Does the following definition describe your business?
Clique noun \ˈklēk, ˈklik\: a small group of people who spend time together and who are not friendly to other people
If I had to guess, I’d bet you would answer “No.” But maybe you should take another, closer look.
The more time I spend in the public relations industry, the more I’m seeing that birds of a feather do flock together and they form groups of friends based on their business needs. These people work together and party together. On social media, they have their inside jokes, publicly invite each other to lunch and post (too many) group pictures wherever they go together making others who are seeing all this feel alienated…not envious. But what goes on beyond these groups? Not a whole lot.
Initially, these groups form due to common interests whether it’s art, music, medical conditions or any type of recreational interest. There is a bond when you are among friends that think and act like you do. Suddenly, you feel complete. And then another person with the same thoughts or interests comes along, and then another and another and another until it’s like one big happy extended family at Thanksgiving. You have found YOUR people!
So what’s wrong with these cliques? Over the last 8 years, I’ve worked with authors, musicians, metaphysical practitioners, artists and people in the cigar industry, and I’m here to tell you that cliques do not work in any of the industries that I’ve been involved with so far.
“But wait! These are my friends,” you say. “They support me in everything I do and I support them. They are like the family I never had.” Yes, but when you have an actual family gathering with your real family, how open are you to outsiders? And therein lies the problem.
Once these groups get large enough, they begin (sometimes unknowingly) to alienate any and all outsiders. This happens a lot with musicians. Once their talent or music starts to wane, they seem to migrate towards other musicians that they think can help boost them back up. Two or more has-beens trying to ride each other’s coattails in hopes of coming up with a new sound. None of them ever realizing that the key to their success does not lie in another person’s talent (or in this case, lack thereof).
“But they support me and we work well together.You’re just jealous because we won’t let you join us.”
I got news for you, folks. Cliques didn’t work in high school and they absolutely don’t work when we become adults or in our business practices. Not to say that like-minded people can’t work together to build a better mousetrap, but the idea that your small group of close-knit friends is going to bring you the fortune and glory that you have sought for so long is very narrow-minded way of thinking. If your friends and colleagues can’t help themselves to be successful, what makes you believe they’re going to bring you success?
I’ve tried on numerous occasions to help friends who are in these groups. More often than not, I’m met with a sneer for offering my constructive criticism for free. My opinions are met with the view that I’m not trying to help at all. And how can I, or anyone else for that matter, be helping with negative feedback when the members of their clique are only telling them how great they are!
Just last week, I suggest to a friend that runs a life coaching and metaphysical/spirituality practice that they might want to offer membership opportunities that allow members discounts on classes they sign up for over the course of the year. This would encourage people to take more classes and to try out other programs that were available. I was shocked when I heard my friend’s reply: “We’re life coaches…the money doesn’t matter.” WHAT? Then how do you pay the rent? I had also suggested to these same entrepreneurs that they should make it easier for folks to sign up for the classes since they never mentioned how to register in their newsletter or their website. This also fell on deaf ears. It seems that each of them were relying on each other to help build the business, but in this case, it’s just the blind leading the blind.
What’s the answer?
I’m not going to tell you to dump your friends or circles. Everyone, including entrepreneurs, musicians, artists and business people alike, need friends and support whether it comes in the way of friends or colleagues. Keep your friends, but open your eyes and ears to new possibilities and ideas that may be coming to you from outside sources.
“It seems to me that if youre really serious about wanting people to know about your product or service, you have to, by definition, find or create ways for the largest number of likely interested people to know about you, so you have to communicate as far and wide as you can. And do it strategically,” says sociologist Candy Leonard, author of Beatleness and blogger for Huffington Post. Candy also suggests, “Ask yourself ‘Who should know about my book, band, services, etc.’, and then figure out how to reach them. Talking to the same group of people isnt going to bring new customers, readers, fans or whatever. You have to leave your comfort zone.”
Can you see outside your bubble, clique or box in order to find new ways to promote yourself or your business instead of running with the same crowd who are going nowhere? One thing I like to suggest to my Beatles authors is to find other venues besides the popular Beatles festivals as an outlet to sell their books. There are plenty of Rock n’ Roll conventions, Nostalgia conventions, Rolling Stones conventions, etc., where their works would be welcomed.
If you’re a musician, try listening to something outside of your usual genre of music to see if it helps inspire you. Pick up a book of poetry for help with new lyrics or subjects for new songs. Or, try listening to Top 40 radio or Oldies radios to hear what is/was popular now for stimulate your writing talent.
Step outside your box and comfort zone. Think beyond your current circle of friends. Check out what’s trending and try to find a way to relate that to your business. Look. Listen. Talk with professionals that are not necessarily in your area of expertise, they may secretly hold the key to your success.
In the meantime, check out the October 2015 issue of Entrepreneur magazine’s cover story, “Are You A Rebel?”