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Since publicly announcing FOAF, the fraction-of-a-fractional CXO network, in the Vatican Review this March, I’ve been building something entirely new, and it has required a steady series of leaps outside of my comfort zone — while periodically returning to some comfort zones I wasn’t anticipating.
For the founders, entrepreneurs, and others among you grappling with new endeavors, here are a few experiences I’ve had. I welcome hearing more of yours sometime.
Before I begin though, I have to single out two people who have served as teachers during the process and also sherpas who guided me to new terrain: Chris Heuer of AdHocnium and Jaime Schwarz, the Brand Therapist.
Chris joined as one of the first FOAFers, and he and Jaime are collaborating on a new program that should be invaluable for those going through transformative moments. They’ll share more on that soon. FOAF has benefited from putting some of their models into practice, and it’s been fortuitous timing to get to work with such thoughtful strategists.
I should call out all the FOAFers here too, since I keep learning from every single one who has joined. But we’ll name more names in time. For now, here are some of the lessons 10 weeks in.
An unintentional community
I was not trying to start another community when founding FOAF. I was trying to bring some skilled practitioners together for servicing a wider range of clients with a flexible model that filled a niche. But as we got to 25 members, it turned out that FOAF is a network of executives who all have a shared interest in supporting each other’s careers.
At the outset, it had some of the hallmarks of a referral network. But even at this early stage, it’s also a federation, a community, and even a team.
I don’t want this to get too big, especially not anytime soon, so the strength of it won’t be judged by the size. On the contrary, the better everyone knows each other’s strengths and expertise, the greater the potential for FOAF’s success.
My name is David, and I’m a communityholic. I guess there are worse addictions.
The cohort effect
Originally, I was welcoming CXOs into FOAF after talking to them, as long as we realized it was a mutual fit. This included people I’ve known for 15-20 years and people I was meeting for the first time. As we got past 20 people, one FOAFer mentioned it would be helpful to onboard people as a group.
I also drew inspiration from the Progress Partners Executives in Residence Program, which uses a cohort model, letting in a limited number of EIRs quarterly. The EIR program has become one of my favorite communities, and a lot of that is thanks to Jessica Geran Straw, an EIR who became the EIR Director in January.
Since implementing cohorts, it has been freeing to have breathing room with onboarding as I build more of the structure (more on that below). Also, it gives a chance for both sides to make sure we really want to move forward. I went with a cadence of welcoming members in every two months, and we’ll have our next cohort (the first official one to join that way) joining around July 1.
The current cadence of 6 annual cohorts, assuming we stick with this, should work well as we iterate quickly. As we get more established, I could see a cadence of 2-4 cohorts annually making more sense. If you have a group where there’s minimal onboarding and it relies more heavily on network effects, you may veer the opposite direction and choose monthly or even weekly onboarding.
Why? Because we like you
I’ve discovered over the years with Serial Marketers that the main reason I’ve had to keep it going is because it had to exist, and I was the one who was best positioned to run it. Not best qualified, but best positioned. It has consistently been a loss leader, except I haven’t been concerned with what it led to. I just had to keep at it.
And yes, there’s some of that “Field of Dreams” vibe.
It became part of my identity. And I love it, even on days when it exhausts me. Maybe for you, that describes your approach to running. Or writing. Or beekeeping. Stingers be damned, you love the honey!
FOAF came into existence in a similar way. First came the idea as I was trying to describe some work I was already doing and how it differed from other models. Once I had the idea, I validated it with some Google searches, and then I bought a few related domain names, and then I drafted a landing page, and then I started building the network.
Now that it was willed into existence, I know it must exist, and I must see if it can thrive.
Grappling with that makes me want to give every founder I meet a hug. It is daunting giving birth to an idea you can’t let go of.
The encouragement economy
Last week, I spoke to a private executive network about my latest entrepreneurial endeavors. When attendees were generously enthusiastic about the FOAF model, I told them how much that meant to me. I added that before it was financially successful, such encouragement was keeping it going.
Encouragement is currency.
Sure, it’s fun to read those stories where a founder gets revenge on all those naysayers who doubted them. But I also feel like quite a few of those founders are the ones who wind up in prison.
I’d rather read about the founders who thanked all those who wished them well along the way.
No structure is a structure
Oh no, are we getting all Zen? Structures are easy to see when they’re designed to be visible, but they’re often there when they’re invisible too.
When I started FOAF, there was barely any structure. That was by design. Even the FOAF.pro site has an air of, “We don’t need no stinking structure!”
But as I started working with the FOAF team, it became clear that some structure is needed. Working with Chris and Jaime has been critical here.
One of the most important topics we get into is where structure is needed and where it isn’t. What must be put on paper, and what doesn’t? What needs a process, and what processes can form organically? This is going to vary for every organization. While I’ve accepted a ton of their suggestions, I’ve told Chris and Jaime more than once, “Just because your recommendation is the right way to do it doesn’t mean that’s what we’re going to do.”
They haven’t fired me as a client yet.
At least by going through all of this with them, there is little that is accidental now. When there isn’t a clear structure, it’s for one of two reasons: I haven’t gotten around to it yet, or it won’t exist anytime soon. And that seeming lack of structure becomes a critical aspect of the overall structure.
When I hosted the Bagels with Berky educational, interactive series on emerging tech at 360i (a series I still want to bring back in some form), I had referred to it as the only recurring optional meeting on people’s calendars. Now, I’ve got a new version of a recurring optional meeting: the weekly FOAFer team call.
