Awesome People - Ep 49

Love languages, product tips, first 1000 users

Hi founders and fellow VC Friends!

Each week we deliver one awesome person to your inbox. These are the people you need to know—the marketers, sales gurus, engineers, ops wizzes— who give your startup superpowers 🚀. The best part is, everyone is hireable on a part-time basis.

This edition is super exciting and about love at work! Jk 😂 … only kinda. Get ready!

Here’s what’s on the docket:

  1. AJ your product-savvy exec coach

  2. Using love languages at work (I promise this is kosher!)

  3. P.S. Scaling to your first 1000 users

I highly recommend that you read 1-2 now, then come back to read the product tips with a cup of tea or coffee 😀.

Please meet AJ Frank, Your Product and Exec Coach 👏

AJ is currently a Director of Product at Facebook, angel investor, and exec coach. We met in First Round Angel Track and I’ve had the privilege of watching him work with companies. He’s since become a trusted sounding board and friend.

He has over a decade of operating experience building and running orgs, setting product and business strategy, and executing. Most recently, he’s shipped several new products at Facebook including Whale and Tuned. Prior to that, he sold his start-up to Dropbox, where he built Dropbox Transfer (which quickly hit double digit ARR) and led the HelloSign acquisition (the largest in Dropbox’s history). While at Twitter, he led the team that grew Vine to 350M MAUs. One little known fact about AJ is he is a huge Harry Potter fan (his favorite book is Half-Blood Prince and his favorite character is Hermione).

He's trusted by leaders at Facebook, Dropbox, Twitter and Google.

Founders and product leads can hire him to:

  1. Think through and solve product problems

  2. Navigate complex operational issues

  3. Scale and lead teams

If you’re looking for an exec coach who understands product and scaling fast, AJ is your man! Email me if you want an intro!

AJ has superhuman people and leadership skills. Everyone I know who works with him, loves him. He believes caring about your reports is the most important attribute of a great manager, so it’s no surprise that he’s well respected.

I asked him to share some leadership tips and he came back with this gem.

Now, over to AJ👇

Using love languages as a people manager ❤️

One of my favorite relationship frameworks is The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman (yes, I promise this is work-related).

Love Languages are different ways to express and receive love. The key insight is that everyone prefers to receive love differently. If you know someone’s love language you can better express affection.

While Chapman’s work was originally tailored for romantic relationships, the insights are useful for work relationships, particularly between people managers and their reports, where love = appreciation. Research shows that expressing appreciation boosts performance.

According to HBR, “Adam Grant and Francesca Gino have found that when people experience gratitude from their manager, they’re more productive. Another researcher recently found that teams perform tasks better when their members believe that their colleagues respect and appreciate them.”

Caring managers get to know an individual's aspirations, strengths, and opportunities for growth. Caring managers also take the time to express appreciation for their reports’ efforts.

What are the love languages and how can I apply them as a people manager? 🤓

While there are five love languages, I’m going to leave “physical touch” to romantic relationships for obvious reasons.

Words of Affirmation

People who prefer words of affirmation appreciate verbal and written acknowledgments of appreciation and encouragement.

How can you express appreciation in this language?

  • Give in person, real-time appreciation for a job well done.

  • Listen actively and empathize with expressed feelings.

  • Send a handwritten thank you note after a major accomplishment.

  • Spend extra time on formal feedback, ensuring write-ups are comprehensive, thoughtful and personalized.

Acts of Service

People who prefer acts of service believe actions speak louder than words. They most appreciate when someone goes out of their way to make their lives easier.

How can you express appreciation in this language?

  • Proactively remove a roadblock impeding their work.

  • Fight for a higher rating, extra raise, bonus, or early promotion.

  • Suggest a conference or class that could benefit them.

  • Offer flexibility in work schedules and encourage them to take time off for important events (eg, election day or their birthday).

Quality Time

People who prefer quality time appreciate when their manager carves out time for them.

How can you express appreciation in this language?

  • Stop by to say hello in the morning (or check-in over chat while WFH).

  • Never cancel 1:1s (and don’t be late).

  • Go for a coffee or a meal.

  • Carve out separate time beyond scheduled 1:1s to discuss career and life aspirations.

Receiving Gifts

People who prefer gifts appreciate visual symbols of appreciation. These gifts don’t have to be expensive. In fact, small, thoughtful gifts are often the most resonant.

How can you express appreciation in this language?

  • Give a book related to a skill the person is trying to build.

  • Give a small gift related to a hobby or interest (eg, a bag of coffee beans for the coffee lover or a s’mores kit for someone with a sweet tooth).

