The Difference Between Business and Community

The best businesses provide a tiny group of people exactly what they want. The best communities provide a large group of people as much of what they want as possible.

Identify whether you are a business or community and focus or build consensus.

My Run for City Council

The past few weeks I’ve learned a new type of work: campaigning. I ran for city council in my hometown and was honored to receive the highest number of votes among all four candidates. If you were involved any way in this result, either as a voter, supporter or evangelist…THANK YOU!

The campaign process taught me an important lesson: a business requires focus, a community requires consensus.

The Difference Between Business and Community

The most successful businesses adhere to a lesson we’ve discussed before: be weird, be specific, find a targeted audience (or tribe as Godin would say) and provide exactly what they are looking for.

The most successful communities are the opposite. They cannot focus on one demographic or interest group and give them what they want. Instead, every viewpoint should be heard, weighed and considered. Ultimately, consensus is required that won’t please anyone but should satisfy everyone.

During my campaign, I learned how visible these distinct groups are in a community. The campaign strategy most people gave me was to drink coffee. First at Hy-Vee at 7 a.m., then at Harms Oil at 10 a.m., Taco John’s at noon, McDonald’s in the afternoon and finally switch from coffee to beer at the Old Market at 5 p.m.

My community is visibly divided into tribes that have their daily ritual of discussing ideas at their “tribal headquarters.” For the vibrancy of the community, this is fantastic. A diverse community is a healthy community. However, bridges need to be built between these groups.

Connecting Tribes as a Community Leader

A community-builder, organizer or politician, should be this bridge. Policies, events and actions taken on behalf of the community should consider the different tribes. What’s more, the formation of new tribes should be encouraged. When there are more active viewpoints in a community, actions that consider these viewpoints will be more thoroughly considered, more inclusive and, most likely, more successful.

This method of deliberation, public input and consensus building is methodical, general and, if done well, acceptable to all tribes. A business should be the exact opposite: quick, focused and delivering a product or service above and beyond acceptable or satisfactory.

Both paths are difficult. It is hard to satisfy everyone in a community or to have the discipline as a business to focus on your tribe. Identifying which path to action you should take will make decision-making and leadership easier.

I am excited to build my community through consensus and my business through focus. I invite you to do the same.

Posted on April 20th, 2015 in Community