“I Don’t Have Time”

I recently received some sound advice from one of our advisors, Robin Spinks. Yes, he’s also my uncle. He also happens to be the smartest person I know in the world when it comes to productivity and time management.

I’ve been really busy lately, and have had a hard time making time for people.

Here was Robin’s advice:

Every time you catch yourself thinking or saying “I don’t have time for _________”, replace it with “________ isn’t a priority right now.”

It instantly changed my perspective on things.

Instead of “I don’t have time to eat lunch”, say “Eating lunch isn’t a priority”.

Well that’s just silly.

“I don’t have time to exercise.” –> “Exercising isn’t a priority”.

But is it?

“I don’t have time to spend with my fiancée.” –> “Spending time with my fiancée isn’t a priority.”

Yikes. Don’t tell her that.

We all have time. It’s how we prioritize that time that determines who we are and what we do in this world.

This simple shift in mentality has really helped me rethink how I spend my time, and focus on what’s really important to me.

If you’re a busy person, give this a shot.

Let me know if it helps you…if you have the time.

Photo by Ryan McGuire.

Want to be a Leader? Stop Trying to be a Leader

 

The strongest leaders don’t try to be leaders. They’re just doing their thing.

It’s great to read and try to learn how to be a leader, but the best books and guides can really be summed up as “determine your values, or standards, stick to them and communicate them efficiently”.

Great leaders aren’t trying to convince everyone to follow them. You can’t force leadership. Leadership is given to the leader by the people they lead. People follow those who have conviction and who know who they are.

In “The Score Takes Care of Itself”, assistant coaches shared their experience working with Bill Walsh, arguably one of the greatest coaches and leaders in the history of the NFL, and what made him so successful. But they don’t talk about his “leadership” directly, they describe his “standard of performance” and his work ethic. They describe his dedication to his system and how effective it was at aligning the team. Bill Walsh didn’t have to tell people he’s the leader. He formed his system, surrounded himself with the people who aligned with his system, and got rid of the people who didn’t.

A great leader for one group of people might be a terrible leader for another group of people. Like Bill, leaders surround themselves with people who believe in their mission, and cut the people who don’t. They don’t try to lead everyone, they want to lead the right people.

Leaders also come in many forms. Some are good, some are evil. Some are nice, some are mean. Some are really analytical, others are more creative. But look at any of them, any leader that people really respect, and it’s their standards that people respect…whatever those standards are.

What’s more important may be WHY you want to be a leader. Is it just to fulfill your own need to feel important? Or are you working to unite people and create a change in the world?

I think a lot about leadership. As a CEO, part of my responsibility is to be a leader for our team, for our community, for our partners, etc. But I don’t want to be a leader to be important. I want to be a leader because it empowers others to do great work and make a positive change.

So…

If you want to be a leader, don’t try to be a leader, just do your thing. Focus on your values and the change you want to see in the world, then surround yourself with people who align with that mission.

Boom. You’re a leader. Now don’t be a jerk (=

 

 

Does Community Management Need a New Title?

fork-in-the-roadRecently I was having a drink with my friend Greg Isenberg and we discussed one of the big challenges the community industry faces.

“Community as a term, has a lot of baggage”, I explained. “People perceive community to be this fluffy, emotional thing. They don’t associate it with business strategy or real business value.”

He agreed, and proposed the solution of changing the title of community management. “Make it something more business-y, like community marketing”. Greg built and sold a consumer company, and is someone whose opinion I really respect when it comes to things like branding and messaging.

I’d be lying if I said I haven’t given this exact subject a good amount of thought before. Our business, and the entire community industry, could live or die depending on how it’s perceived by the rest of the business world.

It’s an interesting thing to think about. What is the brand of a professional industry? And can you define the brand for an entire industry?

It seems like an impossible initiative…which is tough because it’s the challenge we’ve taken on at CMX.

So yes, this is a question I’ve given a lot of thought to…

Should we try to change the title community manager to something else? Like community marketing? Network architecture?

Recently Bill Johnston described customer retention as being the big opportunity for community. Should we just rename our industry to “retention marketing”? Customer retention? Bill has also used a term called “Network Thinking” as a replacement for what many call community strategy.

My friend Sharon Savariego, CEO of Mobilize, also recommended that term “network” when we met for dinner last week. She felt strongly that community should be abandoned. I still see Mobilize as a community platform, but browse their site and you won’t find the word community in many places. They’ve made a conscious effort not to use the word community because of the response it gets from investors and partners.

