You remember Vanilla Ice, '80s rap star with the funny haircut. Cult favorite singer of "Ice, Ice Baby"? Vanilla Ice is certainly not a musical talent that will go down in history with the likes of The Beatles or The Rolling Stones. Yet we can learn from his lyrics; it's true, as he famously sang about the need to "stop, collaborate, and listen."
I'm quite sure that Vanilla Ice didn't ever mean for these lyrics to be taken in a business context, but viewing them through our lens here in the Vail Valley offers the opportunity to recognize this as a lesson in leadership.
What in the world?
Stop. Collaborate. And listen.
These three lessons can be applied to business and our regional economy.
In business, it's often appropriate to stop and take a moment to reflect on what is going on around us. Taking the time to stop and understand not only your business, but also to understand macro factors that impact your success or create challenges/impediments to success. Stop and take the time to engage your customers, engage your staff, engage your stakeholders to learn exactly how you can do better or how you can continue to improve what you already do well.
The first step to continued business success is often to quit running around putting out the proverbial fires and instead taking the time to stop and reflect on the big picture.
Collaboration is hard. In business, as in life, there is inherent risk to reaching outside your individual comfort zone. However, the benefits to your business by getting involved in collaborative efforts are incrementally positive. Collaboration with an industry association creates a voice of many instead of a voice of one. Collaboration with a local business association gives your business a larger voice at your municipal level. Collaboration with regional organizations such as the Vail Valley Partnership gives your business access to educational programs, cost savings benefits, marketing tools and a voice at the state level.
It's not just businesses that benefit from collaboration. Our special districts and municipalities can often increase service levels and save costs by working in a collaborative manner. Examples abound of community groups that benefit via a collaborative approach, including the Library District, the Ambulance District and the Eco Trails program, among many others.
Clearly, businesses and community organizations that work collaboratively can obtain greater resources, higher levels of recognition and budgetary benefits than those who go about things alone. Moving forward, maybe collaboration is the new competition - leading to cost savings, creating economies of scale and increasing benefits that benefit our customers and stakeholders.
As defined by Merriam-Webster dictionary, to listen is "to hear something with thoughtful attention: give consideration." As businesses, we hear our customers via survey tools, via the reviews and posts on TripAdvisor or Yelp or via direct feedback they provide as guests eat at our restaurants or shop in our retail establishments.
We hear our customers every day ... but do we really listen? Listening is clearly not the same thing as hearing, as it requires us to "give consideration." From a business standpoint, it is sometimes hard to see the forest from the trees and to truly reflect on the value of guest feedback; very few negative comments are made in a malicious manner (although some certainly are). Instead of feeling upset or chalking up negative feedback to someone having a bad day, take the time to really listen to the comments and then give consideration to addressing the issues that were raised.
Listening is hard as it requires us to look at our business from the customer's standpoint, and we are often too close to the issues as we've put our blood, sweat and tears into our business, and negative feedback can feel like a personal affront.
Stop. Collaborate. And listen. Applying these rather straightforward tactics might just allow us to transcend parochialism in our business environment and achieve greater successes than we ever thought possible.
Who would have thought that this (very annoying, cheesy rap song from 1990) would have business implications over 20 years later?
How can your business collaborate? If you benefit from the Vail Valley Partnership's efforts related to tourism promotion, business services, collaborative programming and economic development efforts, it's time to get off the sidelines and join the Partnership. Membership starts at $1 per day. Visit www.vailvalleypartnership.com to learn more.
Chris Romer is executive director of the Vail Valley Partnership.