I am not a BLOGGER to just write to keep you on the hook. If I write something and you follow me, great. But if not, that's ok too. I write to express something in me to share with others on topics and ideas that hit me; they usually have to do with rural, small, local, entrepreneurs, communities and anything else related. Of course I'm always hopeful someone gleans something from them. I might very well repeat my blogs even! ;)
When I, this so called "city slicker" matched up with this "rural dude", I began learning all things small and local, and I noticed the 1 or 2 finger wave over the steering wheel in Harding County, SD. Uh huh...that's right, the "1 or 2 finger wave".
His finger would come up off the steering wheel as he waved to vehicles passing him on the highway, or city street. I wanted to know why one got a single finger, or two fingers. (If you know me, it was fun to do it in jest.) But why wave at all, so I applied all the questions. Do you know them? Why one finger? Why two fingers? Maybe use the whole hand wave? What's with that? Turned out that he knew some of those he passed, and others he did not. Who knew.
we moved to the community of Philip, SD. Driving through downtown Philip in our moving van, not one, but EVERYONE that passed us (even walkers) gave us a 1, 2 or whole hand wave! I kid you not, enough of them anyway to notice. Apparently this "waving thing" had gotten 200 miles south as well! So, we waved back, my husband easily followed suit and I got in to it as well. It was no longer after living there that I noticed it is what they did in Philip. It must have been something in the water there as drivers even waved on the rural highways there.
To this day, Philip's friendliness stays with me. I was literally a stranger when we first moved there. I wanted to write a Reader's Digest article about the 1 and 2 finger wave. Crazy, but I wanted to acknowledge Philip for what I discovered; what I was taught by my husband Hans; and what I soon tried to emulate as well. To me it seemed to all mean something deeper; friendliness, welcoming and acknow-ledgement. As an observer, I liked and enjoyed these acknowledged greetings. Was I crazy? Do others do this or think about it?
Brings me to the question...How is your town for friendliness? Can you relate to the 'wave'? Do you acknowledge complete strangers you pass? Have you ever been the first to reach out to a newcomer, or some one new to your community? How about inviting them to sit with you at a ball game or event? These are not always easy steps, but a p p r e c i a t e d steps. Doing all this might be easier in a small community. There are ways to do them too in a city. Perhaps it's customer service or saying hi to that stranger you pass on the street. Friendly, is friendly. No one person or community has a corner on the market. Do you believe you either have it or you don't? We teach our children "stranger danger", but there is a way to teach them friendliness and keep them safe.
I appreciate towns that are welcoming.
I do not like when I walk into an establishment and everything stops and all eyes are on me. Can anyone relate?
Customer service is huge. I love being acknowledged when I am a customer,. watch me leave their store if they do not. I have left stores when employees appear to care less. You've heard me in previous posts talk about customer service and experiences I've had. I've been trained well and I think we are doing our children and our employees a disservice if we are not teaching respect and friendliness.
Maybe it seems corny to some, but that 'first impression' of a community sets the tone and pace. There are so many elements to it as well; more than what I mentioned here. Whether or not you live rurally or live in a city, there are ways to step it up and to reflect friendliness in your personhood or in your place of business. I challenge you to use that 1 or 2 finger wave symbolically or literally, in ways you never even realized yet.
It Starts with Us,
TravelBackroads.Today has a new brand!
Woo Hoo!! What a way to kick off Spring and 5 years of existence (two as a business for hire)! Thanks to a very talented and good friend Michelle Gross, TBT has this new, fun and effective brand to accompany the business and marketing! She used her time and talents to help my biz get some pizzazz. Words do not describe my gratitude. It's exciting!
TB will be using both logos, as in this day and age it's not uncommon. Our logo points towards the ".today" part of the website address. She uniquely incorporated that into the design as it's important that when you search you need to add .today rather than .com.
