Resources»Interviews

Staking a Claim to Attract Talent with Andrew Davis

Andy Cook | January 30, 2018

Driving through a little town in Indiana one day, Andrew Davis, a big-ideas expert and global marketing keynote speaker, was greeted by an unexpected sign: “Welcome to Warsaw, Indiana, the orthopedic manufacturing capital of the world.” Stopped in his tracks, Andrew had to investigate:

“Can you really market a place as the “’blank’ capital of the world” and actually impact your economy and business and leave a legacy?”

After three years of research and investigation in collaboration with Northeastern University, he discovered a fascinating trend. Visionary business leaders all around the country were making these kinds of claims to the great benefit of both their businesses and local town economies.

Andrew calls these businesses Town Inc., and his latest book by the same title takes a deep dive into the benefits of setting up your company as a community beacon.

What is a Town Inc.?

Hamilton, Missouri is the quick-quilting capital of the world. You probably didn’t know that was even a “thing,” but the town of Hamilton has been prospering thanks to it.

It all started when a 60-year-old resident named Jenny Doan decided to turn her hometown into the “Disneyland of quilting.” Crazy as the idea may sound, her business, Missouri Star Quilt Company,  now brings in revenue at the pace of $100 million a year, with up to 50,000 visitors from all over the world flocking to the otherwise-unknown city.

Jenny’s company is now the biggest employer in her county, providing career prospects to many young people who’d otherwise have long left their little town and moved to the nearest city. The company isn’t just “giving back” to its community. It’s building the community. A community that benefits Jenny’s business and all other local businesses as much as Jenny’s business is benefiting the community.

And that’s Town Inc. Or as Andrew puts it:

“Town Inc. is all about businesses that market the place they do business more than the business they do.”

A Town Inc. is a business that’s shaping and changing the towns and communities around it.  This has benefited not only their own business but also other businesses and the community.

Building the vision of a Town Inc.

Skeptics would have you believe that there are absolutely no benefits to setting up a Town Inc. and laying claim to your town and your niche’s home territory. They’d even warn you that you’re inviting competition into your turf.

But these are the same people who’d have you believe that employees should be kept on a tight leash to remain productive—an idea that the modern business world of startups and remote companies has well repudiated.

Think about this way: if every employee in your business is empowered, then the leader will benefit. Expanding that idea out from employees to businesses, it makes sense that when every business has access to a better talent pool, everyone benefits.

More importantly, these businesses give a true sense of pride, meaning, and belonging in the towns and communities in which they operate. And that’s simply priceless.

Through his research and countless interviews, Andrew has discovered the three key elements that leaders pay great attention to when setting up these businesses:

  • Creating location envy to bring in other businesses in their niche. Why do all the tech companies want to be in Silicon Valley? Because that’s where industry giants like Google and Facebook and, much earlier on, Intel and Apple, set up offices and became successful. That’s where the tech revolution happens and where anyone who wants to be a part of it wants to go. That’s location envy.
  • Making sure they have the highest-caliber talent available in their towns. Usually, we think that talent goes where the work is, but what happens when you bring all the talent in first? Businesses follow the talent.
  • Staking a strong claim in their particular niche. The towns and businesses may not be for all businesses, but the key is to attract the right businesses that will help you and the community flourish.And those who don’t succeed? They fall prey to the greatest misstep of all: Watering their vision down by trying to get consensus. 

In this episode of Org Uncharted, Andrew talks to us about all the businesses he’s met and takes us deep into all the details of setting up a Town Inc. following the three key elements—and avoiding that one lethal pitfall.

Click play to hear his tips and research, and don’t forget to subscribe to Org Uncharted on your favorite podcast player for more insightful conversation with innovative business leaders of all walks and stripes.


Transcript

Jay Acunzo 00:00

What’s the big idea? You can interpret that phrase in two ways, one positive, one negative. What’s the big idea? The positive is when we feel that spark, that fire inside of our guts, when we have this idea and we can’t wait to pursue it. It’s different, it’s bold, it’s potentially fulfilling, but just one problem. You got to sell it up the chain. Too often, people don’t even try, or their attempts get squashed. So, that’s the negative.

Jay Acunzo 00:28

Too many people go to work worried that trying anything new, even the stuff they know will improve the company will get shot down by others before it sees the light of day. Others, by the way, with more political clout, but not more insight into the customer. It’s like we envision this stereotypical boss, and he bursts through the door to catch his employees doing something other than what he told them. Hey, what’s the big idea here? Get back to work, you no-good so-and-so’s.

Jay Acunzo 00:55

Okay, so apparently our boss is a middle-aged man from the ’50s. I’m picturing balding, some suspenders, some hairy knuckles and a stub of a cigar crammed in hit teeth. You know the guy, and that guy might not actually exist at most companies, but man, if people don’t act like he does. They put their heads down and just do what they’re told. Blech … But, I get it.

Jay Acunzo 01:16

When you’re someone who believes in things, like company culture and employee empowerment, the skeptics like to point to a lot of things that you do that don’t look like work, even thought they enable better work.

