“Community” may seem an odd topic for a busy cleaning business entrepreneur like you. Given the current reality of COVID, it might sound like a luxury you can’t afford.

The question is, can you afford to be without it?

Hans Wiberg has a visual impairment that makes a simple task like selecting the right item from a vending machine difficult or impossible. Odds are slim he’ll make the right choice on the first try, but it’s something a sighted person can help him with almost instantly. That is if they are available.

In 2015, Wiberg found a brilliant way to create that kind of availability with Be My Eyes. An app that matches sighted volunteers with Wiberg and countless others around the world who struggle with low vision.

Within 24 hours of going live, there were 10,000 signups. Today there are 4.3 million volunteers and over 270,000 blind or low vision recipients in more than 150 countries worldwide.

The user simply clicks on their smartphone, and immediately a sighted person is available to provide a (virtual) set of eyes. The idea clicked, and a whole community was formed because of a shared vision – literally and figuratively.

Similarly, a strong community will improve your vision of what’s possible in the future and provide invaluable help in seeing it through.

Communities are for sharing

According to the dictionary definition, there are two types of community:

  1. Groups that share common characteristics, such as a scientific community
  2. And those with shared purposes or goals

As a cleaning business entrepreneur, you’re part of that second group. And the success of your business depends on the clarity of the vision you and your employees share. For example, you probably spend a good chunk of time and effort on developing a shared idea of what “clean” looks like.

But when it comes to achieving your goals, a key to your success will be to expand your understanding of community. You must learn to leverage it inside your company, among your employees, and outside your company, among your peers.

Before we get to that, here’s a dose of truth.

People struggle without community

It’s no secret that one of the biggest challenges of COVID has been the loss of personal interaction with others. But even before COVID, experts were already concerned about loneliness and isolation. A 2018 study found that loneliness and a feeling of isolation were already at an all-time high.

The unhealthy physical and mental effects of isolation are serious. Experts say that lack of social connection is as detrimental as smoking 15 cigarettes a day or having an alcohol use disorder. And it’s twice as harmful as obesity.*

But the big news – the incredibly good news – is the development of a COVID vaccine and with it the hope of slowly and safely reconnecting with friends, peers, and family.

It’s about more than just reconnecting

If loneliness and isolation were already an issue before the pandemic, maybe “back to normal” is too low a target. Instead of a restart, how about a jumpstart?

What’s needed is people who are willing to step forward in their local communities and hit the ground running (safely) by gathering others who can benefit from and be a benefit to each other.

Now is an excellent time to get your game on when it comes to building relationships and community. Here’s a two-prong strategy for doing just that in 2021.

1. Prioritize your peers

Here’s a potent way to expand your community outside the business.

Dondi Scumaci is a bestselling author, successful speaker, and executive coach. She also implements and facilitates mentoring, learning, and leadership communities within organizations, many of them Fortune 100 companies.

Here’s her advice:

“To create a thriving community, people need to feel they are part of something bigger than themselves. So, start by connecting yourself to something bigger. Find or create a community of peers, and don’t limit it to folks in the same profession.”

Dondi encourages mastermind groups of three to six members who meet regularly to support one another’s goals. In her excellent book titled Career Moves, she shares some first steps:

  1. Defining purpose: What exactly are we here to accomplish?
  2. Establishing ground rules: How will we work together?
  3. Clarifying roles and responsibilities: How will each of us make a valuable contribution?
  4. Determining structure and process: How will we structure ourselves, and what processes will we use to get real traction?
  5. Ensuring accountability: How will we measure success?

There are plenty of resources for creating a mastermind of your own, but don’t wait until you have it all figured out before you start benefiting from the collective wisdom.

See what you can stir up at the Launch27 Facebook community. Connect with cleaning business entrepreneurs or learn from others’ journeys.

2. Amplify the purpose of your team

Individually, the more focused we are, the more effective we become. The same is true for your employees. Focusing their efforts as a group by instilling a clear purpose will multiply your company’s effectiveness and success.

Start by answering this question:

What’s the one thing you’d like your cleaning company to be best known for?

Now apply the community effect by applying the five questions above inside the business. Begin discussing them with individual employees. Ask for ideas. Engage them in the process.

One of the key elements of effectiveness is to make them feel they are part of something bigger than themselves. For example, you could build energy around a cause, such as environmentally friendly cleaning products. Then sell your employees on the idea by helping them see they are contributing to a cleaner environment.

Take it a step further by creating some talking points to share with customers and offering them the opportunity to be part of something bigger.

This kind of enrollment is far more potent than a top-down directive.

“Every human being has a longing for belonging.”

– Howard Partridge

That statement is more true now than ever. Make it your mantra as you hatch your grand plans for the future. Look for ways to pull people with a community-based approach rather than pushing them. Consider it a master skill for development on the road ahead.

Then prepare yourself for a whole new vision of what’s possible.