In last week’s blog, I teased the fact that in this article I would talk about ‘Social Capital’ and how it has impacted my journey in business, this will lead me to share why the subject of ‘Community Led Business’ is linked to the growth in your individual and company social capital.
Please remember that I am not academic, and I am not a big internet surfer, nor reader of other’s wisdom, reading is not a strength of mine. I never learned to study, apart from the study of people. My learning comes from the joy of observing others , my curiosity and the conversations I have with diverse people. It also grows through my own life experiences.
The years since we started Ecademy in 1998 have taught me one major lesson, through the turbulence of entrepreneurship and the roller-coaster of finances, the losses, and the gains, and that is, “the power of social capital”.
We can all focus on our knowledge and financial capital, the first is a constant, we can’t stop learning, the second is for our sustained existence and to be able to remain personally responsible for our needs. Social Capital, in my experience, is our ability to hold people close, the people that will be with you through thick and thin, and who know you as ‘you’, who want to know you for your beliefs, your regard for others and your contribution. People who seek to give and to seek help in equal proportions.
Community Leadership is the subject that I enjoy and have experienced the most in my business life, today, I want to discuss ‘social capital and being a citizen of a community’.
To be a citizen of a community is also a skill. That skill starts with a Mindset.
In June 2009 Thomas Power was interviewed on ‘What is the mindset of a networked person?’. This is when he first revealed his beliefs around ‘ORS Network Thinking, as opposed to CSC Institutional Thinking’. This is ‘Open, Random and Supportive Thinking’, away from the older ‘Closed, Selective and Controlling Institutional Thinking’. ORS is the mindset of a Citizen of a Community.
To be OPEN to new people and new things., removing any CLOSED mindsets. To be willing to have RANDOM, unexpected conversations, instead of SELECTING people purely on their ’usefulness’. To be SUPPORTIVE of people and their needs, rather than CONTROLLING the agenda for your own needs.
So, you might ask, how does anyone have time to be ORS?
The reality is, without this mindset, you are not building social capital, and you might, in fact you are likely, to experience business loneliness., which does have an economic impact on you and on others. Life is not about the finish line, trying to get to an end point, none of us know the journey we will have in the future, and I guess, as our forefathers used to say, ‘look after people on your way up, as you will need them on the way down’. This is a scary statement, and not necessarily very motivating, however, as I stated at the start of my article today, “my business life has taught me one major lesson, through the turbulence of entrepreneurship and the roller-coaster of finances, the losses, and the gains, and that is the power of social capital”.
Let’s look at this a bit more positively now, as I would not suggest you create Social Capital purely as a form of insurance. Being a great citizen of a community is so powerful. Feeling the sense of contribution, listening to others, be heard, and being among a group of people that are comfortable enough to be themselves, willing to be in need on occasions, and to have the honest ups and downs, is the most powerful way to feel ‘social capital’. I mean REALLY feel it.
I have permission to share an email that one of our BIP100 Members sent Thomas and I, BIP100 Members call themselves ‘BIPPers’.
Matt Thompsett is a Business Owner, the owner of a highly successful Digital Transformation Agency. Managing many developers and many demanding, high profile brands, both in Private and Public sectors. Matt enquired about joining BIP100 and did a lot of due diligence before deciding to join by speaking to a number of our existing BIPPers. One year since Matt joined us, we received this email, to receive this email was a delight, Matt has truly embraced ‘citizenship and the mindset of ORS’. Please do read, as this is highly inspiring.
Hi Powers, hope you are both well…I wanted to summarise my first year as a BIP100 member, so here you go;
Exploring community, being a BIPPer has enabled me to become part of a community of like-minded people. BIPPers share incredible value sets; compassion, generosity, selflessness, and so on (it’s a long list). Despite being busy on their personal missions, nobody is ever too busy to extend the hand of friendship, support and guidance. I have benefitted from many personal interactions, opportunities to both give and receive from the community. From being gifted advice on how to deal with bereavement to offering support for members suffering isolation, I have gained strength from the opportunity to contribute.
Prior to joining BIP I had a sense of isolation that felt like a shadow in my mind, an annoying and ever-present worry. BIP has shone a light into the darker corners and provided a safe space to expose both vulnerabilities and fears. Even just knowing that other business owners out there felt some of the angst, that I was internalising, has been immensely cathartic.
Well-being is a facet of our professional and personal lives that regularly ends up last on the ‘things I need to get a grip on’ list. I hadn’t realised just how disrespectful of my own thoughts, feelings, and emotions I had become. It seems to be a common issue with entrepreneurs to devote energy and time to everyone else’s well-being whilst ignoring our own. BIP Wellbeing and Skills Sessions have opened and entirely new and exciting vista for me. Our regular focus on wellbeing has answered many of the questions that have plagued me for years; “what’s the point?”, “I regret this and that?”, “why am I angry most of the time?” It is true to state that without BIP I would still be ridiculously stressed and lacking a deep sense of contribution and purpose.
I knew we had to pivot the business from profit to purpose, but I did not understand why I felt that way. Well-being is now at the very core of my existence, not just my well-being but the well-being of everyone I can influence from suppliers to family to neighbours. I have learned so much from the BIP community and its many experts, and BIP has provided the opportunity, structure and motivation to understand and action this prudential value.
Commercially, my expectations of joining BIP were zero. I came into BIP with a mindset of ‘no pitching’ and I remain that way. Our business does not really map onto the community in terms of lead generation and to a large extent I am glad. All my life I have valued the potential customer over everyone else, in real terms this has meant I have been enormously selective about who I ‘see’. The members of BIP have helped me to realise that everyone has value, everyone can contribute, and everyone has a story to share. My former arrogance humbles me, and I wish I could reach out to everyone I have snubbed, ignored and dismissed and beg their forgiveness.
Now I ‘see’ everyone and the effect on our customers is extraordinary. Engagement is way up, we are winning bigger projects and customer loyalty is now emotional rather than financial. Alongside this we have engaged several BIP members to assist us in our journey which has been fabulous.
To measure the impact of wellbeing and community is hard, however for fun I have been measuring BIP commercially. Every time I attend a 121, skills session, expert presentation directly or indirectly brought about by BIP I give it a value in cash. To date, my black book records a contribution of just north of £100k. I know it is subjective, but it is too easy to underestimate the value of the community’s contribution.
Thank you BIPPers, thank you Penny and Thomas.
It is important that we all absorb the words Matt has shared, they are so human, and we can all resonate with them. Building a community is one thing, it does take a skill, however the real skill lies within the members of that community, and Matt’s words are a true reflection of the citizens that we handpick and desire. We are so incredibly proud to have the clients we have within BIP100.
To tease in my next thoughts. Next time I am going to share the ways that a community grows in wealth by the following definition of ‘Social Capital’.
Social Capital is …. a concept in social science that involves the potential of individuals to secure benefits and invent solutions to problems through membership in social networks.
The hint is in the words, ‘invent solutions’
*This blog first appeared in my LinkedIn newsletter.