Jay Acunzo 01:27

Today, we explore something that looks nothing like growing your business. Not directly, anyway. In fact, it’s something that a skeptic could say would help grow a competitor’s business. Our guest today gives us every reason to believe that we as leaders should try this. As you might expect, it’s a really big idea.

Jay Acunzo 01:47

People don’t do their best work when they feel like nodes on an org chart. Instead, great businesses today empower each and every individual to do their very best work. This is the show about people who do that. This is Org Uncharted.

Jay Acunzo 02:01

(silence)

Jay Acunzo 02:01

Welcome to Org Uncharted, the podcast from Tettra. Tettra makes knowledge management and sharing software for modern fast-growing teams. I’m your host, Jay Acunzo, and on the line today, it’s the big idea master himself. Can I call you that, the big idea master?

Andrew Davis 02:30

Sure, that’s a huge compliment, man. Thanks.

Jay Acunzo 02:33

You are. Andrew Davis is your name. We should probably lead with that, but ever since I’ve known you it’s all been, you’re able to start with a big idea that people need to hear, but I think your superpower is that you’re able to make the big idea seem very strategic and logical. It’s not just something that gets me nodding and gets me excited, but it’s like, I understand how to execute on that. You’re the big idea machine.

Andrew Davis 02:55

Oh, thanks man. Well, I’m glad it’s a machine. I wish I could turn them out even faster. Big ideas are hard to come across.

Jay Acunzo 03:01

I know, I know. Well, what do you tell people that you do, like at holiday parties? You’re not going up to them saying, “Hi, I’m the big idea machine,” obviously, although you can. I give you permission to do that now.

Andrew Davis 03:11

I usually, at holiday parties, I would tell someone that I speak and write books for a living.

Jay Acunzo 03:18

Got it, okay.

Andrew Davis 03:19

Which is a good conversation starter, because people either want to know about either of those, sometimes both, like what kind of books is usually a good followup question.

Jay Acunzo 03:27

Right.

Andrew Davis 03:29

You know, I actually don’t, like most people I think, I don’t like talking about myself so it’s much easier to flip it on them as soon as I can, and ask them what they do and try to dive in and find their big idea.

Jay Acunzo 03:42

Can I be honest?

Andrew Davis 03:43

Yeah.

Jay Acunzo 03:43

I think most people do like talking about themselves. I think that they’re supposed to say they don’t like talking about themselves.

Andrew Davis 03:47

You think?

Jay Acunzo 03:47

Yeah, come on.

Andrew Davis 03:50

I find it really awkward. Even on podcasts like this I feel like I don’t really know what to tell people I do. I don’t feel like they’re that interested in what I do.

Jay Acunzo 04:00

All right, well let me be the interested person in what you do.

Andrew Davis 04:03

Okay, good.

Jay Acunzo 04:03

The show itself is about people who empower other people, and you travel around the world, basically doing that. I know you speak, like you said, you write books. How many gigs a year do you do? Just give people a sense of how often are you on the road?

Andrew Davis 04:18

I do about 50 gigs a year. I’m on the road about 130 days a year or something like that. A huge amount of that is in the United States, but I also do a lot of stuff in Europe and Asia, in Australia, so it’s kind of a global idea-generating and sharing machine. How’s that? I do like sharing the things I’ve learned with other people, and inspiring them to kind of change the way they do business, or they think about their job, or their career, the opportunities in front of them. I’m an optimist at heart, and I really do like getting people excited about really changing what they’re doing in big ways.

Jay Acunzo 04:59

One of the things that I admire about the way you speak is, you’re kind of like a vessel up there. You’re not saying, this is what I did in the past, and so here’s what you can learn. You’re also not saying, this is my blueprint for success. It’s like, the big idea is made instead of found, in other words. You go and you investigate stuff.

Andrew Davis 05:17

I don’t know, I really do think I have good ideas to share, but I don’t feel like they’re the answer. I just think it’s an answer that I hope people will at least think through. If it works for them, great, but if not I hope it challenges them to think about their own answer to the same problem, or similar problem they’re having.

Jay Acunzo 05:35

Right, one of those answers was this idea behind Town INC.

Andrew Davis 05:40

Yes.

Jay Acunzo 05:40

Which, we’re going to talk about today. So, the travel, I know, inspired your idea for your most recent book. I know you’re writing another one right now, but the last book you published was called Town INC. Just give us a quick overview of, what was the inspiration for that as you were traveling around doing all this speaking? Also, how does that apply to leaders trying to build empowered teams?

Andrew Davis 06:03

I’ll answer the last question first, how’s that?

Jay Acunzo 06:07

Sure.

Andrew Davis 06:07

Town INC is all about businesses that market the place they do business, more than the business they do. I actually was in a town called Warsaw, Indiana, which is basically an hour-and-a-half West of Ft. Bend, Indiana. I was going there to speak at a speaking event, and I drove the back roads to get there. That part of Indiana, North of Indianapolis, is kind of a really sad-looking place. There are lots of derelict buildings and old beat-up factories that are empty and have no employees.

