Economic Developers, Make Your First Business Visit A Great One

Let me ask you a question. Would a wise money manager invest in a company they knew nothing about?

The answer, of course is no. A wise money manager would investigate the company, scrutinize the financials, probe management, explore the industry and delve into key trends. Anything less would risk giving away the client’s money.

Modern economic development is no different, especially when it comes to initiatives like business retention and expansion (R&E). R&E practitioners aim to help local companies solve problems that are holding them back, but how can they determine their pressing needs and solve their big problems if they don’t know anything about the company or industry in advance?

Unfortunately, many economic developers wade into just this type of situation. Unsurprisingly, they often fail to win the trust of the local business community.

Today’s R&E requires a much more data-driven approach. Want to add value for your client? Don’t spend the first half of your meeting learning about their business. Do your homework in advance so you can dig straight into the company’s challenges, opportunities and needs.

Today, there are a surprising number of resources at your fingertips to accomplish your due diligence in a relatively short amount of time. Here are three suggestions to help you prepare.

Been to your local library recently? You’ll be amazed by the number of free subscription-based databases at your fingertips. In short order you’ll be learning about companies, industries and trends. Want to research from the office or home? Today, most libraries allow access to their databases remotely.

For every R&E visit, you’ll want to gather a similar collection of data. Who are the company’s customers, suppliers and competitors? What are their industry drivers, latest trends and forecasts? Do they do business locally, domestically or internationally? You’ll want to collect this information for every visit, so why not create a template like this one to save time going forward.

Let’s face it, the new R&E, the data-driven approach requires more than a 30 minute google search for company news. Plan on at least a few hours per company. The good news? It’s not rocket science. College interns, volunteers, even high school students can learn how to gather the right data. This is where your new template will come in handy.

The premise of this data-driven approach is that the smarter you can be about the company before you visit, the more you increase the probability of a favorable outcome—which is ultimately what economic development is all about.

Not convinced? Watch the short video below from one of our clients. The data-driven approach yields results. At the end of the day, that’s a win for everyone.