Hispanic Heritage Month: 6 incredible OpCo community members to know

To celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, we’re highlighting some of the most successful, respected executives in the tech industry who identify as being of Spanish, Mexican, Caribbean, Central American, and/or South American descent. Get to know (and follow!) these exceptional Operator LPs and portfolio founders and executives:

Aubrey Blanche @adblanche

Founder and CEO of The Mathpath; Sr Director of Equitable Design, Product, and People, Culture Amp.

Aubrey Blanche, Senior Director of Equitable Design, Product & People at Culture Amp, is also the CEO and Founder of The Mathpath as well a startup investor and advisor, and non-profit board member. Through all her work, she seeks to question, reimagine, and redesign the systems and practices that surround us to ensure that all people can access equitable opportunities and build a better world. She is the inventor of the balanced teams approach to building proportional representation and a culture of belonging in the workplace. 

Elena Gomez @gomez3_elena

Chief Financial Officer, Toast. Board Member of PagerDuty, SmartSheet, the Haas School of Business and OpCo Advisory Board 

While most people go to restaurants to simply eat the food, Elena Gomez spends just as much time observing the operational flow from order to execution, giving her a leading advantage in her latest role of Chief Financial Officer of Toast, Inc., a cloud-based, end-to-end technology platform purpose-built for the entire restaurant industry. Elena is responsible for Toast’s finance organization and leads the company’s accounting, treasury, financial and strategy, and business operations. With over 30 years of experience ranging from scaling SaaS businesses into multi-billion organizations, building and leading large-scale operational teams, and achieving executive alignment on strategy and financial goals across multiple stakeholders, Elena has no shortage of proven outcomes. Most recently she helped scale Zendesk to over $1B in annual revenue while serving as CFO. While her accomplishments seem like they couldn’t get any bigger, she recently added one more title to her CV: 5th grade basketball coach to her daughter’s team.  Elena currently serves as a member of the Board of Directors at Smartsheet and PagerDuty. She also serves on the board of the Haas School of Business and The Boys and Girls Club of San Francisco. She holds a B.S. in Accounting from the Walter A. Haas School of Business at U.C. Berkeley.

Maia Josebachvili @MaiaJo_

Head of Strategic Operations, Financial Services, Stripe. Board Member of Brightwheel.

Maia Josebachvili is a member of the Leadership Team at Stripe, having served in multiple roles — Head of Strategic Operations, Head of Corporate Development, and Head of People. Prior to her current run at Stripe, she served as Vice President of Strategy, Marketing, and People at Greenhouse, a recruiting and automation platform. She’s also had stints as a Founder & CEO (sold the company), a derivatives trader on Wall Street, an engineer, and a pro-skydiver logging over 750 skydives. Throughout these experiences, she’s been a part of the growth journey of scaling several companies from 1 to 8000+ employees. Maia is on the board of Brightwheel and the Dartmouth Magnuson Center, and is a board observer at Forma and TrueLayer. Outside of work, you can find her trail running, camping with her husband and two sons ages 4 and 5, living the part-time van-life, and working towards a life of full-time adventure.

Manny Medina @medinism

CEO, Outreach

Manny Medina is the CEO of Outreach, a sales platform he co-founded in 2014. Prior to Outreach, Manny was employee number three on Amazon’s AWS team where he engineered Amazon’s compensation system for Amazon Associates, and led the Microsoft mobile division from launch to $50M in annual revenue. He holds an MBA from Harvard and a Masters in Computer Science from the University of Pennsylvania. Known for his vulnerable and transparent leadership, Manny sends heartfelt weekly emails to his employees, hosts Friday get-togethers, and encourages everyone to recognize the highs and lows of their job and workplace. Manny grew up in Ecuador and now lives with his wife and three children in Seattle.

Cindy Guerra Robbins @CindygRobbins

Former President & Chief People Officer, Salesforce. Board Member of YearUp, ActiveCampaign, Appfire, Path Forward.ORG.

