The INSIGHT Program: Part 3 - the precursors

Image removed.The INSIGHT approach to business retention and expansion, like other approaches, has at its center a series of questions to ask of a business. The INSIGHT approach is an evolution of the Fairfield Fortune 1000 program that I developed in Fairfield County in 2003 and 2004 and then further refined as the HITS program in Springfield, Ohio later on in 2007 and 2008. Both programs essentially asked four key questions of all businesses - "In the next year, are you considering...
  • H - Hiring new employees?
  • I - Investing more money into the business or into machines or facilities?
  • T - Training existing or new employees?
  • S - finding different or more Space to run your operation?
The key concept was to ask only those questions which would lead directly to the most public resources and programs that could help them grow. They both used as the primary CRM tool. They both used large collaborations of partners to achieve the reach. The program had the tagline "HITS - the Smart Way to Grow." In Fairfield County, in the first year before I left, we reached out to more than 700 businesses. In Clark County (Springfield), we consistently reached out to more than 1,000 businesses for the first three years of the program. HITS was a great way to simplify the system (the survey is in the name) and ask questions that help the business (versus producing great reports for marketing or other purposes.) It doesn't ask questions like, "Please rate your workforce on a scale of 1 to 5." Because of its radical cutting out of questions like these, the program was exceptional as a way to begin retention and expansion and develop relationships with businesses. If we weren't able to help them initially, we hooked them into a monthly newsletter which let them know what was going on and kept them up-to-date on programs. What we found over the first three years of the program was that it was successful, but it had a couple of drawbacks:
  • It didn't provide any guidance on how to pitch or sell to the company what we were doing asking these questions in the first place. We didn't formalize, standardize, or make suggestions for the "introduction" of the survey. We gave people some ideas, and some did better than others with it.
  • It didn't (officially) include a question I always would ask, but not everyone would because it wasn't officially a question in the survey - "How many employees do you have now?" This is a very important question as data sources are never completely accurate and/or up-to-date, and this is probably the most important number for economic development purposes.
  • It got a little stale over time (noticed this in the third year), as we were always asking the same four and only four questions.
  • It didn't help business access a number of other programs that weren't in the top 80% (e.g., export assistance, manufacturing technology centers.)
  • It didn't provide any guidance on what kinds of questions to ask for larger, more big picture intelligence on the company (e.g., "What's the market for your product and what are the current trends?" or "Who are your largest competitors?")
So, after thinking about how to keep the essence of HITS yet address these concerns, INSIGHT was born. In Part III, we'll explain the questions that make up the INSIGHT survey. For more information about HITS and the Fairfield Fortune 1000, see the following blog posts and articles:
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