By Michael Gunther

Instinctively, humans are tribal. We like to belong to groups comprised of individuals with similar views, thoughts and interests. These connections allow us to enhance our well-being and develop lasting relationships. Look at Facebook’s meteoric rise to more than 500 million members in a five year time frame — it demonstrates that people want to connect no matter how mundane the communication is. Clubs, organizations and associations have existed for years; while the focus may be different, the common goal is to link individuals with similar interests together.

When I was growing up, we had many tribes. My family was a tribe with 19 household members, each unique but bonded from a shared belief in the value of family that still unites us today. My parents were actively involved in our church tribe, where they connected with other spiritually minded individuals. My siblings and I belonged to sports tribes, which helped us develop relationships and build even more connections. Lastly, there was the community tribe, which included our volunteer work at the soup kitchen which extended our associations to an even larger group of people.

Like life, every successful business has tribes that must be developed and nurtured over time to ensure long term sustainability.

Your Customer Tribe

Customers are more loyal to organizations when they feel a connection and a sense of belonging. Loyalty reward programs are one way to grow a dedicated customer base. A business’ use of social media stemmed from the desire of customers to connect and support the brands and organizations that understand them and speak their language. For instance, I just read about a local food truck in Los Angeles with more than 18,000 followers on Twitter. The company tweets daily notifications of their specials and the truck’s location to its growing tribe — pretty incredible!

Your Employee Tribe

Having had the privilege of working with hundreds of businesses over the years, I immediately get a sense of how the leaders are developing their employee tribe. Our society even rates the best employee tribes each year in Fortune magazine’s “Best Places to Work” survey. These highly ranked tribes attract the best and the brightest individuals because people want to belong to a successful tribe. Members expect their leader to have a strong vision and defined goals to which they can contribute. As business owners and leaders, you can connect to employees by facilitating one-on-one meetings or impromptu coffee breaks, team events and trainings, or implementing strong internal communication and feedback systems that encourage idea sharing. Most individuals strive to be part of a team that aims to create something larger than themselves.

Your Community Tribe

Every organization is connected to a community tribe — it could be the city you are based in, or your industry as a whole. Strong organizations understand the value of the community tribe in providing knowledge, resources and tools that allow them to achieve higher levels of performance and sustainable business practices. They also understand the value of participating in local nonprofit organizations to have a positive impact on the health of the overall community tribe. One local company, Morris & Garritano Insurance, routinely sponsors community events, such as Tip-A-Cop, organizes company teams for local running races, and takes time away from the office to participate in LOVE SLO Day, a day of volunteering. By working hard to be a part of the community tribe, Morris & Garritano leaders truly live by their company’s core values.

Bottom Line

You need to evaluate your business and determine what you’re doing to connect with and build the loyalty of your tribes. Do not underestimate the power of them — they’ve grown customer bases at exponential rates, saved companies in dire situations, and formed stronger, healthier communities in which we can all thrive.

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