Ayman Al-Abdullah

Who’s in your van?

Published over 1 year ago • 2 min read

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Most talented musicians, at the beginning, are a solo act.

They know how to play their instruments, they know exactly which buttons to push, and they can put together a few good songs on their own.

But as they build momentum, and get a little more famous… things change.

Maybe they decide to start a band. They need to bring in the best guitarist, drummer, bass player, to grow from local cover band to full-fledged rockstars.

Or they start to tour — and to tour, they can’t do it all on their own. They need a manager, a travel coordinator, and everyone that operates backstage.

They need to build a team.

Quickly, they realize that talent isn’t the only factor in building a team. It’s about being aligned with those who are along for the ride.

Shifting from a Product-Led to People-Led business is about answering this one essential question:

“Who’s in your tour bus?”

As the CEO, it’s your job to hire the right people — in talent, fit for their role, and fit within company culture. It is not about you writing a job description. The best hires have to be discovered and cultivated.

Several years ago at AppSumo, we were in desperate need to solve our Facebook ads problem. We put out job openings, we worked with agencies who swore by their ability to dominate Facebook ads — and we never got the results we were looking for.

I was lucky enough to have a friend who worked at Facebook, so I straight up asked him over dinner: “Look, you’ve got access to the dashboards and data. Can you tell me who is the best person in the world at Facebook ads?” He looked around and then whispered to me the name of a guy in California. He told me he had no clue how this guy was getting such a good return on ad spend.

I slid in his DMs and got him on a call. He’s been working with AppSumo ever since.

If you’re building the world’s best rock band, your members need to be discovered and cultivated — for the exact role that fits them. To punch through to eight figures and beyond, you need to backfill for the exact role in your company’s process.

As a CEO, you are consistently outsourcing your previous positions. You’ve basically fired yourself. Your job becomes to walk around with a red pen and cross off anything that doesn’t match your voice, your tone, your company’s vision and culture.

All of the copy at Apple looks like it was written by Steve Jobs himself.

If you’ve created the frameworks and hired properly, eventually you will hardly ever need to pull out the red pen. Your company will operate as if the answer to every question is “What would (your name) say?”

This is only possible by cultivating the right people to join your rock band. When you land the right person — someone who thrusts the business forward — it’s your job as a CEO to support them with everything they need. Money, people, ideas, training, and any sort of ammunition they need to stick around and build on your previous hustle. They are your cannons.

The best people are individual to your business and culture. Make sure they never leave. Give them as much money and equity as they need, because these individuals are very rare.

A harsh truth is that these cannons hardly ever join your company in the C suite. You cannot rely on a magical hire who will come in and save the business. They don’t exist, and nobody is coming to save you.

Pay attention to those who come in and quickly rise up the ranks. The best executives, in most cases, are homegrown.

As a CEO, you need to be constantly making sure all components of your business are aligned. It starts with the people you’ve filled your company with. The only way to continue to Scale Up is to make sure you’re more than okay with the answer to the essential question:

Who’s in your rock band?

Talk soon,

Ayman Al-Abdullah

Former CEO of AppSumo (grew from $3M to $80M+ in revenue). I now help CEO's go from 7 to 9 figures by day. On a Mission to Create One Million Millionaires. 🧱

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