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The Power of Communities

In spring of 2015, I was asked to keynote the AGORA Conference at Red Deer College. Now that Tad Hargrave of Marketing for Hippies, the inspiration behind my talk is coming to Red Deer on Thursday, I’ve finally been inspired to put it into a blog post. Here it is…


When I was first asked to speak here I was mad…then excited…then full of insecurities. I mean I’m not an expert in anything really, what the hell can I share? Ya, I’m an entrepreneur, I’m passionate about business, marketing, social media and volunteering, but I’m not leader in any of those mediums.

So I sat down and started writing with the intention that I’m going to inspire you guys to walk out of here and change all the things. To be leaders. To make an impact on the world.

You’re off the hook 🙂

My goal today is much simpler and truer to who I am, and it’s been the foundation of every single thing I’ve accomplished and am proud of in my adult life.

My goal is for you to walk out of here I don’t know…maybe inspired isn’t the right word, but compelled to find your communities and get involved. In something. Anything. And in any capacity.

The Power of Communities.

What’s the first thing that pops into your head when I say communities?

When I asked on Twitter I got #12SeasonsandaMovie. I also got similar responses – groups with a common interest, support network, and my favourite:

“Community, to me, is a by-product of the decision to be involved, to participate, to reach out to others, it’s the inevitable result.”

My first thought that comes to mind when I say communities, is my hometown. I grew up in Munson…which is a tiny dot on the map. A small village between Drumheller and Morrin. Our little farming community ate, slept, breathed community. We played sports together, went to school together, had concerts, potlucks and even a lot of our parents grew up together. Everybody knew Everybody. Which is awesome right? Until you’re a teenager, then not so awesome.

I still feel deeply rooted in that community, it’s my base, my hometown…that I never want to go back to, but take comfort in knowing it’s still there. That community is invested in me too. Have a baby, get married (or vice versa in my case) they’ll throw you a shower and celebrate. And they’re there for the shit parts too – the deaths, the hardships, the losses – they’re invested in you and genuinely want to witness your life play out. I think because that sense of community has been so instilled in me my whole life, I always search out communities to be a part of in any capacity.

Where do you find your people? Your communities?

Let’s start with online.

Online Communities

Favourites – Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn groups, maybe you find your people on Tinder.

Man I LOVE the social media. My husband doesn’t think 40K tweets is worthy of much, but I’m here to tell you it IS worthy of something…it gave me connections, a community to build my business.

How many here are on twitter? DO YOU LOVE IT? DO YOU FOLLOW ME? @BrendaSarg … go tweet me.

You can find ANYTHING on twitter. Marketing experts, Big Brands, educators, moms, start-ups, seniors, even Grumpy Cat is on twitter. Even if starting a business isn’t in your future plans, it still has its benefits. Connections. In various avenues that you may not even have thought of, or may not even be of value to you…yet. Ya, there is a ton of bullshit to sift through, but there is a ton of opportunity to learn…about your city, town, your politicians, your non-profits and even what events are happening  – locally and globally. Twitter is my google, I’ve gotten to trust some of my community enough that if they recommend a business or service to me, I trust it’s a good recommendation.

Opportunity. I can’t say it enough…all communities bring opportunity. Knowledge, growth, support…and tons more.

Shortly after I started twitter I was considering a career change, I had tweeted back and forth with a guy who owned his own web design company. I tweeted him one day (never met in real life) and asked him if I could meet with him and pick his brain. Once you feel part of a community…you open the opportunity for asks.

I was working at a civil engineering firm and had offered to do a site for a gym owner…NO CLUE what I was getting in to, zero experience, no skills. And I did it. Then I did another one for a few bucks.

Two websites. Two.

My 3 year old was in daycare at the time and I was just really needing to get him out of there. I came home one Friday, stood in front of my husband’s moving lawn tractor and shouted “I WANT TO QUIT MY JOB AND DESIGN WEBSITES”.

