The Business Plan: Two decades serving small businesses

This post is written by Bill Reagan, Executive Director of the SBDC and first appeared in the Alexandria Times on December 22, 2016. Twenty years ago on December 17th, the Alexandria Small Business Development Center (SBDC) opened its doors to support and strengthen the small businesses that are central to Alexandria’s economy and character. Over… Read more »

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This post is written by Bill Reagan, Executive Director of the SBDC and first appeared in the Alexandria Times on December 22, 2016.

Twenty years ago on December 17th, the Alexandria Small Business Development Center (SBDC) opened its doors to support and strengthen the small businesses that are central to Alexandria’s economy and character.

Over the two decades, the center has answered many thousands of inquiries about a broad range of business matters. It has provided over 25,000 hours of objective feedback and assistance to several thousand individuals, both existing business owners and startups. It has also helped individuals obtain over $71 million in loans, primarily from Alexandria bankers.

The center provides growth and operational advice to existing small business owners, small non-profits and associations, and those interested in starting such organizations. Existing businesses are helped with common problems, or to improve operations and marketing. The center also helps businesses make connections to the organizations, professionals, and resources that can make a real difference.

Those who work with the center from the earliest phase of their startup are typically better organized and prepared for the requirements, and they launch with better connections and more viable and agile operations. With the center’s proactive guidance and ready availability to help owners with problems, the SBDC’s client longevity rates far surpass national failure statistics.

There are many business fundamentals that are constant – market research, planning, site selection, cash management, customer service, forecasting, for example.  The way some of them is achieved has changed a bit over the years.

Social and mobile media have vastly changed marketing, customer relations, and entire business strategies. Online commerce is now an essential business element, as is creating a distinct customer experience.

The SBDC has guidance in all these business areas that might be familiar to some but not to others. We also have ready access to experts on social/local/mobile marketing; human resources; government contracting, nonprofit management, and retail operations. The center’s extensive website (www.AlexandriaSBDC.org) has resources on many timely business issues.

With the center as a free resource for City of Alexandria businesses, clients have access to an experienced staff that has nothing to sell them and is focused entirely on their best interests. Even more important than our highly regarded programs and services, clients say that the center’s candid and objective feedback is what distinguishes us from other programs.

The center is continually adding resources and contacts to meet shifting demands on businesses. It is also responsive to changing times and community priorities. For 2017, the SBDC is partnering with the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership on retail outreach to enhance the vitality of Alexandria’s shopping districts. The center is also connecting with additional business specialists to guide Alexandria owners through pressing business circumstances.

The staff and board of directors of the Alexandria Small Business Development Center are honored to have had the opportunity to serve Alexandria businesses for 20 years. We value the support from and collaborative partnerships with city government and our economic development partners.  Alexandria is truly a closely-knit business community.

We wish you a very happy holiday season and prosperous New Year!

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Happy Holidays!

This will be the last blog post for 2016, new weekly posts will begin again in early January! The Alexandria SBDC wishes all of its clients and supporters a very merry holiday season and a prosperous New Year! We enjoyed celebrating with many of you at our annual Holiday Kickoff reception on November 18th when about… Read more »

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This will be the last blog post for 2016, new weekly posts will begin again in early January!

The Alexandria SBDC wishes all of its clients and supporters a very merry holiday season and a prosperous New Year! We enjoyed celebrating with many of you at our annual Holiday Kickoff reception on November 18th when about 100 revelers networked while feasting on savory bites fromsnow-man-992355_1920 Meggrolls and some homemade sweet treats. This was our final event of 2016, during which the Alexandria SBDC held 34 Workshops and Roundtable events with over 730 attendees, participated in approximately 400 counseling sessions totaling over 1, 000 hours, and responded to hundreds of phone and e-mail inquiries through our website. We truly value our relationships with our clients and look forward to working with all of you in the New Year.

For those who like to plan ahead, a January Workshop and Roundtable are already posted on our events page. We are starting off the year talking about updating your branding and marketing, so be sure to take advantage of those opportunities. We are in the process of planning many more informative workshops and events for 2017 – feel free to send us your ideas! Remember to contact the SBDC at all stages of your business. In addition to startup assistance, we have specialized resources that can help with financing, federal and state contracting, hiring and employer issues, social media and marketing, retail assistance, nonprofit assistance, and many other areas.

