📻 — Don’t Forget to “Start with Why” for a New Community

Hey yenizens!

I had the good fortune yesterday to spend some quality time with a few folks that I’ve come to know via Community Club (seriously-cool group, yo).

Together, we helped a fellow community builder brainstorm a possible (re)launch of her project and we chatted through the challenges of aligning our interests, passions, and curiosities with our experience, skills, and know-how — a common problem area and tension for many creators and builders.

It dawned on me how fundamental this problem is and how many of our struggles as it relates to building (new) communities is largely because we are unsure of precisely why we are really attempting to put one together.

In other words, I know what it’s like having not fully answered the question of why I’m building a community and how that it ultimately serves my own relational, emotional, financial, and/or business needs.

Noele’s lean community framework is a powerful reminder (and primer) on how we should rightly think about building new communities from the ground-up but what is not highlighted enough is whether we’re clear as to why the community should exist (or be brought together), in the first place.

And so we wrestled with this topic (👋🏻 — Alex, Anna, Danielle, Mac, Mindaugas, and Najva!) and as we candidly shared how difficult it can be to grow, lead, and nurture a community, we were all reminded how important it is to align our (current) interests with the products, businesses, and the inevitable communities that we will be attached to those projects.

Otherwise, at best you’ll get bored and, at worst, you become bitter, burnt out, and the value of the community (and the associated business brand) will be negatively impacted.

And that’s no good for anyone.

How does one go about doing this? There’s only one starting block: You have answer the question of why because without this you won’t build a community (or business) that will attract, retain, and grow:

People don’t buy WHAT you do; they buy WHY you do it.

Simon Sinek

It’s about being able to clearly communicate your purpose, your cause, your belief about ___fill_in_the_blank___ — it’s being able to clearly describe a vision for the world that could (should) be significantly better than it is today, especially now with you and the product / community that you’re building!

It doesn’t have to be grandiose or a dent-in-the-universe type of thing — in fact, it should start intentionally small. Again, more wisdom from Sinek:

The goal is not to surround yourself with everybody who needs what you have; the goal is to surround yourself with people who believe what you believe.

Simon Sinek

Start there. We all know that starting small is not just tactical, it’s also strategic. It’s an opportunity, especially in the beginning, to test-drive our early hypotheses about what we’re building and who our community (and customers) really are.

Succinctly, to be successful, each and every community / business must answer these 3 important questions and strategic components, according to Sinek:

  1. Why they exist
  2. How they are to do business
  3. What are the products / services that you will create and deliver

Sinek argues that the companies and communities that can fundamentally answer these questions, in this order, are poised to be more successful in nearly every angle — he calls it “The Golden Circle”:

Many of us are already familiar with Simon’s work (and his presentations) but how quickly we forget this framework when we’re building new projects, businesses, and communities!

You have to know why you do what you do.

If people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it, so it follows that if you don’t know why you do what you do, how will anyone else?

If the leader of the organization can’t clearly articulate why the organization exists in terms beyond its products or services, then how does he expect the employees to know why to come to work?

Simon Sinek

The obvious connections and analogs to community building and the development of community is impossible to miss: If the community leader (founder, builder, creators, etc.) cannot clearly articulate why the community exists in terms beyond the Slack Channel or Telegram Group, then how can they expect new and potential community members to know why they should join and sign up?

Consequently, we have to start with why — there is no other place to start. This will be our competitive advantage and will be the reason why folks will subscribe, join, and create value for your business and your/their community.

As community leaders, let us endeavor to capture people’s hearts and minds instead of just their clicks and likes — we are so much better than that! As Simon shares:

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

Our communities deserve the very best (as do we).

To infinity & community

— john