By Chris Hopkins,
Senior Vice President, The Saint Consulting Group
You have just finished a long and bruising permitting process. Your opponents were aggressive and some were even ruthless, but in the end you prevailed, you received all of your permits and are readying to open for business. Before you open, some community members approach you to discuss keeping a dialogue going as you move forward, what do you do?
Your first reaction might be to think “the hell with the community”; after all, they opposed you, attended every public hearing, spread misinformation and tried to use scare tactics to turn elected officials against you. Some even attacked you personally and the way you conduct business at other locations. Why should you give them the time of day? As much personal satisfaction that reaction may provide, it would be the wrong tact to take.
Remember what Sun Tzu said in 400 B.C., “keep your friends close but keep your enemies closer”. This may not be war but the same philosophy could be used in this situation. You can ignore your opponents and the community in general but if you take this attitude what will happen?
• Your opponents will continue to complain.
• You will not keep a finger on the pulse of the community.
• Unfounded rumors will spread.
• You will have no credibility to disarm rumors.
• You will have no goodwill to draw on should you ever seek an expansion or need new local approvals.
• You will throw away a tremendous opportunity.
The result will be a continued headache for you. Remember, this entire process was only business, and they feared for their most precious and valuable asset, their homes.
You may find that by engaging these opponents, they may become your greatest ally. What better advocate at a public hearing for a new quarry in the next county than an ardent opponent of your previous quarry who stands up and says, “I was extremely opposed to the quarry in X County but since it has been built, they have turned out to be responsible and good corporate neighbors.”
The $64,000 question now becomes, how to you get from being perceived as “the second coming of the apocalypse” to being a good corporate neighbor? We will review a series, which will highlight methods that we have used to create goodwill within a community following a long, emotional and costly permitting process.
Chris Hopkins is senior vice president for aggregates and mining, The Saint Consulting Group, email: firstname.lastname@example.org phone 615-656-3794