Early in the New Year we will be sending out our Annual Impact Survey to our clients. Please watch for the survey and complete the few short questions about how your business did in 2016. The aggregated results of this confidential survey are crucial to the Alexandria SBDC’s funding request to the City of Alexandria, the SBA, and the financial institutions and others who support our efforts to offer free services to the Alexandria Small Business community. These funding partners like to see that those using SBDC services are getting value from the resources the SBDC provides.

Finally, though this is a very busy time for most small business owners, we hope that you will take the time to enjoy the season with your family and friends. There are several events in Alexandria that will put you in the spirit right in your own back yard – see the website of our colleagues at Visit Alexandria for ideas, www.visitalexva.com.

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Shop Small for the Holidays in Alexandria, VA

This holiday season, make your shopping experience memorable and worry-free in Alexandria, the DC region’s Shop Small headquarters for independent boutiques. You can opt small and shop a local experience in a magical setting of holiday wonder all season long. New this year is 116 King Holiday Pop-Up and expanded Random Acts of Holiday Cheer. The season… Read more »

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This holiday season, make your shopping experience memorable and worry-free in Alexandria, the DC region’s Shop Small headquarters for independent boutiques. You can opt small and shop a local experience in a magical setting of holiday wonder all season long.

Image Credit: M. Chenet for Visit Alexandria

Image Credit: M. Chenet for Visit Alexandria

New this year is 116 King Holiday Pop-Up and expanded Random Acts of Holiday Cheer. The season includes an alternative Black Friday experience on November 25, 2016 with free parking and deals from nearly 50 boutiques, and Small Business Saturday on November 26, 2016 with in-store activities in which visitors can meet the makers and small business shakers and enjoy exclusive “Shop-Taste-Create” experiences.

During the holidays, historic Old Town Alexandria is transformed into a winter wonderland reminiscent of a simpler time. Meet the makers and small business shakers at dozens of independent boutiques that welcome you with greenery at their doorsteps, offering everything from chic fashions and home décor to classic toys and gifts for dogs. With 80% of Alexandria boutiques and restaurants being independently owned, it is easy to get expert advice and products curated by local owners who are often on site to find the perfect gifts for everyone on your “nice” list.

Check out the Visit Alexandria blog at ExtraAlex.com for a full run down on the following:

116 King Holiday Pop-Up
November 10-December 31, 2016

Random Acts of Holiday Cheer
Saturdays November 26-December 24, 2016 from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. 

Black Friday Alexandria
November 25, 2016

Small Business Saturday
November 26, 2016

Learn more about holiday shopping and events at VisitAlexandriaVA.com/holidays.

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Roundtable Recap: Great Customer Service Tips We Can All Put to Use

This article is written by Ray Sidney-Smith of W3 Consulting, who facilitated the October SBDC Roundtable discussion: “Great Customer Service Tips We Can All Put to Use”. Let’s face it, Small Business Customer Service is tough. Most Small Business owners don’t have a Customer Service department separate from the rest of their team. You are… Read more »

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This article is written by Ray Sidney-Smith of W3 Consulting, who facilitated the October SBDC Roundtable discussion: “Great Customer Service Tips We Can All Put to Use”.

Let’s face it, Small Business Customer Service is tough. Most Small Business owners don’t have a Customer Service department separate from the rest of their team. You are most likely your only and/or best customer service representative, if not one of a few staff. So, it doesn’t matter where Customer Service fits in your organizational chart because it is infused in all parts of your business—from sales and marketing to delivery and fulfillment. At the October Business Development Roundtable at the Alexandria Small Business Development Center, we discussed Customer Service. And, it was clear people had definite expectations not only of the businesses that served them, but they also felt the challenges of provcustomer-serviceiding great Customer Service themselves.

“Customer satisfaction” is the term Peter Baldwin of MarketForce Strategies prefers, and he says is about the outcomes not just the actions along the way with a customer. If a potential customer comes in thinking well of your business, you want that goodwill to continue when they leave your office or shop. So much of marketing is about customer satisfaction. It was a consensus in the room that the Alexandria business owners were aware of this and ready to make that happen in their own businesses.