Cindy Robbins, formerly the President and Chief People Officer of Salesforce, is an independent board director, corporate advisor, and senior executive with 20+ years of experience counseling CEOs and other senior executives. During her 13 years at Salesforce, she was instrumental in making Salesforce an equal-pay pioneer, one of the world’s most admired companies, and one of the best places to work. Today, Cindy serves on the boards of ActiveCampaign, a SaaS-based marketing automation platform, and Year Up, a non-profit organization that trains diverse young people and pairs them with major companies for internships and jobs. Cindy is an expert on recruiting and retaining talent, optimizing productivity and employee satisfaction, and building healthy and diverse cultures that facilitate growth. 

Christina Calvaneso Ross @cfochristina

Co-Founder and CEO, Cube

Christina Ross is the Founder and CEO of Cube, a real-time FP&A platform for modern finance teams. With prior roles at Rent the Runway, Criteo, Eyeview, and GE, Christina has over two decades of finance experience that she’s now leveraging for her latest startup. As a venture-backed CFO and in roles prior, Christina is committed to ensuring company diversity exists at the start, enabling the greatest possible experiences and outcomes for employees and users alike.

 

From the Collective: On Community Part 3 – Putting Community to Work at your Org (and Maximizing its Impact)

Welcome to Part 3 and the final installment in a three-part series focused on community. In the first part, I covered where frameworks can hit their limits. In my last post I talked about how building a culture will help build and sustain your community. Part 3 explores how we can get the support we need by expanding our community teams internally and securing a seat at the table. 

Building community takes work; it requires strategy, continuous content & marketing, buy-in from management, budget allocations and resources, programs and staffing, and above all else, consistency. But if you look at the average community team across growing companies, there seems to be a trend: the teams start small, and often stay small. How can a team of 1-3 people manage, plan for, and run a community operating like a full company?

Spoiler alert: a tiny team can’t, at least not well. But the team can lean on existing internal teams, orgs, and leaders to support the community as a whole and build what I like to call the ‘extended community team’.

I often say that community is the container that holds all customer engagement and activity, but not all customer engagement and activity comes from the community team itself. Your extended team is made up of all other leaders whose programs, products, and/or services engage with, rely on, and activate community members.

For example, in a SaaS company, the Documentation team is its own team and department. They’re responsible for creating product documentation, short how-tos and scripts, and managing the changelog for releases, fixes, and updates. While most community teams operate independent of Documentation, many utilize the Docs team’s materials to share in the community. 

It’s easy to see how the Docs team could seamlessly support community and how community can support the Docs team. But without the intentional collaboration and a plan, community has to track and ask for those documents as needed, creating extra work for the already tiny team, and putting added stress on Docs to respond to community. This isn’t what we want to do.

As a community leader, imagine receiving weekly documentation updates and changelogs directly from the Documentation team that can be shared in community chats and newsletters? Content sent your way on a regular cadence creates value for your members, ensures customers and prospects are updated on all new features and fixes, and comes at little to no lift to you – or the Docs team

Now imagine expanding that alignment across the company to collaborate with additional teams such as: 

Invited Team Member Offer Ask
Product Lead
  • Share product feedback from community members
  • Highlight top-voted asks for features
  • Receive beta invites for select community members to try new features and share feedback
Education Lead
  • Share community testimonials around certification program
  • Highlight members with multiple certifications looking to educate others
  • Promote trainings and support enrollment
  • Learn about new education programs to pilot and share
Documentation Lead
  • Share doc requests coming through community
  • Align on doc updates and releases
  • Pilot a user-run docs update program
Marketing Lead
  • Share top members for interviews and stories
  • Create a member to marketing flywheel and outline their journey
  • Highlight expert community members open to speaking opportunities
  • Learn about ways community can better support marketing and how to integrate the community experience into the brand
Sales Lead
  • Share community ‘Getting Started’ guide for new customers
  • Support handoff of new users post-sale
  • How can community better support deals?
  • Surface common roadblocks members face
Engineering & Support Leads
  • Reduce support tickets with community-led Q&As
  • Support customer happiness
  • Expand product usage via knowledge sharing
  • Review outstanding, unanswered technical Q&As on a weekly basis

The list can go on, and the more you align internally, the more that tiny community team becomes not so tiny anymore. So how do we build this well-oiled expanded community machine? Here are a few steps to get you on your way. 

