For the Cheshire Fitness Club in Black Mountain, North Carolina, the phrase “taking care of business” is plural.
In the town with a population of less then 8,000 people, Larry Brank, the co-owner of the Cheshire Fitness Club, said supporting the local business community is beneficial. “Being out and about in your community and with other businesses I think is important,” said Brank. “It’s important to be getting business people together to talk about issues that are going on in our community, whatever it might be.”
Having grown up in the town, Brank is a member of the Rotary Club, on the Parks and Recreation commission and is involved in the Chamber of Commerce. He explained how one could support local businesses in various ways. From purchasing locally to advertising for various businesses in the gym, the options are not limited.
“We try to buy as much locally as we can, to support what we do here,” said Brank. “Sometimes we may pay a little more for it, but I think in the long run we’re all one business community … As small business in our area, we all need to be kind to each other and support each other. We certainly, when the opportunity presents itself, are about doing some cross marketing with each other.”
Annually, the Cheshire Fitness Club holds a health fair, and practitioners and small businesses are invited into the club so members can benefit from free blood pressure screenings and toothbrushes. The club also gives memberships to be used in local silent auctions or to be won at golf tournaments. Supporting the local high school and advertising in the Black Mountain News, the club takes various avenues to get involved. “We try to support local efforts in fundraising when we can,” said Brank. “We try to spread it around as best we can.”
With having close connections to local businesses, Brank said the referral process comes into play. “Referral type things – referring each other, whatever it is – I think is really important,” he said. “The benefits are traffic and there’s a lot of goodwill built there around referring businesses to people.”
Brank said recently the club had its annual mulching done by a local company. “Members were coming up and saying, ‘Who did that? I need some work done,’” he explained. “So your referral process, however it might pan out, is real important to business. I think we all benefit from that – referring each other.”
However, Brank did note it’s important to make sure you maintain a careful balance among the local businesses. “We really support advertising within our facility,” he said. “But … you have to be careful and give everybody a little bit of a fair shot there and make sure you’re fair when you invite people into your building and all that.”
Ultimately, it all begins with relationships. Brank said it is important to hit the pavement and visit your community’s local businesses. “We live in a world of e-mail and cellphones and electronic stuff and I think there’s nothing that replaces an eye-to-eye conversation with somebody that’s down the street from you and doesn’t even know who you are,” he said. “That’s what I would tell anybody in business to do, is get out and meet people.”
By Heather Hartmann