If you’re one of the minority wondering if community is overrated, you’re not getting it. Or rather, you’re not getting the need for community. Because if there’s one thing we shouldn’t be brushing aside, it’s the importance of the power of a collaborative of people, most especially, community.
Old School Examples:
In my old Queens, NY neighborhood, the local funeral home has a problem. They’re losing the support of the now primarily Asian members of the community because there is no one on staff to accommodate their faith or speak their language. This is a family run establishment that has been in the same location across from my old church and Catholic School for at least fifty or sixty years. They didn’t adapt with the community because they felt those who are moving into the neighborhood should somehow convert to the funeral home’s way of thinking, rather than the other way around. Now they are losing business to the Asian funeral homes and may have to shut down. If they hired someone who spoke the language and could help the funeral home to learn to adapt to traditions and religions, they’d have more business.
Another case in point from the same town:
My former home town is what is considered a melting pot. I went to school with people of all races and nationalities and everyone got along…except for some old schoolers who didn’t want new races and nationalities moving in. There was a hardware store two blocks away from our home that my father went to often, until he learned that the new owner didn’t like Hispanics moving in to the neighborhood. Instead of adapting, the shop owner complained. He didn’t want them in his store and he wasn’t going to accommodate them. My father made the decision to walk ten blocks to the hardware store owner who chose to embrace members of the new community by learning Spanish and discovering how to best accommodate their needs. Now my Dad had new friends to talk to and share with.
Guess which hardware store went out of business?
The funeral home and first hardware store made a big mistake. They didn’t see these new arrivals to the neighborhood as community. They saw them as outsiders. The smart business owners knew that collectively people become a community and community will make or break a business. Outside of a corrupt society, majority always rules. You can say you’re a people person, but unless you understand community dynamics, you’ll have a hard time getting your message across.
This is more than just some public relations practice. Both hardware stores needed their community to survive. It’s the folks in the community who buy the products but they also recommend the business to others. Communities are fiercely loyal and those who don’t get it, the ones who don’t get community or what it stands for, are the ones that don’t last. Oh sure, the store can have a sale or jump on the next big thing, but once that special day is over, life returns to normal and they see where the true loyalty lies. People will come for a sale, the community will give continued business.
Why You Need Community More Than it Needs You
When I was 7 years old I walked to the local pharmacy and asked the pharmacist for my Dad’s prescription. He didn’t have to look at the prescription slip or check the files. He filled the prescription from memory. He knew all his customers and their families. He also knew our doctors. He knew if we had allergies or a low tolerance to certain foods, and he didn’t need a computer database to give him this knowledge. In return for the excellent customer service, we gave his pharmacy our business, and the pharmacist, our friendship. I don’t know that the guy behind the counter at the ginormous CVS inspires the same response.
There’s a reason my generation trusts mom and pop stores more than super centers. We remember what it was like to pull up a pickle barrel, sit down and chat with the neighbors. We know that community isn’t one sided. Instead, it’s everyone working together towards a common goal. That goal can be the betterment of a neighborhood, or to share information, but without community neither would happen.
Guess what happened?
As soon as people realized they had a voice they made sure it was heard. They made it clear they didn’t want to navigate a phone menu to nowhere or talk to a recording. People began realizing they had options and they could leave for a better customer service experience. And they did. They banded together for a common cause. They created a community.
Now the bigger chains also have ways of growing a community using social networking, special promotions for registered members and more. They’re getting it, finally. They offer special services to reward loyalty. Before the Internet it was harder to rally a community around a big business. Complaints were brushed under the rug and it didn’t matter if customers were left on hold for an eternity. Now they understand that it’s the people who hold the power.
I dare you to name any business that can survive without community:
- Stores: Without community feedback they wouldn’t know what items to stock or what to charge.
- Blogs: Without community you’ll only having the same three people who write for the blog talking back and forth with each other.
- The DMV: Ok. Bad example…
- The Cable Company: If the community is unhappy they’ll write letters, take it to the Internet and create a public relations nightmare.
- Politicians: They won’t reach office unless their community votes for them.
- Public Relations: Simply put, without people to respond to their promotions and press releases they’d be out of a job.
One person is a single voice. A community is a powerful force.
Can you think of any business that doesn’t need people to survive?
It’s All about People
People are the reason behind any success. You might not physically see the people who give feedback or buy products, but without them nothing would exist. Would Thomas Edison invent light bulbs if people didn’t have a need for them? Would we have trains if people didn’t want to travel across country without being scalped? People are the driving force behind everything. Make no mistake, where there are people, there’s community.
You can write off community as overrated, but unless a group of people agree with you, your point won’t be successful.
See how that works?