If you know our firm and have been following this blog, you know that one of our core values as a company is something known as AFDI, which stands for “Actually Bleeping Doing It.” It’s something I have carved in (faux) stone in my office and the last thing I look at every time I leave the office door.
It frustrates us to have to take part in the same conversations occur over and over again. It takes a commitment to action and accountability to get things done, which is what our colleagues and clients expect and deserve.
It is refreshing to see a community adopt this spirit and that is exactly what I saw up-close late last week in Grand Rapids, which is quickly becoming one of my favorite cities in my favorite state. I was privileged to be among 30 businesspeople from the Detroit region selected to take part in a first-of-its-kind “East Meets West” day, put together by the Detroit Regional Chamber and the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce. We traveled to Grand Rapids to meet with community leaders, discuss how the two largest business regions in Michigan can work better together and see, up-close, some really effective economic development happening there. It was fascinating and fun. I have done business in Grand Rapids as long as I have worked in PR, but had never seen it quite like this.
Most revealing was a panel discussion featuring three difference-making business leaders who spoke in candid detail about their community’s culture of getting things done. There, we heard lessons that are worth remembering for any business in need of change or any community that needs its businesses to step forward.
In Grand Rapids, we heard, there is an ongoing, open dialogue between business, government and philanthropy. They talk about the difficult subjects. As one leader put it “we don’t worry about having tough conversations, we worry about not having them.” Businesspeople are expected to put aside their own agendas and even their own company agendas and work toward a shared goal of improving the city and the region. Importantly, there is an expectation that all businesses will take part and that progress will be made.
The examples are varied, from a medical school moved to their city to a from-scratch science research facility to first-class hotels to a thriving 24-hour Downtown to a one-of-a-kind public art display/social media engagement platform called Art Prize (which draws 500,000 people from across the country).
That’s a community-wide culture of AFDI. It’s challenging enough to accomplish it in a company. The next time you need an example of people working together to get things done, look no further than Grand Rapids.