Another new marketing event will be for Travelbackroads.today to join SD Tourism this year through SD Glacial Lakes & Prairies in the northeast region of SD. Rack cards will be placed in the seasonal tourist rest stops in SD and these rack cards (see below) will grab the attention of travelers. Because Travel Backroads uses a digital platform for marketing, having a physical copy of promotion is not something that is always done by us. This time however, it is designed to usher tourists, weekenders, destination travelers to all these little businesses that sit along the byways and highways. Also marketed are those downtown city streets and in homes, wherever they maybe. Businesses in TBT don't have to have a physical address and some businesses even take their business on the road or strictly online. We're here to market all styles of small and local business.
Again, a reminder, is that TBT can be found on smartphones. For example, if you use an iPhone, search on Safari www.travelbackroads.today. Once you find it, save the site to your home screen. It will become an App you can use on your phone and be easily accessible while you're driving down a highway, city street or planning a weekend getaway. Use it and find out for yourself how easy it is.
I am on a mission to promote business. I am on a mission to promote entrepreneurs. I'm also on a mission to drive customers through doors of those "diamonds in the rough" whose unique businesses add color and flavor to their communities or area. Come along for the ride; if you own a business contact me and let's work out a plan for you.
Excited for the Big Reveal!
After a very long winter and ushering out March like a lamb, we're ready for springtime. With SD's election for governor and the win of Kristi Noem, she has been quoted to have a "heart for rural". If you're from SD, regardless of who you voted for, it’s time to move forward whatever state you live in or if your party got in. We need to keep moving forward. We need rural to be validated and supported.
I’m sure many S.D. Governors have come from small rural communities. Kristi has come into office at a time where, I feel, there’s an insurgence and fresh focus on our ruralism and regionalism with other states on the great plains. We have what others want— low crime, great schools, work ethics, a focus on growing healthy hometowns for all generations. We’re looking for more jobs, training, workforce, housing and getting our school children in more educational forums to help our youth advance and diversify.
Our communities want to be on the map and want to be destinations where travelers go.
Like Faulkton SD's new grain elevator mural, and growing businesses in our communities, we have to keep moving forward and keep our focus on our communities. Collaboration is a great thing to keep working towards.
A city mayor recently shared how there’s just not enough money to see our communitys' dreams through. And he’s right. But our cities do have "us"; working for all the places we call home, whether it's a large city or a town so small that if you blink you miss it.
Really, we die or we work together. Wasn’t it Andy Dufresne in Shawshank Redemption that said “we get busy living or get busy dying.” And that’s true. A young man recently at a craft fair told me that he wishes he could go back home and sell his wares.
But he also told me that he'd be laughed out of town and the only thing this small town wants is their bar and the freedom to go there. They do not really care that their town is dying.
I wake up every morning and think about what I want to do for rural or my community. My energy might not be there at times, but my passion for rural and business never wanes and continues to grow.
I’m anxious to meet Kristi one day. I coached an opposing team of her daughters years ago. I want to tell her about Travel Backroads. I also want her to know there is a movement out there of focus, determination, passion and desire not only in SD but the upper Midwest. We need to stop being politically "negative Nellies" and get to working on customers, business, community and quit being so critical. Like Kristi said be “fully committed to revitalizing South
Dakota’s rural culture, so small-town schools and businesses can thrive for generations to come.” I love the thought of thinking about our children and their children--the future; for all the states around.
If you agree with me or want to do something in your community, a great jump start for you SERIOUSLY is to go to Dakota Resources’ RuralX '19 Summitin June. See below more info on that
OR if you are going to be near Clear Lake, SD on May 14th buy a $10 ticket ahead of time to hear Women Entrepreneurs' founder Pat McGill. She's talking at "Women Who Care~~A Gathering" as she talks to women about ruralism, regionalism, women and collaboration. See Below and call 605.874.8038
C'mon people, run, don't walk to the future; now is the time to be shaping the new rural!
P.S. Be watching for some new happenings with TB.T! Also a possible future BUS TRIP is in the works. Check out Destination Cluster costs for communities and chambers to get on board.