Well, he didn’t run me over and for some crazy reason agreed that I should pack in my 10 and a half year, well paying career and try to be a web designer.

Because you know…2 websites.

I took to twitter. Set up a business twitter account so I could continue being a smartass on my personal one and reel in the customers on the other.

I lasted one week I think. Couldn’t do it. I couldn’t be dry and super professional or I’d be building a false community, a community of people I probably wasn’t even going to enjoy because they were attracted to fake always-super-sweet-and-positive-don’t-disagree-with-anyone me.

Change of plans. I decided at that moment that I’m my brand. I wasn’t confident enough to really pimp my services anyway so I just connected with people AS ME. Engaged. Talked about stuff I was interested in. There is ALWAYS someone on Twitter that has thought your same thought, has been through what you have, or who can offer valuable advice. In time…your community builds. Your support system grows. You have that base…people invested in you who want to see you succeed and will be ambassadors for your business. Sales people that you don’t have to put on payroll – awesome!

I always say twitter built my business. And it did. It taught me a ton, helped me figure out and target my demographic, to meet local industry leaders, and build mutually beneficial relationships with them, and put resources in front of me I never knew existed.

That community built Unlimited BS. By referring me, investing in me with their businesses themselves, and maybe they got something out if it too…being a part of a new business making it. That feels good to be involved in. My online community supported me.

Can’t bring yourself to jump in and talk to perfect strangers online? Ya…it’s weird. I get that.

How about build your own community? You know what you like, what gets you jacked up. Volunteer somewhere. There are a million opportunities to volunteer. Seriously…ridiculous amount of opportunities. Check out Volunteer Central. Or just think of what you like doing, and do it with, or for, someone else. Boom.

I guarantee there are others out there that want to be part of whatever that is. GUARANTEE! And the great thing about volunteering…you’re only going to do it if it’s something you believe in. And others will do it with the same motive.

Why is that awesome? You will be making connections with people that are in line with your values. You never know what kind of opportunity that will bring. In your personal life, your career, your life.

When Ronald McDonald House opened in Red Deer in 2012 my girlfriend asked if I wanted to help her put on a dinner there. They have dinner groups that purchase supper for the families staying there, cook them supper and clean up after. To give them a break in their stress-filled days. She had stayed at another RMH when her daughter has having surgery and said it took a load off. She could focus on her daughter and not providing dinner for the rest of her young family.

So we put it up on Facebook to see if we could get 6 other people interested. HOLY! Ya..I think we had around 40 people wanting to help.

That community of cooks to prepare meals, sponsors to pay for dinner made itself. Before the first dinner, we had decided to form a facebook group named – Real Housewives of Red Deer, a place for people to sign up to join us to cook every time we had a sponsor step up with the money. Three years later, we had over 200 members, and most I’ve never met. It’s individuals who want to be involved, but either are new to Red Deer, don’t have the funds to put on one of their own, or just aren’t able to round up 7 other people to cook with them.

These strangers…these people I’ve never met, built our community. Without people signing up meal after meal, or sponsors offering to send money to purchase a dinner, RHRD would not exist. Us Real Housewives of Red Deer would be sitting at home watching Real Housewives of Beverly Hills instead of offering up a reprieve to hurting families and making a difference.

A community of volunteers.

Networking Communities

Like it or not, in the business world, you’ve got to embrace networking. Ugh. Networking to me has always meant suits blowing smoke up one another’s asses while looking at their phones.

But you have to do it. You have to make connections to move your business forward.

Is anyone familiar with Social Media Breakfast Red Deer?

So what we do is we get together for 2 hours once a month, have a speaker, and it’s attended by local business owners, marketing and communications managers, city employees, and everything in between. Generally people wanting to hear what works and what doesn’t for others in their city and industry. Sharing of ideas. And not just small business either, bigger corporations and non-profits also are involved. A community doesn’t have to be the same demographic… all you need is one common interest or goal.

