Your customers, prospects, investors, employees, and other stakeholders are all part of your community.
The word “community” calls to mind many images. You may consider your community to be a town, church, school, or group of people who share your interests. However, the concept of “community” also applies to business. Your customers, prospects, investors, employees, and other stakeholders are all part of your community, too.
Embrace Your Community
Today, a healthy business is defined by the health of the community it draws. In order to have a healthy community, your business must nurture your community’s growth. Many members in one’s business community - seen and unseen - wield tremendous influence on the growth, reputation, and success of a business. Intentionally working on the growth and strength of your community participation must be seen as a core element of business development.
Here are some ways you can grow your business community.
Communicate in a Unifying Way
Today, there’s no question that people rally around ideas, not businesses. Whether you have the “next big way” to serve a significant need or you simply want to create an innovation in your industry, you must create something worth joining.
Show me a business with a healthy culture, and I’ll show you a unifying why. Show me a strong community, and you can rest assured there is something that draws and engages its members. For instance, coffee giant Starbucks enforces healthy business practices that their customers can rally behind. Chipotle does the same thing by establishing their genetically modified organism (GMO)-free food and promoting it with community events like concerts. Your audience of course will be much smaller, but these are excellent examples of businesses finding their why.
Give your community a reason why they should engage with you. Continue to reinforce that why, and you’ll build your community behind it.
Find Your Community Leaders
When an idea grows big enough that divergent tribes start to form from within, it’s essential to find and nurture leaders in the community. These leaders start little fires and sometimes form their own communities. But, more often than not they help hold a community together by mentoring new members, spreading the good news, and even performing functions that benefit the community as a whole with little regard for reward and recognition. Nurture these fire-starters as they hold the keys to creating a blaze that attracts far and wide.
As a community grows and fire-starters shoulder more and more work, a sense of community ownership must evolve. If members of the community are to become more deeply committed they must also feed a much deeper stake in the planning and outcome.
This step may indeed be the greatest test for any leader in a movement or business. This step requires letting go in a way that may feel both foreign and frightening, but without it a community will plateau.
Start by letting go of things that don’t work like they should. Look at the things that hold you or your business back. You may be surprised at what an energized group of individuals tasked with tackling a community constraint can come up with.
This article originally appeared on Inc.