Debi Lane
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In the rise of what marketing research firm Edelman calls “Brand Democracy,” how will your business fare? 

New research out last October shows that nearly two-thirds of consumers around the world will buy or boycott a brand solely based on its social or political stances. More than half of those surveyed believe brands can do more good than governments. In this climate, thinking about the internal and external communities your business serves and why is not just the right thing to do — it’s good business.

As the founder and CEO of LunchboxWax, I see our “voters” as being members of our communities: the guests we serve, the people we employ, and the franchisees who seek to be a part of our community for the financial freedom and the movement we are building together. Our community is also literal: the cities and towns across the United States where we have salons, and in many ways, the global community of which we are a part.

Sharing the story of how a brand belongs to communities is no easy task. It takes a real commitment to the values that shape your business’s culture, as well as those that inform the way its leaders conduct themselves. Here are five ways I strive to create a culture rooted in community at my organization:

1. Walk the walk.

Talking about the importance of giving back to the community is easy. Companies have entire departments devoted to doing it. But backing up the talk with action takes more time, investment and energy. It means clarifying what matters to you personally and through your business, and figuring out how you align the two into tangible impact. One way we do this is by elevating local ideas for charitable giving, like we did recently at our West Hollywood salon in response to the California wildfires, and in previous years by supporting hurricane relief in the Southeast and Puerto Rico.

2. 24/7 self-awareness.

I can’t stress enough the importance of listening, especially when you are the boss. Well-intentioned people can sometimes be the worst offenders when it comes to self-awareness. That’s why we are building in mindfulness training modules into our training curriculum for employees. If you want to make change in your community, you need to understand what the community needs and wants, and figure out how to incorporate yourself and your business in an authentic way that makes sense, shows respect and collaboratively works to advance the cause.

3. Boundaries matter.

Companies and leaders who give back get a million asks. It can be hard to prioritize which good cause to invest in, especially when giving back through a company with many stakeholders. It goes back to figuring out that sweet spot between your personal and professional values, and where you can make the most change. Say no to the rest.

4. Vote with your dollars.

Just as consumers can create community by being choosey about which brands they support, so can companies. Partner with brands who follow your values. This also holds true to investing in a franchise – what sort of community do you want to be a part of? One that will deliver huge returns but suck out your soul, or one that can provide solid returns over time and make you feel like you are part of a community that shares your vales?

5. Elevate others.

So much good comes from mentorship, on both sides of the equation. Friendship and connection lies at the heart of any community, and mentorship is a huge part of developing that. Mentorship also helps grow a culture of “intrapreneurship” inside a company. Rather than hiring outside talent as we grow, we work to develop the people who’ve been with us the longest. I love seeing my team members shine, even if that means they end up leaving us to pursue their dreams. It’s good for my soul, and it’s good for the business too.

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Find Debi on Twitter:  @debilane.

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