How Building a Viable Community Can Keep Your Business Going
Until your company reaches around a million dollars in sales per year, you could go under almost any day.
I mean, of course, every business is different. You’re not likely going to need a million dollars to run a naturopathy office or a handmade furniture studio for the long haul.
But the premise is the same for all businesses: you have to reach for a minimum viable community that will keep your business going. You need enough money coming in the door every day that you’ll be able to pay your bills, employ your team, and invest in honing your business ideas, products, and services.
When we first started the business, I used to think, almost daily: “Are we going to make it tomorrow? Are we going to make it next week?”
The business was growing, but were we actually creating success? There were a million hard times, hard decisions, way before there was a million dollars. There were so many times when, as an entrepreneur, I felt frustrated and wanted to give up, or the obstacle in front of us seemed so insurmountable that it would destroy us, or that we’d have to die trying. And then I would panic: If we didn’t have this business, where would I get my hemp foods from personally?
It was the personal stories that kept me going when I felt overwhelmed. The testimonials started coming during the first month already, and we didn’t even have to ask for them. Senior citizens were saying they had started taking hemp oil or eating Hemp Hearts, our fastest-growing product, and the arthritis in their wrists was disappearing. They were feeling better than they had in years. So much anecdotal evidence was coming in, and whether or not these health results were directly tied to Hemp Hearts, that just fired me up.
I realized that what I had in front of me was a bigger mission than I had expected. It was bigger than me and my own health journey. It was bigger than the cofounders and their personal goals. It was bigger than our team.
“This is a movement, so we have to keep going,” I said to myself. “You don’t have an option to back out now.”
The idea of building a nation is expansive, not expensive.
Even as a CEO, your job is to ensure that you’re creating the capacity to keep being passionate about what you do every day so that you can keep getting something out of the work that has meaning to you. Building a minimum viable community isn’t just about hitting those financial goals, it’s about bringing everyone out to play and knowing they’re right there with you, and being that support system for them.
It’s servant leadership times a million.
It’s not a forty-hour week. It’s not a sixty-hour week. It’s more like 168 hours a week.
So you’d better love what you do, and make sure you’ve got that nation surrounding you, so that your business is 100 percent sustainable.
As you move into a bigger role with responsibilities, ask yourself what you need to support your new nation:
- What’s the minimum viable community of people who support my business that I need to build?
- What am I doing to get those people on board?
- How long is it going to take to prove my bigger-business model?
- What are the resources I need to keep going?
- Whom do I need by my side?
- What am I doing to support my nation once I hit my community-building goal?
You want to start close to home and get your footing first. Many people in the health products industry want to get their products on the shelves of Whole Foods or Safeway right away so they can nail that minimum viable community fast. But what you should be able to do immediately is sell your product up and down your own street. Especially with a lot of sales online nowadays, you can develop your minimum viable com- munity in the lowest-cost ways so that you can achieve your first steps on a small business budget over the first eighteen to twenty-four months.
You don’t have to move fast. You have to make your nation last.
That’s because even if you’re a CEO, it doesn’t have to be you against the world. You can also find others who can mentor you, and you can find that your nation might just be ready to leap alongside you. We can fulfill our needs and build a bigger place for all of us to succeed if we learn how to mutually support each other.
In aiming for supporting a minimum viable community, you’re not just stopping at building a group of like-minded people. You’re reaching out to expand the idea of what it means to make life better for more people, every day. And you can rise to the occasion, standing up for what you believe in every step of the way.
Excerpted from Grow: 12 Unconventional Lessons for Becoming an Unstoppable Entrepreneur by Mike Fata (Page Two Books).
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