The #HighlySoughtAfter Talk Show

How to build an engaging online community as an introvert – Bryan Pham

May 04, 2021 Eric Feng Season 2 Episode 1
The #HighlySoughtAfter Talk Show
How to build an engaging online community as an introvert – Bryan Pham
Chapters
The #HighlySoughtAfter Talk Show
How to build an engaging online community as an introvert – Bryan Pham
May 04, 2021 Season 2 Episode 1
Eric Feng

In this episode of #HighlySoughtAfter, I had a chat with the co-founder and CEO of the Asian Hustle Network, Bryan Pham.

What started as a Facebook group to provide networking and collaboration to the Asian community in the United States, is now the largest worldwide Asian entrepreneurship community with over 100,000 members. Their mission is to create a positive and uplifting environment to support Asian entrepreneurs globally.

What I enjoyed most about my conversation with Bryan is his drive and vision that has gone into building Asian Hustle Network into the powerhouse community that it is today. There is very little out there right now on community building so pay special attention to what Bryan shared if you’re looking to build an active, inspired & empowered community of your own!

Hint: Don’t miss the three secret ingredients Bryan revealed that were pivotal to Asian Hustle Network’s success at 14:10.

Also listen out for Bryan’s answers to the following questions:

  • What is it like being an Asian in the US? How’s it like growing up there? – 01:25
  • I understand that you’re an introvert and that you have a very strong aversion to public speaking. So how do you deal with all this attention of running a high-profile network? – 3:15
  • What motivated you to start Asian Hustle Network? – 4:55
  • Starting on Facebook, what were some of the activities you created to bring people together? – 06:40
  • People see the glam and the ‘fast’ success of Asian Hustle Network, but in one of your TikTok videos you said that starting AHN was one of the hardest things to do. Why is that so? 11:03
  • What were some of the things that you think you and Maggie did right that led to the fast growth of Asian Hustle Network? – 14:10
  • What else do you think worked for you and (co-founder) Maggie? 15:42
  • When you started Asian Hustle Network, was it so clear about the value proposition you wanted to bring? How did you slowly evolve your value proposition? 18:43
  • How do you encourage grass root initiatives, people to step up, volunteer, and support you in your active and moderating? – 25:15
  • What do you think are some of the characteristics and traits I should pay attention to when picking leaders in my community? 28:10
  • Do you have a process that you use to select your core leaders? – 29:00
  • How do you build an innovation culture within your network – 31:45
  • For communities at the early stage where they don’t really have a team yet, should I treat my most active community members like my team? - 34:05
  • How do we keep a community and its members engaged? 36:14
  • If entrepreneurs want to setup a community and have the intent to monetise it, is that wrong? 38:40
  • What can one do to resurrect a community that’s become inactive? – 40:30
  • What are your future plans for Asian Hustle Network? 43:40


If you want to keep in touch with Bryan, you can reach him on Instagram @bryanvuongpham, or the Asian Hustle Network @asianhustlenetwork.

Thank you for listening to this episode of #HighlySoughtAfter! 

If you enjoyed this episode, please help me hit the ‘subscribe’ button if you’re listening on Apple Podcasts or hit the ‘follow’ button if you are listening on Spotify. 
 
I would also love to hear your biggest takeaway from this episode! Here’s how: take a screenshot of you listening to #HighlySoughtAfter and tag me on Instagram. My handle is @ericgoesglobal. This way, I can personally thank you!

Show Notes Transcript

In this episode of #HighlySoughtAfter, I had a chat with the co-founder and CEO of the Asian Hustle Network, Bryan Pham.

What started as a Facebook group to provide networking and collaboration to the Asian community in the United States, is now the largest worldwide Asian entrepreneurship community with over 100,000 members. Their mission is to create a positive and uplifting environment to support Asian entrepreneurs globally.

What I enjoyed most about my conversation with Bryan is his drive and vision that has gone into building Asian Hustle Network into the powerhouse community that it is today. There is very little out there right now on community building so pay special attention to what Bryan shared if you’re looking to build an active, inspired & empowered community of your own!

Hint: Don’t miss the three secret ingredients Bryan revealed that were pivotal to Asian Hustle Network’s success at 14:10.

Also listen out for Bryan’s answers to the following questions:

  • What is it like being an Asian in the US? How’s it like growing up there? – 01:25
  • I understand that you’re an introvert and that you have a very strong aversion to public speaking. So how do you deal with all this attention of running a high-profile network? – 3:15
  • What motivated you to start Asian Hustle Network? – 4:55
  • Starting on Facebook, what were some of the activities you created to bring people together? – 06:40
  • People see the glam and the ‘fast’ success of Asian Hustle Network, but in one of your TikTok videos you said that starting AHN was one of the hardest things to do. Why is that so? 11:03
  • What were some of the things that you think you and Maggie did right that led to the fast growth of Asian Hustle Network? – 14:10
  • What else do you think worked for you and (co-founder) Maggie? 15:42
  • When you started Asian Hustle Network, was it so clear about the value proposition you wanted to bring? How did you slowly evolve your value proposition? 18:43
  • How do you encourage grass root initiatives, people to step up, volunteer, and support you in your active and moderating? – 25:15
  • What do you think are some of the characteristics and traits I should pay attention to when picking leaders in my community? 28:10
  • Do you have a process that you use to select your core leaders? – 29:00
  • How do you build an innovation culture within your network – 31:45
  • For communities at the early stage where they don’t really have a team yet, should I treat my most active community members like my team? - 34:05
  • How do we keep a community and its members engaged? 36:14
  • If entrepreneurs want to setup a community and have the intent to monetise it, is that wrong? 38:40
  • What can one do to resurrect a community that’s become inactive? – 40:30
  • What are your future plans for Asian Hustle Network? 43:40


If you want to keep in touch with Bryan, you can reach him on Instagram @bryanvuongpham, or the Asian Hustle Network @asianhustlenetwork.

Thank you for listening to this episode of #HighlySoughtAfter! 

If you enjoyed this episode, please help me hit the ‘subscribe’ button if you’re listening on Apple Podcasts or hit the ‘follow’ button if you are listening on Spotify. 
 
I would also love to hear your biggest takeaway from this episode! Here’s how: take a screenshot of you listening to #HighlySoughtAfter and tag me on Instagram. My handle is @ericgoesglobal. This way, I can personally thank you!

