The Network Brand: Can Co-opetition Benefit Your County?

co-opetitionDrawing inspiration from Kate McEnroe’s presentation at the NCACC’s annual conference this year, we are taking a look at the fascinating concept of co-opetition. Specifically, we will look at how co-opetition could benefit our local governments through the use of network branding.

What is co-opetition?

Co-opetition describes the concept of cooperative competition, where multiple parties are involved in both a cooperative and competitive relationship at the same time.

It is grounded in “game theory” which approaches business relationships as “games” that can be understood through mathematical models. Co-opetition rejects the idea that marketplace competition always result in winners at the cost of losers. Instead, it argues that all parties in a “game” can benefit by cooperatively adding value to their market and while competing for shares of that larger market.

Applying Co-opetition: Network Branding

Local governments could apply the concept of co-opetition through the use of regional network branding. Network branding refers to a single branding across multiple territories (cities or counties) that leverage the resources of those respective territories into a more attractive package. If we look at local governments as businesses, then the application of these concepts to them are natural extensions of marketing.

The use of network branding isn’t entirely new to North Carolina. For example, the Triangle area of central North Carolina has been a network brand that has existed since the 1950s. By pitching the Triangle area as a whole instead of any of its constituent eight counties separately, the Triangle has successfully attracted many high tech companies into the area.

Benefits of a Strong Network Brand

For local economies, the benefits of a strong network brand are twofold.

First, the network brand provides a more complete package of resources to attract capital investment from companies. Companies will look for a strong workforce pool, existing infrastructure and housing needs for employees among many other factors.

For instance, Raleigh may provide better infrastructure for a company, but Cary or Morrisville may provide better living areas for its employees.  The location of three large universities within the region ensures a skilled workforce pool.

A strong network brand region will not only address more of these needs for prospective companies, it will also provide unity for those local territories in bargaining with those companies. If the network region is selected by the company, the region as a whole will benefit regardless of which territory the company physically resides.

Secondly, a strong network brand will be a boon for tourism. Given the close proximity of attractions and the diversity of many North Carolina regions, tourists can potentially be attracted to the area by the variety that a network branded region can provide. Simply put: no single attraction can accommodate the different interests of tourist families the way an entire region can.

Not so easy…

Implementing a successful network brand is not easy. Drawing lines around a few counties and slapping a label on it can be a more arbitrary identification than political county lines.  If the brand feels artificial or forced on the region, it will not be embraced by the citizens of the region regardless of marketing approaches. So, it is important to create network brands that are natural extensions of already-existing relationships.

Furthermore, there will also be the obvious political barriers to overcome with inter-territorial branding. A high level of cooperation between leaders will be needed to coordinate a successful network branding across municipalities and counties, which can potentially be one of the hardest hurdles to overcome.

However, for regions with an existing unique identity and a solid desire for cooperative improvement, network branding could be the right brand of progress.

Sovereign Citizens: Identifying & Dealing with Anti-Government Extremists


Recently, at the 2012 NCAAO Conference, Detective Kory Flowers of the Greensboro Police Department spoke about the difficulty and dangers local government officials face when dealing with sovereign citizens.

The phrase “sovereign citizen” broadly refers to any person who becomes  part of the anti-government movement that believes state and county lines are not real, that the US government is not valid in its existence, and who therefore refuses to follow basic laws such as paying taxes, registering vehicles, obtaining a driver’s license, etc.

Many of our larger NC counties are familiar with the nuisances associated with dealing with such individuals. We heard stories from North Carolina officials about sovereigns who tried to pay taxes using items such as wheat or gold, although most just flat out refuse to pay anything at all.

For some of the smaller counties, as well as for me, this was the first time hearing about how prevalent of an irritant these anti-government extremists are in our communities.

How sovereigns cause problems…

Sovereign citizens hate the government and often use “paper terrorism” as a means to scare, harass and intimidate government employees. They do so by creating and filing false liens against government officials’ personal property or by filing extremely large lawsuits against them, typically for millions of dollars. These filings waste time and energy for officials at all levels of government.

If this ever happens to you or someone you know, rest assured that sovereigns have no legal grounds for their filings and have never won a case or collected a cent on the lawsuits they file against public officials. To be safe, regularly check your home to see if a false lien has been placed on your property. Doing so will avoid any issues that could arise in the future should you decide to sell or refinance your property.

Sovereigns can be dangerous…

Sovereign citizens are a real threat because they believe their movement is the truth and some will go to any length to protect their beliefs and avoid punishment for their failure to comply with government regulations.

Tragically, sovereigns often show up in the news when their actions and refusal to back down results in the deaths of innocent citizens as well as the law enforcement officers trying to rein them in.

How to identify them…

Physically identifying a sovereign citizen is challenging due to the variances in age, race, sex, economic status, and nationality of the people that become involved in the movement. And, although there are several large groups of sovereigns across the nation, there are many who stand alone in their anti-government beliefs with no ties to any particular group.