Show Your Value

Consider this your first task as a community leader: if you want people to follow you, you need to showcase value. Use this as an opportunity to share how you can support their strategic goals, and what you’re able to do. Don’t add in an ask just yet, especially if you’re new. This is an opportunity to simply provide value and get yourself on a team’s radar.

Going back to our Documentation team example, start by setting up a meeting with the head of the team. Use the opportunity to introduce yourself, share a bit about where the community is and what you’re looking to do, ask about their team and goals, and then showcase some way the community can support one of those goals. 

At a prior company, the Docs team wanted to ensure releases were getting out to all customers, but not all customers signed up for release notifications (classic dilemma). I offered to share the releases in my monthly community newsletter, as a release notification in the community (an entirely different notification system), and in an ongoing releases page bookmarked in the community platform. They loved the visibility, I was able to do it all with minimal lift, and we were able to automate the entire process together after a few months.

Report back

As you start collaborating with internal teams, it’s important to track what’s actually being done and report back. This ensures on-going alignment and showcases more of the strategic value and results that community provides .

For the Documentation team, I routinely shared metrics on how many releases were shared monthly, site traffic to the releases page vs general site traffic (the releases page was one of the most popular pages in the community!), and a roundup of comments/corrections sent in from customers for the team to update.

Keep the updates brief and aligned to what the team’s specific goals are. By doing so, the value you’re creating for these internal teams is clear. It also signals to other teams that, ‘Hey, that tiny community team is really doing something!’

Sync with a few internal leaders regularly and report back on how the community is helping. Once you have the relationship built and proven with individual leaders, it’s time to bring it to the next level.

Align Internally

Get a recurring monthly meeting going with all relevant org leaders and share what’s coming up in the community across the company, how it affects their teams/initiatives, what asks you have for them, and what value you and community are adding. This is a group meeting with all of the individual leaders you’ve built relationships with. The group format serves many purposes: 

  1. Helps manage your time now that you’re collaborating with so many teams and leaders 
  2. Shows everyone how community is the thread connecting all of these teams
  3. Anchors many team initiatives to community actions and value 
  4. Positions yourself as the expert in all things community
  5. Deepens community alignment to the business and its goals

Once a meeting is set, it’s time to double down on programs, metrics, and reporting to ensure everyone is up to date. At this point, not only will the leaders know who to go to for anything and everything involving the customer, but individual team members across the company will respond similarly. Don’t be surprised when people are pinging you asking if the community can support an ask of theirs (and don’t be afraid to say ‘no’ if it doesn’t align with your goals).

As the community carves itself a bigger seat at the company table, you’ve got options for where you go next. Perhaps you want community more involved in company strategy, or just be top of mind when larger decisions are being made. Once you have buy-in from all internal stakeholders across the company, you can strategically position community however you want.

If this sounds like a lot, remember, building community takes work. But by putting in the work from the start – pushing beyond the limits of a framework, intentionally crafting a culture with and for your members, and growing your team in a way that benefits everyone involved – you will create a successful community able to sustain itself.

With all of that said and shared, I love talking about community whenever I can. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you think I can help, and when it gets too tough, just remember that this does not happen overnight, but it certainly can happen. 

 

 

From the Collective: On Community Part 2 – It’s Not Community, it’s Culture

Welcome to Part 2 of a three-part series focused on community. In my last post I talked about using frameworks to build your community and the limits that we all face when we rely on just that method. For part two I want to focus on how we can all build and sustain communities that go beyond the numbers to unlock a member’s full potential.

HOW TO BUILD A LONG-LASTING COMMUNITY

First things first, we’re building a culture, and that’s important for our own framing. The frameworks I mentioned in my last post can and will help you build your community at a high level, but none will tap into the core wants, needs, and desires of the collective. Those frameworks, as great as they are for structure, were not created to build a culture as much as they were to support a member/customer. 