Eric Feng (Host):

So, let's go technical right now already. All right. So I'm going to put myself as your coachee. And this is a legit case, okay? So, I do want to set up a community, but I always struggle. I have a big following, but I don't have a big community. There's a big difference. In other words, I feel that I'm good at being able to draw people in, but I don't think I have the ability to keep people inside and to then help them to self run.

Eric Feng (Host):

I felt like a lot of times whatever community I set up feels more like an Eric-centered community, not an Eric-led community. So, my first question to you is, if I would want to grow a community, what are some things I need to take note of?

Bryan Pham (Guest):

Yeah, if you're growing community on your brand it's a little bit difficult, because you have to have a North Star.

Eric Feng (Host):

Hi, this is Eric here, and you're listening to #HighlySoughtAfter. In this episode we have with us Bryan Pham, the co-founder and CEO of the Asian Hustle Network. It started as a Facebook group to promote networking and collaboration within the Asian community in US, but in a matter of weeks membership grew exponentially from 8,000 to 28,000. And in less than two years Asian Hustle Network is now the largest worldwide Asian entrepreneurship community with over 100,000 members.

Eric Feng (Host):

Their mission is to create a positive and uplifting environment to support Asian entrepreneurs all around the world, and that's you, my friend, who is listening to this podcast right now. And so in today's interview we will get to know the man behind Asian Hustle Network, Bryan Pham.

Eric Feng (Host):

Hey, Bryan, thank you so much for agreeing to do this interview. I understand that you're calling from San Francisco. How's the weather?

Bryan Pham (Guest):

It's pretty cold out here. I'd rather be in Singapore right now.

Eric Feng (Host):

It's scorching hot. You don't want to come here. It's really true, right, they say that the grass is always greener on the other side, and I'm wishing for some cold weather, and you're wishing for some hot weather.

Bryan Pham (Guest):

We'll mix it together and make warm weather.

Eric Feng (Host):

Oh, I love that. But if there's one thing that all of us can be thankful for is we have you today in the podcast, I mean, there's so much we want to know about you. Already your backstory is so interesting. You're Vietnamese, and you were born in LA. What is it like being an Asian in US? How's it like growing up there?

Bryan Pham (Guest):

Yeah, I think I'm pretty lucky in my situation, because when I grew up in LA it was pretty diverse, and I'm always surrounded with a lot of Asian people growing up in the area that I grew up. With my friends we always joke around that you don't have to speak English to be able to live in my area. It wasn't till I got to college and started doing more domestic business around United States, meeting other Asian people around the states that I realized that not everyone sees being Asian the same way that I do.

Bryan Pham (Guest):

There's a lot of people out there that feel like they don't belong in American culture. They feel like they haven't seen a lot of Asian people at school that look like themselves. And I don't know why, maybe that's more my empathy side, where I wanted to make them feel like they're at home, because they were telling me problems that I never thought to think about about the Asian population and what it means to be Asian.

Bryan Pham (Guest):

And because of these conversations I started taking a deeper look at myself, my values, and I want to make sure that there's always a place for all of us to call home, because home is so important to me. And my mom always taught me the importance of having a community, having a tribe, helping each other, being selfless, and I wanted to bring that to more people out there. So the original idea was for my friends to make them feel like they're at home, and then the idea grew bigger over time.

Eric Feng (Host):

Beautiful. And I can already start to see the genesis of Asian Hustle Network, right, and it comes from you realizing Asians don't feel that they are at home in US and that your mom says everybody should have a home.

Eric Feng (Host):

So, now before we go into the AHN, right, about how you started it, we all know now that you're managing 100k network, you are doing a lot of interviews and podcasts and stages, but I also understand that you are an introvert, Bryan, and that you have a very strong aversion to public speaking. So, how do you deal with all this attention of running a high profile network, sharing the speaking stage with well known personalities like, the most recent one was Kevin Kreider from Bling Empire? How do you deal with that?

Bryan Pham (Guest):

It's definitely very nerve racking. I realize that this is a known weakness I have, and I think I have to prepare more than other people. I have to make sure that I know what I'm going to say ahead of time, or at least have the idea of what I'm going to say, but luckily I've been doing a lot of interviews to the point where it's kind of rehearse at some points. But I was listening back to some of my first interviews ever, it was pretty bad because I was so nervous, I was hearing the voice shake as I'm talking, and I tell him myself, all right, this is what I need to do better.

Bryan Pham (Guest):

I'm always taking feedback and criticism from my own team, my co-founder, telling me what I can do better, when I should be more emotional, when I should be more clear, because as soon as I hop on stage my mind goes blank. I just don't know what to say.

Eric Feng (Host):

Do you feel the same way right now in this podcast though, or you're cool?

Bryan Pham (Guest):

A lot better...

Eric Feng (Host):

A lot better.

Bryan Pham (Guest):

... right now because it's a zoom, but once we do it in person it's bad.

Eric Feng (Host):

Okay. So dear introverts out there you have your fellow friend out there who, he has made it, all right, so the key is to do more zoom interviews first and to just keep working at it. That's the saying, right? It's all about stitch time, the more hours you clock the better you get. So that actually leads me very nicely to AHN, right? I understand that you started it in late 2019. We're all very curious, what motivated you to start Asian Hustle Network?

Bryan Pham (Guest):

Yeah, I started Asian Hustle... I was thinking about Asian Hustle Network for about a year or a year and a half. Right? And I kept telling Maggie that, my co-founder Maggie, that I want to create something for the Asian community, but I didn't know what that was. I kept pondering, I kept telling her about this idea of building this community. And what gave me a lot of confidence was I created a real estate investing community in the Bay Area that grew to about 2000 people in two years.

Bryan Pham (Guest):

And I was thinking to myself, if I could bring together people of different race, age, ethnicity, industry, to work together in real estate and trust each other, I want to [inaudible 00:06:31] to the Asian community, because I think that together we're so strong, and together we're so smart. So that was the genesis for creating Asian Hustle Network.

Bryan Pham (Guest):

And I created Asian Hustle Network because I took a trip to Japan, and I went to the Meiji Shrine, and I had an opportunity to read everyone's story on the wooden tablets at the temple. I'm like, wait a minute, the best way to connect our community together is through stories. So I took that idea back to United States, back home.

