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Lessons from small businesses that apply to everyone.
I’m still on my road trip of the northeast U.S. and made a stop in Bristol, Pennsylvania. What took me to this small town was a video series called The Small Business Revolution. This is a reality show where small businesses in small towns get help from business experts, and I have become a groupie, visiting each town where the series has been made.
Season three was just launched and you can find it along with the previous seasons on Hulu or at www.smallbusinessrevolution.org.
Product managers and innovators are the heroes of companies, creating products customers love, and in turn generating revenue that pushes the economy forward. That’s what being an Everyday Innovator is all about. And, small business owners are the heroes of small towns.
I love the stories that this video show examines, and the story behind its creation also has good lessons for Everyday Innovators.
The show is produced by Deluxe Corp and I caught up with their VP of Public Relations, Cam Potts, to discuss the making of the show.
Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers
[1:58] What is the Small Business Revolution?
It’s a reality makeover show where Deluxe Corporation goes into a small town in America and gives the town a $500,000 makeover. The public votes on which town wins the contest. We capture the makeover of six businesses in the community from marketing to physical changes. It’s a great opportunity to see real business owners revitalize their organizations. Small businesses are the lifeblood of small towns where industry has moved away.
[6:12] How does the Small Business Revolution relate to Deluxe Corp?
I started here four years ago after my boss found me on LinkedIn. Deluxe wanted to tell the stories of small businesses. We started with telling 100 stories across the U.S. as part of our 100th anniversary. We’ve been known as a check printer, but we do anything a small business needs. The goal of 100 stories campaign was to make people aware that we provided these services to small businesses. From there, we decided to tell longer stories and that’s how the contest idea came about.
[11:34] What are your favorite moments from season 1?
We were immersed in the town of Wabash over the summer so we really made some connections and friendships there. We also helped a variety of businesses, including an art consignment store. We helped that business owner determine how to price her goods in order to make money without pricing items out of the community’s reach. Five of the six businesses we helped were owned by people who did something else before becoming entrepreneurs. They got advice from us on how to position themselves as business owners and how to live that lifestyle and occupy that mindset. We also enjoyed seeing the business owners connect with each other and with the head of the Wabash tourism bureau as the show unfolded.
[19:32] What are the lessons you learned from season 2?
One of the learnings we took from season 1 was to bring experts from each field into Bristol to work with each business owner. For example, we brought in an automotive industry expert to help a family-owned truck and auto repair business. She helped them present a more professional environment and see themselves in a new way. We helped another business owner find a new space after his rent was raised and he could no longer afford it. It was amazing to see how people in the community stepped up to help him out.
[27:08] What can we expect from season 3?
Season 3 is a departure from the first two years in that Alton, Illinois, is larger than Wabash and Bristol. It has several areas that could be defined as “Main Street” and we opened up the process to all of them. The consequences were more dire this season, with several businesses on the brink of closing and business owners losing connection to the community. We are also working with Ty Pennington this season. He brings a new energy and enthusiasm to the episodes.
[32:15] What have you discovered through this process?
I didn’t realize the lack of financial awareness that a lot of small business owners have. My father owned a small business for 30 years and it provided a great living for our family. I didn’t know a lot of the behind the scenes things, but I saw them through this show. Many of these business owners do not take paychecks and work full-time jobs in addition to running their businesses. I’m also blown away by how many of these businesses do not have websites.
[33:57] How has the show benefited Deluxe?
It’s raised awareness about what Deluxe does for small business. When we started, Deluxe had less than 1 percent name recognition among small businesses. We compete against companies like GoDaddy and MailChimp that spend millions of dollars in advertising that we don’t have. We’ve been very successful in generating media interest in what we’re doing so it’s been very successful from a PR perspective. We’re taking all of the work we’ve done with these businesses and putting them into case studies that are available on our website. It’s also been great for employee engagement. People genuinely want to see these businesses thrive and there’s a real sense of altruism among our team.
- The Small Business Revolution video series and resources
- My interview with the host of Small Business Revolution, Amanda Brinkman
- Deluxe Corp, changing the way business gets done
“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” –Alan Kay
Thank you for being an Everyday Innovator and learning with me from the successes and failures of product innovators, managers, and developers. If you enjoyed the discussion, help out a fellow product manager by sharing it on your favorite social network.