Editorial: ‘Enthusiasm’ over business association does not inspire

It has been said that the strength of a community is in its businesses. We happen to believe this is true. Imagine our town without them.
The reason for a business association, or our version of a chamber of commerce, was discussed at length in the news office last week. With little more than a dozen businesses represented at the second Business 2 Business Mixer, one must question of the approximately 60-plus on the current business list, if no one really wants to form a like-minded association.
So, does this mean that Wadena businesses are okay with the way their business is performing – with no improvements required? Do they just want to retain the status quo? Do they think Wadena really does not need to focus on the business community? How’s our reputation to visitors? Do we need to polish our act? Are we okay with the outside money we are already attracting, or is it not an issue?
In the past, versions of a Wadena chamber of commerce have come and gone perhaps for various reasons, the most important of which is the desire and willingness of volunteers to make it happen. It is much like our council, if there is no one with a vision, or desire to do the leg-work work – it probably won’t happen – and status quo becomes the norm.
One of the complaints noted from the mixer last year was communication, or specifically, a lack thereof. Without the business community not working together as a whole, things not only look disjointed, they operate the same way. Opportunities for town-wide and cross-promotions are missed, customer service suffers, and dollars go elsewhere. Remember the letter to the editor from the frequent traveller who complained about Wadena not being open for business on a Monday? Yep, Humboldt businesses got his dollars instead of Wadena. Even at $20 a visit, it adds up over time – and they tell their friends.
As statistics go, we are guessing he is not the only one who has felt this way about service in Wadena. He is just the one to actually say something. Depending on who you listen to, more than 90-per-cent of customers do not complain and just go somewhere else. This does not include the multiplying factor for the number of people they tell of a bad service experience.
In a survey completed by Esteban Kolsky, CEO of thinkJar, he cites only one out of 26 customers, or roughly 4 per cent, complain if they are unhappy about an experience. The lesson, he said, is “companies should not view absence of feedback as a sign of satisfaction. The true enemy is indifference.” Kolsky also cites that it is six to seven times more expensive to attract new customers than it is to keep existing ones.
Our focus should really be both. It’s no secret residents make regular trips to “the city” for various and sundry supplies. Along with lack of choice, the news office has heard complaints of various local service providers that include “pedestrian,” “don’t really seem to care,” or even “rude” as descriptors of their local experience. Then there’s the whole ‘shop local’ chant, which cannot be stressed enough as to our long-term viability. This brings us back to the first paragraph – imagine our town without businesses. Even though history may repeat itself, Wadena is not the same town it used to be so there’s an opportunity to change the way “we do business.” Think of any town that has no businesses and ask, “What is their strength?”

Wadena News

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