The Importance of community

I’d like to ask you one question.

What would you think is the most important factor that determines success of a business?

I will even give you a hint. Think about what Airbnb, Amazon and EBay have in common.

Did any of you say COMMUNITY? If it isn’t the most important factor, it is darn close. There is this thing called the Platform Stack that says that the three most important factors that determine the success of a business are TECHNOLOGY, DATA and COMMUNITY.

If we expand to the Platform Stack definition we can add in Microsoft, Uber and Tesla.

Airbnb, Amazon and EBay are famous for their reviews. What are reviews if they aren’t just community?

Take a look at your own ecosystem:

Are your kids at a good school? Can you think of a bad school? A good school will always have a good COMMUNITY around it and a bad school will have absolutely no community.

Do your kids play sports? Does that sport team/league have good community? If the team is successful, chances are it has good community and if it’s not successful, chances are it doesn’t.

It’s no accident, one feeds on the other. The big question you need to ask yourself is: Does good community CREATE a good school or team or is it the other way around?

I would hypothesize that if you can create good community, you can create a successful organization. That means that you can influence the world around you. Think about that. What I’m saying is that if you are unhappy with any of the organizations around you, find a way to create community and you will create a great organization.

Of course it is the CREATION that is the secret sauce and not so simple…

Because if it was, everyone would be doing it.

If I take a look at my life, here are just a few ways I try to create community around me:

· In Entrepreneur Club we have an open invitation to parents and kids to come join us, check us out and see if you like us. We have a closed Facebook group to communicate with the rest of the community and we try to share ideas and thoughts with everyone in the community.

· In soccer we try to communicate regularly and organise a parent to bring snacks for the kids so we can open communication and help everyone feel part of the team. We actively ask parents to participate in practice so that we can have everyone feel part of the organisation.

· At my office we organise periodic social events like curling nights so we can get out and actually talk to each other rather than at each other.

It can be a powerful exercise to analyse areas of your life and see where you could generate more community and supercharge your group/association or team. My hypothesis is that you could make that organisation more successful if you could figure that out.

In business, I think that COMMUNITY is the holy grail. Find a way to be “social” like Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram and you will find yourself a winner. Lululemon doesn’t succeed because it has the best clothes, it succeeds because it combines good clothes with a vibrant community!

The Entrepreneurs Club started our first business less than a year ago and so far we are, quite honestly having trouble generating community. There is some debate in the Club but my thoughts are that we aren’t good at telling our story. Of course that alone won’t make a difference but if we did a better job telling our story, I profess that it would open our customers and community to being more social. If we were able to tell our story, maybe we could take the next step and have the kids open up a communication channel with the kids.

Wouldn’t it be cool if we had this eco-system where we delivered more value to our customers? How could we do that? Well, and just thinking out loud, we could assign a kid to a customer to start a relationship that goes two ways. In any relationship there needs to be something in it for both parties or there won’t be any community or continuous interaction.

What would you think about a kid assigned to specific customers. The kid gets feedback about our products and the customer gets to get related to the customer. The customer gets to find out about what that kid is learning. Not every customer is going to care about what that kid is learning but there is a tribe of people out there that are curious about just what goes on. About what kids at that age are learning. Imagine if that were you and you had a an opportunity to hear what Michael Dell, Mark Zuckenburg or Evan Williams were learning in their teens about business.

The power of curiousity can’t be underestimated.

Maybe we find a way to generate community in other ways. Maybe it’s all about helping others; that’s one way to generate community.

We are starting the process of selecting another business to start and I know we need to look at how we can generate community around whatever we chose.

So about that..

We are three weeks into the process of working with the kids to identify a new business opportunity. If you remember, our first business was based on the criteria that it cost less than $100 to start and had negative working capital (that means we didn’t have to invest more money, we let our customers finance our inventory) to address the biggest hurdle kid entrepreneurs have - that they don’t have the money to start a business!

As part of our process, we have watched videos each week on

1. The sharing economy

2. The niche economy

3. The membership economy

And next week we will focus on another new age economy. Can anyone guess what it is?

The kids get to watch some videos and the stage is open to ideas. We try to make sure everyone gets a chance to express their ideas and we then we try to isolate a few of the ideas for deeper analysis. Steve Hansen has been great at asking the kids questions getting them to come up with ideas and figuring it out for themselves, he’s really a master at it.

It’s really cool to see the kids work through the ideas as a group and see how their minds work at that age. The group dynamics are interesting; we have to work on getting the introverts involved and getting the extraverts to give space but the parents have been great at making sure the meetings are balanced and everyone gets a chance to feel heard. After a stumble a few months ago, we work hard to make sure the meetings are about positive reinforcement, that there are no bad ideas.

UPDATE

Sales have flat-lined the last few months but we have a plan to get the kids out presenting to companies the next Professional Development Day so it’ll be the first attempt for the kids at getting some new business. It’s not about the sales, it’s about providing a value added product and it being a learning experience for the kids.

If your office would be interested in having the kids present, (yes they can do SKYPE for those outside of Vancouver), please let us know. You might find out that you get more value out of the purchase then you paid for…..

Thanks for listening.

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