I AM CEO PODCASTSocial Entrepreneurship

IAM1631 – COO, Co-founder and Author Revolutionizing the Future of Professional Organizations

Podcast Interview with Ryan Paugh

Why it was selected for “CBNation Architects”: Speaking with Ryan, it was awesome to hear about his past and how that sparked his entrepreneurship spirit. He called himself a “Community Nerd” and hearing about his book and also how they've built their company from that. He talks about the slow impact of building relationships and not being quick to hit that “easy button” in building relationships but even entrepreneurship and building anything. We also talked about how social media has impacted connection and how sometimes we get relationship-building wrong.

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Previous Episode: https://iamceo.co/2018/12/31/iam140-coo-co-founder-and-author-revolutionizing-the-future-of-professional-organizations/


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Ryan Paugh 00:00

The way that we work and the way that we build relationships are in need of change. The social media era has been a blessing and a curse, a blessing because we are more connected than ever before. We can have meetings like this and completely different cities, miles and miles away across the country, and make meaningful connections, but it's also made it more difficult to find the right people because of the noise of social media.

Intro 00:26

Do you want to learn effective ways to build relationships, generate sales, and grow your business from successful entrepreneurs, startups, and CEOs without listening to a long, long, long interview? If so, you've come to the right place. Gresham Harkless values your time and is ready to share with you precisely the information you are in search of. This is the I am CEO podcast.

Gresham Harkless 00:50

Hello, hello, hello, this is Gresh from the I am CEO podcast and I have a very special guest on the show today. I have Ryan Paugh of the Community Company. Ryan, it is awesome to have you on the show.

Ryan Paugh 00:59

Thanks for having me. Really, really happy to be here.

Gresham Harkless 01:01

No problem. Happy to have you on again. We had you on our CEO Chat podcast and what I want to do is just read a little bit more about Ryan so you can hear about all the awesome things that he's doing. Ryan Paugh is a COO and co-founder of the Community Company, the organization revolutionizing the future of professional organizations. He's the author of Superconnector: Stop Networking and Start Building Business Relationships That Matter and a renowned thought leader on creating strong communities and teams. Ryan co-founded Brazen Careerist, a career-management site for high-achieving young professionals and ambitious college students and the Young Entrepreneur Council, (YEC), an invitation-only organization for leading entrepreneurs. Ryan, are you ready to speak to the I am CEO community?

Ryan Paugh 01:42

Let's do it, man. I'm ready.

[restrict paid=”true”]

Gresham Harkless 01:43

All right. Let's do it. So the first question I had was just to hear a little bit more about your CEO story and what led you to start your business.

Ryan Paugh 01:50

Yeah, so, you know, I'm what you would call an accidental entrepreneur. I don't believe that it's, something that's necessarily just built into your DNA. I fell into entrepreneurship because of the people I surrounded myself with both in college and then as I entered into the real world, the same types of folks that were just more of those entrepreneurial at heart individuals, high energy people that I love being around. And through those relationships, I became an entrepreneur of my own. My first company, which I established in Madison Wisconsin, Brazen Careerist, which is now called Brazen Technologies was started by me and my freshman-year roommate in college who was one of those sort of, Baked into the DNA entrepreneur types who just really pushed me and got me to think about different ways of working and living.

I was very, very lucky to be sort of accidentally placed with such an awesome individual who became such a close friend and, eventually a business partner. You know, from there I've just found that, building relationships with really interesting people that have strengths where I have weaknesses and vice versa has led to one amazing business opportunity after another. That's how I ended up co-founding YEC with my current business partner, Scott Gerber, which eventually turned into something much bigger than that, which is now the Community Company, which is an organization that helps build and establishes new forward-thinking communities and associations for professionals looking to build relationships with new people, and looking to get access to the resources that they need to succeed, whether it's an industry-specific organization or a location-specific organization. We've built technology and smart human-driven processes to help curate and create a really meaningful community in the modern age.