Hm…that’s no good. So what are we to do? The options seem to be:

Option 1: Change the term community to something more business-y.

Option 2: Reframe how the business world perceives the term community.

I believe we should go with option two and have been working toward that goal for some time now.

At CMX, we don’t use the title “community management” though, because the “community manager” role is just one of the many roles a community professional can achieve, and it has an especially misunderstood definition. Too many companies use the title community management to describe social media managers. Community Manager also has the connotation of a low level employee (though many are not) and so that’s a bad way to describe the entire industry.

So we choose our words specifically. Instead of community management, we refer to the community industry, community professionals and community strategy.

I think we need to create a new definition of community. Community in a business context. Community that has real, provable business value. There’s too much power in the term community to give up on it. It’s really the only word that can describe the shifting business landscape toward decentralization.

And I already see the definition of community in a business context changing…

Companies aren’t just investing in communities, they’re recognizing themselves as communities.

In an recent interview with Chris Anderson, CEO of 3D Robotics and former Editor in Chief of Wired, he proposed a super interesting question that “all business will have to ask themselves”. He asked, “Are you primarily a community or are you primarily a company? The reason you have to ask yourself this is because sooner or later the two will come in conflict.”

There’s a shift happening and products all exist not in isolation, but on platforms. 78% of companies run part or all of its operations on open source software.

And distributed businesses, who leverage the power of collaboration, are scaling faster than companies who try to create everything themselves. There are now 17 companies valued at $1 billion+ in the collaborative space alone.

“I think that it’s very hard to find industries in which community-driven companies won’t ultimately win”, Chris concluded in his interview.

So, I think that the way businesses perceive community is already changing. I believe the goal should be to associate community with innovation, scalability and value AS WELL AS being mission driven, feel-good and all that warm fuzzy stuff.

As more companies are becoming community-driven and successfully launching community strategies, and as more smart people move into director and VP level community positions, businesses understanding of the term “community” will continue to shift in this direction.

And in 10 years, my guess is we won’t be talking about what community means for a business, because it they will be inseparable. Community will be woven into the fabric of business.

What do you think? Does community need a new title? Or should we work to reframe the understanding of community in the business context?

Do you Need to be “Out for Blood” to Succeed?

Today I was listening to an episode of the Reboot Podcast (highly recommended for founders/CEO’s). This one was with my friend Tracy Lawrence, CEO of Chewse. Tracy was also my mentor during the 500 Startups program when I participated a couple years ago so I was particularly excited to listen to this episode.

There was one part of the podcast that really resonated with me. Tracy was talking about the kind of company that she’s trying to build and told the story of one investor email she received while raising their A round. The investor had cut off conversations quickly before even meeting the team and sent her an email saying “I just don’t think that you’re out for blood”.

Tracy shared how this email tormented her. “It tore me up”, she said. “I took it personally”. Of all the rejection she’s received while fundraising, this one stuck with her.

This is a really important subject that probably isn’t talked about nearly enough in the startup world.

Out for Blood vs Out for Love

There are two narratives that you often hear, sometime simultaneously, that seem to be at odds with each other.

The first narrative, which especially comes into play when fundraising, is the one that Tracy describes in her story. It’s this idea that you will stop at nothing. You have to want to *crush it* every day. It’s the hustle, the grind, the “get shit done”. It’s being out for blood. And it’s the idea that if you don’t have this take no prisoners approach, you just won’t make it in the business world.

The second narrative, one that I think is becoming more popular, is that of an impact-driven company. It’s a focus on building a company that has a vision for how to improve the world and a mission to create that change. It’s a company built on love. A company that investors, employees, customers and everyone it touches loves.

This is a topic I think about often and struggle with as a founder.

The reality is, I’m not that first narrative. I’m not out for blood. I don’t think I ever can be. Am I hungry? Yes. Am I ambitious? You bet ya. Will I work my ass off to make my company successful and create the change I want to see int he world? Yes and yes.

But I am not out for blood? No. I am not interested in leaving people in my wake.

Will I stop at nothing? No. If at any point I felt like I was doing real harm to myself, to the world or the people that my company touched, I would stop. If we couldn’t be mission driven anymore and come from a place of love, I would stop.

Not being out for blood doesn’t mean that you’re not a hard worker or that you won’t give your company everything you’ve got in the tank and then some.