After its second meeting, I was asked if I’d like to join the Steering Committee. I did…super hesitant, but felt like I needed to get involved to get more connections…and get my name out. I joined and then they all quit…one by one. And ya, I’m delusional enough to believe it had nothing to do with me 🙂 We went through a number of challenges, committee members, and I nearly shut it down twice because it was just too much. I wanted this community of people, but didn’t feel like I was giving them the value I should have been. FINALLY we got the right group. There are 3 of us now and we just work [5 now!]. We’re inspired, we’re motivated, we’re figuring out who’s talents lie where and how to trust those talents.

We just held our 24th event on Thursday and it was awesome. [40th now!]

And our community is making it blow up.

Me by myself? I would have packed it in, without a doubt. Yes, we were still getting the people to the events, but the value was slipping. Thankfully…that group of people had faith in us and wanted this to work…now, we’ve got this. We’ll supply value again. We’re invested in them, and they are invested in us. I think that is what makes a community a community. Being invested.

So I’m going to wrap up with this post I came across on the Marketing for Hippies blog.

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He prefaces the story talking about the woman born over 100 years ago. She was a teacher, a wife and mom to 3. At that time, female teachers were not allowed to work while they were married, so she had to give up her job. She was heavily involved in the church and instilled deep levels of self-respect in her 3 children.

Tragically, the church that held and heard the voices of her father, husband, and son – who all served as pastors there – also echoed the sudden, loud, sickening sound of the gunshot that took her life inside its walls six years after her son was murdered for speaking not only his mind, but the minds of so many others.

He then goes into how there is so much pressure to change the world, that everywhere we turn there are messages, speakers, pinterest posts with inspirational quotes on some majestic backdrop telling us we are meant for bigger. BE BIGGER. Impact the world. And ya, I see that all the time. Spend 2 minutes on Pinterest or Facebook and you’re inundated with it.

That you need to be a hero to affect social change.

Bullshit. You need to be a part of things…communities, not a part from.

We’re told, constantly, that one person can make a difference.

Implied in this story is that Martin Luther King Jr. was the spokesperson and only person who really mattered in the civil rights  movement. That Gandhi was the the movement for India’s independence. That Nelson Mandela was the leader of the anti-apartheid movement, etc.

But that’s historically inaccurate. There were MILLIONS of people involved in those movements without whom all those mentioned above would have been lone and lonely voices.

One person can’t do much, really.

That’s what communities are for. That’s what movements are for. And any of the big names you could mention of positive change makers (and there are, thankfully, many) were outgrowths of a movement, not the leaders of it. They served the movement, not the other way around.

So who was that woman I talked about?

Well, she was born Alberta Christine Williams. But she died Alberta Christine Williams King.

Her husband was Martin Luther King.

Her son was Martin Luther King Jr.

Her name is not well known and yet, through her son (and in many, many other ways we may never know), she blessed this world.

Without Alberta, there would have been no Martin Luther King Jr.

The lesson here is…

Who’s to say what might or might not happen because you and seemingly small, mundane or common things that you do? With a community behind you, your voice matters.

[you can read the full blog post here: “Why Stop Playing Small is Bullshit]

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So no, I’m not a leader, nor do I feel any pressure to be one. The goal isn’t to be bigger than, or a part from…the goal  is to be a part of.

Start building communities. It’s the premise for all movements, all successes, and it opens you up to a world of opportunities.

 

Tad Hargrave is holding a Workshop – Marketing for Hippies 101 – in Red Deer at the Scott Block Theatre this Thursday, July 21st from 10am – 5pm. It’s an awesome opportunity to learn from a skilled, successful, community-minded marketer who I clearly admire A LOT. You can register here:

 

Trying to get out there in your community? VOLUNTEER!

I believe wholeheartedly that a small business or entrepreneur needs it’s community to survive.

You have to be involved in something. Anything. Big or small, popular or not…getting involved in your community is SO KEY.

Why?

Because you look good if you volunteer.