Bryan Pham (Guest):

And at the time Subtle Asian Traits was blowing up like crazy. Everybody wanted to join Subtle Asian Traits. I'm like, okay, we're going to create a Facebook group, and this is our mission statement. So since day one we wrote out really clearly, we want to create a community to uplift Asian entrepreneurs around the world, to have more Asians in mainstream media, higher investment, corporate ladders. And that mission statement has not changed since day one. Everything that we do goes around that vision.

Eric Feng (Host):

And when you first started, because I understand you started on Facebook, right...

Bryan Pham (Guest):

Yeah.

Eric Feng (Host):

... what was all the activities that you created to bring people together, or all you did was just letting people know that that's your vision and mission and then people just start coming?

Bryan Pham (Guest):

No, it's not that easy. It takes a lot of work, a lot of time. It's about showing through example the community that you want, just starting off by sharing your story, starting off by having your friends share their stories, and create that pattern where it's safe and positive for a community to come together. Then over time it's like, recruit your moderators too to enforce those values that you believe in, which is making everyone feel welcome at home. That's the common theme.

Eric Feng (Host):

So help us understand this. Look, let's imagine, okay, you flew back from Japan to US and then you set up the Facebook group, what happened in that 30 days? What do you do in that 30 days?

Bryan Pham (Guest):

Oh, my [crosstalk 00:08:25].

Eric Feng (Host):

If you can still remember. Yeah. Re-live that 30 days.

Bryan Pham (Guest):

No, I just remember the first day we created the community it got to like 1,000 people in an hour.

Eric Feng (Host):

Whoa.

Bryan Pham (Guest):

And we were just like, whoa, it's growing so fast, and we were just freaking out. We couldn't believe it, this is happening within. But then we started feeling the pressure, how can we engage a community, what value can we bring?

Eric Feng (Host):

Exactly.

Bryan Pham (Guest):

And luckily there's a lot of different X factors that played into this. People that first joined into community were already well known already, so they brought the reputation of this is going to be a legit community. And on top of that we have people who read our mission statement, loved it so much, and immediately took all the introductions and categorized them into Excel sheets. So now we have a automatic database already since day one.

Bryan Pham (Guest):

And at the time we didn't really know what was going on but we knew that we stumbled upon something big. So day after day we kept celebrating victory, it's like, hey, guys, congratulations on 500, 1000, 2000, 3000, 4000. It came in faster and faster, so we couldn't celebrate every win. Now, the most important thing is creating that safe environment, making everyone feel like they belong. So, as soon as people comment their story we read their story, give very long feedback, oh, my God, this is so amazing, blah, blah.

Bryan Pham (Guest):

And what's more amazing is that we were able to host our in person event, and when someone says, "Oh, my name is so and so.", everyone is like, "This is your story." And you see the biggest smile on their face because you took the time to understand their story and where they're coming from. You may not recognize a face immediately, but as soon as they say their name and their story you automatically know who it is.

Eric Feng (Host):

So, I got it, so right at the beginning the main thing that you invited your members to do is to share their own story? What was that-

Bryan Pham (Guest):

Yes.

Eric Feng (Host):

... story that everybody was supposed to share?

Bryan Pham (Guest):

It was story about themselves at first. We wanted to hear who you are, what you're about, and really create that safe space. And what we realized over time was everyone's story upbringing was the same, doesn't matter if you were in the United States, Australia, Singapore, Japan, Korea, whatever, we had the same upbringing, very strict parents, very motivated by success, and that was a unifying umbrella where it's like, it doesn't matter where you're born, or I didn't realize that our parents taught us the same way. If I was born here or Germany or Singapore, our parents taught us the same things.

Eric Feng (Host):

You know something, Bryan, I had this profound experience when I was doing an exchange in California. So that was my first entry to US, and I mean, I'm from Singapore, so my concept of the world used to be in Singapore. And then one day during our pa... We had a party and we have people from Germany, Mexico, Japan, everyone, and I was playing a song on my laptop, on my Fuji... I think Fujitsu laptop, which is this song, You Will Always Be The One I Love. Remember that Japanese song, right?

Bryan Pham (Guest):

Yeah.

Eric Feng (Host):

And it was that Japanese singer really. And all of a sudden my German friends, my French friends started singing together with us. And that was when I realized that we're not that different. And we actually got closer. And I see that in Asian Hustle Network, that even though we are Asian from a different country, but like you said, we have the same upbringing, the same strict parents, the same thinking, we probably like computer games, and we're good with math, the kind of stereotypes that people tend to put on us, but it actually brings us together.

Eric Feng (Host):

Now, I have to say though, people see the glam and the fast success, the so called fast success of Asian Hustle Network, right? As you said, in one day it grew so quickly. But in one of your TikTok videos you said that starting AHN was actually one of the hardest things to do. Why is that so?

Bryan Pham (Guest):

Yeah, starting Asian Hustle Network is hard because it's just like running any other company, right? Because when things are good, they're really good, but they can fall off the rails really quickly. What I realized about building Asian Hustle Network is that when you bring together a large group of smart people, unless you have a really defined, clear cut expectation, they always fight and argue against each other. So, you're always trying to keep your mission alive by reminding your community that this is what we're about, stop in-fighting, we got to stick together.

Bryan Pham (Guest):

The thing with, in my own opinion, with the Asian culture is that we tend to not get along historically. So we always resort to violence or verbal abuse or something like that, so it's hard to keep the community aligned and positive all the time, because the same time it's like, how do you keep your community mobilized, how do you keep your community driving action, how do you keep your community doing things? And those are the hard parts.

Bryan Pham (Guest):

So it's like us coming up with ideas, how to roll with different programs to help the community, sometimes we get criticized for that, but that's okay. And that's probably the hardest part, for myself at least, because my internal team, some of them take it personally, he would say, "Hey, look, we spend too much time planning things out, doing this on our own time, and hearing this criticism hurt."

Bryan Pham (Guest):

So I think the hardest part running this is like, how do you keep the culture alive in your community and keep the culture alive with your team, how do you keep your team motivated, how do you keep your team innovative, how do you keep your team hungry to continue giving back to the community? Those are the most difficult things that I face running this, on top of that, how do we become sustainable, how do we become everlasting, how do we stay to the fact where we're making money to pay our team, pay our staff, grow bigger, push our vision without taking away from the mission statement?

