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How to build a strong business community

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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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25 Responses to “How to build a strong business community”

  1. [...] How To Build a Strong Business Community Subscribe to Let's Grow Leaders! Never miss a blog post. It's free, thought-provoking, and practical. Rest assured that I will never sell your e-mail address. [...]

  2. Just by accident,- I found this and YOU!
    Very interesting! As an entrepreneur in the coffee industry I saw myself doing most of the things you described! A very good read indeed!

  3. [...] new product or service, send it to your network. Eventually they will do the same for you. – How to Build a Strong Business Communityby Pamela Slim, Escape from Cubicle [...]

  4. Kiran says:

    Great post on building community. Let me try these :)

  5. Thank you for your tips on building community. Many of us in Christian life coaching see a great need to build our community and your tips will come in very handy! (I plan to implement several of them.)

    Leelo Bush, PhD

  6. Pamela, I love this post. For a long while I have resonated with your work, but this post makes it explicitly clear why I feel that way — I definitely share your values around community building as being the most important thing, and trusting that good business with sustainable results will follow from that and not the other way around.

    I ran my first e-course this summer (after taking your wonderful Power Teaching course) and decided to offer it on a donation-basis because that felt right to me. (I did set a suggested donation, but allowed people to give more or less than that.) I’m offering the course again now and as an experiment I’ve switched to a set fee. It’s interesting to watch myself and how I feel about both methods of pricing. I notice how much better I felt about the donation model, and I don’t believe it’s because I’m undervaluing myself. I feel like what’s actually happening is I’m learning to trust myself and my value system around creating an economy that works for everyone. Continually learning and evolving!

  7. Michael Port says:

    Love this post. Great, great, great advice and offered with a big spirit.

  8. What a beautiful post to read before I graduate from your power teachers class! I have watched you in action for a while now and your integrity shines through everything that you do. Hold onto it,we need many more women like you on this planet.

  9. Maris Olsen says:

    Love these ideas Pam – thank you. I already incorporate many of these thoughts in my sewing studio, and now I am bubbling with all kinds of ways to add more! Every day we have the chance to make those around us feel better about themselves, and consequently make the world a bit better and happier place to be.

    Let’s do this!

  10. Rhiannon says:

    I want these on a poster that’s as big as my wall. Thank you thank you THANK YOU.

  11. These are great tips Pam. This is an area I’ve neglected for far too long, and only recently I’ve started learning more about making that a strength of mine. I’m sure you’ve read it, but I’m really enjoying “Never Eat Alone” right now which has some great tips on building relationships.

    From what I’ve read, I can only assume this was a habit of yours long before you were the Pam Slim everyone knows and loves. True?

  12. faisal says:

    Reading this only one thing comes to my mind.. Independently significant, together magnificent.

    • Pamela Slim says:

      Good one Faisal! I appreciate you so much, I think you comment on every post. Thanks for taking the time to reach out all the way across the world. I wish great prosperity and happiness for you and your community!

  13. Andrea Amir says:

    I already knew you were the Bees Knees, his legs and his arms but after reading this post, it was confirmed. I want to be you when I grow up. It so resonated with me and what I am trying to achieve

  14. Avril Oliver says:

    A wonderfully refreshing post Pam and as always incredibly inspiring! We all experience those in need as we go about our daily lives and taking the time to observe, listen even a little and offer encouragement can really impact someone else’s day. Your number 8. resonates hugely as I have recently relocated, so it is all about the local community right now. The way I always choose to build community is to jump in and start “do what needs to be done”.

    • Pamela Slim says:

      I am glad you resonated with the post Avril! My Dad has really inspired me when it comes to community service. I am so appreciative of my local community, it makes every day life so rich.

  15. Carol Ross says:

    I am so proud to know you, Pam. Again and again, you stand for a whole heart and a spirit of generosity. I love how you focus on not just building a community, but measuring your success based on the success of the members. Thanks for a great post.

    You asked for ideas on building community. I’ve organized meetups at a casual restaurant when I’m traveling. I did one in Chicago recently. Meeting people in-person, after being virtual for so long, is so much fun. What made it especially rich are the stories that people told. Here’s a blog post about the setup that allowed some amazing stories to be shared: http://www.abiggervoiceblog.com/2012/09/building-community-one-pasta-dinner-at-a-time.html. I hope it inspires other to try it out.

  16. Terrific post, Pam! I totally hear you about there being a lot of noise out there as to why we “should raise our prices so people will deem us valuable.” Sure, sometimes this works (and is appropriate to a certain degree) but I believe it often leads to short-term benefits rather than focusing on long-term investments (ie community building).

    • Pamela Slim says:

      Hi Monica! Yes, raising rates to be in the right place in the market is part of a strong business model. But it is so important to be aware of how and why you do it so that it is in harmony with your overall values and approach to business.

  17. THIS is why I wanted you on the Prosperity’s Kitchen team, Pam. You SO totally get it.

  18. Debbie Weil says:

    Pam,

    LOVE this post. I recognize myself in it – as a community builder and NOT an empire builder. I love saying that. Even though I do love selling through a persuasive sales page – ! Your blog prompts the question: can you still change the world if you’re primarily a community builder? I think the answer is yes.

    • Pamela says:

      I am so glad you resonate with it Debbie! Yes, we need *all* of us to change the world. Building community does not mean you forgo financial prosperity. And focusing on financial prosperity does not mean you can’t build community.

      If we know our own strengths, we can build from them.

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