Rural and Loving it? This is for you! RuralX '19 invites you to grab your friends, your leaders, your powers-that-be and come to Mitchell for this Event. The only event in SD that focusses totally on rural. Can't come to all but some? Contact them. Can't afford it fully. Contact them or Travel Backroads and we'll get you where you need to be. www.dakotaresources.org
As a business owner do you stress or worry where your clientele will come from tomorrow?
Do you wonder if the customer that stopped in last week will be back or what they will tell their friends?
Will you ever come up in a conversation of theirs?
As a matter of fact, you hope you do and in a good way. I think owning a business where you have sunk your life savings in and along with your heart and soul, can be very stressful.
I'm crazy obsessed with customer service and by that I mean I'm very judgemental when it comes to how I'm treated as a consumer. You might have heard my story before but let me tell it again. I worked several summers for tourism in the Black Hills. So much so that I became pretty good at guiding tourists around the Black Hills as well as to Yellowstone. What I did learn from my years as Grayline Bus Tour saleswoman, a desk receptionist, employers and customers, is that they come first. If your employees do not understand that, they really should be working at a desk in the backroom or stocking shelves but definitely not be up front with your customers.
I worked with a tourist who came in tired and frustrated and was unhappy with everything we tried to do for him. I could not do it right, the site was not right, the bathrooms are in the wrong location, there were no trees, the tour was so expensive and on and on. He started yelling at me instead of his wife and children, who were not present. I took it from him. My nature is not to take guff off anyone usually, but it was perhaps the first lesson of many to come. Some people call it "kissing up" and I did it like it was an art form. My bosses had taught me that whatever the customers want, they get; after all they are paying.
Looking back now I cannot even picture or remember what was said that could have gotten me to crying behind the corner after he had left. It had to have been that he cut me to the quick or was so rude that it was like a punch in the gut. Whatever it was it stayed with me. My boss heard it all and stayed in the office behind the scene. At this time in my life, I cannot imagine crying now and taking it so much to heart. I probably took it personally, when really the guy was simply having a horrible day. For some people, driving across the State of South Dakota is enough stress as it is. Then add in small children or even teenagers, the incurred expenses, the itinerary, and many other factors and you can see the stress building. It's human nature, I think, to take it personally.
Right about now, are you thinking that the boss should have intervened? I think in this day and age, perhaps a boss would have. But I was not in danger or physically being harmed; the customer was simply unhappy. My job was to make him feel we would do anything to have and keep his business and to have him return and tell his friends about us. I did that to the best of my ability.
That gentleman, as my boss taught me, comes first. I wonder sometimes if that message is still conveyed in this newer age. Sometimes older and younger employees, who work in businesses, cannot even raise their heads or stop what they're doing behind the counter to greet the customer. Some appear like they could care less that I might spend a few bucks in their store. But whether I'm going to spend $10 or $100 should not matter. The fact that I came into your store better mean something. I don't necessarily want someone following me around, but I sure as heck watch to see if my being there matters to them.
As a business owner you also had better think about those customers coming back in and telling their friends. Unless you have thousands of dollars to spend on advertising which in and of itself is not a guarantee, you need them to have a reason to come back. You need it to be a pleasant and productive visit when they come in the first time so it gains you repeat business.
Wrong? “That can’t be, Joan, say it ain’t so!”
Yes, I am saying that as I rethink by stance here on my Loose Gravel blog, and in my job as an economic development director.
Recently a video was shared on the Learning Network of Dakota Resources. (If your community needs a resource and help; definitely check DR out!) I gleaned a great deal from that video. Greg Tehven of Fargo, ND in a TEDx video states,
“Trouble is coming. Read any newspaper or go to any shopping center. Our economy is changing. Small communities have a huge challenge ahead. The top 30 cities in the world are growing faster than ever before and that means our small communities are struggling and they need to find new ways to reinvent themselves. Conventional and traditional economic development is dead wrong. The idea of recruiting one business from one island to another, from one community to another is not working. Financial incentives, focusing on natural resources where we convince folk to move to our communities or grow, is fundamentally NOT working.”
