Aggressive, forward-thinking tire dealers should seize every chance to support local schools, not only because the health of those school systems directly impacts the quality of potential new hires, but that support reinforces the dealer's commitment to his community's well-being. We often hear about the impact the local school system will have on your future hires, the students of today. Yet many districts struggle to educate children successfully while operating under serious budget restraints and weak parental and community support.
Offering support helps bond a dealer's business to the community and reinforces the image that he is a concerned businessman and a concerned citizen.
Many businesses, particularly large national chains, are often perceived as ``carpetbaggers.'' They take from the community that supports them, some critics charge, without really being part of or committed to it.
The best part of becoming a school-friendly business is that it usually takes less time and money than dealers realize. Dealers also reap big benefits in attracting and keeping a larger, more desirable customer base. After all, an educated work force and desirable customers usually go hand-in-hand.
Consider these examples of how other retail businesses support local schools when it really counts.
In some towns, local merchants provide beverages and snacks for events such as PTA meetings, student assemblies, class trips etc. This small detail can make a night-and-day difference in the success of these activities.
Other times, a business distinguishes itself by spearheading fundraising efforts for both the school and support organizations such as the PTA and student activities ranging from sports to academic clubs. Many times all these fundraisers need to succeed is the cooperation of key local merchants-but someone has to be the first businessperson to step forward and set the example.
To build support for the school and its activities, businesses can offer matching funds for anything from new lab equipment and computers to safer playground equipment and new textbooks.
Some merchants sponsor class trips believing they ultimately spur the imagination of eager young minds. A trip to a science center or museum could be the catalyst that gets a student interested in the workings of machinery such as an automobile.
Some businesses donate things to schools as needed. When ventilation failures made life miserable for one school, a local restaurant donated some large pedestal fans to keep the children cool until the problem could be fixed.
Many merchants donate services at charity auctions to benefit school fundraisers. For example, a tire dealer could donate free wheel alignments or automotive maintenance services.
Even donations of seemingly smaller items, such as rulers, pencils and such are important to cash-strapped schools. Plus, items such as these are perfect promotional vehicles for getting your dealer's logo in front of hundreds of potential customers.
Furthermore, don't overlook the non-financial aspects of school support. For example, consider becoming a mentor to students in business curricula or in automo-tive trade classes.
Mentoring means setting an example to students by showing them how you run your business and why there's a good future in it for aspiring students. Such programs tend to be somewhat informal-where local merchants arrange to have students visit their businesses at regular intervals so they can learn how the business actually works.
And don't overlook opportunities to bring eager students into your business on work-study programs.
When all is said and done, some dealers will gripe and moan about the educational system. Others will take action. If you're not helping to improve the system your apathy makes you part of the problem.