed me the local newspaper with a smile saying “Merry Christmas you were right!” As I opened the paper there on the front page was that downtown with far more closed storefronts and was in disarray. And the reason for the story?
That “director” had been arrested and subsequently sent to prison for embezzling 6 figures plus from that downtown development to fund an internet gambling addiction.
© 2015 Mark St.Cyr
Profiting At The Bottom Line™ is a monthly memo, which is pithy, powerful, and to the point. It focuses on innovative techniques and or ideas that you can put to work immediately in your daily or business life.