How to turn around a difficult empty-building owner

Remember how Deb encouraged you to be a ninja and go clean up those local eyesore buildings that need it? I shared that story when I was in Pullman, Washington, and they told me this story of a time that really happened. 

In Pullman, they have the National Lentil Festival. Volunteers were going out to hang up art and banners for the festival in the windows of downtown buildings. They asked the owner of a pair of dirty, perennially-empty buildings if they could use just his windows. He agreed. (See how smart that is? They didn’t ask for the whole world, just the windows, and even that was temporary. Make it easy for even reluctant building owners to say yes.) 

Before they put up any art, they cleaned up the visible parts of those two buildings. They didn’t ask permission to clean, they just did it. They cleaned the windows, the outside store fronts, and even the first few feet of the inside that you could see through the windows. Then they hung up the art. 

That building owner got a lot of comments on how much better his buildings looked. So many people commented on how good the buildings looked, he came downtown and looked at the new, clean version of his buildings. He was embarrassed, and he admitted it. What happened next may seem like magic. 

After the festival, he gave the two buildings a thorough cleaning, front to back, inside and out. He finally got serious about renting them out, putting up a prominent sign. Promptly he got an offer and rented out one of the pair. 

It wasn’t magic. It was really the embarrassment that got him to change, but it never works to start by embarrassing someone. The magic started with a small ask (just the windows, and just for a short term) paired with a ninja act of cleanliness.

What building will you ninja clean up this weekend? 
Keep shaping the future of your town, 

PS –  We’re talking about business ideas for young entrepreneurs in small towns here. I’d love to have your comments there, too.