Blog: Brian Elias

Social responsibility has grown from business school curriculum and boardroom gab into a customer expectation. Brian Elias, founder and president of 1-800-HANSONS, says that when customers buy a company's products, they're also buying its stance on community involvement.

First I buy locally, then I buy American

Community involvement plays an important role when running a local business. Developing an identity, marketing products and services on budget and generating a positive word of mouth campaign is a priority, especially in today's economy. Giving back to the community is a no-brainer because people like to do business with individuals who have similar concerns. Customers feel indirectly connected with you, a product and/or service when you have the same priorities in your community and business.

The goal is to become responsible, involved, and approachable to your community. Bonding with your customers helps with strategic networking and linking with potential clients and business people. If you have professional success, you should use that to promote community success. At 1-800-Hansons we encourage local buying as much as we can - first we buy locally and then we buy American.  If I can buy Michigan products it's a bonus because cycling business through the community is just a good policy.

I look at personal and professional involvement in community as one in the same.  We engage with organizations relating to cancer and children. My mother battled cancer so that cause is very important to me, and children are the meaning of life. We work with the American Cancer Society, ORT of America, Habitat for Humanity, Friendship Circle, Yad Ezra and The Jewish Federation. If you are passionate about a cause those are the organizations you should engage, you will be more active that way.

Being a good neighbor, no matter the size of the neighborhood is extremely important.  We service all of Michigan and parts of Ohio so we have a large area to maintain. Recently, Mojo in the Morning of 95.5 WKQI approached us to help a family in need this holiday season. A listener had brought the struggles of the woman and her family to the station's attention and asked for their assistance in granting a Christmas wish to provide assistance for this deserving family. This mother is taking care of 7 children, some are adopted and foster children she has taken in since her mother passed. Mojo and the station were an integral part in giving this mother and her 7 children a generous Christmas and they asked that 1-800-HANSONS help by providing new windows for her home.  The family's home was missing windows and they were trying to keep the cold out by covering the missing windows with plastic. We donated a whole house full of windows to warm this mother and her family up for the holidays and beyond.

Being part of a solution in the community shows good will and people will remember that. Philanthropy and community involvement are not only a business strategy but should be part of a life strategy.  Giving back is everyone's responsibility; the question is whether or not you step up.