Bryan Pham (Guest):

Those are all things that you have to think about, because not just the goodness in your heart, goodness in your heart will only last for about a year, right? After the year is over it's okay, like, what am I doing here? I need to get paid in order for me to continue dedicating my life and resources to this cause.

Eric Feng (Host):

Well, you have just bring up a lot of topics that I think we can dive deep in a short while. And for those of you listening to us right now, in the second segment of this podcast I'm going to get some coaching from Bryan himself. Right. I personally I've wanted to start my own network, my own community. I actually do have one, but I think that I have a lot of challenges that you just brought it up.

Eric Feng (Host):

So, keep listening, in the next 10 or 15 minutes we're going to dive into the technical aspects of building a community. So, if you are looking to build a community for your customers or you have a very big vision like Bryan, right, giving Asian representation, listen in, stick to us, stick to this podcast because you're about to get the tactics, okay? But we're not going to go deep yet, we're still going to tease the topic a little bit.

Eric Feng (Host):

So, what do you think, Bryan, were some of the things that you and Maggie did right that led to the fast growth of AHN?

Bryan Pham (Guest):

Yeah. I think the first thing is have a clear mission statement. That's the first thing that you do before you start a community. Clearly define it making sure that it's big enough to have people dream about that vision, but also attainable enough that it could be executed, something ridiculous but yet doable.

Eric Feng (Host):

They call it BHAG, big, hairy, audacious goal, right? So definitely yours is a big one. But you see, the thing is that when you came up with this vision it came out of your backstory, right, and also your childhood, because you seen how Asians were suffering and they feel like a minority. And then on another hand your mom tells you that, "Hey, you know what, everybody needs to have a home, we need to help each other, we need to take care of each other." And somehow these things married together.

Eric Feng (Host):

What about the rest of us? What if we don't have such a big vision statement, then does that mean that we're doomed not to set up a community?

Bryan Pham (Guest):

No, I think anyone can set up a community. Everyone's unique in their own way. Everyone's passionate about different things. When you're passionate about different things you're always going to attract the community within that passion. So find what works for you and what is your personality. What do you enjoy doing, what doesn't feel like work, and that's the community that you can build.

Eric Feng (Host):

Get it. So we start with passion first and that passion can always later evolve into a certain mission, right? So, what else do you think were things that worked for you and Maggie? So number one is a big enough vision so that you can attract a lot of people to you, and then what other things?

Bryan Pham (Guest):

Number two is hospitality. It sounds weird, right?

Eric Feng (Host):

No.

Bryan Pham (Guest):

Sounds really weird.

Eric Feng (Host):

Makes sense, because it's like a service, right?

Bryan Pham (Guest):

Yeah.

Eric Feng (Host):

But tell us more. What do you mean?

Bryan Pham (Guest):

Yeah. So think about it, when you go to the best hotels in the world, the people there make you feel like you're at home, they make you feel like you're comfortable. They call you by your first name. Your first name is the most important element to you ever as a person.

Eric Feng (Host):

That's true.

Bryan Pham (Guest):

So we make sure to tell our team that whoever joins the committee we always address them by their first name, we always say welcome, we always give them the time of the day to make them feel really special, which they are, but that's the thing that we really carry...

Bryan Pham (Guest):

That I got from real estate actually, to carry over the hospitality into community. Because once you've fostered a safe mentality they'll want to reciprocate that culture over to the next person to make them feel like they belong. And over time, in a short amount of time those people that you welcome will now welcome the newer people who join the community, which in turn take off so less work off of you but still enhance the brand.

Bryan Pham (Guest):

So you do have to put the work upfront because as founders you have to be comfortable with people looking at who you are as a person, you want to make sure that they're following and supporting the right people, and you should demonstrate over time that you are the person you say you are, and you mean it authentically and genuinely. People will be more inclined to support you, and they'd be more inclined to welcome people, and that creates a fostering, healthy, safe environment that you want to foster in any community.

Eric Feng (Host):

And you're also essentially modeling the way, right? You're like member 001, right, and you're telling people that if you want to be part AHN, whatever I do that's what I want you guys to do as well. And the hospitality [crosstalk 00:18:23].

Bryan Pham (Guest):

The thing with people is that you can't tell them what to do, you have to show them what to do.

Eric Feng (Host):

Show. I love it. So writing-

Bryan Pham (Guest):

Yeah, I can't tell Eric you have to do this, you're never going to do it, you'd be like, "No, don't tell me what to do." But show that it's okay to do it, it's the right thing to do it, you're more inclined to do it.

Eric Feng (Host):

I love that. So we have a big enough vision, and then make sure you model the way, but of course in Bryan's case hospitality was a very big part, making everybody feel welcome, making people feel that it's a safe environment. What else? What will be one last one? I know there's a lot, but-

Bryan Pham (Guest):

The last thing-

Eric Feng (Host):

... one more.

Bryan Pham (Guest):

... is value proposition. What kind of value does the community bring to that person? The value that we bring is mentorship, value that we bring is community, the value that we bring is support, value that we bring is honesty, integrity. So what is the value proposition that you bring? It could be anything.

Bryan Pham (Guest):

If you're a coding community, you can bring mentorship in terms of, hey, let me teach you how to code, or this is the new latest program or so and so. It just depends on the community that you're trying to build. What is the benefit of me being here and spending time in this community?

Eric Feng (Host):

And my question to you then is, when you first started Asian Hustle Network, was it so clear about the value proposition? You have a big enough vision, right, which is probably 100 storey high, and we are all at level one, how do you slowly evolve your value proposition?

Bryan Pham (Guest):

Yeah. So value proposition... Luckily, the idea of building community is nothing new. And if you quickly Google community value all these things come up. So all you have to do is have your mission statement and choose which one of those values that you google fits under your vision.

Eric Feng (Host):

Guys, google community values and then pick like the best five that resonates with you.

Bryan Pham (Guest):

Yeah.

Eric Feng (Host):

So exciting.

Bryan Pham (Guest):

Yeah. It's a repeatable process. Everyone's done this before. This is nothing new. History has shown that we love communities, people love to be with each other, and you don't have to reinvent the wheel. Just Google it, find what fits under your vision, and what you have the capacity to do to the highest performance, sell by execution.