Greg Tehven makes an outstanding argument and his words cause me to pause and seriously rethink what I’ve been espousing as an ED director and my business. Perhaps after I share here what I’m learning, you might want to add on to your thinking about shopping local.
E-Commerce is a hot topic and basically I have used my little one-woman-EcDev-voice trying to encourage consumers basically to not to use E-commerce, but rather just “shop local.”
Boy, was that naive on my part. Sorry, but that is NOT going to work in this day and age. “Shop Local!” “Shop Small!” has been my mantra for years now, and it still will be but what I am discovering is that it is not that simple. Yes, I am a bit naive.
-Did you know that 50% of American householdsare now using Amazon Prime? And I am sure that number is growing. It was not too long ago here in my blog that I was trying to convince others not to go that route but to shop in their communities instead. I’m beginning to see the error of my ways. Yes, we ABSOLUTELY still want to shop local and small, but what we really NEED to do is build businesses, companies and products that can be sold online. (here is the reason for an online website.) “Money goes where the goods and services are,” says Tehven. That place is on the almighty world wide web; in other words, online.
Our communities need to be about more than survival, if what Tehven says is true “trouble is coming and our conventional ways of doing business is wrong.” Our businesses have to have support of more than just locals. We do need to continue to teach ourselves, our communities, our teens, our children to shop local, but it goes much further than that. It’s about businesses getting websites, and/or online to sell their products. What is the old adage, “If we can’t fight ‘em, join ‘em?”
This too is why I’m an advocate of website companies charging sales tax that goes to our states. Although I’m not real familiar with tax laws and where our states' laws are; I do believe if we have the luxury of buying online, we also need to pay for that luxury.
I do not change my thinking on a whim, and I can be stubborn on a variety of issues, however, after hearing this TEDx video and Mr. Tehven, who I relate to for various reasons but also because he is a neighbor to the north and is use to wide-open spaces; I believe he is right. Enough so to pass it on. I also believe we need to do everything possible to help our local economies in whatever way we can. We can be pro-active; not be like Chicken Little and wait for the sky to fall. This we can begin to fix, to rethink and do more than survive.
A "Bloggette" by Joan (Bloggette = mini Blog) (Written for social media)
When I first took my position in 2011 as Executive Director of Deuel Area Development, I had the job of administering two grants. The office and position was set up for E-Coaching— Entrepreneurial Coaching. I wasn’t even sure what that was. But I had experience in Philip years earlier as a Community Developer so I understood the importance of helping local business.
This job was dictated by grants set up to help Start-Up businesses. I learned quickly that helping people with a business plan was helpful and important yet I’d never done one before. I learned the importance of keeping businesses afloat was imperative. I also learned how important entrepreneurs are to our small towns. But it’s all about “business”— retention, creating, and expanding.
Some people think it’s getting “big industry” to come to town, or jobs for 300 people (I was told my first year in the job that was what I should be working on.) Do we even have 300 people to fill those jobs? Do we have housing for the workforce?
But we live in an era that encourages ENTREPRENEURS; those with a vision. It’s those willing to take risks and venture into the unknown. It’s individuals who believe “the best way to predict the future is to CREATE it.” Entrepreneurship is “the transformation of an idea into an opportunity.”
I’ll give a shout-out to the visionaries who started my position in Deuel County and Clear Lake. Just this year alone, 6 new businesses have begun. Only one of those is in their home so whatever works. In the few years before that, approximately 3-4 others began. All of them are still going. One went bigger and moved to Watertown.
For small communities especially, you need to EMBRACE those START-UPS.
Larger communities you should EMBRACE entrepreneurs, because they have a dream they’re going after and they’re widening the tax base wherever they are and providing for the infrastructure.
I’m proud of my area where I live because we support “small” the best we can. And welcome small business owners and those with ideas. Not all may succeed but at least they tried.
