Defying the Odds

By Andrea H. Reay CEO/President Seattle Southside Chamber of Commerce Did you know that the majority of businesses do not make it past 10 years? In fact, the US Census Bureau has reported that 1/3 of all new businesses will close before the end of their second year and 1/2 before 5 years. The economy may change how many businesses open in any particular year, but the percentages related to business longevity remain consistent over time. How then can we as a service organization dedicated to economic development, business recruitment and retention help to even the odds for our local businesses? It starts with commitment. This year our Chamber is celebrating 30 years of service in our community here in Southwest King County. We are defying the odds and we’ve learned a few things along the way that we share with our members. Business is all about organized chaos. No one has a crystal ball to predict how outside (or inside) influences may have an impact. But, all businesses can do 3 things to help ensure longevity. First, practice resiliency. My father was an independent pharmacy owner for over 47 years. He saw a lot of changes in the health care market from when he opened his store in the 60’s to when he sold it in 2007. He was frustrated many times and plenty of things happened that weren’t fair or right. But, he kept going. Resilient businesses are able to adapt quickly to our dynamic market place. Those business models that adapt faster often gain an advantage. There are plenty of large retail stores closing. We all see them in the headlines. However, Southcenter mall, our local center for retail, is thriving. This year we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of Southcenter. How have they maintained their success as a destination shopping center? Partly because they have adapted to a new retail market that is more closely focused on the customer experience. Second, focus on the customer. The experience matters. Consumers are willing to pay more and travel farther for a unique and exceptional experience. This sounds easy, but can often be very difficult. Especially when your customers are telling you something you don’t want to hear or may be counterintuitive to your existing business plan or model. Listen and then take action. One of the things we often see with local businesses is that the owners are not marketing to where their customers actually are. Take the time to create a customer profile, and then roll out a plan focused on that customer experience. Third, find partners. Business is hard and being an entrepreneur can sometimes be a very lonely place. When you have like-minded partners and allies in your work you can accomplish more than you ever could alone. Highline Medical Center, which is celebrating their 60th anniversary, is a perfect example of achieving greatness through partnership. Now as part of CHI Franciscan Health they have made tremendous investments in providing amazing services and care in our community. They recently opened a new radiology/oncology center in partnership with Virginia Mason that will bring state of the art technology and treatment options to their patients. There is nothing that we can’t accomplish if we work together in that same spirit of collaboration. Whether you have been in business for 5 months or 50 years we hope that all businesses will find value in practicing resiliency, focusing on the customer and working together. I know that here at the Chamber we are looking forward to serving our community for another 30 years and thank everyone for your support and commitment to our mission to be a voice for business and a leader in our community.
Andrea H. Reay is the President/CEO of Seattle Southside Chamber of Commerce- “A voice for business, a leader in the community”. Seattle Southside Chamber has served the communities of Burien, Des Moines, Normandy Park, SeaTac and Tukwila since 1988. For more information on Chamber benefits, opportunities and partnerships, please visit

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