BY B.C. HENSCHEN
When I started in business, the buzzword seemed to be “networking.” You want to grow your business? You need to network. Need help with
your business? You need to network. If you get involved
in all these networks, you will find people and businesses
that can help you.
That sounded great, so I attended a few small-busi-
ness networking meetings and hated it. There were a lot of
people there, so it must work for some, but it wasn’t for
me. Looking back, I now realize it’s because those people
weren’t in my “tribe.”
I know it sounds like I’m using another buzzword,
but I have really embraced the tribe philosophies. Ox-
ford Dictionaries defines tribe as “a social division in a
traditional society consisting of families or communi-
ties linked by social, economic, religious, or blood ties,
with a common culture and dialect, typically having a
recognized leader.” Compare that to the relevant Oxford
definition of network: “a group of people who exchange
information, contacts, and experience for professional or
social purposes.” Both those definitions are pretty accu-
rate as to what I had in my mind.
The only change I would make is about having a recognized leader—my tribes don’t really have a recognized
leader. At best, I might say my tribes have leaders who
rotate. For my pet lovers’ tribe, some days Dr. Karen
Becker is the leader. On others, it’s Rodney Habib or Tazz
Latifi, owner of a micro pet store in New York.
In the olden times—you know, before Facebook—it
was harder to find your tribes. Social media makes it a lot
easier to find tribes, but not easier to find tribes that are a
good fit. For example, there are many groups for people
who feed their pets a raw diet. However, those people
might not have the same philosophies you have about
the subject. That doesn’t mean they are wrong, but some
of them might not be right for your tribe.
I keep mentioning tribes in the plural, because you
need more than one tribe. I have a tribe of micro indepen-
dent businesses. It’s just a group of us trying to struggle
through the trials and tribulations of having a micro in-
dependent business in today’s world. We lean on each
other, we toss ideas back and forth, and we are just there
for each other. That tribe has nothing to do with pets; I’m
not even sure if they all have pets. That tribe came togeth-
er organically because we all had similar philosophies
about small business and entrepreneurship. When we
chat, it’s not about trying to take over the world or make
every dime out there because that’s not why we’re micro
independent business owners. I’m sure those types are
out there and they have their own tribes. Another tribe
is a group of my customers. I have a lot of customers,
but only a few of them are in that tribe. Those in the tribe
have worked to have a relationship with the businesses
they support, and, in turn, I try and learn more about
them. If we click, they are in!
Tribes really aren’t about membership. It’s not like the
tribe gets together for meetings or goes on trips together.
There are no dues to be in a tribe. For me, it’s actually
who’s not in my tribe that makes them so important to
me. I don’t want to spend my energy with people whose
philosophies are the polar opposite of mine. It doesn’t
mean I don’t like other people. It’s just that I’m not go-
ing to spend what little time I have listening to them.
Sometimes, tribes can remind you of your high school
days. You really want to be friends with the quarterback
because everybody will think you’re cool, but when you
spend time with the quarterback, you realize he’s a jerk.
You have to be honest with yourself and others in
your tribe. Don’t let your ego get involved at all. Tribes
shouldn’t be about impressing each other. As long as you
are throwing away your ego, you might as well leave out
your judgmental side too. If you decide to discard some-
one because they are different from your sense of normal,
you might pass by the person who could have given you
the next great idea that would’ve helped your business.
I know it all sounds confusing, but the most import-
ant aspect of building or belonging to a tribe is feeling
safe and free to communicate. Be clear on your passions
and honest about your own needs. When I talk about
like-minded, it doesn’t mean a clone of my thoughts.
One of my favorite quotes is: “If two people think the
same thing about everything, one of them isn’t neces-
sary.” Just because someone might have different philos-
ophies about raw feeding doesn’t mean they aren’t go-
ing to be in my tribe. If deep in their heart they want to
do the best for their pet, then I want to hear their philos-
ophies. I want to hear their passion. That’s where we
have great back and forth and can learn from each other.
But if they are a jerk or seem to have different motives,
then I’m probably not going to talk to them very much.
You have to work to build your tribes or join a tribe.
When you meet someone who inspires you, tell them.
Don’t be shy about your respect. If someone out there
thinks you are doing a great job, wouldn’t you want them
to tell you? If you find someone who seems like a good
fit for your tribe, ask them if they are on one of the social
media networks or ask for an email address. You have
to follow up, and, essentially, that is the invite to be part
of your tribe. If you find yourself surrounded by people
who challenge you, respect you, and add value to your
life and you do the same for them, you’ll find yourself in
a pretty special world.
B.C. HENSCHEN OFFERS A MICRO-INDEPENDENT
RETAILER’S VIEW OF THE PET INDUSTRY.
Making meaningful connections with people who share
your interests and can offer advice and camaraderie can be
well worth the effort.
You have to work
Don’t be shy
to build your tribe or
join a tribe. When you
meet someone who
inspires you, tell them.
about your respect.
If someone out there
thinks you are doing
a great job, wouldn’t you
want them to tell you?
B.C. HENSCHEN is a well-known champion for pet
owners who want the best in their pet’s food. He is
the;Association for Truth in Pet Food;(ATPF) consumer advocate at;Association of American Feed Control
Officials;(AAFCO), serving on the Pet Food Ingredient
Definition Committee, and is a director with the World
Pet Association (WPA). Henschen is a popular speaker at industry events and meetings. A certified pet
care technician and an accredited pet trainer, he is a
partner in Platinum Paws, a full-service pet salon and
premium pet food store in Carmel, Ind. His knowledge
of the pet food industry makes Platinum Paws the go-to store for pet owners who want more for their pet
than a bag off a shelf.
Members of a “tribe” can lean on each other, trade tips
and challenge each other’s ideas. If you find someone
who is a good fit for your tribe, ask them for their
email address or if they are on social media.