The 5 Pillars of Community Businesses
Early on in building this business, I realized that every task, project, and question I had, fell into one of 5 areas: Business Model, Community Experience, Leadership, Sales & Marketing, and Operations.
I found it helpful to look at these as separate “departments” even when it was just me working on all of them. I could put on my Sales & Marketing hat when it was time to sell, my Operations hat when it was time to get organized, etc. It was a way to sort the overwhelming amount of different projects and tasks I had to do. Building these departments helped me make slow but consistent progress.
It was from these areas that the curriculum for Build a Community Business started to come together, and how it’s still structured today. We categorize both the course, as well as all of our internal systems, processes, and tasks into these 5 areas or “pillars.” I recommend it.
Dividing your community business into these 5 areas helps you:
- Identify issues in the business early.
- Measure progress.
- Prioritize your time.
In the BACB community, at the start of every quarter, we get together and go through the process of reflecting and planning using these 5 areas as a guide. It’s a way to make the overwhelming task of quarterly planning more manageable, and, I would argue, fun! 🤓
Here I’m sharing with you some of the reflection prompts we use. Below I’ll introduce each area and list some prompts for you to think about or journal on as you plan the upcoming year or quarter.
💡 Some tips before you start:
- Take time to do this! Reflecting and planning can feel like a waste of valuable time, but it is not! It is proven to make you more creative, productive, and less anxious. It’s a little gift you can give your future self. I recommend starting with an hour to write out your answers to the relevant prompts.
- Some of the questions here might remind you of what didn’t get done last year, which can bring out negative thoughts. When you do this exercise, pretend you’re a kind but tough manager that was brought into your business to conduct a review. It’ll help you look at the year objectively without getting bogged down in all the feels.
- There are questions here that won’t be relevant for you and that could make you feel like you’re behind and should be at a different stage than the one you are in. You’re not! Skip those questions and forget about them.
Here are the 5 areas and prompts to reflect on under each:
Leadership is about who you are becoming as a human through your experience of building a community business. It’s also about growing your team and scaling leadership within the community by providing opportunities for others to lead. Reflect on the questions that are relevant for you:
- To achieve the vision you have for the community, who is the leader you have to grow into?
- How are you feeling about your own sense of connection and belonging in your relationships both personal and in the community?
- What practical skills do you want to get better at? (Sales, Public Speaking, Copywriting, etc)
- What are the more intangible skills that you want to improve? (Resilience, Self-Compassion, Listening, etc)
- How can you improve the ability of members in your community to lead?
- What changes should you make to your team this quarter? (hiring, promoting, firing, training, etc)
- What limiting beliefs have been holding you back?
Your community business model is a story about how your business works and makes money. Your business model is working when you feel like you know and like your members, you’re getting good feedback from them about the value you bring, you have enough customers and know how to get more, and you’re making money from your business without burning out. As you reflect on this year and plan next, consider these questions:
- Which of the 4 types of community businesses are you building now? Which are you moving towards?
- When you think about your ideal members, are they excited about your current solution?
- How well are your marketing channels working?
- Are you charging enough? Is it time to raise prices?
- What parts of your business model still need validating and how will you validate them?
- If you haven’t launched yet, what’s a business model you can start with now?
Your community experience is all about what happens within the community with the people who you consider your members. It includes all your events, programs, and initiatives as well as your onboarding experience and anything you consider a part of your engagement strategy. Reflection questions:
- What were some of the major milestones in your community in the past year?
- What were your most and least successful events this year?
- What parts of the community do you love and what parts feel like a job?
- What other communities are you inspired by? What inspires you about them?
- How is your onboarding experience working?
- What are 1-4 core community initiatives you want to launch next year?
SALES & MARKETING
This section is all about the growth of your business. Topics here are about crafting your community offer, building your community marketing funnel, and finding your ideal channels.
- Are the right people finding out about your community? How?
- Once people know about your community are enough of them joining?
- How do you feel about your community offer going into this quarter? Should you change anything?
- Are there new channels you haven’t explored to reach new members?
- What marketing launches are you planning for next year? (if any)
- What is your content plan to reach people who aren’t yet members?
- What is your social media strategy?
TOOLS & PROCESS
This final area is about your processes, automations and project management systems. Reflect here on how your process of running your business has worked so far and how you’d like it to work going forward.
- Do you have a regular check-in time to review and plan? (consider putting quarterly, weekly and/or monthly reviews on your calendar!)
- What are the manual things you do that can be automated?
- What new tools have you learned about that you may want to try?
- How is your project management system working?
- Are you happy with your community platform? Is it time to consider and plan for a change?
Once you’ve reflected on these 5 areas, you should have a long list of ideas. The next step is to ruthlessly prioritize that list and turn only the most important ones into projects you’ll commit to completing this quarter.
BONUS: To help you plan, we have a worksheet for you. You can use it to answer the questions below, and then use your answers to plan your upcoming projects. The worksheet is available on Notion and Google Docs. I recommend choosing the one that you’re already familiar with.
Notion Worksheet (click Duplicate on the top right to add a blank worksheet to your space)
Google Docs Worksheet (click File → Make a Copy to make yourself a copy)
The content shared in this newsletter is designed to be helpful on its own. And when you’re ready to go deeper, you are always invited to join Build a Community Business, our course and community. The community comes with detailed content, templates, and step-by-step guidance on how to approach the above 5 pillars within your business.
Whether you’re planning a community launch, or have already launched and need help growing it’s a shortcut to get you unstuck and growing. By joining you also get live learning sessions, small group coaching, a live cohort, care and support from our team and your fellow members. If that sounds good to you, we invite you to learn more and apply here →.