While a non-public business certainly may relish its privacy and relative protection from the changing circumstances of the public equity market, it can come at a cost if that privacy bleeds into a reticence to reach out, to engage with others, to simply build a sense of community so we do not feel so, well, alone. Of all the factors that influence the success of a private and family business — strategy, leadership, market presence, financing, etc. — what needs to be on the list is a focused and determined commitment to develop community.
Community — that social frame-work where we have people we meet with, talk with, share lives with, feel we belong to — is essential not only to combat isolation but to keep us open to other ideas, changes in the business environment, and exchange resources, contacts and solutions.
At the Goering Center, we get a fair number of calls from members who are struggling with some issue and seeking expert advice and support — and we have a great reservoir to draw from in our Professional Services Registry. However, what often sticks out is how many of these calls reflect an underpinning of “aloneness” — that the issue went on a bit too long, or they had tried some things internally to no avail, or they simply did not know where to turn. While it is good practice to get professional help of the right kind at the right time, we wonder how many of these situations would have felt less isolating if the business owner had been surrounded by a caring and trusted community.
There is such a temptation to imagine that a problem is unique to you or your business, or that no one can understand your business as well as you, or what worked for one would not work for you. Being in community — having regular interaction with others who have a common business interest — shows that little of that is true. We enrich each other by sharing these stories, these experiences, those solutions. The give-and-take of community is just that — a chance to contribute and gain from others.
At the Goering Center, we have long recognized the importance of community. While we work hard to deliver content in such programs as a breakfast series or institutes, we know and celebrate the fact that there is a lot of energy in the room when the conversation turns to the tables. We see the laughter, the caring, the notes being taken, the reassuring hand on the shoulder, the warm handshakes that are evidence that connection and community is really what we are after.