Phillip Stutts

6 years ago, I made a life-altering decision.

My wife, 6-month old daughter and I had just experienced an amazing vacation, relaxing in the warm turquoise waters of Florida’s gulf coast.

We returned to our home in Washington, D.C., and decided to shake off the jet lag and go to the children’s park just a few blocks from our house.

But we couldn’t enter the park that day.

Why? A drive-by-shooting had just occurred that left multiple victims fighting for their lives — we could see yellow police tape lining the edges of the park.

“That’s it. I’ve had enough! We are moving,” I said.

After living in D.C. for 17 years, a city I loved with all of my fabric, I couldn’t take it anymore. Deep down, I didn’t want to leave — but I was done.

Within 15 months, we moved and settled down in the exact town we vacationed in — Seaside, Florida — affectionately known as 30A (where the movie The Truman Show was filmed).

The drive-by-shooting at our local playground wasn’t the final determination for us to leave Washington, D.C….it was just the final straw.

You see, the local D.C. government had a different type of marketing retention effort for people like me. Strangely, they decided that I was the problem— even though I was a law-abiding citizen, volunteered and contributed to local charities, paid a ton in local taxes, and my political leanings were more libertarian than to the left of center.

I was so fed up with their “thinking” that I made a list of grievances before we moved out of the city five years ago…

My “Why We Should Leave D.C.” List (from June, 2013):

  1. Drive-by shooting (20+ shots fired) at our neighborhood children’s park.
  2. The city builds playgrounds, then they get trashed and eventually many are unusable.
  3. The public library has homeless people roaming inside. Therefore, an unsafe place for my child to go to the library (in the future) by herself.
  4. When I walk our dogs, I constantly look over my shoulder for kids that want to rob me.
  5. Can’t open a window without fear of being robbed.
  6. An open-air drug market three blocks from our house. The police know they are there and they’ve done nothing about it.
  7. Can’t leave a bag in our car b/c there is a 100% chance it will be broken into and stolen.
  8. Trash is scattered all over the streets.
  9. For safety concerns, children can’t ride their bikes freely on the streets.
  10. Constant parking tickets and virtually no free parking anywhere.
  11. The subway system is always broken, delayed, and expensive.
  12. No real public-school options without being thrown into a lottery and “hoping” for the best.
  13. I must pay the city around 9% in income tax, a business tax, property tax, sales tax, etc. (in addition to federal taxes) for the privilege of experiencing everything on this list.

Think about this for a second — I was a loyal customer of the city of Washington for nearly two decades. I was reliable, ALWAYS paid on-time (taxes), helped other citizens improve their lives — YET, this is how they treated me?

The local politicians in D.C. have a branding and customer relations problem with some of their best-paying customers.

It was their right to act like selfish, ego-maniac, ignorant idiots. And it was my right to exercise a choice…

So I took my business elsewhere — to a place that wanted my family, my charity and my business — Florida.

How has the state of Florida delivered to this customer?

  1. It is 1000x safer for my family to live here.
  2. There is NO state income tax — they want me and my businesses to be here.
  3. My daughter attends a great (and convenient) public school.
  4. Free parking everywhere.
  5. My libertarian political leanings are embraced, not vilified.
  6. The weather is great (ok, nothing D.C. can do about that one!).

I’ve never revealed this story before now, but I was inspired to tell it after reading this super interesting article by Fox Business: Florida Is Raking In Billions As Americans Abandon High Tax States.

Looks like a lot more high-taxed and underappreciated citizens are being marketed to by innovative out-of-state political leaders — and following the same route I made five years ago.

Good for them.

Finally, the question I think is worthy of answering is this: Can a government and its leaders really be smarter at marketing than an entrepreneur?

It may be rare, but the answer is YES. Kudos to the two leaders who initiated this brilliant marketing effort to make Florida home for those that want to live freer and be appreciated — former Governor (and current U.S. Senator) Rick Scott and current Governor Ron DeSantis. These super-smart political marketers truly understand their customers (voters) and constantly innovate and optimize to improve their outcomes.

Nothing is ever perfect, but this Floridian is happy and loyal.

Here is what you can learn:

  1. Incentives matter to customers. I am constantly seeing data that customers are MORE likely to choose great incentives. From a branding standpoint, incentives create a higher standard for the customer. The incentive of zero state income taxes was a huge factor in my decision to move to Florida. Have you truly thought of putting your customer/clients’ needs first before your bottom line? Are you reducing their risk? How much more money could the D.C. government made from me if they had been attuned to me as a customer, not as an expendable voter? If this sounds familiar, then make a change in your business (or life).
  2. One of my friends, Keith Cunningham, has a great saying that we constantly discuss at Win BIG Media: “How big would my business be if I had every customer that ever tried me?” As a business owner, as we rush to “grow,” never forget about the customers/clients that you are currently serving. You can actually grow much faster if you put their priorities first. The local D.C. politicians could learn a thing or two about not just delivering, but over-delivering to the voters they serve. Can you?

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