February 12, 2014 - In case you didn't know this newspaper hosts a few business networking groups. We call 'em Coffee Clubs and you can find out more about these local business groups by liking and following our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/coffeeclubmi). But that is not what I'm writing about today.
Today I am writing about our theme for this year at the Coffee Clubs yours truly heads up (the clubs in Ortonville and Clarkston -- I haven't the froggiest idea of what the Orion Coffee Club is doing.) and that theme is getting back to the basics. At the Coffee Club this means, getting back to presenting an elevator speech; a quick, concise one minute presentation of who you are, what you do, what you're looking for and a tagline (if you got one). I suppose "getting back to the basics," however, can mean different things to different people.
To an educator it might mean putting more emphasis on the basics of reading, writing and 'rythmetic. To a parent it might be less about smothering little Johnnie and Suzie's teachers with how wonderful their own kid is, and more about smothering little Johnnie and Suzie with love and yes, sometimes that means tough love.
To some in business, it might mean doing things "the way we always do." But, I don't think that's what it's supposed to mean. In the business world, getting back to the basics means getting back to doing stuff entrepreneurially versus managerially.
A manager has his or her place, but managerially they try to produce the same or more, with less (we all know the manager who's penny wise and dollar dumb). Their job is tied into the status quo.
An entrepreneur on the other hand, will take risks, try different approaches, products and ideas all to make more money and profit; and with more money and profit comes more ability to provide for his or her family and the community at large. Of course, an entrepreneur knows every endeavor has a risk of not succeeding and that failure is just another part of learning how to succeed. That can hurt financially.
In local government, Independence Township is getting back to the basics, by thinking outside of the box. Their electeds (Pat Kittle, Barb Pallotta, Paul Brown, David Lohmeier, Andrea Schroeder, Jose Aliaga and Ron Ritchie) have come to the conclusion the best way to govern is to govern an educated constituency. They are continually reviewing what has been done in the past and working on a better future -- and they are keeping their community in the know each step of the way.
Each month they send out The Independence Times to nearly every single address in the township, residential and business. They are getting back to basics by communicating and being open. I think all townships and villages and cities should try this.
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It's my belief a good newspaper not only reports on what is happening (good and bad, triumphs and tragedies, everything -- warts and all) but it also needs to engage its readers.
A newspaper needs to ask questions not only of officials, but of the common folk. One of the things I've tried to do this year is to use Facebook to generate conversation in the community. As a starting point, I've asked, "what is the downside of dissolving the local city/village government in favor of just one local governing body, like Oxford Township, Clarkston Township, or Lake Orion Township or Goodrich Township?"
I usually get answers like, "That's a stupid idea! Don't do it, we'll lose our identity!"
I don't understand how that would be. I think in Goodrich, Oxford and Clarkston, the schools are already known by their name, as are the post offices. The unique towns wouldn't -- POOF! -- disappear. And, residents would still be represented by their neighbors of the same community. How is that losing an identity? Or is it more of just doing what's always been done because it's what they know and what they're omfortable with? Isn't that the classic contempt prior to investigation mentality?
For me -- personally -- "getting back to the basics" means all of the above. I think I need to be more entrepreneurial, more giving, less confrontational authoritative and more mentoring. While I should hold fewer grudges and be more forgiving, I should also go into every endeavor with eyes open and not blindly naive.
It is time to get back into the communities, reach out to classrooms and service groups, do more talking, make more presentations. Shake more hands and shake more things up. It's time to use what I know to better myself and my future (for a small fee I coach up any local's writing). What? Think about retirement? Yep, I reckon at 51 it's about time I think about putting more into savings and that means getting back to the basics of self reliance.
What does "getting back to the basics" mean to you? I'd like to know. E-mail me your thoughts to: Don@ShermanPublications.org
Don is Assistant Publisher for Sherman Publications, Inc. He has worked for the company since 1985. He has won numerous awards for column, editorial and feature writing as well as for photography. He has two, sons Shamus and Sean and resides in the area. To read archived copies of his columns, click on his name, just under his picture up top . . . He can be e-mailed at: firstname.lastname@example.org