That being said, customer communities do in fact have cultures. The best ones have very intentional cultures, which is why they’re successful! Think about Salesforce’s customer community: Trailblazers. They’ve built a deep culture where members help each other and they celebrate their success. It’s less about a transaction and more about getting people what they need and supporting where they’re trying to go. They even have their own terminology, which further strengthens the collective community and makes people feel like they’re truly part of something bigger (which they are).

Hubspot is another incredibly successful community that intentionally built a culture where knowledge flows freely, support and praise are given loudly, and togetherness is baked into the core. They’ve also managed to create subgroups for members to dive deeper into more specific topics and areas, without fragmenting the community as a whole (which is not always easy to do). At the same time, people love Hubspot’s community so much that they’ve become organic brand ambassadors inviting new people in. So how do they do it?

Both of the communities I referenced have been around for over a decade, and that’s important to note. Community is not an overnight success. Ambitiously launching with a handful of programs doesn’t guarantee success of any of them, because nurturing humans takes time. Fostering a culture of trust and belonging takes time. And testing programs, gathering feedback, and tweaking as needed all takes time.

Can you see where I’m going with this? Even if you replicated each community program offered by any successful org, there’s no promise that your replication will drive value, deliver joy, and meet your members’ needs. So how, then, do you do it? It takes a lot of work, commitment, and buy-in, and when done right, will support itself in the long run. Here are my 5 tips to building your community and creating a long-lasting culture:

1. Take the Time

A while ago someone started a rumor saying communities could be launched in 90-days and it caused a lot of company executives to believe that something so grand could be built in such a short time. I’m here to say that while you can certainly build something in 90-days, it won’t be a long-lasting community with the needed support to succeed. Communities take time because people take time, and they’re the one variable your community is built with and around (people being your potential members AND your company leaders). Give yourself time – 6-18 months – to really understand who you’re building with and why. This doesn’t mean you do absolutely nothing in the meantime. It means you use this time as a discovery phase and to build with intention. 

Keep existing programs running but revisit if they’re relevant anymore. Dream up new projects and see where they fit in the business and community itself. Connect with leaders in the company to understand their org’s needs and share how a community can be built to support them. This time is foundational to setting your community up for longevity.

2. Get to Know Your Current & Ideal Members

Use your discovery phase to get to know your members. For current members, reach out. Schedule small group sessions or 1:1s with those who are most active, least active, most in favor of, and most opposing. Why such extremes? Because those are the people who care and those are exactly the people you want to learn from and build with. I promise you, even the person who hasn’t logged into the community in months cares because at some point they joined, and were looking for something. Your job is to find out what that was and how come it never happened.

If you’re building a community from scratch and don’t have members, even better. Use this time to map who those ideal members are, find them, and talk to them. Start with community personas and use this time to really imagine who you’re looking to bring into the space. Understand who they are, what they like, and what they’re in need of. Roughly outline what you hope their community journey will look like, when they join (before or after sales?), and what that onboarding can look like. This plan doesn’t need to be ready for action, it’s more of an ideation phase to help you imagine what you can and might build. You may even find that the community you thought you wanted to build actually morphs as you start to understand who’s going to be in it and how they’ll use it.

3. Uncover the ‘Why’ for Members and the Business

This is crucial for foundational development and internal alignment. In your discovery phase, ask yourself ‘why’. Why does this community have to exist? Why does the business want to support it? Why do members join, contribute, stay, and bring others in? Alternatively, why do they leave, go inactive, or just stop showing up?

Unlocking the internal motivators and intrinsic drivers of your members is going to unlock the programs, events, content, and offerings you’re seeking to build. On the business side, it’s going to ensure deep alignment with business goals and set the community up for greater success. If the business does not support the community, it will fail, and that’s a fact. Communities take resources, and if you’re short on them, it’s the members who suffer. Ensure the community is aligning with the goals of the business before you launch, otherwise it will be an uphill battle from day one.