It was also evident that all have had bad customer service experiences as a consumer and also as business owner with their own vendors. These can be fruitful in the sense that they teach us how not to respond to customers in these moments. When a customer comes into initial contact with your business, they are in need of good customer service; they clearly have a problem (i.e., a need or want) and meeting with you, there’s a potential solution to that problem. When a customer is in the process of working with you or buying a product from you, customer service is pivotal in making sure the deal goes through. Small Business owners lose a substantial amount of business because of a poor customer service experience during the sales process. Don’t let that happen to your business by getting feedback, and training yourself and your staff in good customer service skills. Finally, customer service comes into play when a customer has a problem, whether that’s at delivery/fulfillment or afterward. Your job is to satisfy your customer within reason and law. You can’t make everyone happy, but you can try your best to do so in your business, and we know that this pays compound dividends in repeat business and referrals for local business.

Some points to take into account from our discussion of our challenges in providing great customer service.

First, give responsibility to your staff to be able to solve minor customer service issues. Customers enjoy the swift resolution of minor issues. It might be the ability to give refunds or exchanges for a certain product or service price point for specific reasons without manager approval. Also, training your staff so that when you don’t have a product or service that will satisfy a customer that you recommend to them someone who does. That builds goodwill for your company and will bring that customer back when they have a need or want that you can meet.

Next, getting customer feedback from point of contact through the transaction process and after the sale. Customers are a wealth of information and the best way to tailor your services or products to satisfy them is to ask them for information. Of course, you need to do so tactfully and not to the point of annoying or driving customers away, but each touchpoint with a potential, current or past customer is an opportunity to get a bit of data about them and their satisfaction with your business. These bits of data build into a greater picture that you can use to provide even better products/services and customer service over time.

Last, making sure that you are aware of online reviews today and how that can impact customer satisfaction. You need to not only monitor your customer reviews, but also encourage your customers to go to Google, Yelp, Facebook, TripAdvisor and other online review websites to let you know how well your business is doing. This increased exposure is positive for several reasons, but in the vein of customer service you can learn if something is going awry so that you can fix it in the future. And, when you do, simply reach back out to that customer who may have left a less-than-pleasant review and ask them to re-review your business. Most often if you solved their issue, you’ll be pleasantly surprised how willing and happy they are to tell others how you fixed the circumstance.

As I said at the top, Customer Service is tough. But, with some diligence and training, it doesn’t have to keep you up at night. Learn as much as you can about delivering great customer service for your target audience, fix issues when they happen to the best of your ability, and train your staff to do the same.

Next month’s Roundtable is about holiday season marketing, so join us on November 15 to be a part of the Alexandria Small Business conversation, while networking and growing your business.

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Referrals and Leads: How to Give, Get and Use Them

Referrals and Leads: How to Give, Get and Use Them This blog post was written by Ray Sidney-Smith, owner of W3Consulting and facilitator of the monthly Alexandria SBDC Small Business Roundtable. It’s become a well-regarded axiom among marketing professionals that people do business with, and refer business to, people they know, like, and trust. When… Read more »

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Referrals and Leads: How to Give, Get and Use Them

This blog post was written by Ray Sidney-Smith, owner of W3Consulting and facilitator of the monthly Alexandria SBDC Small Business Roundtable.

It’s become a well-regarded axiom among marketing professionals that people do business with, and refer business to, people they know, like, and trust. When you start out in business, many of the reasons why this is so aren’t readily apparent. So, you might crawl, stand then stumble, and frequently fall, before you learn walk the line of art and technical skills needed to build that professional rapport with customers and referral sources.

Referrals are the lifeblood of most small businesses. We wouldn’t exist without the support of our local communities talking up (or down) about our businesses. So, as expected on such an important topic, September’s Business Development Roundtable had a packed room and much to be said about the art and style of referrals and leads. Here are some of the highlights.

Defining Referrals and Leadsreferrals-leads-post

We kicked things off with making sure we were all on the same page regarding what exactly referrals and leads are. Referrals can be separated into those made by a customer to a potential customer about your business and those given and received regularly between referral partners. The customer referral comes because the customer had a great or long-lasting positive experience with you, your staff, product, or service. Referral partners involve a trusted product or service provider that will handle the needs of a fellow professionals’ network.

At some point in every business owner’s life, they receive a lead, or research and find a lead. This is simply when someone tells you about someone else that they think should use your services, or buy your products, or when you find such a person or company that would be a good potential customer. There is no hand-off of a relationship (or, what psychologists call “social proof”) from the referral source to you.

