Steve Jobs put product before profit, Rosie puts community before profit.
You know what? Sometimes I feel like Steve Jobs in my committed beliefs in how to do community well.
I know that sounds a bit arrogant, but hear me out. 😅
If you have a moment, watch this video, it's a 3-minute video.
If you can't watch it, he's a relevant bit extracted from it.
We need to see life through life through the eyes of Steve Jobs more often and say what is this signalling to me, how can I make it more friendly?
It's quite a contrast from an efficient hyper focused world where profits come before products, but one of the keys to Jobs is product becomes profit.
He said if you really focus on making profit, you're going to cut corners, you're gonna do things, you'll juice up your revenues, you'll cut your costs, you'll make a profit. But that way is a path to disaster.
If you really focus on making an insanely good product, the profits are going to follow.
Everyone looks at Steve Jobs now and remarks at how great he was. He was a genius. The success he has achieved has been amazing. The change he created for the world has been down to his beliefs, vision, and stubbornness of what makes a good product. Not compromising for less. Not selling out on what truly felt right to him.
More expensive and coloured packaging ate into their profits, he knew that. He also knew it would add to the experience of the product. That thing we now call unboxing is every product creators dream — for people to get excited and share the unveiling of a product they've purchased.
He didn't want to spend his life creating some mediocre. He was confident that great products would lead to profits — not just to profits though, it would also bring success, leadership, and change.
People look at him now and see how right he was. It looks obvious in hindsight.
Creating a mindset of community before profit
As community builders, or those that support communities, we need to understand that as a philosophy we need to feel comfortable putting community before profit. We need to understand that many things we do in community don't feel like they create a ROI.
There are stories everywhere with community at the heart of change and growth. I know the possibilities that communities create, as do many community builders out there. Yet somehow it still feels hard to prove, show, communicate, and comprehend how doing things on a small human scale can truly bring value or profit.
I think we need to get better at this. At least I feel I need to.
How can we put community before profit? It's a great question.
At the heart of it, it's about doing what is best for the community and trying to focus in on what they need. But how do you even define or prioritize things to be done? In addition to that, how can we build confidence within ourselves that we are doing the right thing?
It most certainly doesn't mean we can just hang out and play every day and cross our fingers and hope an amazing community surfaces up — that doesn't really build sustainable community.
Here are some ideas:
- Build confidence: as community builders we need to build confidence within ourselves that we can build community well. Community builders are at the heart of all communities, we need the confidence to see us through the whole community journey.
- Believe in community: there's something special when we believe in our craft and in the purpose we are serving. The more we believe in what we do and the cause we are serving, the more we will understand the importance of doing certain things that don't make sense on paper.
- Create alignment: being strategic in building community is key, we can't just play all day, yet playing with purpose, or playing in alignment is a game changer. We need to understand where we are heading. If we are aligned well, we can serve the community with clarity.
- Seek balance in being sustainable: Not everything needs to be profitable. Look at any business, not all parts of business are deemed profitable, it doesn't mean they aren't important. Look for ways to balance out your community activities.
- Seek creativity: all communities have their different way of being, yet I believe all of them should seek creativity in their own way. Creativity leads to so many things, such as core insights or innovation for new product ideas. Community builders need the opportunity to explore new things, otherwise they risk becoming irrelevant. An irrelevant community most likely not a valuable or profitable one.
- Create experiences: perhaps community can be viewed as a never ending cycle of creating experiences, these experiences are essentially what builds community. Every experience levels up the community, some experiences are more powerful than others, and some creating a lifetime of impact. What if you had one conversation with someone that completely changed their life? How do you measure the ROI on that?
- Communicate community: when you see something working, or something that has brought it positive impact, make sure you share that. The more people see the results of our work, the less they will be able to deny investing in us.
- Make the best use of your resources: as community builders we have access to a lot, even when the financial budgets are tight, we have access to people all around us. We can be creative with what we have to create impact, specifically impact on people's lives. Quite often, the best thing for communities is to gift people time, it can be life changing for many people. Coming together as a community to fundraise for a cause is a classic example of this.
I'm sure I'm missing other things, let me know if you have any to add!
Do amazingly aligned things for the community and profits will follow
At the end of the day, people need to feel like the community doesn't exist primarily for the profit or transactional behaviour. And on top of this, if we tie everything to profit or transactions, we'll end up cutting corners, or removing the things actually make the community special.
As community builders we need to believe that by doing amazingly aligned things for the community, then profits, or value in some other form will follow.