When giving back makes good business sense

Chris Behrens
President and Chief Executive Officer

Sure, running a business is about transactions leading to profitable growth. At its simplest level, you sell things that customers want to buy, and the revenue you collect keeps your business going. But at another level, running a business is about so much more. It’s about finding solutions to help your customers solve their problems. It’s about giving your employees a chance to grow, explore and invent new ways of selling your goods or services. And, I believe, it’s about being a supportive and authentic member of your community – someone who not only appreciates the unique aspects of the place you live and work, but also works to make it better for the entire community.

Downtown vibe

As part of our ongoing business transformation, YA recently moved into downtown Minneapolis from the outlying suburbs. The pulse and energy of our new neighborhood has helped us attract and retain forward-thinking, innovative employees who enjoy being in the heart of the action. We love our new home, and, because of that, we want to do everything we can to help Minneapolis stay strong and vital. So we’ve raised our hand and asked how we can be of service. Through our association with the Minneapolis Downtown Council, for example, we’ve become involved in an initiative on the part of downtown business leaders to support public safety efforts along the stretch of Hennepin Avenue that houses our headquarters building.

And, as part of my community conviction, we also must support our educational institutions if we hope to attract the next-generation level of talent. In support of this position, we’ve made a three-year commitment to sponsor a consumer engagement conference that will convene Fortune 500 senior marketers, University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management faculty and students, all meeting together to bridge academic and business communities and to focus on ways to sustain and build on our region’s reputation as a marketing powerhouse.

Future growth

Downtown revitalization, public safety and educational support might not seem to be the “business” that YA is in. Yet I would argue that these community-building efforts are what make us a stronger company in the long run. We may not be able to see ahead to the great employee who will want to work for us, or the students who will be inspired to seek us out as a future employee, or the relationships that will be fostered through our community work. But those things are bound to happen as a natural effect of reaching out, connecting and doing our part for the place where we live and work.

If you’ve been thinking of stepping up your own “giving back” game within your community, I’d love to talk with you about how we got started. And if you’d like to learn more about how YA can help you acquire new customers, retain the ones you have and encourage everyone to spread the word about your brand, please contact me to begin the conversation.

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