Andrew Davis 06:45

As I got closer and closer to Warsaw, Indiana I started wondering, what is in Warsaw, Indiana? Who is going to be at this event? I can’t imagine there’s anything in any of these towns. When I drove into Warsaw, Indiana, I realized it was kind of like an oasis in the middle of the rust belt of America. There were lots of cars, all the shop windows were full, the cafes had lines in front of them, there were office parks and fountains. It was a really beautiful little Midwestern town. 25,000 people live there.

Andrew Davis 07:17

As I was driving into the town, there’s a sign that says, “Warsaw, Indiana is the Orthopedic Manufacturing Capital of the World.”

Jay Acunzo 07:27

Wait, what?

Andrew Davis 07:28

Yeah. It is the Orthopedic Manufacturing Capital of the World. I thought, is this for real? I mean, I don’t even know what that means. As I got to know the town, and left that town, on the way out there’s a sign that says, “Thank you for visiting Warsaw, Indiana, the Orthopedic Manufacturing Capital of the World.” I thought, you know, is it that easy? Can you market a place as the blank Capital of the World, or the blank capital of the Midwest, or the blank capital of Texas, and actually impact your economy, your business, leave a legacy?

Andrew Davis 08:06

I spent the next three years researching cities and towns, and doing some quantitative research with Northeastern University to try to figure out if that was the case, if you actually market a place as the blank capital of something, if it will make a big impact.

Andrew Davis 10:27

What I found, Jay, was that nine times out of ten, it’s a private citizen, a business visionary who makes the claim, and builds the legacy and the economy, and then, the town follows.

Andrew Davis 10:44

My assumption when I went into this was that there must be economic directors, and government organizations, and nonprofits that are marketing and branding this kind of thing. It turned out, in most cases, to not be the case at all. In fact, in almost every town I visited, I visited 54 towns, and then 27 of them, it was a single business visionary who said, “You know what? We are going to be the RV Capital of the World,” or, “We are going to be the Quick Quilting Capital of the World,” or, “We are going to be the Record Safety Capital of the World,” that all of a sudden started to change the economy.

Andrew Davis 11:22

They did not try to get a consensus, they did not try to get everybody bought in, they did not try to get the economic development team to start putting money behind it, or the Chamber of Commerce involved. They just believed that marketing the place they do business is an important aspect of marketing the business they do. It makes their business unique in a world where being, just online you can be anywhere and no one seems to care. They realize that this was a differentiator that no one else could have. That’s why they were able to build their business, but also, in lots of ways, transform their economies.

Jay Acunzo 11:56

I have a big question that I want to ask you, but I have a really specific one based on the examples you just gave. Just to make sure that I understand what the heck that was. The quick quilting capital of the … Which one was that?

Andrew Davis 12:07

That’s right. Yeah, Hamilton, Missouri is the Quick Quilting Capital of the World.

Jay Acunzo 12:13

Okay.

Andrew Davis 12:15

It was a 65-year-old visionary, a woman named Jenny Doan, who in 2012 told me that she was going to build the Disneyland of quilting. That’s literally what she told me when I met her in this little town.

Jay Acunzo 12:27

As one does, right?

Andrew Davis 12:29

Of course, and I honestly … Jenny’s a wonderful person, but when I first met her I did think she was a little crazy. I thought, this is never going to happen. What she’s done in the last five years is transform her economy. She’s now a hundred-million dollar a year business, and she helps people who want to quilt faster, create quilts in as little as a day. The average quilt takes nine months to actually finish. She’s come up with all these ways to cut corners … Ha-ha-ha, pun intended. I know, terrible, sorry … And, actually build a great-looking quilt in as little as a day. She’s built her entire business around that.

Andrew Davis 13:07

More importantly, her town was one of those kind of rust belt towns with no one in it, and she now owns about 20 of the buildings in the downtown area. She’s the largest employer in the county. Not just in the city, in the county. They did $108 million in revenue last year. They have a magazine that makes $500 thousand a quarter, a print magazine, by the way, that they send out. She has a YouTube channel with hundreds of thousands of views every week on quick quilting tutorials. People come to meet Jenny Doan, to the tune of about 50 thousand people a year visit this little town that no one used to visit in the past.

Jay Acunzo 13:47

Whoa.

Andrew Davis 13:48

She’s one of my shining stars of someone who’s really leaving a legacy, growing their business, and in fact, transforming everybody in town. People that had down and out prospects for jobs in a town with no real revenue source, they either have to leave and go to a big city, or they have to resolve themselves to the fact that they can work at the convenience store, the grocery store, or cut hair, like any other little town, and make a minimum wage and a meager living. Now, she’s really built something special there.

Jay Acunzo 14:20

That’s unbelievable. That’s such a great story, and I imagine one that people love when you tell it on stages too.

Andrew Davis 14:27

They do. She’s inspiring to me, because I think a lot of people think even the digital world is for people that are digital-savvy, natives that have kind of grown up in the economy. Somebody that’s in their 60s is able to really harness the power of the online world to spread a very simple message. Which is, the Missouri Star Quilt Company, which is the name of her company, is based in Hamilton, Missouri.