Don’t you have those entrepreneurs in your towns? Let them know in a variety of ways how proud you are of them and let them know you ❤️ entrepreneurs!
By Guest Blogger Katy Kassian
Working together instead of against each other...
When someone - especially someone new - comes into your business and asks for something, how do you respond? How prepared are you (or your staff) to still be helpful if you don’t have what the customer is looking for?
Let me tell you a story~ When we first moved back to the farm, I ran down to the nearest town with a Rexall- 20 miles away- because nearly every Rexall carries at least two colors of thread. I walked in, looked around about ten minutes and did not find what I was looking for. In that amount of time, not once did the clerk speak to me. Not even a “Hello”. By this time I got the drift that I was inconveniencing the clerk by being there. I asked her where the thread was and the only response I got was “We don’t have any”.
So, off I went. 40 MORE miles to the city where they had a fabric store. After I went there, I also visited the hardware, grocery, feed store, gas station and took myself to lunch. ALL things I could have done back in the little town. I had not wanted to spend an entire day on the road.
Guess what? A month later I found out there was a quilt shop at the other end of the street! WHY didn’t she say anything? Was she worried someone else might get the sale? Was it small town politics at work?
Or did she simply not know any better?
When businesses cooperate and help each other, everybody wins. You win. The customer wins. The community wins.
No community or business is an island.
Not having what a customer is looking for is not a valid reason to send them out of town. Know what your other stores have and don’t hesitate to send your customer there.
So many wonderful things happen when you adopt a ‘front porch’ attitude about your community and businesses.
By knowing your neighbors, you can better help your customers, which in turn helps everybody. It keeps money right in your town. You see, if that clerk had just said “Hey! Check the quilt shop” I would have shopped nearly all the stores because they were all on my list of places we needed something from.
Plus, there is the matter of goodwill. I would have remembered that she tried to help and I would have returned the next time I needed something. So while that particular store may not have gotten our business today, they would have made up for it in repeat business. Instead, we chose to take our business to the next small town over for many years.
Take some time and get to know your fellow businesses. Look for what they have that you may not. How can you compliment each other or leverage each others resources to enhance your own? Remember that competition is a good thing. It fosters creativity, innovation, customer service and brings more reasons for more people to come shop or live in your town.
There is a New Way of Thinking
There is a new generation of business owners on the rise leading the charge. There are no so-called “clubs” to belong to in community or online. Thought-patterns are shifting as we progress into the future. New entrepreneurs are working together to collaborate. It is a new way to think about business and creating value in the market and in our economies from what use to be.
Why can’t a store with shoppers mention when leaving their store, “Have you tried the ice cream store down the street? Or “there is another boutique around the block.” OR go so far as to say “have you had your meal yet, there are two businesses in town you can eat at.” Help promote each other and KEEP the consumer's business in town. What a deal!
When businesses team up, communicate and promote together, the likelihood of pulling traffic off the highway or shoppers taking side trips, grows because of collaboration and more places to shop and eat at.
So now when Holiday Open Houses' are happening or special events -- work together and work as a team. Then get your heads together for the next season or month. It brings success for all involved!
I remember the first time in Boston when I traveled my first roundabout. It was so foreign and new to me and clever. I loved the difference there to what I'd grown up with in South Dakota. Roundabouts, I believe, are to prevent major accidents from happening at intersections, but they're also designed to keep traffic moving and at a normal pace. The flow is not interrupted and they're suppose to save time. Now they're showing up in South Dakota, and the midwest. We are getting with it! ;)
I never gave it any thought about naming my blog. I thought "roundabout" fell right into sync with Travel Backroads. I originally named my pricing list "Find your Avenue". I like idioms. I've chosen "Loose Gravel" I feel that name might suit me better, if you knew me.
Traveling any road for local is important to me. It just so happens when you live in our part of the world (the great plains) there are a great many businesses tucked away on country roads, secondary highways and totally off a beaten path. I remember as a youth growing up in Rapid City, my mother wanted to stop at many businesses she'd see on the highways and my dad would speed by. From that so called "intersection" between the two of them, came some discord, ha! I realize however that businesses are not just on those highways and byways but down city streets and alleys as well.