Using love languages, IRL 🤩

I was struggling to form an effective relationship with a new report. In turn, she was struggling to onboard to the company. After a few frustrating 1:1s, she told me she was considering going back to her old job. Genuinely wanting her to be successful, I carved out additional time to walk her through the Love Languages framework and found out her language is quality time. With this new insight, I asked her to give the role a few more weeks and extended our weekly 1:1s to an hour. We used the extra time to really dig into her frustrations and struggles. As a result, our relationship improved dramatically, and she ended up growing into one of the top performers on the team.

How do you learn someone’s love language? 🎯

I generally just ask. A lot of people already know or can quickly figure it out by hearing the options. Alternatively, encourage your team to take the quiz and share the results with each other.

What should I watch out for when using Love Languages? 🤔

Two common pitfalls are:

  1. Expressing appreciation in your love language instead of the recipient's love language.

  2. Assuming someone doesn’t care about you because they aren’t expressing appreciation in your language.

Relationships often struggle for these reasons. Love languages are a two-way street. It’s important for both parties to understand each other’s love languages and act accordingly.

Note: While most people can relate to multiple love languages, almost everyone has a preferred language.

Want to level up your leadership skills, communication, and product chops? Email me and I’ll you intro to AJ!

Wahoo! That was a fun one, no?!

As always, let me know if you have any questions and if you want an intro to any of the folks in this email (including the PS section 🎉).

Stay awesome,

Julia Lipton

Founder of Awesome People and Awesome People Ventures

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P.S. Product Tips from AJ 🙌

AJ currently builds new products at Facebook. Along the way, he’s learned a lot about acquiring the first 1,000 target customers. This step is critical to evaluate whether your products have a chance to work at scale. You need the first 1,000 to get enough usage to evaluate your hypothesis.

When recruiting your first users, target the audience that’s most excited by your marketing promise 😍

The biggest mistakes founders make when picking a target customer are:

  1. Going too broad (eg, college-age students instead of college-age women who love memes)

  2. Targeting an audience that is not excited about the marketing promise (eg, professional musicians instead of bedroom musicians)

Here are some examples of how we’ve founder our first 1000 customers at Facebook:

  • For Collab, we identified specific creators on Byte, TikTok, and IG and reached out directly to the target demo to build an initial alpha user base.

  • For Aux, we identified a set of schools away from large cities with >2K enrolled students, found students at those high schools via IG profiles, and leveraged ads to target those potential users. We then included the school name in the ads, which significantly increased CTR.

  • For Whale, we identified meme group topics that aligned to specific interest graph attributes to target users with ads.

Next, you’ll need to decide which channels are most effective to reach your target audience 🚀

The biggest mistakes founders make when finding the right channels to reach their target customer are:

  1. Not experimenting early and often with different channels to find the most effective acquisition channel. For example, waiting until your product launch to start refining customer acquisition.

  2. Trying to go after too many channels. It’s better to be excellent in one channel than mediocre across many (see Lenny and Dan’s great piece in First Round Review and this tweet).

Here are some less scalable, but potentially higher relevance channels:

  • Hand recruit users

    • Recruit a group of early users to join a FB group in order to solicit feedback, identify bugs, and have an ongoing conversation with your “power users.” This tactic has the added benefit of creating invested advocates for your product, which can help with organic growth.

      Consider launching with an early access list in order to pressure test your product without opening the floodgates. This also creates a sense of exclusivity (deployed by Clubhouse, for example) and avoids the issue of getting a large number of users into the app before you can confidently retain them. Note that there are some downsides to an early access list, especially the added friction of getting users into the app.

  • Influencers and Partnerships - Consider going after influencers and leveraging partnerships. For example, Pinterest famously got it’s initial traction via a community of bloggers.

  • Leverage in-app invites - Consider how an app invite system can increase the value of the product for each user, thereby incentivizing each user to bring another user onto the app.

Here are more scalable, but potentially harder to nail relevance channels:

  • FB and IG ads

    • You can create an audience in Ads Manager in advance of your campaign to ‘mock target’ your demo

    • FB and IG ads systems take time to optimize, so bake in sufficient time and consider running ads early in your GTM process.

    • Take advantage of lookalike audiences, ideally from your hand-recruited alpha group per the above 😉

  • Consider Snap and TikTok ads depending on your demo

Most Recent Awesome People 🙏

Saminda - CTO coach and advisor. Most recently he was the VP of Apps Engineering at Box and owned the entire user experience for 50M+ users spanning 100K enterprises. You can hire him to help you scale your engineering org.

Kenni - Diversity coach and people ops leader. You can hire her to build and implement DEI recruiting and culture strategies. You can also hire to work with your people leaders to improve their leadership and communication skills.

Elizabeth - Executive performance coach. She comes highly recommended by Atlas, one of the top founder coaching companies that I trust. Elizabeth works with founders to lead less stressed, more sustainable lifestyles, and widen their definitions of success.

Want intros to anyone here? Lmk and I’ll connect you!

❤️ ❤️ ❤️