Eric Feng (Host):

Well, love that. Now, so let's go technical right now already. All right. So I'm going to put myself as your coachee for the next 10 minutes. And this is a legit case, okay? So I do want to set up a community but I always struggle. I have a big following, but I don't have a big community. There's a big difference. In other words, I feel that I'm good at being able to draw people in, but I don't think I have the ability to keep people inside and to then help them to self run.

Eric Feng (Host):

I felt like a lot of times whatever community I set up feels more like an Eric-centered community, not an Eric-led community. So my first question to you is, if I would want to grow a community, what are some things I need to take note of?

Bryan Pham (Guest):

Yeah, if you're growing a community under your brand it's a little bit difficult because you have to have a North Star. What is the mission of this community? What are you trying to solve? What are you trying to do? If it's just bringing you people in the community just to support you, it's just human nature that we don't like to do that. [crosstalk 00:21:39].

Eric Feng (Host):

Wow, this is very beautiful.

Bryan Pham (Guest):

You have to bring in lots of value proposition for people, why should I be a part of this the community?

Eric Feng (Host):

I do have one, I mean, we actually have 3000 people in that community already, it's just they're very inactive, and the community's name is KLR. So let's say we tell pe... at least in the insurance and real estate world we tell them KLR they will know what it means, which is Known, Loved, and Respected. So when I first started a community, also at the same time as you, 2019, because somehow 2019 is the genesis of many communities somehow.

Eric Feng (Host):

So when I started KLR, the purpose was actually to groom individuals to build a following so that we together we are a force of good. The mathematics is very simple, imagine there's 1000 of us in the KLR community that's known, that's loved, that's respected, and each of them have a following of just 1000, right, together we have a million of influence, and we can do so many things. We can support causes, we can help push for charity and donations.

Eric Feng (Host):

So, I think when I first set it up the goal was very simple, I wanted to help everyone in the community to become a person of influence so that together we can do stuff. That was the vision. Is it big enough or should I make it bigger? What was your comment?

Bryan Pham (Guest):

I feel like it could be bigger. It has to have some emotional tie to it, because growing your personal brand monetary reasons aren't enough to foster a healthy environment, it has to be some sort of childhood related or emotion related, something that evokes a feeling inside the community that wants to do it. If you just focus on money or personal brand it won't do that well, but you focus on like, hey, look, we're going to leverage everyone's personal brand so we be more seen. Just how you word it and phase it is more effective.

Eric Feng (Host):

Be more seen. So if I were to redo this, right, I mean, with still the essence of KLR, what do you think would be... if you can guide me a little bit, which kind of vision would resonate very well with the community yet be authentic? Especially because you said that it's childhood related, right?

Eric Feng (Host):

I mean, there's a reason why I do KLR in the first place, because I was Mr. Invisible for so long. I mean, typical story, bully, I was the youngest kid in class, the shortest kid in class, and I have, for so many years, been the invisible one. And it took me so much courage and a lot of mentorship to step up from a nobody to be a somebody. And I always say that we are all by default nobodies, but by design we can be a somebody in the world.

Eric Feng (Host):

I mean, for myself I do what I do because I want to give voice to what I believe in, and then I want to inspire the quiet people out there to speak up because every one of them has their talents that is there, they're not showing case, and there's so much good that they are not speaking out about, but I don't know how to articulate that. What do you think?

Bryan Pham (Guest):

I think you just articulated pretty well already.

Eric Feng (Host):

I need to listen to this recording later.

Bryan Pham (Guest):

Yeah, just when you said that, feeling invisible resonates to me so much. And when you said that out loud, and yeah, I just conveyed that back to your community, just even take this snippet and just use a voice over something and repost it into your community while enforcing your mission statement which is like, I want you guys to be seen, I want you guys to be heard, this is how we're going to do it. So now you have an actionable step already, but actionable step is not a mission statement.

Bryan Pham (Guest):

What you've mentioned through the speeches now is like, I was an invisible kid, I was short, I was unseen, I was unheard. A lot of Asians feel that way, you just evoked a feeling inside of me right now whereas it's like, you're right, I did feel that way, and if you can realte it back to your community, that's now your North Star.

Eric Feng (Host):

Wow.

Bryan Pham (Guest):

And everything else you said before is how you're going to get to your North Star, but it isn't your North Star, those are just actionable steps. See how much more powerful it is when you, say, add emotion to it, and being seen, being heard. That's when you can evoke your community to mobilize.

Eric Feng (Host):

I think how you helped me was you helped me connect back to my childhood, because you mentioned something, that it has to be something to do your with childhood because we always know, right, our struggles... how we respond to our struggles determine the trajectory of our success anyway. I mean, think about it, you felt at home, and that's why you want to give all of us a home, and I love that. Thank you.

Eric Feng (Host):

Hey, this is Eric here just dropping in to check in on you. Are you getting value so far from this interview, because if you are I'm very happy for you, and I'm really curious to know what are some of the key takeaways. So after the interview go to social media, screenshot your learnings, and tag me, right, so that we can connect. Okay. I'm going to leave you to listen to the rest of the interview. Enjoy.

Eric Feng (Host):

Now, other questions. So say for example we managed to grow a community or we managed to attract people to join a community, right, but how do you encourage grassroot initiatives? How do you encourage people to step up, to volunteer, to support you in your activities and to support you in moderating anything? How do you do that? Because I noticed that in your community it's freaking amazing.

Eric Feng (Host):

I was in your clubhouse, and I think almost every afternoon Singapore time you guys will do a one hour networking. And all these are volunteers, and they are supporting you, they're big fans of AHN. How do I make sure that this can happen with my members as well?

Bryan Pham (Guest):

Yeah, you have to lead by example really, and it goes back to your North Star, because when poor people volunteer their time to help you they're going to look up what is Eric all about.

Bryan Pham (Guest):

So clearly define that North Star, but then here's the work, you have to show people what your format's all about, because when you talk, when people listen to you they're going to judge you, they're going to view you as a certain way. You come out as, hey, guys, I was invisible, I was unseen, blah, blah, blah, unfortunately [inaudible 00:27:43] over and over forever every [inaudible 00:27:44] evoke emotions and be like... and afterwards people automatic gravitate towards you because you evoked their emotions and behavior... or the event that you held in clubhouse is so powerful, what can I do to help you?

Eric Feng (Host):

Oh, my God. I get it. And actually, come to think of it, that was how I got to know you, right, because I benefited from being in your network and then I reached out to you and said, "How can I help you?" I get it now. So it's the vision that attracts people to you, but when people start to experience it and that's when people get hooked to it and they want to be part of it, they want to contribute back.

