One summer, while driving through Maine, where my husband grew up, we stopped by a landmark called the Home of the Pie Lady. The place looks like someone's home, the door is unlocked and you just walk in. On the table in the living room are different sizes of pies, all with price tags, and on the side sits a tin with a sign that reads, "Leave money here." You pick a pie, put your money in the tin, take change, and leave.
Chris knew this place from his youth, and although few people had ever actually met the pie lady, she was famous for baking the best blueberry pies in the world—and for offering free cookies to hikers! Sure enough, decades later, there on the table sat a basket with cookies and a note that said, "$1.00 each—Free for Hikers."
I was baffled by this practice and commented that this certainly wouldn't work where I come from. I grew up in a city where the culture is not as tightly knit as it obviously is in rural Maine. Yet the fact that the pie lady had been selling her goods this way for decades was living testimony that here, somehow, this honor system was still working.
Culture only happens when the majority of people share the same values. It is based on an intangible agreement where everyone knows and does the right thing, not because they are coerced to do so or motivated by personal gain, but because they want to do so in order to honor and safeguard the community. Once a culture is established, it has inherent longevity—hence the Home of the Pie Lady decades later.
In business, this translates into loyalty; in network marketing, it's called retention.
How do people perceive the culture of network marketing? We all know some less than flattering stereotypes about networkers. How does this kind of cultural stereotype come to be? More importantly, how do we create a strong culture in our organizations that people want to be part of?
Just as we create our reality with our beliefs and actions, culture is created with our collective mindsets and behaviors. Based on the story of the pie lady, some principles that foster a lasting sense of community are transparency, trust, excellence, generosity and sustainability.
What values do you teach and model in your business?
When you meet a prospect for lunch, do you skimp on the tip, or are you generous and friendly to the waitress? When presenting your business, do you use knocked-off CDs or professional business materials? Do you make disparaging comments about other companies, or do you elevate the profession by edifying alternative opportunities? Do you condone under-the-table strategies or advocate sustainable business practices?
Culture is an invisible force we can learn to master by educating the mind and training behaviors. Once adopted, culture becomes the glue that holds communities and businesses together.
JOSEPHINE GROSS, PH.D. is cofounder and editor of Networking Times.