I was debating how often to have such a check-in, especially at an early stage. Was this too much of an ask? I hesitated with this.
First of all, the meetings are optional, and when there’s a need for more people to join, I can make that clear.
Usually, it’s somewhere between 5 and 10 people who show up, and they are engaged, giving feedback, riffing off each other, asking great questions, and making all of our work better. We’re all learning by doing, and it’s a relief that with all the questions I have, no one has all the answers.
There’s also some relief in knowing that if we can’t get to something one week, there’s always another.
Let the record show
I learned about 4149 from Jeremy Caplan’s always-useful Wonder Tools, and the AI-powered app produces impressive summaries of meetings. The more popular Fireflies does AI summaries too, along with searchable meeting recordings. I’ve been slow to embrace adding bots to meetings, but I’m becoming a convert. They’re best for meetings that tend to have several action items, and/or for when some people can’t attend but would want to catch up afterward.
That’s just the start of a very long list of things I’ve learned building out FOAF so far.
What’s something you’re building, and what’s something you’ve learned?
PS: I’ve started using Lu.ma to share events, and I love it. Check out a mix of in-person and virtual events coming up in the next 6 weeks at lu.ma/db. I’d wager at least one is up your alley. They include two AI-themed events – one virtual and one in-person, with a friend who is always teaching me a ton, Jeremiah Owyang, so be sure to check those out.
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Keep checking out the #jobs channel in Serial Marketers for more. You can also see our full list of job resources here. Here are some great opportunities shared in these places or sent to me directly.
Social Media Evangelist
“We are looking for a Social Media Evangelist to create, develop, and post content and engaging visual assets across our social media channels and support strategic projects and initiatives. The Social Media Evangelist will take conceptional ideas and create eye-catching visuals that represent Metaversal’s brand identity. The ideal candidate will be able to generate assets that educate, inspire, and capture the attention of those who see them, yielding meaningful community growth measured by high attention metrics (likes, comments, etc). This is an exciting opportunity to dive deep into the world of blockchain technology, NFTs, and the metaverse from the ground up at one of the fastest-growing companies in the ecosystem. The Metaversal team culture is inclusive, respectful, hardworking, ambitious, forward-thinking, fast-paced, and fully committed to helping independent creators unlock their potential in the metaverse.”
“Mission Group is searching for a dynamic marketing professional who has a true love for the hospitality industry and brings it to work with them on a daily basis! We own and operates a collection of popular bar and restaurant concepts in Washington DC. Responsibilities include creating graphic design content daily, weekly photography and collaboration with our event management and social media teams. The candidate must have a strong understanding of Mission Group’s brand and the Washington D.C. bar and nightlife community. Mission Group is always interested in speaking to hospitality professionals looking to take the next step in their careers. For those interested in salaried management, chef and corporate positions, we offer competitive salaries, benefits and the opportunity for advancement in a rapidly growing company.”
Customer Success Team Lead
“Adelaide is looking for a CS Team Lead for the Central/West regions to manage a team of CS individuals, develop client relationships and to ensure a positive client experience and a successful partnership. You’ll be joining a company making a positive impact on the digital media market using evidence-based metrics to increase the transparency of media quality. We’re remote for the foreseeable future, but you should expect to be in NYC a couple of times a year. This is a great role for someone excited about building out a team, whilst bridging the gap between our clients on the one hand and the Product, Sales, and Engineering teams on the other, keeping everyone up to speed on new developments, client requests, and technical challenges. The role reports into the VP, Customer Success.”
Growth Marketing Lead
United States only
“SureCo is a health and insurance technology company focused on improving the health of Americans. Our products target B2B solutions in the group benefits space and deliver tailored offerings to individual members. As we continue to scale, we seek industry leaders, with proven track records in driving results, to join our team. Our medical weight loss division is a direct-to-consumer program that utilizes technology and personalized guidance to help individuals achieve and maintain a healthy weight. We pride ourselves on our evidence-based approach and commitment to improving the lives of our clients. The Director level Growth Marketing Lead will be responsible for building and scaling the marketing function of this division, driving customer acquisition and revenue growth through the development and execution of comprehensive marketing strategies. The ideal candidate will have a deep understanding of direct-to-consumer marketing, a proven track record of driving growth in a fast-paced, data-driven environment, and experience working in the healthcare industry.”
Also, check out the Serial Marketers job board
Other job resources (see a full list here):
- Beeler.Tech: Job listings for ad operations, programmatic account management, sales operations, and more.
- Braintrust: A freelance platform where you are the owner and where freelance talent keeps 100% of the bill rate.
- Candidate: Featured marketing and sales jobs
- ExecThread: Senior roles spanning a range of verticals and cities; membership is free but fully vetted (this uses my referral ID to get you in faster)
- Lunch Club: Match 1:1 around predetermined goals with accomplished professionals (free)
- NYC Ad Jobs & Networking: A popular Facebook group
- Questions to Ask for a Marketing Role: What questions should you ask when starting a new marketing role or job?
- Serial Marketers Job Board: Post regular and featured listings and subscribe for updates.
- Venwise: Submit your job interests here and get in front of their roster of hiring leads; select “Serial Marketers” under “How did you find us”
Do you run or enjoy other job listing sites? Let me know, and I’ll share them.————————————————–
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