Wednesday, 10 February 2010

What does community mean in a business context?

There are a number of things that have been mulling around my head recently that I have wanted to put into a post but it is difficult to know where to start especially when people and emotions are involved. In broad terms, it is about community.

For some, my notions about business may seem quaint and old-fashioned but time again I see them being reaffirmed in the transactions that I observe around me. Right now I feel the need to share them. This is in part because of a recent incident in the twitter community of Mums, for more do check out Vicki's excellent post, which brought home the importance of being surrounded by people that care. In addition I have pointed out that online social networks could play a much bigger role in building community in a post for Mumsrock.

As a Mumpreneur with my own business, I have an underlying desire to establish my credibility and of course enjoy the fruits of my labour. That said those things are not what drive my business. For me it is part of a bigger vision. I want to make connections with people, support them in their endeavours by sharing what has worked for me and learn from them all at the same time.

I also recognise that it is very tough in part because of the economic climate but also because if one has a small business and/ or is a sole trader then one does not have the brand of a company like PricewaterhouseCoopers. We all know that for every lead generated it can often take months before there is paid work coming from it and sometimes what happens is that one come up against a series of dead ends which can be frustrating at best, soul destroying at worst.

That is why all small business people need a support network around them so that on those occasions when resilience fails and it seems impossible to bounce back and try something else, you know to whom you can turn to facilitate that turnaround. For that reason I am passionate about community and creating it wherever I can.

This does not mean we should be surrounding ourselves with "yes" people or those who have the same world view, as sometimes we need to hear tough messages in order to grow. In fact one of the Mumpreneurs that I speak to regularly has a very different energy to me. She is very driven and focused and some may see her as quite hard. What I take away from our exchanges is that I may need to re-examine my stretch targets and ask myself is this really a stretch for me as she never settles for second best. This is invaluable to me and helps me to grow as a person and a business woman.

I also believe in the adage that people do business with people that they know, like and trust. One of the reasons I spend so much time on twitter is that I see it as a quick way to get a feel for what a person is like and to start building a relationship. Recently I met two wonderful men through connections in twitterverse. We then had a tweetup and were surprised at the level of synergy there was between us. We are now looking at how we could work together and I am so looking forward to our meeting next week. Who knows there may even be a co-authored book in the mix.

It does not always work that way. One thing I find less helpful is when I feel that a contact is building a relationship with me because they have an ulterior motive in mind such as selling me something or getting me to attend one of their events. I guess that is because it feels like they are trying to manipulate me and that at some level they take me for fool for not realising that I would suss out their game. In those situations trust is lost.

So how easy is it? To an extent it is straight forward. Currently I get a great sense of support and camaraderie from members of Minerva's Mind, Judith's Room and an offline community called Enterprising Mums. Can you ever have enough? Probably not but it comes back to the age old issue of needing to juggle time and other resources so that they are spent wisely. And this is why I am wondering about whether to involve more time in other networks that I have dabbled in and new networks that I have recently become aware of.

As with all these things there are no easy answers. It is about experimenting with things and sticking with what works and letting go of those that prove to be time wasters.


  1. Wow Kate, we must be on the same wave-length. As you know I've been working through my own highs and lows, setting up in business is never easy, and I should know I've done it four times previously in other places. One thing I am certain of though, it is important to me that I develop genuine mutually beneficial relationships with those I work with. As a businesswoman, in keeping with the spirit of the age I'm determined to be surrounded by authentic people - in my personal life and in my professional life. In fact, working from home there may well be no significant interactions between those networks. I'm also at the stage where I'd like to give out to others walking down the paths I've already trod. I also find Twitter a useful tool for building relationships. For me as a marketing communications' professional I believe today's client/consumer/customer is savvy enough to know when they're being duped or 'sucked up to'! I believe firmly that marketing is no longer about how you can spin the sale, but more about how you can realistically communicate the benefits of your product and service. That's not hard when you genuinely believe in it. It's all about being real.

    You're such a positive person, I often find your blog encouraging. xx

  2. Oh Vix thank you for that heart felt response. I just feel grateful that I have been feeling the love this week about my blog which is great. It is lovely to know that people find it inspiring. Seem to be getting lots of comments about it via twitter as opposed to here but that's great because then I know people are reading it. I think it is all about living in the flow and sometimes that is easier said than done.

    As for authenticity I think I shared this link with you already but if you know people that could be benefit from it feel free to send them in my direction -
    Sending love and laughter your way, Kate xx

  3. I couldn't agree more with what you say. I've just stepped out of a 25 year career with one employer to set up my own business and I've been astonished at how Twitter etc has allowed me to feel part of a community so quickly. I'd dearly love to meet up with you and other people I've got to know because I do already feel that I've got to know you - and equally, I know who I don't want to meet up with...

    My work revolves around helping people to live authentic lives, so I'm naturally drawn to people who already do that, and I find them a great source of inspiration. I love the fact that most of the people I talk to on Twitter are letting their personalities shine through, and those are exactly the people I want to have in my life, whether ad friends or business associates or both.

    So more power to your elbow, I say!

  4. Ahh Cathy you are such a honey. You don't know how much I needed to hear that. Following the path of authenticity is not easy but it becomes easier when surrounded by peeps who think the same way. I am so grateful for the connection that we have made via twitter and other mediums and am so excited about getting to know you better and supporting you on your journey where I can.

  5. Hi it's Lisa from Inspirational Magazine:

    Relationships are very important in all aspects of our lives, it is a foundation that is needs to be carefully put together in order for happiness, trust, peace and love to come out. I personally value relationships and due to past experinces I believe I have become wiser in knowing the real from the fake. It gives a good feeling knowing you have real people around you, people that will mould you, build up, encourage you and support you. We all need that at some point in our lives.

    It's a shame the world has it's fair share of people who want to know you so hopefully they can benefit from you. Why not make it a point to be a benefit to someone everyday?

  6. Hi Lisa thanks for your comment and I love the challenge at the end. I guess we are all at different stages of the self-realisation journey and that's why people's responses are different to stuff varies. When we are living in flow things are so much easier as I found out this morning but more about that in the next post. K xx