When I started the Air Butler, I decided to let my business be driven by three principles: relationships, hospitality and beauty. I firmly believe that many of the world's largest corporate entities have failed to retain some of the aforementioned key components of being human and have done serious harm to their consumers in the process. Today, I want to talk about relationship as it pertains to being a good neighbor.
In Nashville, where we do business, vacation rentals exist in the middle of family neighborhoods, some of which are populated by longstanding citizens. The success of your vacation rental may be highly influenced by your neighbors, and it is of utmost importance to be the kind of neighbor you want to have. I have learned the hard way that when trouble goes down, it is far too late to be introducing yourself and your business to the neighbors. Be the first person to cross the street, knock on the door, and introduce yourself and your intentions. Give them your phone number, and assure them that you desire to be a good neighbor. Get to know them, and listen to their concerns. If your bottom line is more important than the well-being of the world around you, it might be time to reevaluate that your humanity will define you more than the money in your wallet.
We all understand the basic principles of being a good neighbor, but what about when things get tricky? What about when you're renting out a new construction home in a gentrifying neighborhood? What about when your neighbor is involved in illegal business activities that he has asked you to turn a blind eye to in exchange for peaceful cooperation? What about when your neighbor's anger towards your business is unjustified and stemming from deeper pain in life?
Lately, I've been thinking a lot about poverty and crime and how they are related. I believe that being a good neighbor means seeking to understand what it's like to be in the other person's shoes before you decide how they should fix their behavior. Gentrification brings a lot of nice benefits to neighborhoods, but it can also ignite deep tensions around inequalities in wealth. Thinking you can simply "clean up" a neighborhood is missing the history of things entirely. The bottom line is that many current neighborhood issues stem from a long standing history of injustice. Unemployment leads to despair and low self worth, which leads to brokenness in all forms, including crime of varying degrees.
If you are doing business in a gentrifying area, ask, "how can my business positively affect the lives of my neighbors?" That could mean strategically hiring from the local area, getting involved with your local job training program or entrepreneur center, or volunteering your time at a community center with young kids who will grow up to be the next generation of the neighborhood. I would highly recommend the book, "When Helping Hurts" on this topic.
Great wisdom is needed to navigate the path to being a good neighbor, but the failure to seek understanding is sure to end in a negative outcome. Is it possible you have more to learn from your neighbors than the other way around?