4. Experience Life Together

There’s a reason people use the phrase ‘comrades in the trenches,’ and it’s because experiencing life together can bring people closer. Now, I’m not saying we should jump to a trauma-inducing activity, but yes, let’s live a little together. Go for a hike, meet up for a drink, edit a resume together, or enjoy a small group dinner. Whatever it is, it’s crucial to move beyond the operations and metrics and tap into what makes everyone a full human being.

It’s not fluff either. As you work through the steps and do your diligence, you’ll see and hear from members about what it is they like and want in this life. You may learn who’s a parent, who has pets, who travels all of the time, etc. From there, you have the opportunity to craft moments that allow you to share those experiences. These are the intentional details that build a culture. And building this culture will provide value and community for members. You need both to be successful.

5. Build With, Not For

I saved my favorite for last. You may have noticed me mentioning ‘building with’ some of the best communities in the world. Notice I didn’t say I built some of the best communities in the world, because that would be a lie. As a community creator and leader, my job is to listen, uncover the gaps for both the business and the user, and find a way forward for all. In order to shift from building for your ideal member to building with them, you’ll need to remind yourself that at the end of the day, it’s their community. 

You cannot create something great ‘for’ them if you do not include them in what’s being built. For anyone afraid of giving up control or losing the community’s focus, this doesn’t mean you share a blank canvas and leave it up to them. Communities need leaders, and as one, your job is to source as many insights as possible, put them together like the puzzle pieces they are, and present it back to the community, reiterating what you heard and how you’re approaching it. Behind the scenes, if you’re honoring your discovery phase, that’s where you’re gathering community input before making your best recommendations. Community is a two-way street between the organizers and members, and if you can’t hear their asks, how will you ever give them what they need? 

These 5 tips, in addition to a solid framework, will guide your community from ideation to launch and help set you up for success. When in doubt, remember that your people want to be there because they took action and showed up. Those early adopters, highly-active members, and natural evangelists are the ones you want to connect with and want to build with. Tap into them as part of your team and build something great together.

It’s always worth remembering that building a community takes a lot of work, commitment, and support, but the rewards are limitless when done right. In my next and final post of this series, I’m going to talk a bit more about how to get your community a seat at the table in your company, and what it takes to be community-first. 

6 LGBTQ+ Operators to Know

To celebrate Pride month, we’re highlighting some of the most successful, respected LGBTQ+ executives in the tech industry. Get to know (and follow!) these exceptional LPs, leaders, and operators:

Angie Coleman (@angieidunno)
Director of Community, Operator Collective

It’s me! I’ve led and developed communities for nearly a decade, spanning B2B product spaces and peer social groups at companies like Snowflake, Lesbians Who Tech, Zendesk, and Dropbox. We’re talking all about my learnings and how to build communities that matter on the blog this summer. Outside of OpCo, you can find me supporting my local QPOC, LGBTQ+, and techie communities, or enjoying nature – hiking, kayaking, or overlanding off the grid. 

Christine or Chris Heckart (C_Heckart)
Co-Founder and CEO of Xapa World

Christine Heckart is the non-binary, genderfluid founder and CEO of Xapa World and board member of Contentful and SiTime. With over 25 years of leadership experience in tech, including as CEO, GM, president, and CMO in industries like entertainment, SaaS, data analytics, security, networking, and storage, she has been there and done that. Married for 35 years with three grown children, Christine writes, paints and follows leading science research in her spare time. 

Emily Heath (@CISOEmilyHeath)
Board Member, Norton LifeLock and LogicGate and Former SVP, Chief Trust and Security Officer, DocuSign

Emily is consistently recognized as a top CSO operator, and has deep experience leading complex, global F100 organizations through technology and cultural change while building highly motivated teams. Prior to DocuSign, where she was the Pride Executive Sponsor, she was VP, Chief Information Security Officer at United Airlines. Emily is passionate about empowering creative and diverse teams, mentoring, and leadership- most importantly, growing leaders. 

