In my 25+ years in the engineering industry I have been asked a lot of questions. One question has been asked repeatedly in recent times. Communities are wondering how they can grow and develop. I hear things like....
- Everything is developing around us but we can't seem to get any traction.
- We have done this or that but it doesn't seem to be working.
- What we’ve been doing isn't working, where are we going wrong?
There are no easy answers to these questions. There is no cookie cutter solution that makes every community a development hub. It all comes down to hard work, strategy, and staying focused on the end goal.
Communities need to understand that development is purposeful, an investment, and takes strategy. One of the best pieces of advice I can give is this.....
"Treat your community as a business."
If you are starting a business, there are certain steps you take to make sure your business startup is successful and delivers the desired outcome you seek.
- Development of a name and tagline (Branding)
- Developing and advertising an effective message (Marketing)
- Producing a strategic plan with strategic goals that meet your vision (Developing your Compass)
- Work your plan for success
- BE FLEXIBLE
Before I get into the explanation of each of these 5 steps, it is important your community can answer a few simple questions. These few questions will help guide you through the 5 steps above.
- Are you ready for serious development?
- Are community leaders, business owners, and other stakeholders on board?
- Have you established your vision and what success looks like?
Development of a name and tagline
Although you can't change the name of your community, you can add a vibrant logo, a tagline, and perhaps a nickname to help communicate yourself. Branding is necessary and helps people understand you in a glance. It also shows you care about your message and your community. Effective branding can be the difference between landing that large development you have been hoping for and losing to the community up the street.
Developing and advertising an effective message
Communicating your brand to the outside world is key. Developers are a group of investors looking to make a return on their money through the adding of value, services, and brands to an area. If your brand doesn't match up to their brand, there will be no success. Development requires partnerships and everyone having the same goals although they may be organically different.
You must take the time to develop an effective message that speaks to your vision so those around you understand what development is to your community. For instance, if your message is “A Place To Call Home” and you have an old run-down infrastructure that is showing its age, your tagline is "rooted in the past", and you have no branding... your message is conflicted and will not lead to confidence from the investment world. You must put your community in the investor's shoes and understand they are looking to invest money into your area. Be ready for the investment.
Producing a strategic plan with strategic goals that meets your vision
This is the most important step and can be done at any time of the planning stage. You should have it in place before your activity to the outside world begins. Simply, this is putting together the items you will need to make good decisions, stay focused, and lead you in the proper directions to meet your vision. This is your compass. If you have effective planning, making decisions becomes much easier. For example, if your vision is to have an upscale shopping experience by the interstate, you may not want to accept a proposal to divide large parcels of property into small pieces making purchasing land for a large upscale shopping experience more difficult.
Communities waste large amounts of time and money due to lack of strategic planning. A compass always points north. Keep your community compass pointing towards your goals and it will be harder for you to get off course.
Work your plan for success
There are plenty of old adages that help with explaining this section….
Anything in life worth doing is worth doing right
You get out what you put in
You spend money to make money
You reap what you sow
If you build it, they will come
These are just a few. It takes time, money, support, passion, and a tireless effort to succeed. This is as much in business as it is in community development. Most successful investors understand the amount of work that goes into a successful development and can identify these attributes in a community from miles away. You have to buckle down and work. Make strategic decisions bettering your place in the market. Find a uniqueness to offer to your developers. Invest in the proper infrastructure to support the desired development. You must display your prowess to the development market. They want to know you are just as invested in their success as they are. If you want to win in development you must show your willingness by putting your money where your thought is.
Be willing to adjust, think outside the box, and listen to your community, developers, trusted advisors, and look at situations from different perspectives all without compromising your vision. You must be flexible yet stand on your vision. There are several ways to get to the finish in this market, but your finish is the thing that you put so much time and effort into planning so don’t compromise your end vision. You can adjust it, but don’t lose sight of the end game.
Thank you for taking the time to read this article. If you have any questions, need guidance through any of these processes, or would like me to come and sit down with your community to talk through development, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 262.402.5040 and ask for Gary Randle.