Growth in the Rust Belt: How Nice Businesses Are Finishing First

Marshall Saunders, Co-founder & Managing Partner, SaundersDailey

Growth in the Rust Belt: How Nice Businesses Are Finishing First

As a co-founder of a crowdfunding platform that is aimed at connecting accredited investors with sustainable real estate investment opportunities in the Twin Cities, I have a unique perspective on what it takes to be an entrepreneur in the rust belt. Many rust belt communities are recovering from the economic downturn in incredible ways. More importantly, these refreshed local economies are not the same as what we had in the 90’s or even the 2000’s. Now, there is increased focus on sustainability and on returns that aren’t measured on a ledger sheet.

Consider The Triple Bottom Line

John Elkington coined the term “Triple Bottom Line,” which refers to two types of returns outside of the obvious financial return that every business seeks for their investors. In light of the many challenges we face as a society, social and environmental returns are becoming increasingly more important to consumers. Many in the C suite have found it necessary to maintain a broadened focus when considering how to build their businesses.

Companies like Apple, Unilever and DHL have all invested heavily in clean energy technology and usage, which has generated positive press in the short term and will undoubtedly put them in a greater position to weather fluctuations in energy pricing and availability going forward.

Smart entrepreneurs don’t just sit on the sidelines, hoping their communities – whether it be a country or street corner – get better with age. For those entrepreneurs who take an active role in improving the world around their business, those improvements will pay dividends down the road.

Companies also invest in local infrastructure, scholarships and even startup competitions -- the latter seeming antithetical, until you consider that there may be no better breeding ground for potential acquisition of IP. None of these endeavors serve to build short-term revenues, but all help to strengthen the surrounding communities, generate qualified talent and build solutions from the outside in.

Embrace Your Ethos and Turn It Into Action

When you see an opportunity for your business to generate returns outside of pure profit, it is important to weave your ethos into your company culture in a meaningful way. It isn’t enough to have good intentions. It’s how you turn those intentions into action.

This is a very natural thing for a real estate crowdfunding marketplace like SaundersDailey. Our success, the success of our listed properties and the success of the neighborhoods these properties inhabit are all intertwined. One of the stories coming out of our latest financial crisis was the exodus of money and talent from many rust belt cities. We’re uniquely positioned to affect that outflow in a positive way, so our ethos – and, in turn, how our business stands to affect our community – is clear. That passion for my community brought me into the crowdfunding space. It’s the compass that steers our company’s every move, but social gains are not always that close to the real bottom line.

For another example, consider another Twin Cities company: Field Nation, an online marketplace that connects contractors with those looking to “get things done.” Field Nation recently opened a colocation facility in their headquarters. Contractors can drop in and use the facilities as a temporary office, which serves to strengthen their relationship with the brand and encourage further use of the service. This also generates utility for users seeking to leverage Field Nation’s network of contractors, creating bonds with local public agencies looking to spur small business growth in the region. It’s a win on so many levels. It’s smart business.

Minnesota boasts a 3.8 percent unemployment rate and has increased jobs by 7.1 percent since 2011, gains that are at least partially a result of some of the amazing work our companies are doing in the community.

Ask yourself if there are opportunities to leverage the ethos of your brand in unforeseen ways in order to strengthen your brand’s bond with the surrounding community or with your customer base. If you can do so with any measure of sincerity and tenacity, moves like these are likely to pay themselves back in the long run, either in revenues or in other ways.

[Image courtesy of watiporn at]

About the Author

A real estate veteran with two decades of experience, Marshall Saunders is the co-founder and managing partner of SaundersDailey, an online investment marketplace connecting investors to exclusive real estate opportunities, with low minimum investments, in select markets throughout the Midwest.  Prior to founding SaundersDaily, Marshall held the coveted distinction of co-owner and broker of the largest RE/MAX franchise in the world. Marshall is a nationally recognized industry leader in residential real estate and technology, and in 2013 was named 95th in Swanepoel’s “200 Most Powerful People in Residential Real Estate” and RIS Media’s “Real Estate Tech Titan.”