Gresham Harkless 03:37

Awesome. I know we talked about it before, just how big community is in building relationships and how that kind of overlies and goes across the boundaries, so to speak. So I wanted to, I guess, hear a little bit more on like what you guys are doing with the community co and also like even touch on a little bit more about, I know a lot of that philosophy is baked within your book as well too.

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Ryan Paugh 03:56

Yeah. You know, we believe that the way that we work and the way that we build relationships is in need of change. The social media era has been a blessing and a curse, a blessing because we are more connected than ever before. We can have meetings like this in completely different cities, miles and miles away across the country, and make meaningful connections. But it's also made it more difficult to find the right people because of the noise of social media, because everyone is selling something and you know, whether it's LinkedIn or Facebook or Twitter or the next social media platform, it just seems to be filled with people trying to sell you something and just hucksters that you really can't distinguish from true, honest business brokers. Through this Superconnector movement in the book that we've written, we're trying to help people reeducate themselves on what making meaningful connections can be. In fact, you know, we say in the book title to stop networking.

We don't want people to think of it as networking anymore because we've bastardized that term and instead, we really want people to think about it again as what it really is, which is building relationships with other people for mutual value to take hold. And that's not something that you can build an eight-minute ABS formula for. This stuff isn't quick earnings. This is long-term relationship building, long-term relationships that are going to eventually lead to big wins and big bounty for you in your life. But you can't expect that bounty to come to you overnight. It takes months, sometimes years, to reap that reward. And it's really about that slow gain versus a quick win.

Gresham Harkless 05:31

Yeah, that makes perfect sense. You know, you can read all the human psychology and all of those things to learn about how people do certain things, but there's no easy button for building relationships and doing that, so.

Ryan Paugh 05:42

That's right. Yep. And those who are seeking that easy button are the ones that are doing it wrong. The ones that are tarnishing and hurting their personal brands with other human beings by trying to just get a quick earn out from a business relationship that you've literally just made at a networking event on a bar versus the folks that are really trying to get to know you, really trying to understand your challenge and are really focused on something we call in the book habitual Generosity, which is, really the art and the philosophy of making sure that giving back to others is a part of your daily rituals. Just like getting up and going for a run in the morning.  It is so important to always be thinking about giving back. And in fact, that should be put before any sort of gain or asks that you make to new people that you know you want to build a relationship with. It's all about what you can give to them, and then the things that you'll get in return, I guarantee will be a lot bigger than you ever would've expected if you're willing to make that investment.

Gresham Harkless 06:37

There you go. That makes perfect sense. And now I wanted to ask you for what I call your secret sauce. This could be something that distinguishes you or your organization, but what do you feel kind of sets you guys apart?

Ryan Paugh 06:46

Yeah, I think our secret sauce is the combination of smart technology and really smart, emotionally intelligent human beings. You know, we are not just trying to build the next AI. I think right now people are exhausted and, perhaps nauseated by the thought of another robot managing their day-to-day and managing the relationships in their life. We believe in building smart technology to help us all work smarter and connect in meaningful ways. But it's always going to be powered by really smart people behind the scenes who are making sure that the right connections are being made and that there's that personal touch that artificial intelligence just can't replicate. In today's fast-paced, technology-driven world of networking and being hyperconnected, I think right now people are really interested in that approach.

On top of that, there's always a level of curation in what we do. I think right now, more than ever, with the openness of the web, people are yearning and hungry for chances to connect with people in curated communities where you know that the people in the room are the right people in the room and you're not just kind of spraying and praying and hoping that you're going to get connected to the right person. It's actually meaningful and thoughtful. Because of that, people are even more willing to be vulnerable about the business challenges they're having because they know that they're talking to other top leaders in their field who can genuinely help them and aren't gonna take advantage of them.

Gresham Harkless 08:07

Yeah, that makes perfect sense. So I think that's a phenomenal example of a secret sauce.

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Ryan Paugh 08:10 Thank you.

