How to build a strong business community

I push myself to continually challenge my assumptions about business. I actively solicit advice from friends and mentors, because I want to grow and develop as a person, in addition to growing my business.

But sometimes, I get very stubborn.

Last year, I got lots of advice for building higher priced walls between me and my market, to ensure that my work was valued. It makes a lot of sense, since I know that I don’t always charge as much as my peers.

But there was a part of me that still resisted the advice, because it felt like if I implemented it, I would become someone I am not.

I shared my thoughts with my best friend Desiree, who said:

“Of course that advice would not work for you. You are not an empire builder, you are a community builder.”

And the light bulbs started to flash in my head.

It is why I loved delivering Lift Off retreats so much. And promoting the work of my clients and students on social media. It is why I spent 10 years as a volunteer executive director of a martial arts organization. And why, as a Connector, I love introducing people to each other. And why I enjoy the family atmosphere at my martial art studio. And why I get teary when I watch a bustling park filled with families laughing and playing.

And why I got a degree in International Service and Development in college (sometimes I miss blinding flashes of obvious).

Building community is my strength and it fits in the center of my personal values.

Knowing that, I can take great advice about ratcheting up the value and pricing in my business, and apply it in a way that is consistent with a community builder.

You might be wired differently, and have different strengths and interests. Maybe you are a maven and love building deep and elegant products. Maybe you are a salesman and get truly excited by expanding your empire.

Community building has a place in every kind of business. Here are some ways to do it.

10 Ways to Build Your Community

  1. Use “success of others” as one metric of your success.
    We often view our success in terms of how much we have personally. How much money did we make? How many Twitter followers and Facebook fans do we have? What kind of press did we get? What if you ask that same question of everyone in your community? If the success of your community is your success, you start to feel pretty wealthy.
  2. Share the work of others.
    When you have a new product or program, it is absolutely necessary to share it throughout your marketing channels. Do the same for others in your network. If you see great work that would benefit people in your community, get it in the hands of those who need it.
  3. Introduce people to each other.
    Every couple of months, I get an email from my friend Michael Port, introducing me to someone in his network. Michael is a bestselling author and expert in small business marketing. In traditional terms, he would be direct competitor. But Michael places a huge value in building community, and has a passionate fan base as a result. I love and appreciate him for it.
  4. Give encouragement on a daily basis.
    In every part of your life, people are sending subtle messages when they hurt. A parent on the playground might look slightly stressed. Your favorite server at Starbucks might be harried. A friend on Facebook might post a call for help. It doesn’t take much to help — often a simple word of encouragement like “you can do it!” or “hang in there,” or even a smile and a hug can really turn things around in someone’s day.
  5. Ask for help.
    If you spend a lot of time nurturing and encouraging others, you must also ask for help. If you don’t, you will start to build an unhealthy dynamic where you are the savior rushing in, and they are the victim. This is not healthy, or accurate. In a community, every person is an equal contributor; no matter his or her financial situation, job title or life circumstance. When you ask for help, you give people the opportunity to feel valued.
  6. Encourage your community to learn from and interact with others.
    Sometimes in the coaching or teaching business, we get possessive of our favorite clients. We want them to stay by our side forever, and get jealous if they work with someone else. This is not good. You want to push your clients to make great choices, to expand their circles, and to get the exact support they need. If they are flourishing, you are flourishing.
  7. Push yourself to grow and produce.
    A community is only as strong as its weakest link. If you are asking your community to grow and produce, you must also push yourself to grow and produce. Take on new and scary projects. Take pride in your work. Admit failure and struggle, and learn from the experience. Do great things.
  8. Do what needs to be done.
    When I was interviewing my Dad for my new book, I asked him why he and my Bonus Mom Dee recycled all the glass and aluminum for their town as volunteers for 13 years. “It needed to be done,” said my Dad. If you see a glaring need for help in your community, do something about it. That is what my friends at Laid Off Camp Arizona do on a daily basis. They see people who can’t find jobs, so they call on expert volunteers in the community to teach workshops. When a big part of your community is unemployed, it affects everyone. Do something about it.
  9. Welcome a diversity of opinions.
    A healthy community has a mix of different strengths, perspectives and values. In my home of Mesa, Arizona, I have many friends who have radically different political views than I do. Rather than fight about it, I try to understand their perspective. I welcome dialogue. And I base my relationship on how they treat me and others on a daily basis, not on their choice of political candidate.
  10. Stand up for each other.
    Yesterday, a news story from Michigan made its way around the Internet. A high school softmore, Whitney Kroop, was nominated to the homecoming court at her school as a joke, because she was so unpopular. The community got wind of this cruel hoax, and rallied around her. Local businesses donated everything so she has a great outfit. Scores of people will fill the football stadium to cheer her on homecoming night.  A Facebook fan page was created, which now has more than 50,000 likes. If you see bad behavior, call it out.

Adding strength to your community will only make you stronger.

Thank you for all that you do every day. Your strength fuels me.

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