Tribe mentality for small business and start-ups

Squad. Fam. Crew. Gang. Team. Outfit. Troop. Posse. Unit. Company. Fans. Followers. Pack. Tribe.

Whatever a person happens to call their particular group of like-minded associates, and whatever cause is rallied around, and whether or not the group members even know they exist in a cohesive unit, everyone you know is likely involved in some sort of tribe. That includes the person you see in the mirror each morning. You! Yes, you! You are not an island. You are not a one-person wolfpack. You are a full-fledged, card-holding member of least one tribe, if not multiple tribes.

Every tribe has three major things: people, a common idea, and leadership. Two of these things are pretty much automatic. It’s easy to find people. It’s fairly easy to find a common idea. But once you have those two things, regardless of what order you discover them in, the success of your newfound tribe will hinge largely and completely on the third factor: Leadership.

That’s the tricky part about tribes. Big or small, new or old, their success and longevity largely hinges on leadership. Members can be replaced. Ideas can change. But without strong leadership, tribes fail. In a vibrant and well-led tribe everyone is fully immersed in pursuing one goal or quest. Some call this a mission statement. Some call it their mode of operation. Some call it their bottom line. But regardless of desire, intent, or flowery statements of existence, without strong leadership, even the best laid tribal plans will falter.

Every tribe is involved in some kind of quest. Every tribe is either growing, dying, or holding their position. Every tribe hinges, positively or negatively, on leadership. And the tribes you exist inside? Your business, your family, your squad of gym-rats or sweat hogs, or whatever other tribe you’re in, they’re all waiting on the same thing to take them to the next level.

You.

Viable, tribe-changing leadership has less to do with talent, gifts, and position. It is much more about gumption, willingness, and opportunity. If you watch enough perfect pitches buzz by, you might eventually forget how to swing. If your opportunities to seize various moments of small or large leadership continually come and go, without even a flinch of your opportunity-seizing muscle, you may eventually lose your position, or influence. Who knows? If you let enough “opportunities of a lifetime” pass you by, you may run out of opportunities.

Or even worse, you may run out of lifetime.

So how does understanding tribe mentality help you understand small business and new business patterns? Dissecting and analyzing tribe patterns allows us to set specific, viable goals for small businesses in an accurately measurable way. Depending on your organizations particular end goals, you can more viably forecast exactly how many people you need in your tribe in order to be successful. The exact number you land on will vary from business to business and person to person, but the point is that you CAN forecast a viable number. A full service marketing firm may need 100 clients in their tribe who trust them fully, and come to them, without question, for all their marketing needs. A church might need 500 people in their tribe to feel they have met their goals. A cosmetics company, who sells primarily to residential consumers, would potentially need 10’s of thousands of tribe members in order to reach success.

Once a business can accurately forecast the number of viable tribe members needed to be successful, it allows the business to sink their teeth into a larger, end-result, communal goal. Management and ownership can then begin to breakdown what actions are most important, and most necessary, in order to move the business towards the tribal goal. Employees can enjoy the ability to shift their focus on a daily checklist, with the confidence that checking their particular list will help the company yield short-term and long-term success. Once you see your business, employees, and customers as tribe members with unique roles and special value, you will see them as an extension of family. Tribal families go to battle for each other. And when your patrons see you are going to battle for them, you have gone a long way in winning the war of a happy, satisfied customer base. And isn’t that what long-lasting, viable business ventures are all about?

(For additional reading about Tribes, and how we can better understand our roles in them, check out Seth Godin’s acclaimed book Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us.)

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