Bryan Pham (Guest):

Exactly. Yeah.

Eric Feng (Host):

Got it. So it's not so commercial like strategic.

Bryan Pham (Guest):

Mechanical. No.

Eric Feng (Host):

Yeah, it's not mechanical, it's very emotional.

Bryan Pham (Guest):

It's highly emotional. Yeah. But a strategic side is like, how do you continue growing the brand, how do you continue getting more people involved, how do you build systems and processes to manage all the requests coming in? Because the thing is once you narrow down your North Star now you have a lot of people messaging you, here's the real work, it's like not everyone can be in your team.

Bryan Pham (Guest):

You need to be clear with your expectation, it's like, this is what I'm looking for, this is who I want to recruit onto teams to help me volunteer, because you onboard everyone it can be detrimental to your vision because they might execute a different way from you. And the new people don't know your brand, when they're entering into those events they would be like, oh, wow, Asian Hustle Network is not that cool. So you need to be careful but also attract the right people with the right attitude and the right mentality to help you. That's the thing.

Eric Feng (Host):

I mean, if you remember, right, the first few members or the first few active members are the most important, right, because they model the way. So, what do you think are some of the characteristic traits I should pay attention to?

Eric Feng (Host):

So let's say I have a 3,000 membership right now but I want to start picking the leaders in my community and to groom them and to get them to lead, right, I mean, I'm sorry if i have to refer back to the bible, because I remember very clearly that Moses was burnt out.

Eric Feng (Host):

If you guys remember, Moses was a leader. He split the sea and then he brought entire Israelite out, and that's like more than 100,000 people, and he was burned out. And he asked God, right, which is like his mentor, I'm burnt, "I don't want to be a leader anymore."

Eric Feng (Host):

And then Jesus actually said to him that, "I want you to find 10 people that you trust, and these 10 people will help you manage the other 1000."

Eric Feng (Host):

And so that was what gave me a concept that I need to have core leaders in my community, and I just need to take care of the core leaders and the core leaders take care of everybody else. So, I'm just curious, do you have a process of how you select your core leaders?

Bryan Pham (Guest):

Yeah, I have a lot of core leaders...

Eric Feng (Host):

How many?

Bryan Pham (Guest):

... fortunately.

Eric Feng (Host):

Is there a number, like one to how many?

Bryan Pham (Guest):

17.

Eric Feng (Host):

Oh, 17 is a beautiful number, but is there a ratio to it? I'm sorry, I keep putting on the engineer thing on you, but if I have one... So if I have 1,000 members, how many core team do I need to have?

Bryan Pham (Guest):

Oh, man. 1,000, you probably need like two or three.

Eric Feng (Host):

Oh, that's not do bad. Okay, just two or three people to manage 1,000. Okay.

Bryan Pham (Guest):

Yep. It's actually not that bad, but how I pick them is just the way they share their story, you can almost tell they're authentic, genuine, if they're personable. I tend to pick people who... to be very compassionate, because compassionate people are the best people to rally behind a cause because the way they talk with so much emotion in their voice.

Bryan Pham (Guest):

The next thing I look for are... So the thing, once you have a North Star a lot of people come to you but human intention is always like, hey, I want to help you, but there's always a cause to it, it's like I have a secret product I want to sell.

Eric Feng (Host):

Commercial.

Bryan Pham (Guest):

So that's the thing you have to pay attention to, like what are their real motives, why did they want to help you? So I tend to weed out the people who are strictly all business with me and always... I tend to be on a lookout too when people use such sweet words around me. It's like, hey, Bryan, blah, blah, blah, you're so cool and strong and sweet, I'm like, hmm, too much compliment words, this is not a good sign.

Eric Feng (Host):

Guys, stop complimenting. It's not a good thing.

Bryan Pham (Guest):

But I tend to like people who are up front with me, or really honest, be like, hey, I think this is a great event, but this is how you can improve. That means they demonstrate an independent strong leader, and if you get them to believe under your umbrella they'll lead with more enthusiasm and carefulness to grow the brand even more and grow the mission statement even more. So I look for people who are overly compassionate, and I look for people who, I don't know if this is the right thing to say, but like to talk back and criticize me in a good way.

Eric Feng (Host):

Essentially independent thinking, right? So they don't go into hurt thinking, which actually leads very nicely to a challenge that you told me you had, which is that you're constantly getting your people to innovate, right? Because, I mean, today with social media it's so easy to set up a community, any one of us can set up a community. The question is, can your community sustain itself over time? So, how do you build that innovation culture within this network?

Bryan Pham (Guest):

Oh, wow. So this is how we do it. Okay. Haven't told anyone yet.

Eric Feng (Host):

Oh, my God.

Bryan Pham (Guest):

So every Friday we have an open day where it's like honesty, like what's good with our community, what's bad with our community, like open, honest opinion, like be honest with me, say, "Bryan, you're talking too slow. Bryan, you're talking too nervously." There's this thing, you're allowed to make fun of me on Fridays.

Eric Feng (Host):

Only on Friday, but I'll get back to you on Saturday.

Bryan Pham (Guest):

So that openness, it's like, no one's being penalized for mistakes, no one's being criticized in any way for speaking their mind. So things that we point out are things that we do better, and that fosters a innovation mentality. Now people automatically want to see us solve a problem. All right, how do we solve this problem? This is written on the board too many times on Friday, and that forces the teams to be innovative, right?

Bryan Pham (Guest):

Some people feel like not being seen, this is the program that we're going to enroll up with because now it addresses this problem, or we want to do this and that because of current events, now it's safe enough for someone to say, "Look, for our situation we're trying to do more programs about the [inaudible 00:34:21] situation, the whole government situation." And now we create and foster a safe environment in the team to talk about that openly, why are we supporting this, and why is it a bad thing, why is it a good thing?

Bryan Pham (Guest):

Just very conflicting conversations but no emotion involved, very logical, from a goodness from their heart, how can we help, how can we help? And by hearing that over and over again, hey, these are the programs that we can come up with to innovate and possibly keep the committee engaged.

Bryan Pham (Guest):

As soon as we roll out some basic plans the committee does a great job of looking into that and providing feedback, sending emails, sending messages, so we could take that back to the team and we're finding some more. But it really starts with the fostering of their own personal team, how safe is it on a team for them to criticize you as a leader?

