There is a principle called reciprocity in social science. When someone does us a favour, we feel ‘out of balance’ until we return it; this may be a shadow of our ancestral past, when we depended on each other for protection. We still do, especially if we live in small communities far away from cities where ‘the system’ supplies the material things we need.
I knew a fellow once who grew potatoes on a farm nearby. Every harvest, he gave us each a small sample fresh out the ground to taste. “I’ll be back tomorrow,” he said. “I’m blessed with another good crop. I know you will want to buy” and we always did. That fellow understood the principle of reciprocity extremely well, and he played an honest game.
Time for Just Imagine If …
Let us imagine for a moment that we move from a big city to a stunner of a holiday rental 20 kilometres away, perched on a low cliff above restless waves. We have this dream – everybody does – of making an honest living doing what we always wanted, and we believe this is it.
The place needs fixing up though. The walls inside have not been touched for years, there are a few tiles missing over the eaves, and there is water bubbling out the ground near an outside tap. We also need to plant out bare spots in the garden with flowering shrubs.
We hook up an open trailer to the car, and head for the city to make our purchases. The road takes us through a small town nearby. We pass by a small hardware store and what looks like a ramshackle nursery garden on a farm. We do not stop as we believe the choices will be limited and the prices high.
Later the same day we return with the trailer piled high with plants. As we pass through the small community on our return, the people stop and look. A few wave a greeting. They look friendly. We should try the shops some time … maybe they could send us a few guests.
How Else We Could Have Played the Game
If we had stopped by in the town to find out what the hardware store could offer, we might have found that they can order everything we want within three days. While it is true the prices would be 10% higher, they do deliver and the owner offers to pop by to see what couplings we need to fix the leak. He asks us about our plans for the holiday let. After that, the conversation moves to a general introduction to the town.
We discover that what we thought was a small town is a vibrant community. The nursery garden stocks a range of hardy shrubs that can take the climate, and the convenience store sells everything holidaymakers need for a self-catering holiday. The next day the phone rings. We have an invitation to meet the locals over a community barbeque tonight. The next day we get our first confirmed booking. A local we met over sausages and burgers grilling over coals recommended them.
When you get involved in your local community as a business owner and a “local”, this can certainly happen – other residents start to recommend your holiday property to their friends and family members, and you start to build a solid customer base.
Work out how you can get involved in your local community – it’s a great way to find new guests.