Across America small businesses and large corporations alike struggle with the same issues. Cut throat competition that is selling “below invoice”, customers that don’t want to pay the advertised price, employees that don’t want to do what management wants them to do, customer service is non-existent and management is frustrated because it doesn’t have the resources needed due to a tight budget.
Employees don’t care about the company and they don’t care about the customer because they don’t feel anyone cares about them. Companies don’t feel they can afford the “luxury” of recruiting and training the right people, so mediocrity reigns. Many companies that fit this profile struggle to make a profit. The result is a frustrated management team, resentful workers, and disappointed customers.
The vicious cycle continues.
While the typical business is warring over price, cutting budgets, and desperately trying to find “good” people, Starbucks has loyal customers standing in line happily paying $4.00 for a cup of coffee – a commodity that has been around since 1100AD when Li Kau Fi brewed the first in China. (Or when John Coffee served up the first cup in England – whichever story you want to believe).
Employees over at Southwest airlines are on a fervent mission to make sure the company achieves it’s vision. They love the company so much they seem like multi-level evangelists. And Nordstrom continues to build upon their legendary customer service.
How have companies like this managed to rise above the mediocrity that rules in the typical company? Why is it that both their employees and their customers love the company? What do these companies have in common (other than being extremely profitable). Do they have something unique? Is it just great marketing? Is it just great management? Is there one simple concept that can bring all of the proven strategies of building a phenomenally successful business together?
The Answer is Found in a Word Called “Community”.
What truly sets these companies apart is they have created “community” in their businesses. Community is a word that has many meanings for many people. We often refer to community in the context of our neighborhoods or our local area. We sometimes refer to groups of people as community “The Hispanic Community”, for example. We talk about the “global community” and even a “virtual community” as it relates to the internet. My definition of Community goes much deeper than just a group of people or a neighborhood. Community is the sense of belonging that all humans hunger for.
“A Longing for Belonging”
Every human being has a “longing for belonging”. We are created that way. We have a need to be connected to other people. We have a deep desire to be a part of something meaningful – something that makes a difference. The longing for community is the reason people join clubs. It also happens to be the reason people join gangs. Humans have the need to identify with a group of people that accept and love them. A group of people that belong to each other and walk through life with one another through victory and defeat.
The family is the first community that one belongs to, but community as it once existed in America has all but vanished. The idea of having dinner as a family and being deeply involved in one another’s lives. Truly enjoying one another’s successes and enduring one another’s failures is a challenge. The idea of giving up our own rights to serve others. We have lost this essence of community in family and therefore it does not exist in our businesses, churches, and institutions for the most part. Our organizations today mirror the way we live our independent lives.
Yet as we pursue our rugged independence and our individual rights, deep down we all long to experience community as we once did. The scarier part is that many of our younger people today (your new workforce), doesn’t even know what community feels like!
Single parent, latch key kids who are now adults. They have not felt true community. They have not felt the love and encouragement that true community can bring. But they long for it. They may not even know what to call it or even how to explain it, but the feeling is definitely there. They need to be loved. They need to be accepted. They need to be recognized. They need to be a part of something that means something. They have a longing for belonging.
How Building Community in Your Business will Wow Your Customers, Inspire Your Workforce and Make You Big Profits
If you understand and implement the principles of building community in your business, you will be able to do something for others that you may have never done before… help them experience the very thing they long for. The very thing every one of your team desperately wants and needs – and will do almost anything to get. Your business can be the first place they ever truly feel connected and needed. You have the unique opportunity to give them the feeling of being part of something bigger than themselves. Your reward for that is your employees will begin to love your company for it. They will become your biggest evangelists which in turn creates loyal, high paying clients which makes you bigger profits.
Keep in mind that your team members may not even know what they are looking for, but be assured they will know it when they feel it. When they experience community that you foster in your company, they will respond. There will be a few that won’t, but if you do it right, it will be only a few, and that handful will quickly move on.
Finally, chances are you may not have experienced true community yourself. Chances are you are longing for true community and trying to fill that void with hobbies and business deals. If you do not understand and operate in community yourself, I can promise you that your people won’t either. If you are not open and honest, they won’t be either. If you are not committed to the vision and mission, they won’t be either. If you talk badly about customers, they will too. As the owner or manager, you will have to participate in community just as you expect your employees to.
Living in community and doing what is required won’t be easy. If it was easy everyone would do it. The very reason that most companies are ordinary – just mediocre – just getting by and complaining the whole way – is because they first don’t understand what community is and they won’t commit to community values even when they think they understand them. To hard. Too difficult. Too much work for an intangible result.
But you on the other hand, can rise above the mediocrity. You can experience the exhilarating feeling of not only belonging to an extraordinary movement, but you will be at the helm. You will be recognized as the one who led the charge. The one who changes your business and changes your industry and has a profound and positive impact on many, many lives.
How to Do It…
The only way you can begin to create a positive community – one that will give you what your clients and employees want is to first begin to be transparent with one another and begin to develop “the way we do things here”. Your community SYSTEM includes your mission, your values, your goals, your purpose, and the policies and procedures of your culture.
If you think about the Amish community as an example, there is a certain way they do things. Certain values they have. You may or may not agree with it, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that you create a compelling mission, vision and purpose for your company and begin to craft the values you want to live out. Each step that is created in marketing, sales, and operations of your business must be carefully crafted from the mission, vision and values of your company.
Is it easy? No. But if you don’t do it, someone else will define your community experience for you, and that usually doesn’t work out so well.
I know this is a big, deep subject that cannot be covered in one article, but I think you get the point, and I would love to hear your thoughts.
Discover how to build YOUR UNIQUE COMMUNITY EXPERIENCE at The 21st Howard Partridge Round Table featuring the World’s #1 Small Business Guru Michael Gerber. May 10-12 in Houston.