The ROI on Community

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” - African Proverb

Nearly 15 years ago I first connected to the Bainbridge Graduate Institute (BGI) network that has become the most enduring, widespread, and powerful community in my life. BGI (now part of Presidio Graduate School) is one of the pioneering and bleeding-edge MBA’s in sustainable business management. Not only does BGI infuse the core curriculum of a typical MBA with sustainability from all angles, it banks on personal development as a foundational requirement for change-making pioneers to create business success. Small-business owners are just those kinds of pioneers.

Pioneers require strong personal leadership and self-awareness.

These skills don’t develop in isolation, in silent retreat (though that is a complementary pathway to learning). They develop in relationship with others. So at BGI we spent lots of time building and leaning on intimate relationships with our classmates.

Sure, other MBAs yield valuable networks to help get jobs and advance careers. But the BGI community is composed of the kind of relationships, many of them, that know the details of each other’s life stories. That are the first people to call for any and all major life decisions: Buy the house? Sell the business? Marry the man? Fire the COO? Have a baby? Move to a different country? I am never alone when faced with pivotal moments in my life and business.

No corner of my life is too scary, intimate, or messy for my community.

So what exactly is the ROI (return on investment) of community, built through shared learning experiences in a business program? Here’s what I got:

  • Emotional support for my entire career, heck, my entire life

  • The most fun learning experience shared by my closest friends

  • The most effective learning experience informed by peers with unique and valuable perspectives

  • Brilliant colleagues across multiple sectors or industries holding a variety of roles to call for advice at any hour

  • Referrals and recommendations to vouch for my authenticity, skills, and quality of work product

  • Eyes and ears on the business landscape with a shared language and values to extend my own reach and knowledge

  • Buddies for adventures, be that of the business or outdoor variety

  • Values-aligned customers for my services or buyers for my business should I want to sell it [Of note, there have been multiple sales of companies between BGI grads just in Portland alone.]

  • Potential employees or referrers for employees who intimately understand my vision and my business

  • Family*

*Yes, this is probably not a business-owner specific value but it is testimony to the power of the relationships formed in a learning community. There have been multiple marriages in the BGI community, a handful specifically in Portland, and many children as well. And outside of those marriages, I honestly feel like the friends I have are my chosen-family. They are the people by my side for the pinnacle moments of joy (e.g., marriages, births, promotions) and challenges (e.g., cancer, death, quitting).

Where else do you get those kinds of returns?

Well, I spent upwards of $60k for my MBA and that is a steal these days. Years later, it’s not the financial modeling or the marketing strategies I remember and lean on on a daily basis.

It’s the community that propels me forward.


Mycelium convenes small-business owners in Portland to create this kind of community. Join us on Jan 3rd for a sample learning session and consider if Mycelium is the right learning community for you.