Andrew Davis 14:55

If you go watch her YouTube ads, she says, “We are located in Hamilton, Missouri, home of the Hornets,” which is their football team. She’s immediately educating the world. People have flown from Iran, literally from Iran. A woman rented a car and a driver from St. Louis, Missouri and drove to visit Hamilton, Missouri because she had “met” Jenny Doan online, and wanted to actually come to this little place and see what it was. This woman didn’t go to New York, she went to Hamilton, Missouri.

Jay Acunzo 15:27

Right, okay. Staking a claim is basically the equivalent of … Hopefully, in a more differentiated and interesting way, it’s the equivalent of a single company saying, if you want to be an engineer, or if you want to work in this sector, we as a business, we’re the go-to. Instead of saying, we the business, we’re the go-to, you’re saying the location is a go-to, so there’s a little bit of …

Andrew Davis 15:51

Correct.

Jay Acunzo 15:52

… There’s a parallel you can draw to a lot of the themes that have already started coming up on Org Uncharted, which is basically like, it used to be that you look at the org chart, and the decision-makers are at the top, and the people who take the tickets from the decision-makers and execute the work, they’re in the bottom. The insights, the ideas, the direction, the strategy, that’s all set top-down. A lot of what we believe in the show is, that’s no longer the case. It’s absolutely not about top-down management, managing to the org chart, it’s about doing the right things for the business, doing the right things for the customer, solving for the customer. So often, people on the front lines have access to the customer.

Jay Acunzo 16:29

The reason I bring that up is, in the case of a leader in a business, they’re now sort of collaborating with all people within their business to be a better leader. Now, you step outside of the one business, and you’re now collaborating with other businesses. Ostensibly, some competitors, to be better recruiters, and it’s like everybody benefits, right? If every employee in your business is empowered, then the leader will benefit. If every business has access to a broader talent pool, then everyone benefits. So, it’s more of a collaborative approach.

Andrew Davis 17:02

Yes. You can think of it in really basic terms. Like, Nashville is the Country Music Capital of the World, right? If you want to be a country music star, there is no better place in the world to go than Nashville. Now, that’s an emotional decision. I mean, yes, I would imagine you’re more likely to be successful in Nashville, but there’s no real reason that Nashville is any better than Atlanta, I guess, right, for writing country music. What happens when you have perfect competition, where you actually have access to more studios that record country music, where you have more bars that have live country music, and more opportunities to play. You get a higher-quality talent over and over. You up your game and play a better song, write better music, because you’re surrounded by the best of the best in the business.

Andrew Davis 17:53

It’s no different when you’re in Elkhart, Indiana, the RV Capital of the World, the Recreational Vehicle Capital of the World. Basically, all of the competitors who make RVs have got together in Elkhart, Indiana and essentially said, we’re the RV Capital of the World, if you want to supply us with anything that goes into an RV, it would be great if you were located near us, because there are 300 of us here building recreational vehicle, and we all need the same kinds of things.

Andrew Davis 18:21

As a result, they’re getting a whole new influx of businesses that are reducing the costs for all of them, and giving them access to the same kinds of materials and goods that make an RV. That benefits not just you, the individual business owner, it helps the community at large, and it attracts a workforce that is a tier above locating your RV manufacturing in, I don’t know, Boston, Massachusetts. Not that you couldn’t be successful in Boston, but you’re more likely to be successful in Elkhart if you want to build RVs than anywhere else in the world. Because, they have access to the best talent, the lowest-cost goods at the highest quality, and they have an entire organization marketing RVs to the rest of the world.

Jay Acunzo 19:09

Right, so I come from the tech startup world. It’s some big companies like Google, but a lot of small companies that either have worked for or with. A lot of times the cities where tech startups are happening, so to speak, like, there’s a lot of investment dollars, a lot of companies getting started, tech press is flocking there … Everything gets better, right?

Andrew Davis 19:29

That’s right.

Jay Acunzo 19:29

There’s more ideas, there’s more meetup groups and community education. There’s more access to smart people who can help your career. Every individual, senior down to junior and entry level feels more empowered, and does better work because the community is stronger, and kind of is known for something.

Andrew Davis 19:47

That’s exactly right. Yeah, so even in Warsaw Indiana, when I was there I was introduced to a company that was actually founded in Red Bank, New Jersey. It was two orthopedic surgeons who had started this company called Extremity Solutions, and they got $12 million in VC funding to do their second round of their business. They only had 12 employees, but as part of the funding requirements, the VC firm invited them to move to Warsaw, Indiana because they would have better access to all of the supplementary services and talent that they would need to grow their business. They moved the 12 employees 700 miles, from Red Bank, New Jersey to Warsaw, Indiana because they knew they could get it.

Andrew Davis 20:34

On the other end of the spectrum, I interviewed this woman named Rebecca Fike, who graduated from Purdue University. I interviewed people who’ve moved to Nashville for country music, I interview people who had moved to L.A. to be in Hollywood, and be a writer on comedy shows. When I interviewed Rebecca Fike, she said the same thing as those people that moved to Nashville and L.A. She said, “When I graduate from Purdue, I am moving to Warsaw, Indiana to get a job as a quality engineer, because it’s the Orthopedic Capital of the World.” She literally said that.