Leads from Your Website

One interesting discussion thread that came up was about leads that come in from websites. Some Roundtable participants were pretty critical of website contact forms as a lead generation tool, while others considered it a worthwhile profit generator when paired with effective Google AdWords campaigns. Either way you look at it, most people that reach out to your business through the website contact form are going to be pure leads. They have found your information through blog posts, online advertising, or other forms of marketing or advertising efforts. You need to be aware of this as you build out any lead or referral generation program for your business.

A technique I have found works for my small business clients is to set up different forms for different audiences. If you are developing a cohesive lead generation blog strategy, tie those blog links to your contact form from each blog category. You do this to separate contact forms with questions specific to those coming to your blog about those categories. The more tailored your form, the more likely the blog reader will feel that you’re speaking directly to him or her, the more unique information you’ll be able to garner from the blog visitor, and that will lead you closer to sales.

No matter what you do in terms of lead or referral generation, you need to work to get information to and from all parties efficiently, and make sure that you’re able to update them and be responsive to their needs and wants. The website technique above is just one example where technology can be really useful, but it can be a totally offline or paper-and-pen system for tracking and maintaining who you’re helping, how and keeping everyone abreast of the status of deliverables.

Handling Referrals with Care

When it comes to referrals there was a great deal of conversation about how to make sure that you handled referrals with care. This is an extremely important point to underscore. These people have come to you with the equity of someone else’s reputation and you really want to make sure they come away with an experience that meets or exceeds their expectations.

As noted above, Roundtable participants had two categories of referrers of business: those coming from colleagues and those coming from other customers. It’s important to consider how (and if you can for confidentiality and legal reasons) to update or reward those referrers for sending your business referrals. I recommend that you figure out a plan for how you acknowledge and recognize referrers, and how you’ll update them about the success of your referrals. People feel good when they hear their referral was successful, and that motivates them to send you more referrals. This increases their social equity with the people they refer to your business.

So, make sure to know whether you’re running a referral or lead generation strategy for your business. Then, create a cohesive referral or lead generation strategy that actually helps you and your customer get to know and work well with each other. And, finally, treat all parties well and they will reward you with more referrals!

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Making Good Business Etiquette Good for Business

This article is written by Ray Sidney-Smith of W3 Consulting, who facilitated the August SBDC Roundtable discussion: “Good Business Etiquette Gets a Better Response”. Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities begins, It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness,… Read more »

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This article is written by Ray Sidney-Smith of W3 Consulting, who facilitated the August SBDC Roundtable discussion: “Good Business Etiquette Gets a Better Response”.

Tale of Two Cities

Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities begins,

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it

was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it

was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity,

it was the season of Light, it was the season of Dark-

ness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of de-

spair, we had everything before us, we had nothing be-

fore us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all

going direct the other way, — in short, the period was so

far like the present period, that some of its noisiest au-

thorities insisted on its being received, for good or for

evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

While the motifs presented here set the stage for the major plot of the book, it also sets a strong statement of time contrasts as so different and yet all the same. In this way, I think of how different we are from our forefathers when it comes to cultural and business mores, and yet, simultaneously, how the same we are. As Small Business owners, we have to navigate personal and business etiquette much like the polar opposites of Dickens’ famous opening to A Tale of Two Cities–understanding of the best and worst, both wisdom and folly, and all manner of personalities with whom we engage in the course of our professional lives. Alexandria SBDC hosted our monthly Business Development Roundtable with a central theme, Good Business Etiquette Gets a Better Response, on August 16, for our business owners to come together and discuss. We know that every touchpoint with a past, current or potential customer or referral source is an opportunity to appeal or repel new or repeat sales. I want to highlight some of the wisdom to use and some of the folly to avoid when engaging with contacts in-person, via digital communications, especially on Social Media, and on mobile today.

In essence, your “soft skills” matter. Wikipedia colloquially defines soft skills as “the cluster of personality traits that characterize one’s relationships with other people. These skills can include social graces, communication abilities, language skills, personal habits, cognitive or emotional empathy, and leadership traits.” And, Monster.com identifies six soft skills–communication skills, teamwork and collaboration, adaptability, problem-solving, critical observation, and conflict resolution skills–as the most desirable soft skills in the professional world. Needless to say, the proliferation of the Internet, email, Social Media, and mobile communications have increased both the volume of communications and reduced our opportunities to practice in-person soft skills. So, in case you’re feeling like you need to “sharpen the saw” when it comes to etiquette, here are some key insights into how to best navigate professional interactions.

