These days there are a lot of blended families. I recently got to observe one such family closely. Children, parents, step-parents, joint custody, two sets of grandparents, day care workers, teachers, coaches…. It reminds me of that saying, "it takes an entire village to raise a child". Sometimes the village works and sometimes it doesn't; to the detriment of the children.
Starting and running a full-fledged business is a lot easier when there is a village behind it. Sure it helps to have a strong leader too, but succeeding in business is hard enough without having to go it alone. When you have a large group of people wanting it to grow and succeed you have a much better chance.
It is even better if your customers are part of that village (or tribe as some marketers call it).
What you are doing (product or service) can't be a commodity to engage customers in your business success. If they can get it anywhere, they will.
No, to create that grass-roots village or tribe support, you have to have a compelling story that engages the customer to make them feel compelled to stick around.
People still gravitate to belonging to something. It used to be a physical community based on where you lived. Now the world has changed and communities are dispersed, yet they are maintained across common interests… hockey, music, religion, etc.
Technology has created more virtual communities.
The open source development community has been around for a while with its own motives for participation.
The social web is a more recent example; starting with chats and forums and evolving into Facebook, Twitter and the like.
Some businesses are using the social web to interact with customers.
The real trick though is building a business that can attract, engage and retain customers as part of the tribe; customers that have a vested interest in the business succeeding.
Oh yeah, and a real business that actually makes a profit for its shareholders (living off the cash from a big IPO indefinitely doesn't count) while delivering that service and community to its customers.
That is the trick to having a village raise a business.