By Michael Gunther

Instinctively, humans are tribal. We like to belong to groups comprised of individuals with similar views, thoughts and interests. We value these connections with others as a way to enhance our well-being and develop lasting relationships. For example, look at Facebook’s meteoric rise to more than 500 million members in a short five year time frame—people want to connect no matter how stimulating or mundane the communication is. Consider the other thousands of clubs, organizations and associations that have existed for many years, all based on a foundation of linking together individuals with similar interests.

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 including little league baseball and soccer, 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 and extended our associations to still a larger reach.

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

•    Your Customer Tribe. Customers are more loyal to organizations when they have a sense of belonging and connection. Loyalty reward programs have developed in multiple industries from coffee houses to airlines, and grown dedicated customer bases. The growth of social media for businesses (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) has 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 whether it is the city in which they operate their business or the industry to which they belong. 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, Native Trails, encourages and supports their employees to assist nonprofits by allowing employees a specified number of paid hours per month to volunteer and support their causes. Their leaders understand the benefits this program provides to both their community and employee tribes.

The 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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