Community Engagement: The Key To Resilient Business Development

quote we cannot live only for ourselves. a thousand fibres connect us with our fellow men - close up image of rope

If you’re anything like me you’re finding your future to be rather more intimately linked to the knowledge and behaviour of those around you than is entirely comfortable!

It isn’t just the pandemic.

The internet is bringing us even closer. The people you follow on twitter, your Facebook friends and You Tube favourites are all competing for your attention.

It can be difficult to focus on your own creativity at times.

For many years now, I’ve been studying and implementing business development strategies that use technology as the driving force.

The open source technical development community has built the infrastructure of the web. The Linux operating system powers 90% of the public cloud. Apache and nginx servers host more than 65% of the world’s websites. WordPress is at the beating heart of 34% of all the websites on the internet.

You can use all of this free of charge. The platforms built on this community effort are available for free or on very modest “pay as you go” terms. The vast majority of support, advice and education for all of these along with the emerging cloud and AI technologies is freely provided by the developers and expert users.

This has been a key business start-up game changer.

I spend a lot of time reading and trying out all sorts of platforms, strategies and software tools. I have a huge resource of information and people in my community that I trust to guide me.

Of course it helps that I’ve been involved with IT and data management for most of my working life!

I passionately believe though, that anyone can build a small business to support themselves and their family using the available tools.

I’m not talking about founding a multinational corporation.

Small businesses are the lifeblood of the economy. They are lean and agile and if you use the right strategy you can bootstrap one for very little capital outlay.

The last year has devastated traditional businesses. Now more than ever, we need to start rethinking how we protect ourselves in an uncertain world.

I want to be able to use all the knowledge and insight I’ve gained to help people like you who want to start a small business or want to take one online. If you want to avoid the trap of bank loans or being owned by venture capitalists you are in the right place!

I’ve seen at first hand some of the pitfalls that beset good people in the “gig economy” and online sales platforms.

So I’ve set up the Bootstrap Freedom Project.

This is the first issue of The Bootstrap Freedom Newsletter.

A weekly hand-picked selection of resources that I believe will give you practical help and inspire you to take your spark of creative genius and kindle it to ignite a sustainable business.

We are going to be looking at:

  • Strategic insights
  • Marketing methods
  • Ideas that have built successful start-ups
  • Technological tools for implementation

All this and some ways of looking at the world to understand how things work and what makes your ideas and skills special.

I want this to become an “engaged community”. So if you have any questions, suggestions for content or just want a chat please reply to this email. I’ll try to give a personal reply within 48hrs and usually a lot quicker.

This week’s theme: Community in Action

Community Engagement Can Build Bridges

This ancient Inca bridge-building technique is still in use today albeit on the last traditional bridge in Peru. Every year the local people from either side of the Apurnac River gather to rebuild the Q’eswachaka Bridge. The process involves hand twisting of grass to form ropes to build the bridge.

These days it is the focus of a great annual celebration and of course draws in tourists to support the local economy. This YouTube video made for the Smithsonian by Matthew Leahy shows the whole process.

I find the idea of something as fragile a piece of grass gathered together by hand to form powerful ropes really appealing.

Big Bang Theory: How Blowing Up a Transit Van Wiped out £1m of debt.

This story by Stuart Jeffries in the Guardian reveals how the subprime mortgage scandal, that devastated the banking business back in 2008, had a very surprising benefit. Apparently the banks are now willing to sell off bad debt at knock-down prices.

Many people would probably find a way to exploit this for their own gain but these artists decided to do something very cool for the debtors. This turned out to be a win for everyone and shows how a bit of lateral thinking can build opportunities.

The Reddit community that played the big boys at their own game.

The Redditors of r/WallStreetBets have highlighted the power of a community with a mission and a deep understanding of the rules of the game.

The bad bets (and debts) of financial institutions precipitated the financial crisis of 2008. This has left a bad taste in the mouths of the public who have had to bail them out.

When the r/WallStreetBets subreddit collaborated to drive up the stock price of an obscure games business being heavily shorted by the hedge funds, it looked like a great victory for the community “sticking it to the man”. This discussion on Business Insider has some great insights into what happened and some of the deeper implications. I particularly liked Vicky Ge Huang’s explanation of the “short squeeze” and “gamma squeeze” (around 5:00 minutes in) and the mechanics of how this all works.

Of course, not everyone is quite so happy! This article by Peter Pischke on Spiked; gives the “TL;DR” version of the story and a view of the potential downsides.

How to Build the Trust You Need for an Engaged Community

Social media can give us a sense of community. We follow people we like and often find comfort in our views being played back to us.

Social media is a great way to build an audience for your product or service but it can be disappointing when a following of thousands doesn’t translate into sales.

This is a piece I wrote a few years ago for Danny Brown’s blog. My view is that successful use of social media for marketing is all about building trust through engagement with your audience. A lot of businesses miss the idea that social media is for networking not broadcast.

Getting Started

This newsletter will always be free. If you subscribe there is no credit card needed, your data is safe and I will never share it with anyone.

You may be wondering how I can afford to do this.

Well, I have very low costs because I do everything myself and use all the free and low cost tools that the web has to offer. As part of this project I will be sharing with you exactly how this works.

I am very keen to hear your views on this and things which you are doing or want to do better. So reply to this email if you want to contact me.

From time to time I may share an affiliate link for a product or service that I have personal experience with. These links will be clearly signposted. If you buy something I will get a commission but it will never cost you any more as a result.

As we go forward I hope you will see that, managed ethically, this is a great way to keep the lights on!

With kind regards,


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