📻 — Abadesi Osunsade on Becoming The Founder, The Business, and The Brand

Good morning yenizens!

This is the final issue of 2020 — I can’t believe that we all made it to the end! We survived… hell, that’s just who we are as a community! We are survivors and most of us (all of us!!) have big goals and big dreams that we’re trying to go after in 2021! I honestly can’t wait to see what folks build!

Before we jump into the #deepdive, here are a few articles to share or chat over with a good friend, community member, or to read silently with a good cup of ☕ or 🍵. Yum.

  1. How I Self Published a Book that Sold 5,000 Copies by Peter Yang — What a wonderful high-level of his process. Many yenizens have told me that they plan to self-publish in 2021! I’m stoked.
  2. My 2020 YiR — TL;DR: Self-confidence. Oh, and my TikTok strategy. Maybe this is the year you decide to not give af.
  3. eBooks: Good for Marketing? — YES (and I can help this year).

And finally, I had a moment to listen to Jack Dorsey as he shared how he runs two large companies at the same time — I love this:

I have to start with what my job is — there are 3 reasons why the company hires me everyday. Number one is to create a healthy team dynamic. That’s the interconnection between the members of the team. It’s how we work together. It’s the purpose that aligns us. It’s the values and principles that guide our work to serve that purpose better.

I’m not as concerned with each individual nodes or individual people on this big graph of the company — I’m more concerned with what connects them and how they connect and making sure we have something healthy. Building and actively building that dynamic.

Job number two is to ensure that decisions are being made. It’s more important that I ensure that the organization is making decisions; that they are making decisions in context of our purpose, our customers, technology trends, and in society.

This removes single points of failure and builds a framework and system that can expand and outlive myself or anyone in the current company.

The third job is raise the bar of what we believe was possible. As we get older — individually and as a company — we tend to take things for granted and we stop asking questions. We tend to take less risk and we’re less likely to jump on a skateboard.

If that happens, we remove learning. Injecting risk and uncomfortable questions with the goal of raising the bar is important.

I perform those three jobs in both companies in the same way but the outcomes are different.

Jack Dorsey

You can listen to the whole thing here:

To infinity & community,

— john


Abadesi is the Founder & CEO of Hustle Crew where she designs training solutions for corporate partners, delivers talks, workshops, and create content for a global community of more than 5,000 folks. She is also the VP of Community & Belonging at Brandwatch.

Today’s workshop and breakdown — originally created by the folks @ Makerpad — focuses on creating community around your story. Here, she shares some of her best-practices and insights into how to put your story “out there” and find the people that will resonate with it.

This is something fundamental for early-stage projects and new communities! Here are my notes on how Abadesi creates courageous content, using the “right” platforms, and how powerful (and important) it is to “control” the narrative around your project, business, and brand.

Reminds me of this great breakdown by Danielle Maveal:

Okay, so let’s dive into my notes…


Abadesi, interviewed by Julie Gauthier, has been in tech for 10+ years, first starting out in growth roles which she is grateful for because it helped her understand the relationships between the business and the customer.

I totally agree and I believe some of the best community builders (and full stack founders) have both a relationship skills and are data-centric in the way they build and operate. Growth is all about data.

As Abadesi says, “community is at the heart of product-market fit” — I love that and agree that community is part of the very process of finding PMF.

She’s worked at Groupon, Amazon, and then built a #nocode startup — Hustle Crew — as well as taking time on the Product Hunt Outreach Team (I didn’t know that was a thing, but, makes total sense). Now she’s with Brandwatch as their VP of Global Community & Blogging.

Personality-Driven Communities

One of the first tactical pieces of advice that Abadesi shares is how she’s observed that the best and more successful communities have an approach to community building that is directly tied (and leveraged) to the founder’s personality where the vision of the project, community or business is a literal “extension” of who the founders are.

It’s worth sitting on this point for a moment and considering how your own personality may help — or even hinder — the development of a community. Finding the right alignment of a founding community builder’s personality, their vision, and the community’s outcomes is vital.

This is a big part of why I’m spending a great deal of time teaching how to create alignment of vision and people for a (future) full stack founders.

Here TL;DR: is this: Build something for yourself first. If you can’t seem to satisfy your own fundamental needs, it’ll be impossible for you to do that for real (paying) community members.