Traditional, In-Person Etiquette

First, show up on time and know what your mission is at any business event. It’s best to have crafted a personal, professional introduction that takes less than 30-45 seconds to say (sometimes called an “elevator pitch”). Make sure that you’re showing genuine interest in the person with eye contact and questions of interest about him or her, not just their professional life or title, and how you can be of benefit to them. As Dr. Ivan Misner of Business Networking International sagely coined, networking is all about “giver’s gain.”

Also, it makes a great deal of sense to bring business cards to share with new contacts. This may seem antiquated to millennials; however, this is still the predominant way that much of the workforce shares contact information and remembers the people they meet at networking and business events.

Another important tip is to make sure that you don’t lie to people when disconnecting after a conversation.  For example, if you were ending a conversation and say, “It’s been a pleasure speaking to you, I’m going to the restroom now,”  Then it’s imperative that you actually go to the bathroom! If you walk away and head over to grab a few refreshments and start up another conversation, your new contact will see that, be offended, and it will sour potentially your future relationship.

Finally, when it comes to in-person business etiquette, it’s always best to avoid taboo topics of politics, religion, and sex. Unless you happen to be at a professional event that was focused on one of these three as an industry, you’ll likely make your newfound contacts uncomfortable.

Digital Communications

When it comes to digital communications, such as commenting on websites and blogs, emailing, instant messaging,  or any number of other Web-based engagements, it’s really important to treat people with respect. The most important concept about digital communications is to consistently remind yourself of the fact that there is another human being on the other side of the computer. Since you don’t see that person it’s easy to respond with trite, curt or even downright rude response because you’re not confronting them face-to-face.

One way to combat this loss of humaneness is to consistently use a face when representing yourself and your business online. This includes Social Media profiles, using services like Gravatar that displays your face on websites and in email programs, and making sure that you or the person representing your business is shown alongside your logo online.

Remember, people do business with people they like, not with companies.

Mobile

Today, it’s so simple to rattle off a SMS text-message to a client or potential customer. The problem with this is the vast majority of people who neither text-message nor consider it as an appropriate professional communication means. Yes, some of this is generational, and some of this is technological fear. However, you should always communicate with people in the way in which they choose to be communicated, not in the most convenient way for you.

So, when it comes to mobile communications you can make it a standard question to ask new contacts how they best communicate with others and how best they receive communications from professional contacts. This sets your contacts and engagements up for success and it acknowledges that you are thinking about them, and not just about yourself. I’ve seen this time and time again, this small act of empathy from you generates a large positive impression with professional contacts.

Keeping up with all the latest business and Internet etiquette can be daunting. The times and technology are ever-changing, especially as new generations become a greater and greater part of the workforce. My hope is that notwithstanding who is engaging professionally, that we all remember that we’re all still humans communicating with humans. And, as such, we should treat one another with a standard amount of respect and dignity. This creates better business environs to work and increases revenues through better, more positive engagements with customers and referrals. So, no matter if it’s the best of times or the worst of times, we can all be civil, sensible and constructive in all our interactions online and offline in business.

The September SBDC Business Development Roundtable will take place on September 20th at noon and participants will discuss: Referrals & Leads – How to Effectively Get, Use & Give Them.

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It is Time to Get Organized!

The end of summer is often a time when folks recall what they had hoped to accomplish in the calendar year and panic when they realize that there are only four months left. Where has the year gone? Why haven’t I finished any of the things that I started earlier in the year? The answer… Read more »

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The end of summer is often a time when folks recall what they had hoped to accomplish in the calendar year and panic when they realize that there are only four months left. Where has the year gone? Why haven’t I finished any of the things that I started earlier in the year? The answer may well lie in the need to be better organized. Participants in the July Small Business Roundtable examined the ways that they could better organize their time to be more productive. Roundtable facilitator Ray Sidney-Smith recommended a great book on the subject, Getting Things Done, by David Allen. Checklist Image

The first step is to define whether something is a “project” or a “task”. A project is generally a main event – something big that needs to get done. It may even be broken down into related mini-projects. Tasks are the steps that need to be done in order to complete the project. A task is any physical action taken that moves a project forward. Most people find that creating “task lists” really helps. When composing your task list make sure to use strong verbs – action items for you to accomplish. Keep the task list close at hand, whether on paper or digitally, and cross off items as they are accomplished. If you are feeling overwhelmed by the number of tasks, divide them by theme, such as all marketing tasks together, accounting together, etc.