Andrew Davis 21:06

I’m paraphrasing, by the way, but it was essentially that quote, because she realized that she stands a better chance of getting a better job, getting better experience and delivering better work in an environment that’s built around this kind of very specific, but really notorious in the industry, anyway, location for delivering the service.

Jay Acunzo 21:30

Right. I get the upsides, it makes total sense. You can attract talent, you can attract investors, all of that. The thing I’m interested in learning about is the downside, because like so many of your ideas, it’s sort of like, you got me nodding, and I’m like, yup, this makes total sense. Why is this just not the default for the way people operate?

Andrew Davis 21:50

Yeah.

Jay Acunzo 21:50

One easy example is, everybody wants to be Silicon Valley, to the point where there are other cities calling themselves Silicon Beach, Silicon Prairie, Silicon Alley. I think that’s the height of insanity, because what you’re saying to the world is, you know what we’re kind of like? We’re kind of like Silicon Valley. We’re a cheap version, we’re number two, three or four compared to the leader, so if you want to work for yet another, or not-quite-the-best, you should come to our city. That’s insanity, right?

Andrew Davis 22:19

Well, I saw this happen in city after city, and I think you’ve probably seen this in marketing. It’s easier to try to replicate what others have seen as being successful in rebuilding, or building an economy, and building their business as a result. They basically try to pluck the best practice, and apply it to their place.

Andrew Davis 22:44

The good thing about it is, it’s much easier to get consensus, right? When you go into a board meeting at the Chamber of Commerce and say, I think we should be Silicon Beach, and here’s the reasons why … Silicon Valley drives this much in taxes, and is really successful, and has a growing economy, and unbelievably high housing prices, and look how great their economy is growing, and look at the talent pool they can attract. Everybody goes, yeah, we should be just like Silicon Valley, so let’s call it Silicon Beach.

Andrew Davis 23:08

Well, it turns out, there is only one Silicon Valley, and Silicon Valley has three things. One, it has an origin story that makes Silicon Valley a better place than anywhere else in the world to build a startup, hands-down. HP is kind of the very beginning of that. They started there, and there’s an aura surrounding that, that makes it a better place. They also have a series of success stories. I call them cornerstones, that make it better than anywhere else in the world to build a startup, just like Facebook or Google. Those guys are, hands-down, the best in the business, and you can’t argue with that. The third thing is, Silicon Valley has visionaries unlike anywhere else in the world that you just can’t replicate.

Andrew Davis 23:52

But, it’s a lot harder to go into a board meeting and say, we are going to be the Greek Yogurt Capital of the World, and get everybody on board. The biggest misstep I see in talking to other people about this concept … In fact, I had two conversations in the last week with two different places. One’s in the UK, and one’s in Wisconsin, where they’re both working to try to get consensus for their claim.

Jay Acunzo 24:20

Yeah.

Andrew Davis 24:21

What happens is the claim gets watered down to the point at which you end up with a Silicon Beach, right? That just does not work. The bravest, most successful visionaries I met along the road were not willing to concede their niche, and their concept, and their vision for the future. For the future of their place, their town, their employees, their community members, by seeding it to kind of a vote. It’s a hard line to tow, but the people that do it really well stick with their vision, and at no cost dilute it.

Jay Acunzo 26:26

You can learn more about Tettra and their products at tettra.co. That’s Tettra, with two Ts, dot co. Now, here’s more with Andrew Davis.

Jay Acunzo 26:36

Why do you think this stuff works if you can get out of the consensus, too many cooks syndrome? If you can escape those meetings, or you can come up with a one clear thing that’s not Silicon Alley, or Silicon Beach, but it’s a crystallized, singular identity, why does staking a claim like that work if your goal is to build the most thriving team possible? What is it that the person that might move there, or stay there sees, and gets excited about, like the human element that’s going on on the receiving end?

Andrew Davis 27:04

Yeah. The human element is location envy, which is the emotional belief that you think you’ll be more successful in that place than anywhere else in the world. Let’s use the Greek Yogurt Capital of the World, which is in Upstate New York. They are the home of Chobani, right? And, everybody knows Chobani. Chobani is one of the largest dairy producers in the world at this point. They’re a multi-billion dollar brand, and they were built in Upstate New York. They were built in this little town.

Andrew Davis 27:33

What they did was they went to every other yogurt-producing manufacturer in the world, and said, if you want to make Greek yogurt, there’s not a better place to do it. If you want to be the next Chobani, which everybody does, right? They believe they can be the next Chobani. Then, you might as well be doing it where Chobani was successful.

Andrew Davis 27:50

They have a surplus of water, they have a surplus of milk there. It takes a lot of water and milk to make it, and they are actually within a day’s drive of a third of the American population. Those are the three things that made Chobani successful in that place. You cannot do that in California. You cannot do that in Wisconsin, the other milk-producing capitals.

Andrew Davis 28:11

All of a sudden, a German manufacturer, Quaker Muller, heard this pitch, and by the end of the meeting said, if we’re going to be successful making a product like Greek yogurt, we’ve got to go to this town. All of a sudden, they were moving their entire operation. They invested $112 million, and hired a hundred people to work in this plant, because they knew they would not be successful anywhere else in the country.

