When community doesn't come easily
One of the most common questions my Bloomers ask me is, “how can I create community in my local wedding industry?”
Kind of like a favorite black t-shirt, community can be something we don’t think about until we miss it. You might have heard the proverb: “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Often, in the midst of growing our businesses, or surviving the busy season, or navigating new competition, we’re so focused on going quickly that by the time we notice that we miss a sense of camaraderie amongst our local vendors, we’re already burnt out and frustrated.
In an industry where we all know to tout the phrase “community over competition,” why is it still so dang hard to create real community with the people who live and work closest to us?
I’m going to keep it real here. The problem is probably you.
But it’s not too late! If we can figure out why we resist building community while waiting for it to be delivered to us on a silver platter, we can start to make real, practical steps towards changing the culture of our local vendor community.
Here are four ways you might be resisting connection in your local professional community without even realizing it:
It’s easier to complain than to act.
It just is easier to notice the need for a local community than to do anything about it. Maybe you’re waiting for the off season when you’ll have more time to be friendly. Maybe you’re waiting to find a “friendor” you immediately click with. Maybe you’re waiting to think up some big, community-building event.
Stop waiting for the right timing, or the right connection. If you’re noticing a need, meet the need. Just do one small thing, today, to reach out to someone in your local industry. And maybe start with your biggest competition.
It’s anyone’s job but yours.
You’re probably one of two types of people. You could be the type of person that thinks that anyone else would be better at creating connection than you. Maybe you see yourself as a small fish in the big pond of your local wedding industry. When you see other vendors post in Instagram, you envy their cohesive feeds, their styled shoots, or the other vendors they get to work with. Maybe you’re not the “celebrity planner” of your city. So what? Business owners at every level feel disconnected and isolated. If you’re a floral designer with four hundred followers, and you write an sweet, encouraging email to a nearby photographer with 10k followers, she’s not going to be mad at you. It might be just what she needs.
Or, you could be the second type of person. You could be someone at the top of your industry. You have big budget clients and you haven’t had a weekend off in years. Surely, everyone else has more time to be community minded than you. And do you really need community if you’re already at the top?
Yupp. While things might be going great now, what happens when you get in a car accident and can’t do a wedding setup? It’d be nice to have a friend in the industry who knows and cares for you and can help out. What if you have a freelancer cancel last minute? It’d be great to text a local designer to see if he’s free to help. Maybe you’re finishing an arrangement late on a friday night and you realize you’re out of floral foam. Amazon Prime isn’t that fast. Remember, if we want to go far, we need each other.
You’re scared to sacrifice your special.
Maybe this is what you’re thinking deep down: “if I get close to other people, I’m going to have to give away all my tricks, and then there’s nothing that will set me apart.”
Let me tell you this. You are so much more than a collection of information, education, and experience. No one can do this job like you can because of who you are, not because of what you know. As someone who gave away all her business secrets only to find renewed purpose and increased profits, when you share your triumphs and struggles, you can find the key to your own success and others’.
You also need to check your mindset. A fixed mindset is when you tell yourself you’re either good at something or you’re not, that your expertise has limits. If that’s true, then you need to hoard your talents and expertise, because if you were to share it, you’d have nothing left to make you special. A growth mindset, however, says that I can achieve anything if I work at it. That there is no limit to my potential. Therefore, if I give something away, it’s no big deal. There is no end to my expertise, insight, and talent.
Want to read more about growth v. fixed mindset? Check here.
You’re holding onto grudges and unresolved conflict.
The elephant in the reception hall. Do I really want to become friends with the photographer who never sends me photos after weddings? Do I really want to reach out to the planner who wants a little too much say in my floral designs? Do I really want to spend any extra time with the owner of the best venue in town, but who is also really strict about parking?
Yupp, you do. These are the people we have to work with. None of us can pull off a wedding alone, and we can’t improve working relationships by distancing ourselves from those we struggle with. Not only will that make tensions worse, but eventually we’ll run out of people to work with! It’s way easier to roll your eyes at someone’s Instagram. Maybe it’s time to unfollow on Instagram and grab coffee in real life.
If you’re feeling like community isn’t coming easily, then you need to take the first step to change that. It may feel like it will cost you time, profits, clients, or pride. And it might. But if you want to feel a sense of belonging, it’s going to cost you something. Brene Brown says, “true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world.” Reaching out to those in your community might cost you some vulnerability.
It can be scary and intimidating to make the first move in developing relationships in your local community. But I promise you, we will not go far if we don’t connect to our industry partners.
If you’re looking for some concrete ways to build local community in your industry, check back in for Part II!