That’s part of it, let’s be real here. But it’s WAY more than that.

It’s…

Connections

Perspectives

Struggles

Celebrations

Friendships

Peers

The situations volunteering in your community will put you in can teach you a million lessons for your business IF you are paying attention.

So pay attention…

What are some struggles? Can you help? Can you alleviate those struggles in some small way?

DO THAT.

What is your community jacked up about? What’s fun and makes them feel a part of something?

DO THAT.

What messages are groups in your community trying to share? Can you get behind that cause? Lend your time or talent to back it?

DO THAT.

Are you a home based business and are hermitting up? Haven’t washed your hair in a week because you don’t REALLY need to see anyone to do your job?

Here’s the straight truth…

You are probably losing touch with your community and your work (and personal hygiene!) is going to suffer.

Get out there. Get involved. Meet all the people. Embrace the awkward. Click To TweetI guarantee your business will benefit. People hire people. And they can only hire people they know are there.

So get there.

24/7 isn’t working for you.

Here’s the thing about being a solo entrepreneur.

IT’S ALL YOU.

Ever go to bed feeling spent? So frickin spent. Not just tired, but spent. Because you are stretched between work – attaining new clients, servicing old ones, learning new ways to market and life – momming, dadding, wifeing. You want adult time…but then shit. Who’s got energy for that??!

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the I WILL KEEP EVERYONE HAPPY IMMEDIATELY AND AS CONSISTENTLY AS I CAN. Because I am woman, hear me roar! Click To Tweet

Or whatever.

I kind of just wanted to say that hear me roar deal…

But really? You suck. Because all the things are suffering. Because your mind and actions are interrupted, sporadic, and crazed.

So stop it. Serious.

Set regular hours for when your clients can contact you. Don’t be available 24/7. Just don’t, unless lives depend on it.

You have to be connected to other things besides work, to do good work. Whatever “connected” means to you…

… connected to your family

… connected to your social life

… connected to your volunteer work

… connected to your cat

It really doesn’t matter what it is, just don’t let those connections be sacrificed for work. No one is good at giving 24/7 of themselves to their work. Click To Tweet (I actually have no statistical facts to back that up…but it’s got to be true.)

Put it away.

It’s not always urgent.

Go connect.

Instagram & Small Business

I signed up for Instagram because a client of mine wanted it on their website so I figured I’d better check it out. My intention was to use it strictly for business.

ALL BUSINESS ALL THE TIME.

Here’s the thing.

I can’t do that.

Truly, I can’t. And I totally understand why as a small business owner you might be overwhelmed to think HOW am I going to come up with content for that every day without it being a total YAWN? How many images of my product can people take?

I’m with ya. 100%

No thanks.

So I stuggled with that. I locked up my account for a while because I was posting a lot of pictures of my son…which is so unprofessional…right?

Screw that definition of professional.

That may work for some, but not all. And certainly not me if that’s the box I have to be in.

I opened it back up, still feeling like “I wasn’t doing Instagram right”.

Then I started to really think about what I love seeing from other small business (and even big business!) people.  I like seeing their work, their space, their behind the scenes and I love, love, LOVE seeing what they are doing in the community! It makes me feel connected to them. And that’s how I do business.

If you’re struggling with Instagram as a small business owner, here’s what I like to see on there, for what it’s worth…

You…your people…enjoying this community, exploring this city, this province. It makes me interested in you and truthfully inspires me to get out and try different things, to visit businesses I haven’t, and to share with others so they can do the same.

Think of the repercussions of that...if we were all advertising for our city? Click To Tweet

Win win.

Now, go post what you ate today and tag me in it 😉

 

Follow Unlimited BS on Instagram

Just Start

How many times have you procrastinated on just starting that thing?

Starting that business you love.

Starting that conversation.

Starting that design.

Starting to grow your business because the start feels overwhelming.

OVERWHELMING.

DAUNTING.

EFFING IMPOSSIBLE.

So here it is…my huge, life altering solution.