Andrew Davis 28:37

Batavia, New York is the Greek Yogurt Capital of the World, because it creates this emotional belief that you’ll be more successful there than anywhere else. The niche has a big play in that, so when you dilute it, you become … I’m actually sitting here, staring at a thing I got from Ash County, okay? Ash County Chamber of Commerce. This is in North Carolina, and their slogan on their marketing thing is, The Coolest Corner of North Carolina.

Jay Acunzo 29:05

Oh, that was on the CD you got, right? Is that the-

Andrew Davis 29:07

That’s right, they sent me a CD rom so that I could see how cool Ash County is, but I don’t have a CD rom player. Their marketing, yeah, has a little bit of an issue, but their tagline doesn’t make me believe emotionally that I would be more successful if I based my business in Ash County than I would be if I was based in Boca Raton, Florida, which is where I am.

Jay Acunzo 29:28

Right. Unless, maybe if you’re in the HVAC industry, specializing in air condition, maybe that’s what they mean.

Andrew Davis 29:34

Yes.

Jay Acunzo 29:36

The coolest corner.

Andrew Davis 29:37

Maybe, if that’s what they mean, then this is the most genius piece of marketing I’ve ever got, but there’s not a picture of an HVAC system on the front. Just the picture of a … I don’t know, it looks like a little … That’s like a … I guess it’s a barn in some fog, which is cool, I guess. Yeah, I don’t … That’s what you end up with when you try to get this consensus.

Andrew Davis 29:59

I do think when it comes to leadership in general, the best leaders, the ones that I’ve seen be true visionaries are the ones that are unwilling to compromise on their true vision for the future. That doesn’t mean they’re malicious about it. They’re not angry if other people want to go in a different direction, but they just consistently beat the same drum, and can paint a very clear picture of what the future looks like when their vision is fulfilled.

Andrew Davis 30:30

Like, when I talked to Jenny Doan, and she said the Disneyland of quilting, I can picture that in my mind, as insane as it sounded. I get it. If you go to visit her in Hamilton, Missouri today, you can see that she’s built a Disneyland. She has her own hotel called the Sew and Stay that she built, where you can buy stuff all day, and sew all night. She’s built bars and restaurants that are themed in quilting. They have a restaurant that’s just for men who were dragged there by their wives. They call it Man’s Land.

Jay Acunzo 31:06

Yeah, that’s awesome.

Andrew Davis 31:07

She has sewing machine shops, she has different quilt-themed stores, so there’s a Christmas quilt-themed store, and a Hanukah quilt-themed store. It’s just her version of Disneyland, and she could paint that picture in 2012, even when I didn’t believe in it.

Andrew Davis 31:24

Actually, in the book I talked about something called the visionary paradox, which is essentially that, when you’re a visionary, and you have a clear vision of the future, as soon as your vision isn’t thought of as crazy it means it’s either been realized, and now people think of it as the norm, or you’ve missed your opportunity.

Andrew Davis 31:44

The best visionaries, and the people I’ve learned the most from, and had the most fun working with are the people who I thought had the craziest ideas. As I got to know them, and see their success, I realized they’re getting closer and closer to realizing this insane vision. I think it’s why people like Elon Musk are so successful. He can paint a picture of what he sees in the future, and he really does go at it with vigor.

Jay Acunzo 32:10

Yeah, I think a lot of those visions are built on what I’ve called in the past the first principle insight. They’ve chipped away at the convention, they’ve asked why enough time, and they have this level of self and situational awareness that a lot of people don’t have, such that they find the simple truth, and then build up their thinking and logic from that instead from what someone else professes to be true.

Andrew Davis 32:32

Absolutely.

Jay Acunzo 32:32

One example is, in Boston a lot of people look to probably three to four marketing tech companies as beacons in the Boston tech startup scene. I think a lot of people assume that they’re in Boston because … I don’t know, it’s a great town. There’s all these reasons that the government promotes Boston as a great place to be. Then, you look at what those three to four tech companies in marketing do, and they build community groups. They acknowledge that are these people are there to build a great career for themselves, and they’re almost agnostic about where they work. Both in terms of location, and even the brand.

Jay Acunzo 33:14

They have meetup groups, not about how that company does their marketing, but to foster community overall in marketing, because they realize, look, we’re going to have a bunch of people leave our company. If they can go and speak highly of us, that’s better than having to worry that we’re opening our doors to potential competitors. They believe, if I put this claim down, Boston is a great place for marketing tech markers, then everybody will benefit, and if we’re the ones actually leading that charge, we’ll benefit the most.

Andrew Davis 33:45

Exactly. That’s exactly what happens. As a fellow former Bostonian, it’s funny to see that even the city doesn’t embrace these things. Actually, funnily enough, in Hamilton, Missouri, if you go to the town’s website they don’t have anything about Jenny Doan’s business, because they still think it’s a little weird to be the Quick Quilting Capital of the World, even though it’s completely transformed their economy.