Business owners, are travelers stopping at your place, or do you rely mostly on local to support you?
If you do, I believe you're missing the mark. Your local community cannot be that "knight in shining armor" all the time. Many times they are maxed out in various ways including supporting local stores. Those motorists need to stop by your place (spread the delight!) and you need to let them know you are there. That has to rank up there as a number one priority. Not on a roundabout and not getting off however.
So how do you do that? In a way, you want to be like a roundabout. You want the traffic to keep moving, at a good pace, you want to prevent collisions but you also need them to take the 2nd or 3rd exit. You need them to stop eventually however and that is key to your business success. My tag line is "Driving the Passion to Go Local" but it also is we need that passion to drive traffic through our business' doors daily, whether you're city council, Ec Dev Corp or a Chamber of Commerce.
If you live rural, I wonder if you realize how foreign 'rural' is to a city person? They like the I-90's and I-29's. Like all of us, we like the familiar, and the idea of rural living might be very foreign. Many times it's even difficult for them to stop at a business they've admired from a distance.
Are you and your business everything you can be to your customers and potential customers? Recently a friend and colleague of mine, Paula from Dakota Resources, shared this great short 3 minute presentation from Jason Salamun on Rapid City's City Council. In her words, "he hits the nail on the head". Take a look here and listen by clicking on this link #OUTLIVEYOURLIFE. It's inspiring and a great reminder to all of us. You do not have to live rural to get the most from your community. It can be anywhere you live, and as Mr. Salamun says "a city is only as good as it's citizens".
While you're at it, check out Dakota Resources' President Joe Bartman's slides from his RuralX presentation this summer. Especially if you're are rural and not familiar with Dakota Resources, you can be a #RURALSHAPERS. It is a new rural.
Whether you live rural or in a city...whether you own a business or shop at them...whether you travel or not...I hope you're a believer.
Joan of "Loose Gravel"
When I was a teenager, with a size 9 shoe and trying to find that shoe size long before internet and mail order, it was difficult to locate. I grew up in Rapid City, so you would not think it would have been difficult in the 60's, but it was. "Sweetbriars" was the name of the local store and there was definitely not the selection that a teenager would see today. Seems funny today when you think about it.
We all have our pet peeves or in this case a cause, and this one might seem trite to some. Seeking "plus size" fashions is near and dear to my heart and has been a longtime quest of mine to locate them outside of a 'department store', and those that actually fit to size. When I was in high school it should not have been that difficult because of my size at the time, then add height and it was a recipe for trouble; it was difficult, and frustrating and remains that way today. However, it is considerably easier these days with stores like Lane Bryant, CJ Banks, Catharines, Avenue, Torrid and others. This brings me to why I'm blogging about this topic today.
Boutiques are bursting on the scene. Maybe they have always been there; they are just identified as 'boutiques' these days. In my opinion, and maybe I'm misguided, but most of them have skinny fashions and fit those who really seem to have what society deems...the "perfect" or "preferred" body size. Finding boutiques that feature all sizes is going to be a quest of mine, especially "plus sizes." I want to know about them and share with you about my service.
It's not easy for a boutique owner, or small business to provide for all the sizes there are in this world, and not just sizes, but individual tastes as well. How does a small business begin to target everyone, AND afford it?
Not that my opinion matters but I guarantee you "plus size fashions" is a market you do not want to leave behind. I think there has always been a need for it, but it's a Hollywood thing..."plus size" doesn't meet up with the cute, twiggy type influence, plain and simple. Don't leave us behind. We are a cash-credit-debit-card-carrying market that you do not want to over look. Those shops or boutiques that do leave us behind will miss out. If you know or own a business with "plus size" fashions, please let the world know and that begins with Travel Backroads. Check out my website under Directory by Category and let's get your small business listed so others can find you and your "plus sizes!"
Looking forward to doing business with you,