Gresham Harkless 08:11

Now I wanted to switch gears a little bit and ask you for what I call a CEO hack. This might be an app, a book; your book, or a habit that you have, but it's something that you feel makes you more effective and efficient as a business owner.

Ryan Paugh 08:22

Yeah. One thing that I think a lot of CEOs and executives fail to do because they're just either so heads down or they've developed sort of like this thick skin where they feel they can't be vulnerable, is just sharing your ideas and putting yourself out there in meaningful ways. You know, sharing a challenge that you have with other entrepreneurs and executives and just putting yourself in a position to receive feedback and to be critiqued and be vulnerable enough with an idea or a challenge you're having to allow others to actually give back and to support you. I think a lot of us are really frightened by the idea of, sharing something so vulnerable as a challenge, or a weakness, or even an idea that we have because we're worried that it might get stolen or that someone is going to critique us in a negative way that we don't like, or it's somehow gonna harm our business.

What I found is that in more cases than not, when you put yourself out there in such a meaningful way and allow yourself to experience some vulnerability, the goodwill that you receive from the community it far surpasses the potential negative value of trolls online, potentially like, causing you harm, which is momentary blips of insecurity, versus being able to really meaningfully connect with other human beings that generally wanna help you. I think sharing your ideas and putting yourself in a vulnerable position is something that many of us as chief executives are failing to do and need to do more.

Gresham Harkless 09:53

Yeah, and that makes sense in this day and age, as we talked about, like with the technology and everything, because there are cameras, microphones literally everywhere. It's hard to kind of hide behind this perfect kind of image that sometimes a lot of people have because we all have vulnerabilities, we all have things that we're going through. And then like you said, by telling your story, telling things that you're struggling with, or telling what your problems are, you kind of seem like you attract people as well.

Ryan Paugh 10:15

That's correct. I think it's going to be a tough pill to swallow for a lot of chief executives listening to this but uber important. It's very important for us to allow ourselves to be vulnerable, but to also make time to be generous to those who are putting themselves out there and being brave enough to be vulnerable. We have to create more safe spaces for chief executives and entrepreneurs to collaborate and to stop creating sort of this false vision of like this indestructible entrepreneur at the top. We're all very challenged and very flawed human beings, and we're not like these, these great superheroes that everyone sort of like tells us to be.

We have very real challenges and we need to be able to create safe environments for each other, to put that out there and not to create this false sort of perception that being an entrepreneur is sexy and it's like this sort of luxurious lifestyle. It's hard and I wish more people would talk about that and not be afraid of how someone might view themselves versus telling the truth and letting people know just, how difficult and grueling and painful it can be to be an entrepreneur. You know, we live for like these big wins that are momentary blips, and then it's back to work.

Gresham Harkless 11:27 Yeah.

Ryan Paugh 11:28

And, it's very difficult and not enough people talk about that because we're too busy allowing the world to celebritize what it is that we do.

Gresham Harkless 11:36

There you go. I think that's, a valid point and a great reminder. Now I wanted to ask you for what I call a CEO nugget. This is a word of wisdom or piece of advice, or if you can hop into a time machine, what would you tell your younger business self?

Ryan Paugh 11:47

Oh, man. I would, I would tell my younger self to be more brazen and bold and not be afraid to put a price tag on the products and services that we built. To not be so focused on vanity metrics like followers and users and, focus more on dollar signs. You know, revenue is at the end of the day, what's taken us from a small like company making less than six figures to a company that is making multimillions of dollars every year, and it's not building like hundreds of thousands of users that's taken us there. It's about building a quality product that people wanna pay for and people want to continue to use year after year. It's about sales and it's about retention. It's not about just getting people onto your platform. I think that's very, very important for young startups to know and something that we're all sort of trucking down the wrong path in a lot of cases on because of just how the world of startups has taught us to run. You know, it's like, yeah, get the users first. Build up that valuation, then figure out how you monetize. That is no longer the way to live for most entrepreneurs. You got to stop trying to be the unicorn and start trying to be a real business.