JUST $#@! START YOU GUYS!

lol…yes, it’s truly that simple and yet that seemingly hard.

Want to start blogging? Trust me, I KNOW the mental block, the freak-out-ed-ness (new word) of putting your thoughts out there. But you’ll find your audience, it won’t happen immediately, but you will. A new trick I’ve picked up in this marketing blog (I wish I could remember where or I’d credit it!)..set the timer for 6 minutes. Not 5. Not 7. Six. Six minutes to just write shit. You have 6 minutes and you don’t need to schedule in or prep yourself for 6 minutes. If you think you do need to schedule in a 6 minute block…check yourself.

It works. You’ll be surprised. Just write…whatever is in your head. It’ll be random and messy.

JUST START.

Thinking about collaborating with a business? Send that email. Stop thinking about it, START.

Thinking about starting to tell the world about  your new venture but are afraid? Why? Worried people won’t share your excitement?

JUST START.

Send that first tweet. Write that first facebook post. Don’t wait. Don’t wait until everything is perfect. Until the stars align, until the laundry is done (p.s. the laundry is NEVER done).

START NOW.

And lastly…if you are needing a new, FRESH, packed with your energy, website?

JUST START 😉

Customer Service MATTERS!

Last week I was feeling meh. Solution? Shopping.

I started at muse clothing. If you haven’t been…go. Like RIGHT NOW. Awesome selection of clothes that aren’t the same old stuff you see in every second store. The owner, Michelle was there and was super helpful and friendly.

I wanted to give her my money. I felt connected, even a little invested.

Next…I went to Best Buy to purchase a new laptop. I won’t go in to details, but within minutes I had told my salesman I had to walk away because he was irritating the shit out of me…mature, I know, but I was fuming. The new guy sent to help me was fabulous and within minutes, we had decided what fit my needs and I purchased it AND a warranty.

He gave me the interest, the knowledge, and the connection I needed.

Next…GAP at the mall. I had 2 bags in my hands and about 4 items on hangers. I asked the girl for a change room so I could look more. She looked at me…my full hands and responded “They’re at the back”. Geez, thanks. I later heard her tell another shopper that she was actually going on lunch so she couldn’t help her. BRUTAL. Luckily the other girl was super sweet there and smoothed things over.

Customer Service MATTERS.

If you don’t give it, someone else will. We are inundated with options these days…we don’t NEED you. You should feel like you need us…because don’t you?

I think that is where a lot of small businesses rise to the top. A lot of the time, it’s the owner behind the counter or wiping the table. They care.

They cared enough to venture into this crazy world of starting or running a small business, they certainly care whether or not what they have risked so much to bring you…is delivering.

Authentic

This quote was in my email this morning and I love it.

Companies, like people, should never change who they are so others will like them; they should find those who like them for who they already are. ~ Simon Sinek

It is so in line with the conversations I’ve had the past couple days with Clients, and with friends. You don’t need to put on an act, or be who you aren’t to gain business. Just be authentic. People see through bullshit. Maybe not immediately…but eventually.

I think there is a lot of pressure to be something out-of-the-box, stand out, shock factor, huge, over the top and attention getting.

I’m over it. In my head, out of the box is the new in the box with the lid taped neatly shut.

Don’t try so hard. Be you.

Mentors

Men·tor – noun

1. a wise and trusted counsellor or teacher.
2. an influential senior sponsor or supporter.

I have a really fabulous mentor. A fellow nerd if you will. He has given me a wealth of info coming from a place of experience, knowledge and understanding. Love that I have someone in the industry that knows their shit and freely gives it to me in exchange for a cupcake or some chickpeas now and then. That is AWESOME.

If you’re just starting out like me, find someone you can trust and someone who knows their way around the cage. Ask for help. Ask for advice. It’s benefits are immeasurable.

To my wise and trusted counsellor, thank you for continually letting me pick at your awesome brain. If I could knit, I would make you this toque.

brain-toque