The Myths of Building a Successful Business | Part 5 | The Myth of Going Solo: Effective Strategies to Community Building
I first learned about Barn Raisings while reading about the Amish in primary school. As you can imagine, a barn is essential to farming life, as that’s where you store grains, hay, machinery and house animals. Not having a barn makes it hard to be a farmer. Thus, when a fellow Amish is in need of a new barn, the community gets together to raise that barn.
I often think about the paradox between barn raising and the myth of going it alone in business When you have the idea of a red barn, how long do you think it would take to build such a structure? If you were to build it on your own, perhaps the process would take about a year?
With a few friends, the process would be shortened to a few months. With the help of a community or group of people, you can raise a barn in one day. One day!
What’s more intriguing, those who come to help raise a barn receive no compensation. Nada. Zero. Nuthin’. You help raise a barn because eventually you too will need help. Being of service to another member of the community almost feels like a long term investment!
When we collaborate, we advance faster together. In the case of your business and your goals, when you build relationships with like-minded individuals you increase your exposure to new opportunities or to knowledge that can skyrocket your growth.When we collaborate, we advance faster together. #coffeebarblog #smallbusiness Click To Tweet
When I think about barn raising, I think about the importance of having a network. After all, to raise a barn you need a community of people with various skill levels to contribute their time to benefit your livelihood. By sharing their expertise, these individuals are investing in your success.
By sharing their expertise, these individuals are investing in your success.
Similarly, when you network, you engage with like-minded individuals to build relationships and eventually to build community. When you nurture that community you can count on them and they can count on you in times of need.
NETWORKING AND COLLABORATION
Now, we all know about the importance of networking. We are not going to cover how or what you should do when you’re at a networking event. Rather, I’ll share my multi-faceted strategy for building and contributing to my communities.
Before we proceed, there are two things you must remember. One, be a nice person when you network. This isn’t to say you need to be a pushover, simply, be thoughtful and be genuine. Secondly, listen to your gut instincts. If someone is giving you weird and dark vibes, move on.
ADVANCING TOGETHER: Using breadth and depth to build relationships
When it comes to networking, I have a breadth and depth strategy for creating a community. By breadth, I mean to cast your net wide to build relationships outside and inside your industry. As always, use your time wisely to engage in activities or networking that you enjoy.
For example, I approach my community building in these three ways.
- Non-business networking – This type of networking has nothing to do with business. It is all about fun and interacting with people outside my industry, i.e. playing a team sport, book clubs, volunteering in your neighborhood, or taking a cooking class.
- Industry specific business networking – With this type of networking, I interact with people in my own industry. We chat, we collaborate on projects, and I get to know new people who may not be on my radar.
- Non-industry specific business networking – I join a chamber of commerce, attend conferences, attend a business forum, join a board or anything not related to my personal work.
Having networking buckets allow me to build relationships across sectors and helps me get to know interesting people. Within each networking group, however, I go for depth. This is where I narrow down and build deep relationships with specific people within these four categories.
- People who are starting out compared to where I am in my business. Within this category, I focus on listening and being of service to specific people who are starting out and may need my expertise. At this phase, I reeeaaally try to listen rather than telling people what they should do. There’s a fine line between being of service and being a know-it-all. What’s more, even people who are just starting out have a lot to teach you about yourself and about how to approach your work.
- People who are at the same level as I am in my business. There is something cathartic about being in the trenches together. Here, I identify one to three people who are bright and insightful. With these relationships, we talk shop, we encourage each other and share business tips and tricks.
- People who are one level above me in my business (3-5 years). While it’s important to be in the trenches, it’s just as important to chat with people who hit potholes in their business yet have paved (sometimes) those potholes. It’s so much fun to ask these people pointed questions about how to become a better business owner. I tend to build rapport with one to three people who are doing exceptional work and who would make good mentors.
- People who are several levels above me in my business. I have specific ideas of where I want to be both in my personal and business life. As a result, I try to identify and build rapport with people who have a proven track record of evolving with their business. Oftentimes, you can’t build personal connections with those people, but it’s good to keep them on your radar.
For example, I love the work of Grace Bonney (the founder of Design*Sponge) and Debbie Millman (the writer and host of Design Matters). While I may never meet them in person, Grace and Debbie are in what I call my Virtual Community of Awesomeness. I devour everything that they do as the quality of their work reminds me of how important it is to strive to be good at what you do.
the quality of their work reminds me of how important it is to strive to be good at what you do
BRINGING IT ALL TOGETHER
The breadth and depth strategy to building relationships has served me well. Every year, I can measure how those relationships have helped my business grow. In so many areas of my life, I’m often thinking about how to ask good questions, how to be more efficient with my time. The thing is, when you’re building relationships all of that goes out the window when you want to build a community and make real connections with people.
There are no get rich quick strategies here. Passing out all your business cards at a networking event isn’t going to get you more business or clients either. There are often no immediate results when it comes to networking. You simply have to show up and participate.
No immediate results to networking. You have to show up and participate. #coffeebarblog Click To Tweet
How has networking helped your business grow? What strategies do you apply to your networking and community building that you can share with us? Leave us a comment below.