Time management is equally important when it comes to managing your professional projects and tasks. Use time blocking to allow a certain period of time when you only concentrate on the tasks within a theme, essentially wearing only one of your many entrepreneurial “hats” at a time. It is important to track your time, whether productive or non-productive, regardless of how you charge your time to a client. When tracking you may find that you overcharge for some tasks or projects, and undercharge for others. Either way it is good to know where you spend your time, which naturally modifies productive habits.

You may also find that there are some tasks involved in a project that you absolutely hate doing, and that you realize do not have to be done by you. It’s time to outsource them, whether to a virtual assistant, an employee, or another company. The time you save by outsourcing some of your tasks can then be put to use on those parts of the project that are best handled by you – without the other tasks weighing on your mind while you are working on the “important “ things. You may find that projects can be accomplished sooner and with less stress on your part – a win-win. Suddenly you have time to develop new business, take a mini-vacation, or just breathe. The last four months of the year may be your most productive yet!

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Entrepreneurs Benefit Everyone

This post first appeared in the Alexandria Times on July 14, 2016. Entrepreneurship doesn’t flourish by happenstance. Hotbeds of innovation – like Silicon Valley, Austin, and Boulder – seem to have found the mix of characteristics and attractions that lure the country’s most innovative entrepreneurs. While those examples are known as tech hubs, they have… Read more »

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This post first appeared in the Alexandria Times on July 14, 2016.

Entrepreneurship doesn’t flourish by happenstance. Hotbeds of innovation – like Silicon Valley, Austin, and Boulder – seem to have found the mix of characteristics and attractions that lure the country’s most innovative entrepreneurs. While those examples are known as tech hubs, they have also become hubs for creative retail and great food. Businesses of all kinds tend to be attracted to innovation hubs and places that are “Top Ten” in other categories.

Businesses like to cluster with other like businesses. Old Town has a concentration of independent boutiques and shops in part because they like to be located near other similar types of stores. New, creative restaurants often pop up near each other, like the explosion of new restaurants along the U Street Corridor in DC.

The reasons for such clustering are well known. Entrepreneurs like to be near other energetic entrepreneurs and are attracted to vibrant communities. Innovators that consistently push the envelope are attracted to welcoming communities. These are places where the threshold for startups is modest, where people are accepting of diversity, and where new ideas can be developed, launched, and refined without ridicule.

On paper, Alexandria should fare pretty well as an entrepreneurial destination. We have many winning attributes; we’re inside the beltway, we have a historic authenticity that other places seek to replicate, and we’re home to top-ranked restaurants, just to name a few. The city is also the right scale – small enough to build meaningful connections and know your neighbors, yet large enough to have the amenities and vibrancy of a big city. All those things position Alexandria to attract innovative businesses.

However, innovators are not just looking at the city on paper or in a vacuum. They’re reading media coverage of the city and, frankly, may not be getting the best impression. Creative entrepreneurs are turned off by statements such as, “We don’t want anything that attracts more people,” or, “Alexandria already has too many restaurants.” This rhetoric implies that Alexandria is not interested in opportunities to grow its tax base and be a regional destination for innovative businesses.

The harsh reality is that our local economy is either growing or declining; it does not just stop and mark time. We, as a city, need to recognize the impact of our words and our deeds and how those may be interpreted by interested businesses. We cannot afford to be seen as a city that disdains innovation.

We have organizations dedicated to strengthening entrepreneurship and providing individual support to small businesses. These include the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership, Visit Alexandria, the Alexandria Small Business Development Center, the Multi-Agency Permit Center, the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce, and neighborhood business associations. These organizations alone are not enough; new businesses must feel the support of the entire community.

All of us have a role to play in making Alexandria an attractive destination for the most promising businesses and creative entrepreneurs who enhance our economy and quality of life. Who could be against that?

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