Andrew Davis 34:14

I think in Boston it’s the same kind of way. It’s hard to say, we want to be the Marketing Tech Capital of the World, even though they definitely could claim that, and it would certainly attract a high level of caliber of talent. Some of my best marketing friends, and the smartest people I know either live in, or came from Boston. There’s no doubt that they could make that claim, and I think they’d have a bigger impact in the community.

Andrew Davis 34:37

You know, Joe Pulizzi, in Cleveland a few years ago, actually in 2015 when the book came out, he started calling Cleveland the Content Marketing Capital of the World, and all of a sudden started drawing people to move their business to Cleveland, because they could get great people. Either from CMI, from the Content Marketing Institute, or from other organizations that had moved there and started there because Joe Pulizzi was based there.

Andrew Davis 35:02

It’s made a tremendous impact, and Mark Masters, who’s in the UK, he started claiming that Bournemouth is the Content Marketing Capital of the United Kingdom. All of a sudden, he’s got press for it, the national media is talking about him. Also, he’s hosting an event. Along with the event, the university in Bournemouth has partnered with him to actually show some of these agencies that are coming to Bournemouth for the first time, what Bournemouth has to offer.

Andrew Davis 35:29

The cost of living is better than starting your agency in London, you can get more space. There are so many benefits to doing business in Bournemouth. They’re turning it into a real business development opportunity for the community. As a result, it’s helping Mark’s business.

Andrew Davis 35:46

It’s hard to go out on a limb, I think, in general, but no matter who you are, I think asking why you’re in the place you’re in, doing what you’re doing is a great question to ask. If you can do business anywhere, why are you really here? What does the city, the community, the town, your peers, the visionaries in other industries have to offer, is a really tremendous thing to ask. If you’re not getting that kind of fulfillment from the community, then it’s okay to think, maybe I should move somewhere else, because there are communities that will really benefit you.

Jay Acunzo 36:24

Right, so a couple things. Number one, when you stake this claim it doesn’t have to be something the government mandates. It can and should be something that’s authentic to what is actually happening in your business, and even peer level companies.

Andrew Davis 36:37

Yes.

Jay Acunzo 36:38

Number two, the consensus issue maybe even dictates that you don’t go to the government right away, and that you do try to stake this claim. Number three, and this is something we haven’t touched on yet, you kind of have to be okay being for some people and not for others, which can be a tough pill to swallow.

Andrew Davis 36:56

Yeah, when you say that, what do you mean by not for others?

Jay Acunzo 37:00

Well, if I’m …

Andrew Davis 37:02

If you’re the RV Capital of the World you have to be okay with the fact that you’re not going to be the Automotive Manufacturing Capital of the World too.

Jay Acunzo 37:10

Yeah, it’s being a specific, being something instead of everything. That’s part of it, but even when you’re something, that means you’re not something else. One example is, I think the fear in … This happened when I lived in Boston, and it just drove me nuts, where Boston is a great city, but it’s a smaller one, it’s located close enough to New York where there’s a rivalry in every sector, every domain with New York. Then, in tech it’s always comparing itself to Silicon Valley, like many cities that aren’t in the Valley.

Jay Acunzo 37:38

It’s this constant game of what we’re not. Now that I’m in New York, and New York is very much in a constant game of what we are, there’s just too many things. There’s fashion, and finance, and sports, theater. There’s just so many things, the list goes on. Long way of saying, I think when people say, we’re Silicon Alley, that was the New York one, or we’re Silicon Beach, which is L.A., or Silicon Prairie, which I believe is Austin, Texas, but there’s so many it’s starting to blur. I don’t even remember, it’s not even a good claim.

Jay Acunzo 38:06

If they said, I don’t know, let’s use L.A. … We’re the Entertainment Tech Capital of the World. Now, what they’re saying is, if you are in entertainment, or you’re in a consumer-facing company, or media, come to L.A. What they’re implying is, if you’re a great B2B tech company, or tech founder, you might not come here, right?

Andrew Davis 38:26

Yes.

Jay Acunzo 38:26

We’re not saying it to your overtly, and you kind of have to be okay with that.

Andrew Davis 38:30

Yeah, okay. I see what you mean. Yeah, you do have to be okay with the fact that, not attracting everyone, especially at the start, is actually what you want. It doesn’t do any good to attract everyone, and try to serve everyone, because that’s what your towns, and cities, and visionaries are doing today. Everybody is trying to get Google to build their data center in their city, or their town. You’re just one of another one of those cities claiming to have everything everybody else has, which means you’re really for no one.

Andrew Davis 39:05

The places that are really successful with this just focus on insuring that they create location envy with a very valuable subset, and those visionaries are really concerned with making sure that they have the highest caliber talent consistently for as long as possible in those cities and towns.

Andrew Davis 39:22

I went to another place in Indiana called Dayton. Was that Dayton? No, it’s Hamilton. Sorry, it’s Hamilton, Ohio. That’s where it was. Hamilton, Ohio is actually the Packaging Innovation Capital of America, and more patents for packaging innovations have come out of this little town since 1902 than any other town or city in the United States. Even the first woman to record any patents with the US Patent Office was from this little town.

