I’m a big believer and fan of small community-based businesses. As a teen, I was welcomed at Azusa Auto Parts whose owner, countermen and machinists were always on hand to answer my questions about how to improve the performance and reliability of my first car, an aged ‘52 Chevy coupe with a solid six-cylinder engine, two-speed automatic PowerGlide transmission and a great looking leather tuck and roll interior.
I had an even better experience with local nursery owners who answered my myriad questions about plants and vegetables despite the fact that I probably spent no more than $20 a year at their shops.
Such was life growing up in the small town of Azusa, CA (population less than 25,00), tucked in against the San Gabriel’s Sierra Madre range and the Angeles National Forest. In the full measure of time, I went off to the service and returned to Azusa. And although Big Box and membership stores were appearing and I would go there to shop occasionally, I never lost my connection to local community-based businesses and today, my belief in the power of “communities” is still deeply rooted.
That connection has grown stronger in my dotage and it’s a rare day when I leave my new home town to go shopping. Judging by the number of people I saw shopping at a local nursery Saturday evening I’m not alone. They were there for the same reason, I was, a three-week heat wave had wiped out all the backyard gardeners’ tomato crops and damaged large numbers of stone fruit and citrus trees. I spent 15 minutes finding four viable Big Beef tomato plants that I hope will produce fruit in the next 105 days, before the winter drops here in Escondido to a frosty 75 degrees. I waited my turn at the register, made nice with the cat that lives there and paid for my plants with $10 in quarters. Like most community-based businesses, this nursery takes great pride in the service it provides consumers, even crazed middle-aged men, who pay for their purchases with change from their car’s ashtray.
I left the nursery with $2.50 in change and some good advice on how to protect my surviving as well as my new vines.
I happened to ask the nursery owner if he had a high speed internet connection and if they had a web site. He answered: “yes, DSL” and “no, website yet.” And on the way home I realized that what this local businessman needs is a blog.
A big piece of the value proposition for this nursery is its cumulative information on local growing conditions and the collective insight on what crops thrive or what dies here in Escondido. That is the sort of information I get as a consumer at the register or in its wide aisles from the nursery’s staff. This is also the stuff of blogs that build and reinforce commercial and vocational and consumer communities.
I’m not a fan of corporate blogs. I think corporate investors/stock holders have every right to expect that a CEO should be focused on their business and blogging, in most cases, takes away from that focus and carries the added risks of a CEO telegraphing their strategy and product plans to the competition or running afoul of the SEC. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I believe that the risk of corporate CEO’s blogging outweigh any benefits.
But in Silicon Valley fame, and even infamy, has a certain cachet and blogging is perceived to enhance someone’s reputation. Call me crazy, but I’m so “old school” that I think a CEO’s time is better spent running a company than noodling over a “personal message.”
Here in mainstream America, however, local businesses can benefit from blogging, particularly if the activity is done consistently. But more importantly, blogging by small businesses helps to firm up the ties between the businessmen and his buying public, and helps to tighten the ties that bind him to their local and extended communities.
(n.b. for a good example of how one not so small business uses business to answer questions and promote his business visit www.redrooster3.com and read the posts from this long-range fishing charter boat’s skipper, Andy Cates.
And now, I have to prepare tonight’s dinner-- two sand dabs-- finish weeding and clearing my lower garden, where the voles and gophers play while I write.—Jim Forbes, from rural northern San Diego County connected wirelessly back to the world via an EvDo connection and an ultraportable notebook resting on the new table in my outside office in the shade of a verdant lime tree. 07/31/2006