Business is About Belonging – A Short Excerpt

Screen Shot 2014-03-01 at 9.44.06 AM The following is an excerpt from my new book, The Freaks Shall Inherit the Earth, published by John C Wiley and Sons. The important concept I’m hoping to get across as a cornerstone for this book is that it’s important that one learns deeply about belonging:

Business is About Belonging

I’ve received compliments with a consistent theme over the past decade or so. People tell me, “You really do care about people,” and “I feel like you see me and understand me” and “I’ve really enjoyed meeting and getting to know the people you’ve gathered into your community.”

I’m proud of this, of course—but only because it continues to confirm a business tenet in which I believe strongly. Though you’ll rarely find it out there in the textbooks, if you listen and read closely, you’ll find in the works of many successful people: Business is about belonging.

It might seem strange that a book that encourages freaki-ness and the refusal to fit in praises the idea of belonging. But you can see how these two ideas are different, correct? “Fitting in” often means shaving off your unique edges, hiding and masking what defines you, discarding any behaviors or appearances or images that prompt others to question you or push away from you. “Belonging” is about finding that place where you finally let out a deep breath you had no idea you were holding and feeling with great certainty that the people around you understand you.

Raul Colon is a friend of mine and a successful business consultant, as well as one of the Spanish-language writers inside the pages of my magazine, Owner. Raul is also a vegan, which means that he doesn’t eat or use any animal products whatsoever. This is a challenge because Raul lives in Puerto Rico, where meat is a big part of the culture. He’s told me many stories of friends and relatives saying to him that they are vegetarian, and then watching them eat pork. When questioned, they say, “Well, it’s not beef.”

Restaurants everywhere face a challenge when considering whether and how to serve the vegetarian and vegan (and other dietary choice) communities. Raul wrote a piece for Owner where he com- mented on the big difference between a restaurant that grudgingly ensures that a salad has no animal products, and one that proudly displays a wide selection of dishes specifically targeted for vegans. The difference, of course, is that when Raul finds a restaurant that welcomes his business, he spends more of his money there. He feels that he belongs.

Harley Davidson might be one of the brands that is most famous for creating a sense of community. People who wear suits and dresses during work hours keep their Harley keychains and “My Other Car Is a Harley” bumper stickers handy to remind themselves and others that this is where they belong. Some books have looked at this kind of branding as tribal. What we’ve come to co-opt as the concept of tribes is built on belonging, as well.

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  • Raul Colon

    Chris you have always made me feel that I belong in many places and have also helped me identify what places I am probably better off moving out of.

    Thank you for your friendship and the mention.

    Regarding the post I quite can’t understand why its so complicated for businesses that are struggling to realize that by catering to the request of what they think might be a few (when we look at it from the overall population) can be a sample of clients that can bring your product or service into a very profitable business. Not only am I willing to spend more but when I feel I belong I don’t even look at price opening the door for more profitable.

    • Lucy Chen

      This is so true.

    • Lucy Chen

      I think maybe there’s a mismatch. For example, people who believes in the value of vegans do not have the interest or passion for being a chef, running a restaurant, or the passion and drive to be a business owner. And most businesses exist without a real “why”, they are just there to make money, and they do not have a real passion, a belief, a vision, or a real reason to exist. So that’s probably why so few business cater for small niches. Just my thoughts :)

  • Alexandra Petean-Nicola

    Making people that matter and belong is what makes them come back. And the truth is that as a business person you just to acknowledge this about your clients because most process already integrate them. You try to satisfy their needs so you want to make changes to you product accordingly. Making them see that is important.

    • Chris Brogan

      We agree. That’s the goal, at least. : )

  • Lucy Chen

    How brave is Raul to be a vegan!

    • Chris Brogan

      Not sure about brave, but it’s definitely tricky. : )

      • Lucy Chen

        I think it brave because you have to stand up for your choice when everyone around you is saying you are crazy and probably more. My in-laws say that I’m killing my husband and my children slowly by not eating meat.

        • Raul Colon

          @LucyChenFineArt:disqus yes it brings family issues and a lot of myths people create in their heads about how its not healthy. Funny thing is that what they eat can easily be identifiable to the issues they already have most of the times.

  • Mitch Jackson

    Placed my order yesterday!

    • Chris Brogan

      I love you. I do!

      • Mitch Jackson

        You had me at “freak” :-)

  • Paul Jarvis

    As a fellow vegan, I’m the same with restaurants. I never make a big deal about it, but simply inquire if there’s anything I can eat. I don’t expect anywhere to cater specifically to me, but if they do, OH BOY, raving customer for life.

    • Raul Colon

      @pjrvs:disqus :)

      To a certain extent our expectations are low every place that is not a vegan restaurant. LOL

  • Allena Abas

    Seems interesting. I think i should go for 1.

  • Barbarajen

    Very happy to order this. Looking forward…

  • Dr, Rob Campbell

    I get the part about restaurants. Thank you for describing how it carries over to life.

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  • Siegmar Gebele

    would be cool to have this spoken for my mp3-device, chris! ;)
    cheers man, great work!

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