Issue: June 2008 Issue
Your Own Personal Cleveland
Even if you’re small, there can be huge opportunities outside the city for businesses willing to tap into the global economy.
That was the advice offered to a COSE audience by Michael Gerber, small-business guru and author of the “E-Myth” series of books.
I was seated at a table with Tim Reynolds, COSE chairman, and Louis Licata, immediate past chairman. Across the room, COSE Executive Director Steve Millard had the same expression as Tim, Lou and most of the room: impending doom.
This is not the audience where a California visitor can come in, trash Cleveland and get away with it, I thought. The faces in the room told me that I was not alone — we were ready for a tussle.
After a stony silence only interrupted by a couple of nervous laughs, Gerber continued. He wanted this group of entrepreneurs to shift their mind-set — not their physical location. Based on his book “Awakening the Entrepreneur Within,” his advice was to “get your perceived limitations behind you” not “pack a bag and move out of the city.”
And the atmosphere in the room relaxed.
Maybe we Clevelanders are a little quick to be defensive, but I was glad the business-owner audience got uptight. Small-business owners have more invested in their community than most. They’ve worked hard and taken risks and bet their futures and their family’s futures on their business in this community, so they are not the type to let some outsider trash talk.
A speaker who drives from the airport to a venue just off the freeway on the Southeast side of the city can’t know the Cleveland we natives do. And after talking with some attendees, it became clear that we all have our own perception of our city — our own personal Cleveland.
Mention East Side, West Side, Collinwood, Hough, Beachwood, Tremont, Pepper Pike, Bay or Glenville and our reactions will be based on our personal Cleveland experiences (or lack thereof).
Travel the world and Cleveland will be recognized for many things — the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Cleveland Orchestra, Drew Carey, the Indians, Browns, Cavs, Cleveland Clinic, Dennis Kucinich, Brady Quinn, Grady Sizemore and some guy named LeBron.
To a small-business owner with a storefront, Cleveland might be the few blocks surrounding the store. They know the residents, the cop on the beat, when school lets out and who to call when the street isn’t plowed in January. Those things are of great importance, and they know their personal Cleveland better than anyone else.
They may have never visited the Rock Hall, only cross the river for weddings and funerals and watch the Tribe on TV from their suburban home, but they are a vital part of Cleveland. Their part of Cleveland.
The problem arises for these businesspeople when the customers and suppliers they once relied on are no longer in their same geographic area. Or when geography ceases to matter. Even businesses that have a broader geographic range than a neighborhood will suffer if they ignore the world outside.
Believe me, it’s already a global economy (thank you, Internet), even for many traditional businesses. Here’s an example.
Last summer, my black lab Hogan was splashing in a kiddie pool in the backyard on a hot day. I shot a couple minutes of video on my camera and posted it on YouTube. No editing, no promotion — just popped it up there to show some friends.
At last count, the video has been viewed more than 27,000 times and more than 50 people have bothered to comment.
Insight, a recent addition to the YouTube tools, let me learn about some of those 27,000 viewers. It shows, in aggregate, when viewers watched it, where they were located, and how they discovered it (a link, related video, search, etc.).
As the video’s poster, I could study the maps and charts. Most of the U.S. views came from California, Texas, New York, Ohio, Illinois, Florida and Washington. (That’s not very surprising since these are populous states with lots of Internet users.)
What fascinated me was the map of world viewers. In Asia, most viewers were from Japan, India, the Philippines, Malaysia and China. There were a lot of views from Morocco and some from Egypt and South Africa. In Europe, the United Kingdom led, followed by Italy, Poland, Germany and Spain. Brazil had a lot, as did Argentina. Not much action in the Middle East except for a few hits from Oman.
Who were these people watching a dog — my dog! — splash around in Cleveland? My personal Cleveland had been expanded globally without my awareness. I kept looking at the stats.
One of my business videos was big in Arizona and Wisconsin. Is there an opportunity there? Should I expand my personal Cleveland to include them? How can I turn the 22- year-old woman from Takoradi (it’s in Ghana; I looked it up) who asked a question on my Web site, into a customer?
These are the questions that a businessperson has to address in the global economy. The dollars that end up in your account will be just as green even if they originated as unfamiliar currency from Morocco or Oman.
I wouldn’t want “Get out of Cleveland” to be the city’s latest misguided slogan. But from a business perspective, it makes sense to tap the opportunities that a global economy offers.
Keep your home here. Keep your business here. But see where it might be possible to generate revenue from places where “The Drive” or “The Fumble” have no meaning.
Make the world your own personal Cleveland.
Entreprenerd Dan Hanson (email@example.com) is not jealous that his dog is an international star except when he barks in other languages just to rub it in.
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