She’s making ~$2.5k in MRR and around ~5,000 members in her community but it didn’t start there. Here’s her process:

  1. She wanted to connect with more folks who wanted to “break in” to startups and build their own companies.
  2. She started to talk more publicly about these things in her writing.
  3. She found folks that resonated with those topics and decided to more “formalize” the communication via an email newsletter (sounds like the CommSaaS playbook!). Specifically, women of color, in tech.
  4. Then she held her first physical event for other women founders.

She continues to work this process as she scaled and grew. Simple systems really do work best!

Go Niche. Really.

Abadesi notices that most folks aren’t specific enough; incredibly narrow in the beginning. This helps you establish the “core” of the community. This is often-repeated advice but most folks seem to ignore it!

Next, she suggests that you talk a lot about your why — something that I could not agree more strongly with! This is very important if you plan on building something bigger than yourself (e.g. a brand) because before your community will trust “the brand” they must trust you, as the leader and founder of the new / nascent startup community.

Makes total, logical sense.

For Abadesi, there’s real power in being vulnerable, so sharing her candid story for her target audience — folks in under-represented backgrounds in the tech industry — which builds trust in the best and fastest way.

This is also how she builds the brand and the business as she uses the “referral growth model” to bring in more traffic, interest, and then convert into passionate and loyal members. She highlights the loyalty part and reminds folks that people will follow you if you’re a strong leader and you know “your why” — otherwise, they will not and they will follow someone else.

You need to:

  1. Show you have “skin in the game”
  2. Put your heart out there

As a result, she doesn’t have to spend much money on marketing; they have an amazing referral program.

You: The Founder, The Business, The Brand

A wonderful question from the audience:

I struggle posting to social media as myself as opposed to my business. Help!

Tessa

Abadesi:

What is the real struggle? What is the real blocker? Your community can give you the words to say. Go back to your “origin story” and everyone loves those types of stories.

Abadesi Osunsade

Other super-helpful, tactical tips you could try:

  1. Share a positive reflection.
  2. Share product development.
  3. Share gratitude to your community.
  4. Start experimenting — it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t “work” — you can always delete it!
  5. Schedule them for a week or a month. See which ones work (have more views) and then do those more.

Make sure to be “relevant” to the right medium. For instance, Twitter has a different “culture” than Reddit and so you’ll want to make sure you’re testing your sharing in the right places that are more closely aligned to your personality. This is important because you are the business and brand in the very beginning! You have to own it.

Another way of thinking about this:

I have a following who supports my career! I owe it to them to create content that speaks to the issues that they care about and that they are supporting my work in amplifying it to a greater audience. This is how I support my brand and my (future) customers.

Abadesi Osunsade

Yikes, nothing but wisdom here!

Creating In-Person Events

According to Abadesi, in-person events are super-important. Here are the things that she thinks about:

  1. Think of the things that you can’t do online. Focus on those.
  2. Do silly things that you’d usually do offline.
  3. Live polls, fun icebreakers.
  4. Have more of the time structured, be super-respectful of people’s time.
  5. Have breaks, wrap up early if you need.
  6. Curate the experience before and after the event.
  7. Be like Beyoncé — you’re a performer, you’re there to do an amazing job by creating the best event ever.
  8. Make sure you have a good follow-up and survey, so you can learn what worked and what didn’t.
  9. Manage the agenda well.
  10. Have a call-to-action.

Also, think about “community partners” — groups that you can really connect with and share resources and even community members. Everyone wins when we share more instead of being more competitive.

Content and Community

Content marketing is a big deal for Abadesi — sharing the narrative and the stories is really important because if you don’t control your story then someone else will (or they will modify it to suit their needs).

That’s some very clinical and important tactics — the strategy is control but the tactic is the consistent creation of content. I completely agree and I believe that writing is a big deal in community building.

A good read would be my breakdown of David Perell‘s work on content development and how it’s the biggest arbitrage opportunity out there:

Abadesi Osunsade is a “asian and black, under-represented and operated business” is such a clear call! It makes sense that she’s growing because it’s clear, compelling, and unambiguous.

You know what she stands for and what her community is about.

Wow, what a powerful reminder of how it matters, greatly, that you differentiate yourself in a growing “community / copycat” world. Focusing on your unique value propositions is how you win.

She then quotes Simon Sinek:

I love it so much:

To succeed, you must be clear about what you believe, disciplined in how you do it, and so consistent in what you do that it becomes a symbol of who you are.

Simon Sinek

🛑 — Reward good behavior, especially the behavior that doesn’t scale.

