Over the past two and a half years, we've come and gone through a number of meetups geared toward what we can call the "digital scene" in Toronto. More recently, we've become involved in LeanCoffeeTO, a group of small business owners that meet to discuss Lean Startup principles. I never expected it to be tremendously valuable, but that’s what this particular group has become. In this post, I've tried to articulate what I'm getting out of this meetup, and where I'd like to see it go in the future. Read more...
Defining the Value of Community
LeanCoffeeTO has become many things: a place to find great talent, an environment that creates exciting partnerships, and a startup support group where we can commiserate with like-minded people. I particularly treasure the satisfying and shared sense of disgust when we field the occasional pitch. There is a sense of purpose behind our meetings, and a pride in sharing ideas in a room filled with people you really respect.
The constituency of this group is at the same time homogeneous and tremendously diverse. All of the regular attendees share the desire to work hard and succeed, as well as the deficiency of common sense that typically accompanies the terrible term “entrepreneur.” I’ve met really interesting freelancers, two-person startups, partners from rapidly-growing teams, and even enterprise mavericks who are still deciding if they want to eat the red pill. There's even a tele-commuting software dude who keeps a good LeanCoffeeTO twitter list showing more attendees I couldn't link to here.
This meetup, more than anything, is a place where you can learn new ideas that can be directly applied to your business. I have learned about concepts that I had previously dismissed, discovered new authors who now influence the way we think about business, and have enjoyed sharing our experiences as we all learn more about the ideas that will shape our future.
I would like to see the group continue to evolve at its natural pace, and don’t think any abrupt change is necessary. However I’ve started to derive more and more delicious value from certain aspects of the group, and will do my part to foster those themes moving forward.
I would like to be able to share very specific information about my company in order to gain more insight from the group. The feedback we received from our first case study has been invaluable, and it would be awesome to really open up the hood to see if what we’re doing is small beans or big potatoes. I would also be very interested in learning more about our peers.
This has got to be more than a revenue-measuring exercise, but really poignant advice requires real data, and real disclosure. A few things I would like to share and learn out about are:
- How much money we are saving at the corporate level, and why.
- How are other companies putting together benefits packages for employees.
- How employees can "move up" in small companies.
- How we structured our shareholders agreements.
- And of course many, many more.
So what I’m looking for is not just more transparency, but also way more depth of discovery. Discussing one topic, let alone some of the more complex topics I mentioned above, would be a very difficult task for a group of 20 to accomplish in an hour. And that’s unfortunate because the format of the meetings are effective and packed full of information. But regardless of the where we meet and for how long, there is a more fundamental element that has to be in place for this to work.
It is really critical to have trust in your outsourced advisory board. This trust goes way beyond “Oh please don’t steal my golden idea.” I’m more concerned with having a group that actually cares enough about each other to call bullshit on each other when it really counts. Because sometimes good advice is hard to give, and sometimes even harder to take. It’s also about making a commitment to give as much back to the group as we all receive. Personally, I’m willing to help any way I can.
And if LeanCofeeTO didn’t change a damn bit, I’d still be there any morning of the week.
Find me on twitter if you'd like to parlay a little bit more.