Careful which game you chose to play as you tell stories about your community.

When selling anything, the first tool you utilize is the tool that showcases the benefits of your offering.  Seems like a no-brainer, right? Resumes attempt to do this for you.  Brochures or sell sheets emphasize the benefits of your product or service. As you begin to tell your community story, the first task at hand is to identify your unique community strengths. Playing to your strengths is a vital and obvious tool to use for many community building goals.

But, I see community leaders get this wrong all of the time.  I find this exacerbated in smaller communities.  Let’s call this the community asset theorem.

The basis of the theorem is that the biggest company in your small community is by default your biggest asset and as such one believes that this is a unique asset of your community as compared to other communities.  (We will discuss the compare community theorem at another time.)

The first trait of the theorem I find myopic. Myopic in that you assume your asset is unique as compared to everywhere else because it is so vital to your community.  The local healthcare system is a perfect example. Decent size cities (1M population) have a dominant healthcare facility with some decent research component attached. They are typically the largest employer in town.  And they are staffed with super smart people. Community leaders then develop an asset list based on the fact that they have a sizable and leading healthcare ecosystem in their community and as such this should be the basis for a unique startup community.

As compared to who?

Do you know that every city with a population of 500,000 has one of these if not more?  Do you know that there are 34 cities in the US with this population or larger?  What is unique about that?  I think it is a fundamental flaw to think your healthcare system could be the basis for a robust startup community.

The implication in this line of thinking is that you can build your community by recruiting entrepreneurs, capital and generate general attention to your area because of this unique asset.

When I hear community leaders highlight their local dominant company and then leap to assumption that they can build a unique startup community around this a number of red flares go up.

Instead of taking this naïve and myopic view, why don’t you go find your local coworking space or the expensive but hipster coffee shop and talk to a bunch of entrepreneurs.  Find out what they are all working on and build your unique community value proposition around them.