Tuesday, May 24, 2016

If I Were Mayor Of Greensboro: Part 2

In Part 1 of  If I Were Mayor Of Greensboro,  I wrote of an innovative way parking meters could be eliminated to help boost business in downtown Greensboro while helping the poor and homeless.

In that post I wrote of working for a company called Greensboro Auto Parts. The owners of Greensboro Auto Parts at that time were Tom and Ed Bigham. Between the two of them they taught me more about capitalism than anyone else I've ever known.

The Bigham brothers built the largest and most successful used auto parts business in the Southeastern United States by understanding that customers come before the bottom line. Tom once said to me, "Billy, despite the fact that I have millions of dollars the only thing I value is my name."

At that point in time Tom had already spent 50 years into building his name and the name of his company. Integrity meant everything to Tom.

A well known northeast Greensboro garage owner who catered to the Irving Park residents (Not Irving Park BP) once called Tom to complain that Tom had hired a long haired hippy looking driver to work for him. Tom had me come inside his office when he returned the man's call, "I have known Billy since he was in diapers. He father is one of my best friends. He is highly qualified to do the job he does and does an excellent job. He leaves the shop early in the morning long before the rest of us come in and returns each day with thousands of dollars of my money. And he has never come up a penny short. I appreciate the many years you and I have done business but if you think I'm going to risk the integrity of my company just because you don't like the looks of one of my employees you are crazy."

And then he hung up the phone and grinned at me as if he knew what was coming next.

Seconds later the man called back to apologize.

Tom was standing up for me because he knew I stood up for his business. When something went wrong I fixed it even if it wasn't my fault, even if I had nothing to do with it. Other guys in my position had always said, "I'm just the driver." but I picked up a telephone and called someone or adjusted the bill accordingly and signed my name to the adjustment. And it never turned into he said, she said because everything I touched was marked, tagged or signed in one form or another.

Yes, I made mistakes. I fixed them too-- usually before anyone found out but when they did find out I owned up to it.

So what has that got to do with Greensboro? Well, Greensboro suffers from an integrity problem. That is one of the reasons Raleigh is the 2nd easiest city in America in which to get a job and Greensboro is  2044 of 2570 Cities In Money Management.

That's part of the reason there exists a Billy's Big List Of Documented Reasons Why Greensboro Sucks. The lack of integrity pervades through every aspect of our city.

So as Mayor I'd attack that problem in multiple ways. I'd begin with an effort to publish the salaries and expenses of every non profit employee working for any non profit funding by the City of Greensboro. Even in-kind funding such as Councilman Mike Barber's First Tee of the Triad. No disclosure, no funding. Period.

Step 2 would be to make these non profits show the monies they are receiving are going towards the causes they are sworn to support. Not just City money but all their money. If an acceptable level isn't met then no more City funding. You see, it goes back to what Tom Bigham taught me, the customer and your integrity are what's important, the bottom line will follow.

And finally I would form a new non profit that isn't run by any of the existing players.. This new non profit would be somewhat like the Civilian Conservation Corps of the Depression era except that while its short term goal is to put people to work, its long term goal is to train and fund those same people so that they can start and run their own businesses, concentrating primarily on manufacturing and urban farming businesses to meet our city's most urgent needs today.

You know, if I were Mayor of Greensboro.

Please continue reading If I Were Mayor Of Greensboro: Part 3