The city calls home is filled with many vibrant neighborhood villages. Each has special local shops and well-supported eateries run by talented and dedicated merchants, retailers and restauranteurs. Not only do the men and women who own and manage the businesses serve their neighborhoods, many also attract customers from across the city and beyond.

Their secret to creating such thriving villages of merchants and other business professionals? They’ve learned that success comes from working together to spread their village story rather than spending their time as individual merchants competing with one-another.

Our friend and frequent contributor, Becky McCray, publisher of the website, Small Business Survival, is an expert on the topic of what it takes to run a small business in a small town.  Here are Becky’s suggestions for how merchants should work together to create a vibrant village.

Recently, I spent a couple of days in Lake Arrowhead, California, meeting merchants and retailers, talking to residents, and holding a work session with the board of the Lake Arrowhead Village Merchants Association.

Lake Arrowhead has many natural assets and the town’s business leaders have great ideas. But the association has had trouble getting the merchants to come together toward common goals. They’ve struggled to build a sense of community.

Many of you have the same challenge: Getting local business owners to work together.

I spoke with Lake Arrowhead merchants about a couple of simple things, like updating their list of store owners and managers so they can stay in touch. But the idea that really got them excited was this:

“What you need to do is throw a block party for the merchants–just for fun.”

They just lit up! They immediately knew just the right spot in the center of the village, and the ideas started flying.

Building a small community among your fellow business owners is just as important as building a community at large. But it’s hard to get people to attend regular meetings when they don’t feel connected, especially when meetings have felt boring or pointless in the past. But it’s easier to get people to come to a party!

It doesn’t have to be a block party. It can be other simple things:

Plan small jam sessions: Regularly scheduled group gatherings for business niche owners and managers: eateries, shops, home services, financial

Launch a private Facebook page: A private FB page can be a good way to share ideas, make plans for events

Share resources: By talking and visiting and committing to your shared success, you will discover there are ways to share knowledge, talent and other assets that can save money and time. In technology, there are user groups of people who have the same software or hardware and want to gather informally to discuss issues they can only discuss with other users. Main Street merchants should do the same thing.

Network with other local leaders: While the focus of a group like a merchant association is on one primary goal, working with groups like the Chamber of Commerce, Civic Groups and any other group that is committed to improving your community should be a part of you network.

See the theme? Figure out ways to interact with other business owners in your shared community. Working together is the only to be successful together. If it’s boring when you get together with nearby business owners, keep trying different approaches until you find one that works. And I promise: the results will be anything but boring.

VIA |, “How do you get merchants to work together?

Cover photo: Google Maps Street View
Lake Arrowhead photo: Becky McCray via Flickr.

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