Sometimes I catch myself wishing differently. I wish I could be one of those founders who will destroy competitors and not give a shit about anyone or anything who gets in the way of my company’s success. It’s tempting. It feels like a position of power. It feels like those are the people who win.

But when I can step back and see the bigger picture I realize a few things:

  1. That’s not me. It’s not in my bones. I think about who I want to be and the best version of myself, and these characteristics are nowhere to be seen.
  2. I’m only seeing the surface of those peoples’ success. I’m not seeing the physical, emotional or mental pain they’re putting themselves through in order to take that path.
  3. Everything is a learning process and things aren’t always black and white. There are stories of Mark Zuckerberg fucking over his cofounders in the early days and now there are stories of him donating 99% of his income. Would he have done it the same way given the opportunity? I imagine he would have altered some things.

There are certainly things I would have done differently in my career as an entrepreneur and there are decisions I’ve made that negatively impacted people. Sometimes you have to make hard decisions that hurt someone. You have to fire people, you have to end partnerships, you have to choose who to give your time to and who not to. This is the reality of building a business.

I think as long as you can always come from a place of love and try to do what’s right by people, you’re on the right track. At least if you’re like me. Being “out for blood” may be more your style. That’s fine. I’m just not going to be interested in doing business with you.

Tracy responded to the investor’s email and she said, “You know what, I’m not out for blood. I want to build a company that people love.”

I think I might just have to print that out so I can remind myself every day that that’s okay.

The Intimate Internet Has Arrived

group on mountain

This is post #7 in my 365 Day Writing Challenge. Want to follow along? Subscribe here.


 

Did you know that the usage of Facebook Groups has increased by 50% in the last two years?

More than 925 million people now use the product each month — a number previously unreleased — up from 850 million just three months ago. And about 60% of Facebook’s monthly active users are also Groups monthly active users, up from around 40% two years ago. –, BuzzFeed

It makes sense. Social media is reaching a critical point of connectedness. Remember the days when it meant something to be someone’s facebook friend? It used to be exciting to be connected, but now being connected is the norm. Our social streams are overflowing with content from every person that we have even the smallest personal connection with.

Being connected is no longer compelling to people. It’s expected. And a stream of updates from the people you’re connected to is not longer valuable. We have too many connections, with too many people, from too many different parts of our life. Your coworkers, family, friends, people you knew from college, that guy you met at the wedding, the group of girls you hung out with for three days on your trip to Italy…they’re all in the same stream. It’s just not relevant anymore.

As a result, people are now looking to more focused, more intimate community experiences.

Seeking community is core to the human condition. We evolved because of our ability to survive through collaboration. The Smithsonian explains the origins of social life for humans, “Some groups of early humans began collecting tools and food from a variety of places and bringing them to favored resting and eating spots. Sharing vital resources with other members of the group led to stronger social  bonds and enhanced the group’s chances of survival”.

We will always seek to participate in communities, to find a sense of belonging with a core group that will make us feel mentally, emotionally and physically safe.

This is why people flocked to social media in the first place. It’s this human need that made it possible for these platforms to grow so quickly.

Now that same need is driving what I think will be the next iteration of the digital revolution. The first iteration made information widely accessible. The next iteration made socialization widely accessible. Now, community and collaboration will be the theme of the next decade.

Facebook isn’t the only example of this happening. Look around. Slack has quickly become a huge platform not just for teams, but for external communities. The tool isn’t even built for external communities but people are forcing it to be used because of their strong need to find more intimate experiences. NextDoor, Reddit, Meetup… they’re all creating opportunities for more intimate experiences.

In 2014, Forrester predicted that as social media matures, branded communities would make a comeback in 2015. They were right.

The impact of this shift for business is immense. The relationship between companies and customers is changing as customers continue to seek out opportunities for intimate social experiences. The barriers between companies and customers will break down even farther than they already have thanks to social media. Customers no longer want to just consume, they want to feel like they’re a part of something and that they’re aligned with your mission.

Many companies have already identified the trend and embraced it. Lyft, since it’s start, has provided local online communities for their drivers (using facebook groups). Udemy also uses facebook groups as a place for their teachers to connect and support each other. Airbnb originally built their own community groups platform for all their users to connect around their common interest. Now they’ve replaced it with a more cohesive Community Center.

These are just a few of the hundreds of examples we’re starting to see of companies investing in community and seeing impact on retention, acquisition and revenue as a result.

How will your company adapt to the future of community driven business?