LaFawn Davis (@lafawn)
Senior Vice President, ESG, Indeed

LaFawn, #6 on Fast Company’s Queer 50 list this year, has led diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives for more than 15 years, championing the “culture add” of bringing in talented diverse professionals as opposed to focusing only on “culture fit.” In addition to her role at Indeed, she’s currently an advisory board member at Lesbians Who Tech and PowerToFly. She previously held key senior leadership roles at global technology companies like Google, Yahoo, PayPal, and Twilio. 

Monique Dorsainvil (@MoDorsainvil)
Public Policy Director, Meta

Monique spent seven and a half years at the Obama White House, and during that time was named a World Economic Forum Global Shaper. Now at Meta, she engages with third-party think tank and advocacy organizations and was a part of the core team that spearheaded the company’s Civil Rights Audit to look at policy and product from an anti-discrimination lens. Monique also serves on the boards of Planned Parenthood Action Fund and the National Science and Technology Medals Foundation.

Nichole Mustard
Co-Founder and Chief Revenue Officer, Credit Karma

A true consumer champion, Nichole is the architect of Credit Karma’s win-win-win business model and has been instrumental in scaling it, finding the right mix of financial partners, and optimizing data science capabilities to ensure members and partners get the most value from the financial platform’s’s products and services. Under Nichole’s stewardship, Credit Karma has served more than 120M members globally and was acquired by Intuit in 2020 for $8.1B in cash and stock. Credit Karma operates independently and has tracked back-to-back record growth since the acquisition. When not building successful technology companies, Nichole lives with her wife and four children in Northern California.

 

From the Collective: On Community Part 1 – Hitting the Limits of Frameworks

Welcome to the first post in a three-part series about community from the one and only Angie Coleman, Director of Community at OpCo. Angie has led and developed communities for nearly a decade, spanning B2B product spaces and peer social groups at companies like Snowflake, Lesbians Who Tech, Zendesk, and Dropbox. In short, she knows how to build communities that matter. 

Outside of work you can find her supporting her local QPOC, LGBTQ+, and techie communities, or educating non-technical folks on the inner workings of Web 3 with her not-to-be-missed YouTube Series, Web3Weirdos. She’s also an avid nature fan and can often be found hiking, kayaking, or overlanding off the grid with her adorable pup Enzo. 

Angie is one of the most referred and sought-after community leaders in tech, and in this series she will take us on a deep dive into her world of community and offer practical advice on what it takes to bring people together in a brilliant way.

Hint: it’s definitely not a “build it, and they will come” thing. 

***

The most boring phrase I continuously find myself saying is, “I’m Angie, and I build communities.” I’ve been saying this for years. It’s usually a reply to someone asking me what “building community” means. Now, because of the growth of the community industry and my own career, I have this exchange 3-8x/week (depending on how social I’m being!). The job is big, so when asked, I half-honestly respond with, ‘I create programming and events that bring people together.” 

It’s a reductive response. It doesn’t allow for any of the vastness, or the nuance, that is community. Community has turned into a buzzword, arguably one of the more popular tech ones in the last couple of years. 

Here’s a look at how I arrived at this blah definition – and importantly where I’m taking it next. It starts, as many things do, with the frameworks. 

How the Frameworks Work

If you were to ask me even just last year how to build a successful community, I probably would have rattled off something about The 5 E’s of Community, my personal framework, or pointed you to SPACES, or the 7 P’s, or maybe the Community Canvas. There are a lot of frameworks out there that claim to help you build a brilliant community. 

And they will, to a degree. All of those frameworks will help you create events and programming that bring people together. They will all take you from inception to proposal to execution and scale. They’ll help you map what’s important to your community, shape the type of community container you build, and explore KPIs and success metrics. They’ll outline touchpoints and events, along with user contributions, NPS scores, and active users in the space so you know where to focus your efforts. In short, the frameworks will help you build your community exactly as the industry has defined it.

But what if I told you that community can be, and should be, more than a series of operationalized events and programming? 

The Gaps in the Frameworks

I mentioned above that a framework can help you build a community ‘exactly as the industry has defined it.’ Some of these frameworks have been in rotation since before I got into the industry and a few have changed to adapt to the new ways people want to, and actually do, come together.

