Why Community is Important to Your Business

why community is important

I’ve often pondered the reason why community is so important to me. As a confident leader, innovator, and serial “good starter”, what is it about a community that is so attractive to me?

In all the work I’ve done, the things I’m most proud of were projects that involved creating a new community united by a common cause and a desire to share both the work and the credit.

In a previous life, I was a fundraiser for an independent YMCA. I loved the community of volunteers, staff, and donors we built. With our shared mission and vision we leveraged our combined passion, knowledge, and skills to educate and inspire each other to regularly exceed the fundraising goals. We knew our roles and how we fit together. Learning from this experience I subsequently took part in expanding this community to the state and even national levels. It was a powerful rush.

I’ve been doing community work for over 30 years. Serving on boards in every role possible, leading non-profits, collaboratives and participating in multiple micro-communities since I was in high school. I absolutely love being a part of a community. But why?

When Tom Duenow and I co-founded Transitions In Nature, we tested our idea by interviewing over 60 business and nonprofit leaders, coaches, and consultants. In nearly every single interview we heard the following lament:

“Leadership is great but it is lonely at the top and frankly, I’m tired of going it alone.”

Ding. There it was. I don’t want to go it alone! I want to celebrate the successes, mourn the failures, and share the struggle with others.

Simply put, I LIKE being a part of a strong community. My superpower is to CREATE safe communities where leaders are able to expand their thinking, learn new tools and shift how they are operating so they can be successful AND healthy leaders.

Why are communities so important for leaders?

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, approximately 20% of new businesses fail during the first two years, 45% during the first 5 years, and 60% during the first 10 years. Only 25% of all new businesses make it to 15 years or more. Kind of like a kick in the gut.

OK, so it’s a challenge to go it alone and only 25% of businesses make it for the long haul. What are small business leaders going to do to succeed in the long-haul group?

Dare I say: Build community? Yep. I said it!

Like most small business owners, Tom and I have a hard time justifying spending money on the fat fees big consulting firms charge. We know the big guys focus on big businesses and have difficulty translating their sophisticated approach to meet the practical needs of a small business. The experts on our team bring the same savvy as the big boys augmented by their experience building and managing their own small business owners. We know that most small businesses startup with a dream and just 1 person, YOU!

That’s right,most small businesses have 1 person doing EVERYTHING! Yep, ALL the roles.

Here’s the secret

Working with leaders over the past 30 years: I observed that those who succeed ask for and accept help, are open to new ideas, and have enough wisdom to know that teamwork makes the dream work. One of my favorite sayings is an ancient African proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

We lead by example

When we hired an accountant to build a financial model for our business, Tom and I realized we knew just enough about accounting to be dangerous, and we needed help. Early on we hired an expert and yes, it required us to stretch to afford it. However, it helped us tremendously, and it was the start of our leadership “community”.

Another example is joining an accelerator program where we learned about the LEAN Startup Model. The participants in that program quickly became a community that benefited from our collective knowledge and experiences. Learning with and from this group opened a world I didn’t know existed!

Those 2 actions (hiring subject matter experts and finding others on a similar path helped us build a stronger foundation. And we’re in our 2nd year of operation! It is rewarding working in a community where we share ALL of the rollercoaster ride running a small business can be. Mostly though, it helped us build a foundation for each pillar of our business.

Yes, being in a startup takes a lot of energy. While it’s great to be your own boss, sometimes it’s plain hard to go it alone. We want to be a part of a world that sees MORE small businesses succeeding.

Going it alone doesn’t work for me, and I’d guess for many of you who were drawn to reading this blog. My dream is to build small communities within our business that support and help more small businesses thrive.

I envision this happening in 2 ways (and it’s already begun!!)

  1. Building a community of collaborative coaches – Tom and I are leading a collaboration of coaches and consulting experts who work as a group. We’ve got 20 fantastic coaches who work together to help small business owners solve their most pressing challenges. Check out our team by clicking HERE.
  2. Building capability through community – We are building learning cohorts around 3 different areas: Personal Effectiveness, Professional Effectiveness, and Business Effectiveness. In these groups of peers, leaders will share their struggles, receive and share insights and advice and learn from subject matter experts. So many founders lose themselves in the process. Our coaches can help leaders stay focused on the right stuff, including staying healthy!

Are you interested in learning more? Reach out to me. I’m happy to listen and will honestly tell you if we can help you. That’s it. Nothing to buy. I’m not selling a thing. Simply an offer to hear what you have to say.

In fact, I’ll share what one leader told me after she and I had a no obligation conversation:

“I feel a great sense of relief knowing I could possibly have some help navigating this, so thank you!”

Listening and asking deeply important questions is my other superpower and is the base for building a safe community.

Ways to find community

Of course, there are other ways to find community. Here are 5 ideas you could consider. All come with a caveat: what you put into them is equal to what you get out of them.

*Join your local Chamber of Commerce

*Join a trade association

*Volunteer for a nonprofit organization to help you build skills and expand your network

*Join a marketing network

*Take a mindfulness, meditation, or yoga class that meets weekly

There is tremendous power in communities.

Like I said, building communities is what I do best. Bringing people together around a common cause to find solutions that work lights me up and allows me to play in my area of genius.

I’d love to hear about communities you’ve been a part of that were awesome! What made it so great? How can you replicate that in your startup/small business owner’s life?

If you want help to go far…we’d love to hear from you.

Click HERE to go to Elaine’s Coach Bio page!

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