Advocate a Community, not your business.

As opposed to advocating a product or a service, it feels special to advocate a cause along with a group of others that want to be a part of something much larger. The recent Kony 2012 campaign reflects everyone’s desire to be a part of something special and even the stress that comes with spearheading something that grows exponentially as well.

When I moved back to Chicago I decided to run a networking event, for one real purpose: to be a part of growing my community. I had been in San Francisco and Boston prior to Chicago and it became very apparent that the difference between Chicago and the other two was the interconnected nature of how the community focused on building up one another.

San Francisco was where everyone moved after they made some good strides as entrepreneurs in Boston and in Boston there was a movement to keep the “idea guys” in their cities. Either way, it was apparent right off the bat that the “community” in these two cities was committed to the entrepreneurial scene in their respective city. The truth is, without entrepreneurs and startups the economy won’t grow, in fact there have been far more layoffs than hiring binges from the big boy Fortune 500’s in the past five years to really depend on. So when I moved back to Chicago, the difference between Boston and San Francisco was staggering. Not because there was no community, but because there were so many segmented pockets of good networks that never collaborated.

After a few months, I started seeing a trend in Chicago focusing on not just the entrepreneur scene but a movement on bringing the community closer together. It started with Chicago’s Tech Week, then there was Built In Chicago, then Technori and during this time we started the networking event, Tech In Motion. The point was Chicago was moving forward with energy and enthusiasm for technology and entrepreneurship and more than anything, I wanted to become a part of it.

<p>TechInMotion 5: Featuring Splitl from RoboToaster on Vimeo.</p>

There’s no mystery in what I do, I’m a technical recruiter that loves to help build teams and companies so why not try to extend that skill to the community itself? It made perfect sense to me. Soon after we had a few iterations of these events, I started getting invited to exclusive events that I never had access to. I started receiving calls from people that wanted to know who I was, what I did for a living, and if they could help out with anything. It’s been amazing to see the support that people give when you’re doing something to help the community not only grow but to become more connected.

A community is only sustainable if it is driven by a common purpose and built upon a foundation of appreciation of the community’s success. In other words, interconnected communities care.

They care about where they are going and how they are going to get there. They offer help without needing to be asked. They rally around others in times of both success and failure. Being a part of it is nothing short of amazing.

I look at building a community like a symphony. It’s the sum of individual instruments that execute on a song together that doesn’t exist without them banning together collectively to make it special.

Much like the symphony example, the more people join in this movement, the more people can hear it, be a part of it and ultimately the more change it can make.  

So if you’re someone who is leading people or aspiring to lead people, now is the time to become a part of a movement in your community. It’s not only a recruiting and branding tool, it’s a way for you to become part of the community and make a difference. Ultimately if you’re looking at yourself and the footprint you make, it only grows the more people you impact and not just the people you meet.

By becoming an advocate in your community you impact it and make it better in some way. Don’t be self-serving, be altruistic and smart about how you grow your network and your network will find ways to return the favor and help you grow your business as well – regardless of the business you’re in. 

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