These frameworks were created with one specific goal in mind: measure the value. When asked about the health of a community, any community expert will be quick to tell you that it’s all about the metrics, the touchpoints, and big rocks we’re producing. Some may rely on NPS scores or benchmark surveys to help quantify the qualitative while others dig into customer testimonials and quotes to capture those warm and fuzzy moments. Beyond community health, the value of the community is often defined by how impactful the community is on business goals ranging from user acquisition to quarterly revenue. It’s actually not uncommon to hear community professionals lead with the metrics-driven business value to ensure the org has a chance to exist.

But I would argue the metrics are only one piece of the success puzzle. A community could measure 40 touchpoints in 1 year, 20 events, a 10% reduction in support tickets due to forum support, and a successful NPS score to boot, but never once ask the members how those touchpoints felt or why they responded the way they did. In short, so what? The focus on metrics as the one source of hard truth negatively impacts community growth and success in multiple ways: 

1. A framework reliant on metrics and numbers will influence community builders and managers to believe numbers = success and higher numbers = more success. For example, if you report that the community reached 2K monthly active users last month, what’s stopping an ask to push for 3K within the next quarter? While growth is usually a goal of communities, growing for the sake of growing vs intentionally nurturing existing members and allowing for a mix of organic and inorganic growth will cause tension for the members and stress for the staff. Bigger is not always better. 

2. What usually follows an aggressive push for metric-based growth is community attrition. While a community may already have a great group of active, excited members eager to contribute, when leaders shift their focus to hypergrowth, those existing members get a little neglected. It’s not intentional, just the outcome of focusing on acquiring new members vs nurturing the current ones. As those existing members take note of the new focus and actions supporting growth vs., say, focusing on improving the existing support forum functionality, they get fed up, and they leave. This member attrition then has a directly negative impact on the health and value of the community. With members no longer using the community features to support themselves and one another, they’ll move to external sources of support, which does two things: 1. It drives up customer support tickets as people seek help elsewhere, which in turn drives up the in-house cost for support and 2. Members gather in externally managed community platforms like Reddit or Twitter to seek additional support and create their own, niche, community. Neither outcomes support a healthy business community.

3. A community based on metrics prioritizes the transaction over the member experience. Now, I’m a big fan of measurable data, and I by no means think community needs to look like all of us holding hands and sharing feelings, but leaning on metrics falls so far to the other side, a non-human side, that it makes it impossible to successfully support and add value to your members’ lives (something every community wants to do in some capacity). Community-led Growth is gaining popularity as a new growth model for companies, but behind community-led is experience-led growth, and without a positive member experience, communities will never unlock organic advocates to share the value of their product/business/service within external circles of influence.

Okay, so we know we need metrics, but we also need something else…but what? I’d say it’s about time for a community mindshift. 

Expanding Community

Community is more than just the numbers. It’s how people feel and why they come back. It’s who they show up as and how they contribute. It’s beyond a transaction, an ask, and even a brand.

More specifically, community is how people come together (whether that’s 1:1 vs. in a group, for events and conferences, in public vs. private, virtual or IRL, etc.). How people come together stems from why they come together (what need or want is the action/program/event filling?). The why and how together create a culture, intentionally or not, and that culture is what creates a lasting community. When done right, it’s community first AND last.

I like to say community creators are building worlds for their members, because for many members, their communities become their worlds. It’s where they go when they need help, want to share news, or are looking for a resource. It’s who they share doctors and therapists with, where they highlight their favorite tools and gear, how they trade recipes or give backdoor referrals and recommendations for hire…the list could go on. 

Everyone, regardless of official affiliation, moves around and within a community (or multiple). Those communities create their own private, safe worlds for their members. It’s within those spaces that people are supported and empowered to do more, be more, give more. Some will even go beyond themselves. That is the power of community. 

As part of this 3-blog series, my next post will explore how we can build and sustain communities that go beyond the numbers to unlock a member’s full potential. Stay tuned for more or drop me your questions at angelica@operatorcollective.com.