July 12, 2017
Meet the stars of SBR: Cameron Potts
In our “Meet the stars of SBR” series, we highlight the individuals behind the scenes of the Small Business Revolution and interview them to learn more about their experience working with business owners across the nation and why small businesses are essential.
Meet Cameron Potts, Vice President of Public Relations and Community Management for Deluxe. Cameron heads a team of specialists that drive media attention for the Small Business Revolution but also wears many other hats: general contractor for town improvements, small business expert, community leader, and much more. His active involvement in the many moving parts that make up the Small Business Revolution has lead to a vast knowledge of the marketing issues small business owners face, communities involvement in the series, and what’s coming up in Season 2 of the “Small Business Revolution.”
Tell us a little bit about your role on the Small Business Revolution team.
I am the Vice President of Public Relations and Community Management for Deluxe, which is a lofty title to say I am a jack of all trades. Pretty much whatever needs to be done, I find a way to do it. Primarily, I lead our media relations activities, so I direct a team of exceptional professionals who help us drive media attention about the series, the small businesses we work with and the Small Business Revolution.
I have also played other roles in the Small Business Revolution in that I have done everything from being the general contractor on all physical improvements in Wabash, to being one of the experts who helped choose the final six businesses we worked with in Bristol Borough. Overall, though, my role is very much behind the scenes: making sure that our overall message of how incredible the small towns we visit have been in this process and how much Deluxe loves small businesses always comes through in our communications.
What has been most inspiring or surprising about the series for you?
To me, the fact that we are changing lives is just so inspiring, and not just in the towns that have won our contest. In the last two years, I have been blessed with the ability to travel the country and visit small businesses and small towns that maybe haven’t been forgotten, but haven’t had a spotlight shined on them in a very long time. I have heard countless times just how much the Small Business Revolution has meant to the communities we have visited. I look at how towns like Red Wing, Minnesota, and North Adams, Massachusetts, have continued the momentum since our visits, striving to make their communities better. That is incredibly inspiring to me. It is truly incredible that a company the size of Deluxe is investing in an effort like the Small Business Revolution to really give small businesses a leg up and to give small towns a chance to look inward at what they are doing well and how they can continue to take a leap forward.
Why is it so important to support small businesses?
In our first year of the Small Business Revolution, we interviewed a business professor from Harvard University who said that it has always been the small businesses that have been the primary driver of new jobs and revitalizing the economy. There are 27 million small businesses in the US and we forget the role they play in providing jobs and giving back to their communities. And most of the small businesses are single owners, mom and pop shops of some sort that provide incomes and stability to their families. They help put children through college; they sponsor local sports teams; they donate to their communities; they advocate for their towns. If we don’t support small businesses, we lose a sense of ourselves, of our ability to relate to one another. Small businesses are important because they help define our overall character.
What key lessons have you learned about small businesses?
The biggest lesson I have learned is that small business owners are often afraid to ask for help. Amanda Brinkman, Chief Brand and Communications Officer for Deluxe, has often said that small business owners didn’t go into business so they could do marketing or build a website. They went into business because they had an idea and a dream. Yet when it comes to things like marketing, or accounting, or financing, the business owners often neglect those elements because they don’t know how to do them and they don’t want to ask for help. This year, we interviewed dozens of small business owners across the country and many said they financed their business themselves because they were afraid to approach their local bank for help. When times are lean, they leave themselves no margin for error. Even a simple conversation with a banker could lead to new opportunities, but you can’t be afraid to ask for help.
What are some of the most interesting business problems you’ve worked on?
Much of my role has been working with the communities and the contractors. Most interesting for me has been problem solving in small towns often means leaning on other businesses to find solutions. For example, in Wabash, working with community leaders like Christine Flohr, we brainstormed what was most important for the town, what would help augment the already amazing things they were doing. She suggested converting an empty lot that was an eyesore into a park. Great. I don’t know how to build a park. But Hoffman Landscaping in Wabash did. So we contracted with Hoffman and they built a beautiful park that helped us employ another small business in this amazing community.
In Bristol, we helped create a walking map of their downtown business district. But we had to be honest with local officials that the map needed to focus on businesses, and not historical background of the community. In this project, you are often faced with numerous competing ideas and the business challenge is to help the local community see how a marketing tool is best used to drive awareness of the community. The map will help people who come to town see why the community is so amazing and where you can shop. Those people are different from folks who want to tour an historic district. Know your audience.
How have communities reacted when the Small Business Revolution comes to town?
It has been remarkable to visit so many small towns and to see just how much the community members love their towns. We are treated like celebrities, which is fun, especially for those of us who are more behind the scenes. But what is the most moving is the fact that people open up to us and tell us their stories. I am a story-teller at heart and getting to hear why people started a business, what sustains them, what struggles they have, that is truly amazing to me. It isn’t that the communities want to win the $500,000 makeover – of course they all do – but they are just so grateful for a chance to share their love for their community. Towns like Frostburg, Maryland, and Marietta, Ohio, didn’t make our final five towns, but they have still embraced the opportunity to tout their community and their business districts. They understand how this really is a Revolution.
What excites you about Season 2 of the “Small Business Revolution”?
The stories in Bristol are so moving. I am excited for the public to see how many of these business owners leave it all out there, trying for their American dream and how that struggle is difficult, every day. Nothing has been given to them, and nothing ever comes easy. The Small Business Revolution provides a slight boost, but the stories of the business owners are what is truly incredible. I want people to absorb and share these stories because they are stories of perseverance and acceptance and struggle and triumph. In the end, we just want to revel in good stories, don’t we?