Everything I’ve been reading lately tells me that people love a good story and that story-telling is a way to position yourself as an authority in your field.
Anyone who know me well, knows I’d much rather tell a story than create marketing material. Full disclosure here – marketing is not my forte and marketing to me often feels forced and unnatural. That’s just not who I am. I want to help people, not “sell” to them!
However, I do recognize that marketing is critically important to the growth of any business. After all, people need to understand what you’re selling and how it can help them, if you want your business to succeed.
So, let’s give this a try. I thought you might be interested in knowing why I created muniSERV and why I’m so passionate about helping both municipalities and my professional members alike.
In case you didn’t already know, earlier in my career, I was a municipal Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), in small and medium-sized municipalities in Ontario.
We wanted to continually improve service delivery and operate more efficiently but with shrinking funding and legislation constantly changing, we were increasingly under pressure to find new and innovative ways to collaborate and streamline operations.
It used to drive me crazy when I needed to get 3 or more quotes in compliance with my purchasing by-law, but I didn’t know where to find companies or professionals who provided the services I needed and often couldn’t find one! (I’m dating myself here, but the introduction of Pay Equity legislation comes to mind as an example).
I’d call a neighbouring municipality to see “who they used”, but every municipality’s needs are different, so a one-size consultancy doesn’t necessarily fit all. We couldn’t afford the large firms but were legislated to comply the same as larger municipalities who could afford them. There was nowhere to search for more servicing options (i.e. smaller, independent consultancies, early retirees, etc.). The result of this frustration – the development of the Find Municipal Experts & Services database.
The RFP process also frustrated me (still does actually). RFP documents were time-consuming to develop, costly to advertise and opportunities for exposure were limited, with no focus on my target (posting in newspapers comes to mind). This resulted in limited and often no responses. A big waste of time and money! The result of this frustration – municipalities can post their RFPs, Bids & Tenders for free on muniSERV and our partnership with bidsandtenders gets them broader, national exposure and tracking of plan-takers capabilities, resulting in more responses and ultimately, more competitive quotes.
Fortunately, in the municipalities in which I was CAO, we didn’t have too many job openings. In fact, I am pleased to note that some of the folks I placed in positions after restructuring almost 20 years ago, are actually still working in the same municipality! But, when we did need to post a job, the price was high, there were limited places to post it and the ROI was low, often with no one responding to the job ad. The result of this frustration? Working with municipalities to develop muniJOBS – Canada’s only online recruitment and career platform that brings municipalities and talented people together.
I’m a big believer in coaching and mentoring people to become tomorrow’s leaders. But, sending someone away to a course was out of the question by the time you considered; the cost of the course, the travel, the accommodations, meals, and time away from the office. The result of this frustration? muniLEARN – that provides digital training solutions for today’s environments.
There are numerous other resources, tools and strategic partnerships we’ve developed along the way and I don’t want to go through each one here. But by now you’ve guessed it – the common theme here is that every one of them was developed out of a frustration I felt in the CAO role – and I knew I was not alone!
CAOs are busy people. They don’t have a lot of time to research things and in smaller municipalities they often don’t have the staff resources to do this for them either.
It seemed to me to be a no-brainer that municipalities should be able to go to one platform and quickly and easily find what they need – all in one convenient location.
But that’s not the end of the story!
All of this led me to thinking though, well, then how does a new or smaller consultancy or someone with a new municipal product or innovation for municipalities, reach municipal clients?
When I first entered the consulting world, I’d often hear complaints from professionals, that they couldn’t get past the gatekeepers in municipalities and that attending municipal conferences was cost-prohibitive for them as a new consultancy or business just starting out.
Then, when CASL (Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation) became law, this further eroded their ability to reach municipalities because it eliminated their ability to send emails to them. (and honestly, with my CAO hat back on here for a minute, if I didn’t know who was emailing me, it went straight to my trash folder)
I realized there was a real disconnect here.
The result of these two merging pain points; a) municipalities not being able to find consultants and services, and, b) consultants and professionals not having one location to market effectively to municipalities, is the premise of muniSERV.ca – “Connecting Canadian Municipalities and the Businesses That Serve Them.”
So, there you have it. That’s my story.
I hope it helps you understand my passion for helping you, why I’m always working on your behalf to find new ways to do things – and why I will continue to always think outside the box!
Please feel free to reach out to me at [email protected]. I’d love to hear Your Story!
Susan Shannon is the Founder & Principal of muniSERV.ca, muniJOBS.ca & muniLEARN.ca