There’s a bit more in the interview but I wanted to end with this wonderful piece of (older) writing via Abadesi where she addresses other women who are trying to get into a career in tech.

As a proud father of two amazing girls… we need more folks like Abadesi!!

I found an older article and I’ve summarized a bit of it here — you can find the original post of course — wonderful tips on how to think better and more clearly about their career and success, especially as a woman in tech (but these tips can apply to most folks):

Tip 1: Define your personal standard of success

Ensure you have spent some time understanding what a successful career looks like to you. What will you measure success by? Will it be your status or seniority in the organization? Your compensation? Or maybe something even more personal, like the flexibility your job gives you, or the individuals you get to work with? Whatever it is, spend time interviewing yourself to get to the core of what success means to you.

Tip 2: Overcome your fear of failure

Facebook’s motto used to be “move fast and break things”, this captures the sentiments of most tech startups. It’s important to learn to embrace failure and see it not as a setback but as a learning opportunity. Failure is not just essential ingredient in innovation but also in personal growth. Ensure you’re prepared to deal with setbacks and turn them into something positive.

Tip 3: Abandon perfectionism

We know the pressure to be perfect, pressured by societal expectations. It’s important to stay focused on your authentic self, warts and all, and embrace your imperfections. It’s often our imperfections which make us unique in a positive way.

Tech is a male dominated world and perfectionism is the enemy of confidence for women. It’s fine to just be you, as you are, and that acceptance gives you confidence and strength.

Tip 4: Map out your transferable skills

I often meet women who are bored in their traditional corporate jobs and interested in joining the tech scene. What’s holding them back is the false notion that they aren’t ‘techie’ enough for tech.

Tech companies, like any other industry, require a range of workers. Tech companies have HR, legal and operations teams like all other companies. Take some time to list out all your skills — from communication to strategic — so that as you browse for roles you can focus less on the job titles, which are often unclear and inconsistent, and more on the actual skills required to excel in the role.

Tip 5: Read news about the industry and build a dream list of companies

Tech can be a minefield — one minute you’re hearing about the latest Snapchat filter and the next it’s all about the bitcoin bubble. Visit websites like Techcrunch, Wired, The Next Web or The Verge to get up to speed on the latest tech news.

Tip 6: Leverage your network

Tech companies have a bias towards hiring referrals, so do everything you can to get a referral for your job application instead of just submitting one cold. There are hundreds of professional networks you can join through Facebook or Meetup.com to help you make connections with people in the industry.

Don’t be shy about asking strangers for help, the tech world was built on a foundation of favors. People are always open to helping you on the assumption you will return the favor somewhere down the line.

Tip 7: Use social media in your job hunt

I don’t have enough fingers to count the number of people I know working in tech right now who got their job via Twitter. I kid you not.

Founders and hiring managers will often turn to social media first when posting a job — it’s quick and easy and with a request to retweet you will find your simple request gaining hundreds of thousands of views.

Follow the company accounts, and significant leaders within the team e.g. CEO, COO, Head of HR etc.

Tip 8: Research the company you want to work for

You would be surprised how many interviews I’ve done where the candidate couldn’t tell me the names of the founder, the year the startup launched or what our latest product was.

Startups are so high risk by design, they only want to hire people who are truly engaged in the mission and determined to succeed.

Ensure that for your job application and interview you are taking the time to absorb all the information you can about the prospective company; watch YouTube clips of their founders, read their company blog, follow the latest headlines. Show how much you care so you can wow them when you meet them.

Tip 9: Show off your accomplishments

Ensure that you hold nothing back in your communications to current or future employers. Keep a list of the great things you’ve done, quantifying them as much as possible. Know your worth and never settle.

Tip 10: Structure your interview responses in the STAR method

Most startups and tech companies are quite informal, employees will wear jeans, sit on bean bags and play table football during coffee breaks. But the casual environment doesn’t mean that you can be casual in your interview. It’s really important to structure your interview responses so that you can get all the key points across.

Be sure to use the STAR method when answering competency questions e.g. “Give an example of a time you worked to a strict deadline”. In this case you want to start with S, the situation. Set the scene for this example; when and where was it? Then move onto T, the task. You can clarify the problem or issue you personally had to solve. Then move onto A, the action. Here you explain the actions you took to find a solution. Finally, tackle R, the result. Here you explain the outcome, was the solution successful? And to what extent?

Amazing advice.