Surprising, to me, was learning that oftentimes sovereigns have more than enough money to pay their taxes, but instead truly believe that our government is not a valid entity and will not hand over their share of money.

One famous example is Wesley Snipes, an American actor worth millions of dollars, and one of the most well-known sovereign citizens in the country.  He is currently serving a prison sentence for failing to file tax returns due to his sovereign beliefs.

The most widely recognized groups of sovereign citizens in NC are the Moorish Nation and the Washitaw Nation.

Things to watch out for…

Although sovereign citizens tend to not have similar outward distinguishing features, their common use of language is spot on. Most sovereign citizens have adopted the same lingo and talk in a way that is foreign to the average American citizen.

Detective Flowers put together a list of “buzzwords” or phrases to alert you when you are dealing with a sovereign citizen. A few examples include:

– Domicile            – Strawman                     – Non-resident Alien         – Indigenous

– Aboriginal          – Who is the victim?     – Conveyance (rather than vehicle)

For more information on sovereign citizens and organizations, and a complete listing of words and phrases to be aware of, view A Quick Guide To Sovereign Citizens, written by the UNC School of Government with information provided by detectives Kory Flowers and Rob Finch from Greensboro, NC.

Time Management: Take Greater Control of Your Work Life

time management
The essence of the best thinking in the area of time management can be captured by a single phrase: Organize and execute around priorities Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Knowing how to effectively use your time in the workplace is as vital to your career as it is to the successful operation of your tax office. Organizational development expert, Stephen Covey shares some useful strategies for ensuring the best use of our time in his best-selling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. For those who aren’t familiar with the book (and for those for whom it’s been a while since reading it), I’ve outlined some of the key strategies he recommends.

Becoming a Better Manager of Our Time Begins with Becoming a Better Manager of Ourselves

Covey departs from conventional strategies aimed at helping organizational leaders better manage their time and declares that, although some of these techniques (such as checklists, prioritization, and daily planners) can be helpful, that ultimate success in time management requires us to be better managers of ourselves.

Covey recommends dividing the demands on our time into a Time Management Matrix (figure A below). According to Covey, learning to manage ourselves productively requires us to first place values on each activity using a combination of Urgent or Not Urgent with Important and Not Important.

  • Urgent: Requires immediate attention, such as a scheduled meeting or ringing phone.
  • Not Urgent: Does not require immediate attention.
  • Important: Contributes towards your overall organizational goals.
  • Unimportant: Does not contribute towards your organizational goal, such as reading a comedic email from a friend.

Once each task is appropriately labeled, you place them in the corresponding quadrant of the Time Management Matrix.

As individuals in the workplace, we often spend most of our time in one of the four quadrants listed below, to the detriment of the other quadrants. Take a look at the matrix below. Where do you spend most of your time? Do you spend your day putting out fires with little time left to prevent them from arising again?

Figure A: Time Management Matrix

figure a

Balancing Responsibilities

It’s easy to forget that not all pressing matters are important. Interruptions, such as a ringing phone, feel urgent but are unimportant to our organizational goals (an email that doesn’t have to be answered right away) and can be ignored until after work. We get hooked into urgent matters that are based on the priorities and expectations of others, which rarely fit into the priorities of our own day.

Covey explains that a large portion of us spend the majority of our time in Quadrants I, III, and IV and that we tend to neglect the most important quadrant, Quadrant II.

If we focus on managing time instead of managing ourselves and our priorities, we will spend more time in Quadrants III and IV, organizing matters that put us no closer to our end  goal. Focusing on managing time is like getting in a car, driving really fast and making all the green lights, only to find out you made it to the wrong location faster.

Covey recommends that more time should be spent in Quadrant II: prevention, planning, and personal development. Doing this requires both a recognition of the time wasted on Quadrant III and IV activities as well as a commitment to transitioning the time spent on those activities to Quadrant II activities.

The end result will be fewer crises…less fire-fighting and more prevention…and greater gains in reaching your organizational goals.

Covey, Stephen R. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 2004. Print.

What Are County Elected Officials Thinking?


Recently, a survey was conducted to explore the viewpoints of county elected officials on the changing circumstances in local governments.

The National Survey of County Elected Officials polled a random sample of 501 county elected officials on issues related to the economy, budgets, and politics from June 1 to June 18, 2012.

Find out if your opinions match those of other county officials.

Survey Says…

  • A large majority favor providing services through contracts with private sector firms verses the fees-for-service model for funding county services.
  • In general, county elected officials are under the impression that their constituents understand some, but not a lot, about county government and give public schools poor marks on educating students about civics and the role of local government.
  • Most officials are positive about their careers in county government and say that they would encourage young adults to seek career paths in the same field.
  • While there is a growing sense that partisanship is a greater problem at the national level today than in the past, a majority of county elected officials believe that partisanship at the county level is not a problem.
  • The economy and joblessness are two of the most important problems that county officials feel need to be addressed.

25% of those who were polled felt that the struggle to raise sufficient revenues was also a very important problem for their county.