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Gresham Harkless 12:56

Absolutely. Absolutely. So you're saying get a revenue first and then start to build everything after that?

Ryan Paugh 13:01

Yeah. Move fast. Don't be afraid to charge for your product. Build a loyal following. Focus on retention and focus on building something of quality and then blow it out of the water from there. You know, it's not about building a product, getting the user base, and then figuring out how to build on the revenue model. Do it today. Focus on getting a sustainable business now. Don't be reliant on investors and institutional financing to run your business. Figure out how to run it yourself. You'll be in a much stronger position later on if you do want to take on financing and really blow the thing out of the water.

Gresham Harkless 13:31

Makes perfect sense. Awesome. Awesome, awesome. Now I wanted to ask you my absolute favorite question, which is the definition for being a CEO and we're hoping to have different CEOs, entrepreneurs, and business owners on this show. So I wanted to ask you, Ryan, what does being a CEO mean to you?

Ryan Paugh 13:43

You know, I'm a COO and that makes it difficult for me to define the CEO role. But you know, when I think about the best CEO, I think about my business partner, Scott, who's our CEO and my co-author of the book Superconnector . What I love about Scott is he's a big idea-making machine, just a ball of energy, really impossible to stop kind of human being, but also with humility and understanding of just how important his team and understanding of how important operations are to getting these big ideas launched. When I think about the ultimate CEO, I think about someone like Scott who has really been able to balance both of those things. I think, most CEOs are only focused on big ideas and moving fast. Great CEOs are focused on big ideas moving fast, but also very respectful and cognizant of the operations and delicate nature of actually building those ideas and respecting and building a quality team to bring those things to life. So my definition of a great CEO is, someone who's well-balanced. I think at the end of the day if you can find that CEO, whether you're partnered with them or working for them as an employee, they are diamonds in the rough. Those are the type of individuals that you wanna work with and that is the pinnacle CEO.

Gresham Harkless 15:00

Ryan, I truly appreciate you for taking some time out of your schedule. What I want to do is pass you to the mic, so to speak, just to see if there's anything additional you want to let our readers and listeners know, and also how they can get ahold of you and of course get a copy of your book.

Ryan Paugh 15:12

It was great, to talk to you guys and I appreciate it. If you are interested in building community, if you believe that community is customer service 2.0, if you believe that you need to do more for your customer beyond just offering them a product, but really become like the epicenter of their professional lives, check out what we're doing at the Community Company. community.co is the website. You can also chat with me anytime on Twitter. My website to just learn about me personally is ryanpaugh.com, I hope that you read and follow up and, again, if you wanna chat community, I am your community nerd, so please reach out and let me know what questions you have and I'd be happy to teach you more about our philosophy to community building.

Gresham Harkless 15:52

Awesome. Awesome, Awesome. Well, I appreciate you, Ryan, and we'll make sure that we have all those links in the show notes. But again, thanks for taking the time out and I hope you have a phenomenal rest of the day.

Ryan Paugh 16:00 Thanks again.

Outro 16:01

Thank you for listening to the I am CEO podcast, powered by Blue 16 Media. Tune in next time and visit us at iamceo.co. I am CEO is not just a phrase, it's a community. Be sure to follow us on social media and subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, Google Play, and everywhere you listen to podcasts, subscribe and leave us a five-star rating. Grab CEO gear at www.ceogear.co. This has been the I am CEO Podcast with Gresham Harkless. Thank you for listening.


Dave Bonachita - CBNation Writer

This is a post from a CBNation team member. CBNation is a Business to Business (B2B) Brand. We are focused on increasing the success rate. We create content and information focusing on increasing the visibility of and providing resources for CEOs, entrepreneurs and business owners. CBNation consists of blogs(CEOBlogNation.com), podcasts, (CEOPodcasts.com) and videos (CBNation.tv). CBNation is proudly powered by Blue16 Media.

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