Andrew Davis 39:55

They still have a thriving business of amazing little companies that do packaging, and they’re right near Cincinnati, Ohio, so they have lots of business, like huge Proctor & Gamble, who used to come out to this little town and hire these people, and use their plants to make this stuff. They have cheap power.

Andrew Davis 40:11

There are a lot of reasons that this town, for a long time, was the Packaging Innovation Capital of the World, and still could be, but they’re unwilling to stake their claim in just the Packaging Innovation Capital of the World, because they’re worried that the guy that might be thinking of coming there, Google, may not want to come because they’re just focused on packaging.

Andrew Davis 40:33

Yeah, you have to be okay with that. Look, if you want to be successful with any of these kinds of claims, you have to have a visionary, you have to have someone that really sees the future, you have to have a cornerstone for the business. Even in Hamilton, Ohio, there’s a little packaging innovation company that’s been designing packaging for 20 years, and has done some of the most innovative packaging in the world, and they’re based there.

Andrew Davis 40:56

There’s also a big company that’s actually invested in by P&G that creates some of the most innovative plastic packaging in the world. They’re based there, so that’s your cornerstone. The third thing is, you need an origin story, just like Hamilton, Ohio has this origin story of all of these patents filed. The Coke can you hold, the La Croix that I’m drinking, the top of that can, the pop tab, was invented in Hamilton, Ohio.

Jay Acunzo 41:21

Wow.

Andrew Davis 41:21

That’s how amazing these patents are. The cereal box you get your cereal out of in the morning, that box was patented in Hamilton, Ohio. They just cannot commit to the claim, and that’s the only difference between their success today, and their success tomorrow. The study we did found that $3 billion in additional revenue can be pumped through a town with a claim, as compared to a very similar town without a claim. That’s a huge amount of money.

Jay Acunzo 41:47

That’s huge. Obviously, the shifts that you’re asking for are the actions, but you’re hoping that people reap the benefits, so the shifts and actions are things like staking that claim, committing to one, having that niche, rallying the whole community around that. Certainly, all the things that trickle down around the community, like I mentioned in Boston, tons of community groups.

Andrew Davis 42:06

Yes.

Jay Acunzo 42:06

I even started one, because I was so inspired about the community in marketing there. There’s a lot of big things and small things that, if people take action on, there’s some kind of benefit that everybody will see. What is that benefit? What are you hoping, from a people standpoint, like, why is this an important topic, and why are you so passionate about rallying people, and convincing them to do this?

Andrew Davis 42:29

The short answer is, the sense of pride that I see in the communities that have staked their claim and been successful, versus the cities and towns that I went through that don’t have one. There’s a real sense of belonging, and meaning that comes from feeling like you’re contributing to something like the Quick Quilting Capital of the World. You’re making an impact in people’s lives across the world, the country, the nation, the Midwest … It doesn’t matter … That people are taking notice for, and others are really getting something out of. At the end of the day, I think that’s what I really saw.

Andrew Davis 43:07

I saw people, even in … I’ve seen some silly claims, like I did a documentary film about the World’s Largest Ball of Paint. Another weird one. It’s this guy that painted a baseball, basically, for 30 years, layer after layer. Now it’s a huge thing that’s a roadside attraction.

Andrew Davis 43:26

When that roadside attraction went from being a town kind of laughing stock to being on Good Morning America, and featured on Jimmy Kimmel Live, and being on BBC Radio, all the sudden the town went from thinking, this guy’s an idiot, and this is a stupid thing to be known for, to going, you know what? People in Japan know about our little town, Alexandria, Indiana, and now they know about the World’s Largest Ball of Paint.

Andrew Davis 43:51

That’s more than anyone can say about most of the cities in Indiana, in the Midwest, and anywhere else in this nation. I think there’s a real sense of pride that comes from this kind of belonging, and the legacy that you leave. You’re part of something much bigger than just your business, or your job, or your role. You’re part of a real community that’s making an impact in the world, and I think people crave that today. They want to belong to something.

Andrew Davis 44:17

I think, one of the things everybody should do is go to their website for the company they work for, or even the business you run, and read your About Us page. If it doesn’t tell me why you’re located where, you’re missing an opportunity not just to differentiate your company and your brand, and the products or services you provide, but to make the first little step to making a bigger impact in your community, and leaving a legacy that’s bigger than yourself.

Jay Acunzo 44:44

Huge thanks to my guest today, Andrew Davis. His book is called, Town INC, Grow Your Business, Save Your Town, Leave Your Legacy. Give him a shout on Twitter @DrewDavisHere. Also, if you’re obsessed with the topics of this podcast like we are, check out culturecodes.com. Basically, Tettra has put together this library of company culture decks, and employee handbooks. On that site are companies like Google, Patreon, Spotify, NASA, Netflix and more. That’s culturecodes.com.

Jay Acunzo 45:15

Org Uncharted is the podcast from Tettra, makers of knowledge management software for growing teams. This show is a production of Unthinkable Media. I’m Jay Acunzo, Founder of Unthinkable Media, and on behalf of Tettra, thanks for listening. I’ll talk to you next time on Org Uncharted.

Jay Acunzo 45:31

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