Giving back is not about getting back for biz

Paul Slaymaker knows donating a box of used shoes every week to Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside won’t bring new customers through the doors of his Runner’s Den shop in Port Moody. But he believes his efforts to help others and be involved in the community have been a key reason he’s been able to keep his business going for 18 years.

On Nov. 16, Slaymaker and several other local business people will discuss why doing good in the community is good for business at a special Biz Talks event that wraps up Shop Local Port Moody’s third annual Five Fun Work Weeks to celebrate the city’s business community and offer them tools to become even more successful.

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Over the years, Slaymaker’s independent running shop in Newport Village has helped out countless causes, like hosting a run to benefit Eagle Ridge Hospital that has raised more than $50,000 and sponsoring an ugly sweater run to benefit the Make A Wish Foundation of Canada. There have also been smaller efforts, like his weekly collection of shoes that are picked up every Friday and distributed to people in the Downtown Eastside who need them, or donating an item to a school fundraiser.

It’s all about creating connections with the community, Slaymaker said. “It’s not about putting more business in our store.”

At least, not directly.

Playmaker said to distinguish his shop from any number of stores in the area that also sell running shoes, clothes and training aids, he has to become a resource that people trust and value, whether that’s for advice about running trails or as a meaningful presence in the community.

“That’s part of being a good business in the community,” he said. “The community connection helps us thrive.”

And while a hand-up at a charity run may not sell an extra pair of Mizuno runners the next day, the payback comes from embedding the shop into the community consciousness.

“It leaves a positive impression,” Slaymaker said. “Giving back comes back more organically.”

Down the Lougheed Highway in Coquitlam at Phoenix Truck and Crane, president Lora Covinha — who is also a panelist at next Thursday's Shop Local event — has no illusions her company’s community efforts will result in a crane rental or trucking contract. 

But creating a culture of caring and giving back filters down to the bottom line by instilling a sense of pride and community in the company’s 36 employees, 16 crane operators and 140 owner-operators that keeps many of them sticking around for 20 years or more.

“It just goes to show that doing good retains good people,” Covinha said.

That philosophy has been part of the company’s culture since it was started in 1991 by Bill Dick, she said.

While Phoenix has cut cheques to support projects at places like Riverview Hospital, the company is just as likely to help out in kind by providing a barbecue cart to events and donating proceeds to causes like the Crossroads Hospice, Eagle Ridge Hospital Foundation, Share and the food bank. It also provides a crane to help install thousands of Christmas lights at the annual Lights of Hope at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver.

Covinha said finding the right balance of donations is often a product of economic conditions in the industry.

“We do what we can, when we can,” she said.

Slaymaker said it can be tough to decide which causes and events his running shop should support, especially when he gets requests every day.

“The budget is only so big,” he said. “We try to keep it local and make sure it has a connection.”

Covinha said it’s important to be a leader and set a good example, adding, “You hope you tow other companies along."

Biz Talks will be held Nov. 16 at the Inlet Theatre in Port Moody. Cathy Cena will moderate the evening, which will include a keynote address by Lori Joyce, the CEO and founder of Betterwith Ice Cream, and the panel discussion on “Why you think doing good is good business?” Registration begins at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $15. For more information and a link to purchase tickets, go to shoplocalportmoody.ca/5-fun-work-weeks.

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