Bryan Pham (Guest):

If you're not afraid to criticism as a leader you're going to be the one leading the most because no one's afraid to speak up against you because, even if they do, you're speaking from goodness of their heart trying to help you improve, trying to help the organization improve.

Eric Feng (Host):

I love that. And what about for communities at early stage where they don't really have a team yet, can I do the same thing with my most active community members and treat them like my team?

Bryan Pham (Guest):

Of course, they would appreciate that more, because it comes back to the whole tech thing, right, the early adopters are the ones in 5 years you're up like crazy, and that's the same thing with the community. The first people in the community that believe in your vision are the early adopters, so you take good care of them, you make them feel like they're involved, they're involved your planning process, and which they are. You want to listen to their feedback all the time. It's like running a company, you listen to your customers, what can we do better?

Bryan Pham (Guest):

And over time their bandwidth will open up and be like, hey, look, I have more free time now, how can I help you here? And that's when you define clear expectation, what's involved, what's here, what's there, and create a system in a way where if one person drops the ball the next person can pick it up. That's the system that we created so the ball never falls. Even if some people volunteer an hour of their day or 15 minutes of their day, the balls keep on moving over and over based upon our communication process.

Eric Feng (Host):

So there's always a redundancy, right, you always have two people doing the same role, so in case one drop out there's always another... Now, so we spent a lot of time talking about having a compelling vision that's driven by the founder's backstory, and that usually would then draw the initial group of people in. And, of course, as a founder, we need to also lead by example. So if there are key values that we want to build, I mean, our communities always be our values, right, we have to model the way. So I get that. So that's the Genesis.

Eric Feng (Host):

And then I also understand that in terms of administration I need to look for at least two to three per 1,000, or, in general, look for the most active core members that shares the same value, they're compassionate, they are not there to get things out of the community, they're there to give, right, they're givers, and you want to spend more time with them, like your one is every Friday where they will share what doesn't work, because that's when ideas start coming. So, I get that now.

Eric Feng (Host):

Now, let's talk about the community on its own, right? How do we keep the community engaged? Because I understand that it's all about creating activities. In your case [inaudible 00:37:41] one of the most compelling... There are two things I'm very familiar with, the first one is what you shared, which is getting every member to share about their backstory, so whoever that's joined, they will have a chance to share their backstory, and then people will just resonate. So that's one activity, right? And then the second one is you do a clubhouse every day and one hour networking.

Eric Feng (Host):

What other activities have you created in your community that you believe is what keeps the members so engaged?

Bryan Pham (Guest):

Yeah, that's a really good question. One thing that we used to do before COVID that really engaged the community is having in person events. And that leads me down the vision of Asian Hustle Network, is that we want more people on stage that look like us, sound like us, and can inspire a new generation of entrepreneurs that want to be like us, so everything we do underneath that umbrella.

Bryan Pham (Guest):

And because we have that vision we are thinking about, okay, what programs can we put together right now that will enhance that vision once COVID is over, right, which is clubhouse, which is our webinar, fireside chats, which is our Instagram lives, which is our podcasts. These things amplify people's voices, and that's the same core common value of each event, is that we want people on stage that look like us, that can inspire a new generation, that can speak. So everything that we do falls underneath that core vision that we had since day one.

Eric Feng (Host):

Got it. See, so it still boils back down to the North Star, because once I know what's my North Star, then my activities are there to achieve that North Star, right? So it's not just about playing, doing more podcasts, it's not about just doing networking for the sake of networking, it has to always achieve that vision that we want to set.

Eric Feng (Host):

Now, I have a scary question for you. You see, I mean, the reason why people want to start creating communities is because people want to monetize it, unfortunately. I understand, like you said, that you started out a very altruistic motivation, and it still stays that way. In fact, I love the hashtag hate is a virus. And I feel that the only reason why there's so much power behind that movement is because of what you've already done with AHN. Right? It lends voice to the Asian community so that the powers that be will not take advantage of us, right?

Eric Feng (Host):

So I see that, and it's very altruistic, and that's why we cry in movies, right? Every time I watch a movie that's very altruistic I cry, because I yearn for that. But what about entrepreneurs? If entrepreneurs want to start up community because they want to build their personal brand, they want to monetize, is that wrong? Should we tell them to stop doing that or what?

Bryan Pham (Guest):

No, I think as long as you attract the right people. I think that as long as you are always at the helping mindset of helping people. You know when they say when you help a lot of people it always comes back to you?

Eric Feng (Host):

Yes.

Bryan Pham (Guest):

This is the same situation. You can't just look at the situation where you're here to take advantage of people, it never works that way. You'll never be successful if you think that way or even act that way.

Eric Feng (Host):

Got it. So that means-

Bryan Pham (Guest):

So you need a how can I help people.

Eric Feng (Host):

Understand. So whether it's a personal brand, like myself, a personality, or if it's a company, right, we basically... the starting point is to think about, okay, now I have a bunch of customers that have already bought my products, right, but I want them to be more engaged. And then I ask myself, how can I help them further, and that's when you set up the community.

Bryan Pham (Guest):

Exactly. Just think about social media model, right, Instagram, or TikTok or something, why do people support TikTok or Instagram so much? Because they benefit themselves. They have an opportunity to build their personal brand, and in return they're like, hey, join TikTok, join TikTok, join TikTok or Instagram, join Instagram. That's the same value proposition that you have to offer to your community.

Bryan Pham (Guest):

As soon as Eric helps so and so to achieve this and that, people are going to rave about you, people are going to be like, oh, this person helped me, so and so, you have to go to Eric now. So your value proposition always has to be how can you help people achieve their goals, because the more people you help achieve their goals the more likely you're going to achieve your goals.

Eric Feng (Host):

So, Bryan, final question before we close, right? Actually, yeah, two more questions before I close. So now that I already have a community, it's just that they're very, very inactive, right, what do you think I could do to resurrect them? It's 3,000 strong but we don't do anything with them.

Bryan Pham (Guest):

It starts with you, Eric. You have to reinvigorate the community in a couple of ways. You have to reset your North Star and create more activity like you posting now and have a strong core moderator of five people, have them share their stories. And whoever is brave enough to share their story, make them feel like they belong, comment on their post, read through their story. And then from them people see that, oh, wow, this person is so welcome, I want to share my story now, and now it's a ripple effect. But keep it going.

