No one likes people who only focus on themselves, with no awareness of what is going on around them. These people are recognized as narcissists or at a very minimum as self-involved individuals. We all know "that guy." And no one really enjoys hanging out with and being associated with "that guy."
On the opposite side of the spectrum are the people who are altruistic, focusing their time and efforts on those around them with the self-awareness to recognize that "all ships rise with the tide". We all know "that guy," too. And we all really enjoy working with and being associated with them.
Examples abound. Consider your marriage (or relationship): you're stronger together (we) than as individuals (me). Consider your workplace: you're stronger as a team (we) than as individuals (me). Consider your favorite sports team: they are stronger when they play as a team (we) than when they play as individuals (me). Consider your generation: you're stronger as a "we" generation (think the Greatest Generation) than as a "me" generation (sorry, Millennials).
The simple truth is that we is more powerful than me. We can collaborate our way to success.
What's this have to do with business? I'd suggest that it has everything to do with business and our continued economic growth and success in an increasingly challenging environment. And it's not just me; our workforce report from the business community showed that there is a growing appreciation of the interconnectedness of towns in the valley, and the potential benefits of working together to strengthen the economy.
Which makes sense because we, collaboratively, can accomplish things that individually we can't even dream of. We, together as a community, can share best practices across municipal boundaries to improve services and save costs. We, together as a business community, can pull together to sponsor events or programs to drive business to our destination.
Make no mistake, collaboration is hard. I was recently in a meeting and a short video of the "Vail Tomorrow" program from the mid-'90s was shown. A key effort of this (nearly 20 year old) effort was regional collaboration. So it's not a new issue. But we're tackling it with renewed vigor.
The Vail Valley Partnership is built upon a collaborative effort between the business community, municipal stakeholders, the county and our valley's visitors. Our 700 member businesses give us a strong base of support allowing us to collaborate with our municipal stakeholders to create our destination marketing and group sales efforts. Our municipal funding combined with county support allows us to support our economic development efforts with the State of Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade and other regional groups and to drive increased tourism to the area. Our programs such as the Vail Valley Merchant Alliance, Health and Wellness Initiative and Sports and Event Coalition were born from our long held belief that collaboration beats going at it alone.
There is risk to this approach. In order to get closer to another entity, you risk losing yourself. Every business, community or even individual faces a continuum of separateness and togetherness. Trust of the other stakeholder is essential. But at its core, it's a struggle with "me" versus "we". Be it our towns, our business or ourselves, we all struggle to some extent to balance the desire to chart our own course in life (me) and the desire to connect with others (we) to achieve our goals. But these things are not mutually exclusive - you can remain true to your individual mission while recognizing the important of collaboration.
We, from Gypsum to Vail and from Red Cliff to Eagle, from our business associations to our special districts, from the county to our towns, from ourselves to our families, have much more to gain than we stand to risk by working collaboratively. It's hard as we need to continue to develop trust, but we need to recognize that we all have equal stakes in the larger goals that can often only be achieved via collaboration.
Sometimes you can't tangibly measure the benefits of collaboration with sales tax collections or other easy to gauge metrics. Sometimes it's a leap of faith in recognizing the need to participate in something bigger than yourself.
Collaborating with others (be it people, organizations, towns, businesses) is essential, and no one said that it is easy. Finding ways to balance "me" versus "we" approaches to problems can help ensure our mutual success moving forward.
What can your business do to help? If you benefit from the Vail Valley Partnership's various collaborative programs and community efforts, get off the sidelines and join the Partnership. If you are already a member, tell your neighbors to join to help us do more here in the valley.
Chris Romer is executive director of the Vail Valley Partnership.