Bryan Pham (Guest):

There's things you can do to revitalize it. You know what? We haven't done anything so far, how about we do a networking session now? Every Friday we'll have a networking session on clubhouse or something, please join us, I want to hear from you guys. And the more value that you bring that way the more people are like, wow, this community is alive again, we have a North Star, we have good activity, we have a vision, Eric's awesome, and then it's going to grow organically over time.

Bryan Pham (Guest):

I think it's great that you have a community of 3,000 people already, all you have to do is you have to look deep inside, like, what do you want to do with them? And sometimes you don't know what the value proposition is, but by having these frequent events you can hear what community wants from you guys, what do they want, they'd be like, hey, "My name is Bryan, I'm looking for a tribe.", and you're like, "This is a good idea, let me write this down."

Bryan Pham (Guest):

So now you bring that idea back to your team, now you have something to work off of, because assuming is always really bad. Getting feedback and criticism and creating that continuous growth cycle is so much better.

Eric Feng (Host):

I understand. So I can just ask them back like, hey, I want to keep serving you guys but I have no idea how to serve you on top of teaching you. Because I'm a teacher, right, so the only way I'm helping them right now, and it seems like the most direct way people are getting value from me is learning from me. But I want to do more beyond teaching them, I want to do more, and I want to do stuff that you do because it's very cool. And I felt that I can help them beyond that.

Eric Feng (Host):

But I guess it all starts with not me being assuming but me just reaching out and ask them, "How else can I serve you besides giving you knowledge?" I'm going to do that right away.

Bryan Pham (Guest):

People will respond to that.

Eric Feng (Host):

Yeah, how else can I serve you guys? Guys, if you're hearing typing sound, it's not because I'm rude, okay, because I'm actually taking notes. This is legit like a tutorial. As I said, Bryan, before the interview, there is very, very little literature right now on how to be a community.

Eric Feng (Host):

And people who are community Buddhists, they get stunned when people ask them what's the ROI of building a community, and it's hard to measure that. They say it's hard. How do you mention emotions? Emotions are important, but you can put $1 to it, right? So I thought that today's interview is, I feel, very important. It set the groundwork for what it takes to build a community.

Eric Feng (Host):

Now, my final question for you, and this is to return back the favor to you, tell all of us, okay, who's listening to this podcast, what are your future plans for Asian Hustle Network?

Bryan Pham (Guest):

Yeah, so Southeast Asia is our future plan.

Eric Feng (Host):

Yay, that's us.

Bryan Pham (Guest):

We have a lot of plans coming up to host more events in Southeast Asia, Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, Laos area, because we want to make sure that we can highlight entrepreneurs in each country and show not only the people in that country but show the world that it's a level playing field now, that it doesn't matter where you are in the world, you will succeed with the right community and the right resources.

Eric Feng (Host):

You know something, Bryan, in 20... I think it was 2014, I spoke for an event, it was a regional event, but I was the only asian speaker.

Bryan Pham (Guest):

Oh, no.

Eric Feng (Host):

But listen about it, it's a regional event, right? Makes sense? Regional, so this is out of Southeast Asia, right, but I was the only asian speaker, and I will always remember that. And you need to come... I mean, I think things are getting better. I somehow rather, I feel that with movies like Crazy Rich Asians, Bling Empire, and with the work that you guys are doing in AHN, I think people are starting to give more representation to Asia.

Eric Feng (Host):

The momentum is built, so I can't wait to see what you're going to do here in Southeast Asia. So, what kind of support would you need? I mean, this is a chance for you to share. This podcast reaches out mainly to the five countries, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia, and Hong Kong, right, so what kind of support can we give you so that we can show our love to you?

Bryan Pham (Guest):

I would love for you guys to... I don't really mind if you guys follow me or not, but if you guys follow our Asian Hustle Network Instagram and comment where you are in the world it makes us so excited to know the impact that we're creating, and it gives us more motivation to come into your country even more to host these events, create our vision there, because now we know that we have a viable audience and demographic that we could support and uplift.

Eric Feng (Host):

Fantastic. Well, okay, so you guys heard it. After listening to this podcast go to our show notes and you will see Bryan's Instagram handle and also the Asian Hustle Network Instagram handle. Bryan is also the podcast... He also a podcaster, so he interview a lot of brilliant asian entrepreneurs from all around the world. So do listen and check out his podcast, and please DM him and let him know which country you're from. Okay. Pretty cool. Just curious, here in asia, which is the country that has the most members right now?

Bryan Pham (Guest):

Singapore.

Eric Feng (Host):

Yay. All right. Good job, Singaporeans. We always want to be number one in everything, so it's nice to know that we're number one in AHN in Asia. So, okay, let's keep it up that way, okay, but I'm sure Malaysia will catch up.

Eric Feng (Host):

All right. Bryan, I just want to thank you for taking the time to do this interview, and as what Steve Jobs says, you never know how every action actually contributes until you look backwards, and I really do believe that whatever that you have done today in this interview and giving so much of your attention and time, it's going to create something really amazing in this part of the world. So I can't wait to host you here in Singapore in person. So we'll see you really, really soon. Okay, Bryan?

Bryan Pham (Guest):

Awesome. Thank you, Eric.

Eric Feng (Host):

You take care.

Bryan Pham (Guest):

And thanks to your team for making this possible.

Eric Feng (Host):

You take care. Bryan, why not do me a favor, could you read the quote that's right behind you right now, because I think this is such a great way to end the podcast. I'm seeing Bryan right now and we're on zoom but there's this beautiful quote, so Bryan, you do us the honor to finish off the podcast with that quote that I believe have actually influenced you. Go.

Bryan Pham (Guest):

Definitely. The quote is, be the change that you want to see in the world by Gandhi. It's one of my favorite quotes and is always leading by example.

Eric Feng (Host):

Ladies and gentlemen-

Bryan Pham (Guest):

It starts with you.

Eric Feng (Host):

Ladies and gentlemen, that's Bryan Pham from Asian Hustle Network.

Eric Feng (Host):

Thank you so much for listening to the entire interview. I trust that it was valuable to you. Now, it would mean the world to me if you could write me a review. So, who knows, your review may be featured in the very next episode, so what are you waiting for? Go write a review now.

Eric Feng (Host):

#HighlySoughtAfter.