Verdi Heinz, one of Elementor's community leaders, explains how he builds long-term relationships with the community and illustrates his approach to handling disputes.

Verdi Heinz is one of the pillars of the Elementor community, being one of its leaders since its launch three years ago.

Coming from the Netherlands, Verdi is a problem solver who has been using internet solutions for over 20 years to achieve his customers’ goals.

He recently joined Elementor as an employee but is still occasionally building sites as part of a larger picture. He also became co-owner of Code Snippets that will release a pro version later this year. In his words, “Partly to understand Elementor’s origins better, partly for the learning experience.”

Strong values help him make clear decisions, and his continuous mission motivates him to help web creators to be more successful.


From a Fan to a Community Leader

Before we delved into discussing community and values, we wanted to hear from Verdi about his journey with Elementor since our launch three years ago:

“From the time we launched, I guess, the Facebook community and well that happened shortly after Elementor, the free version, launched. I joined when there wasn’t so many people, it was actually, the group was created by Mike Costa, a little shout out to him, and I joined simply as a fan. I worked for a company where I built websites and did well, all kinds of other stuff, mainly other stuff, and I started getting into the community simply to learn.

It’s my process, I get in there, ask my questions and what I learn I immediately teach to others, and that’s the way you learn a lot quicker. Normally I’m in such a community for maybe two, three months, then I’ve learned what I wanted to learn.

Then I move on to something different, but this time, something different happened. I kind of fell in love with the product, with the community, with the people, with everyone being so enthusiastic, so supportive. Every time I logged in there, it was like a mini-vacation of people going stupidly crazy, having fun. So yeah, that was pretty awesome.”

I mean you’re part of several communities, why do you think it’s something that we as marketing team try to figure out the love that naturally happens for our brand? 

“I can tell you what it was for me, personally. I switched tools before I used some other not-to-be-mentioned builder, and with Elementor, within a week, I could build the same websites in one-third of the time. So that was what got me hooked, got me in for the first time. But right after that, it felt like I got this huge box of Legos or maybe even Duplos, the bigger blocks, and got to play with them, so it felt like I had fun building.

But then every few weeks this company called Elementor gave me a new box. So it was like being a kid in a toy store, and you pay the owner of the toy store a fee, one-time fee, or yearly fee in case of Elementor, but you keep getting these boxes with Legos and new stuff to build with, new projects to create. You actually start attracting more customers and more different ideas simply because of the building blocks you get. So the normal process would be, okay, I have a problem here, it needs a solution, and you work towards that solution, and everybody is happy. 

But with Elementor, you get so many extra blocks, you just start playing, and you get to new things. And this all leads to new problems, problems being a very positive word because that’ll lead you to new assignments and new customers and so on. I hope I’m making sense with this.”


Building a Long-Term Relationship With the Community

Verdi has quite an experience with communities. But what makes him think Elementor Facebook community differs from others?

“In life, in general, it’s rare to meet people that are intrinsically motivated to help others. You can get help here and there, but somebody is really going out of his way to make sure you get your solution is rare because they have their time, they need to make their money and so on. So to meet those, hold onto them. You know? It’s rare; it’s really valuable. But then to get into a group where there are above average a lot of those people, yeah, that makes you want to stay. So it’s a combination of all those things I guess.

In a strong community, like we now have, it’s never one person of course. The newly added Mike Viller, Ike Ten was there a from the beginning, Mike Costa was there in the beginning. Those are people who helped shaped it along with me along with you. It’s a joint effort.

What other people tell me that I may do differently is the way I handle conflict. You could simply side with person A or person B, but it’s never black and white. Nothing is ever black and white. So I look at both sides at the different interests that are going around and based on my own personal set of core values, I make a decision, and basically, it’s simple. An example of core value would be I have a longterm relationship is more important than short term profits. So yes, you need to make profits if you want to feed your kids, if you have kids, that’s a good thing to do. But if you’re going to be in it for the long run, you need to choose one above the other. So one does not exclude the other, but you do prefer.

So you mentioned longterm relationship, this is one core value. What are other core values that you said to yourself, or the community, for example?

“Well, for myself, it’s a clear set of rules, the one I just mentioned. But another one that applies in the community too is asking and understanding above giving advice. So again, one never excludes the other, but the first one is more important. It’s enabling others instead of simply taking over; it’s better to help someone help himself than do it for him because next time they’ll need your help again. You know? Things like that. But you are also providing an experience over simply teaching. I have many more of those if you want, I can keep going.”


Instilling Community Values

Values for life are often a result of experience, trial and error. But what about values of the community itself? How do you instill them?

“Well, actually I personally do not set the values. They come from the community itself. When something needs to be set, it comes from the admins and moderators together. I might introduce one of my personal values I feel strongly about, but if the other moderators and admins don’t feel that way at all, then it’s not something to be used because it is something we do together, it’s the meaning of community, you do the things together. It’s not one person ruling, waving a staff. So yeah, different people have their different values, they come together. 

Every time there is a conflict that needs to be resolved or a decision need to be made, then we come together with our values and go towards there. I think the only thing I actively do is be acutely aware of other people’s values and feelings and where they come from, what they need, and try to put that together.”

I would assume that it’s crucial to have the values of everyone, all the admins, correlated, aligned, so to speak.

“Yes, but… well no buts, but yes, and you start out with simple rules for the group. Actually, in the very beginning you just start out with what Facebook thinks are good rules for your group. Then while working in a community, you figure out very quickly and painfully the standard rules do not apply to all, so you need to rethink them. And what I’m trying to say is this is a continuous process, you don’t have one fixed set of rules. I do have my fixed set of core values, but only a part of that is fixed. The rest is always open to change and always open to new experiences and new insights. What I find very important today might be less important tomorrow when I get this new insight or the other way around.”


A Different Approach with Problematic Members

How does Vedi handle heated discussions or disputes in the community? How does he deal with difficult members? Does he educate them? Does he try to change their perspective? And what’s, in his opinion, the best way to settls disagreements with members with different perspectives?

“Well, those are actually two questions. The first question is, how do you deal with people who are spamming the group? And that’s very easy, I emotionally prepare, get sensitive and very nicely block them never to see them again. And if I could, I’d send an audio file with bye-bye. But you know, that’s a very clear case. So no problem, just get rid of them. We have rules for that. I think you’re asking more about the gray area.”

Well, you gave me a great example when we were in a WordCamp about some person who uploaded there a theme that was kind of a partly stolen. That was very interesting, and how you dealt with it, I find found myself relaying that story to other people.

“Oh, really? Okay. That’s awesome. So yes about this specific developer, let’s not name names, Robert. No, no, I’m kidding. But basically we’re talking about, let’s call him an overenthusiastic startup entrepreneur. This developer wanted to create his own brand with themes and plugins, and stuff like you see, well, similar to BrainStorm Force, Brain Force. Yes he stole content, he stole content from… he basically downloaded templates from others, even graphics from others and used that, just altered things, and it seems like he stole everything. I simply posted about this new developer, people responded to it, they all attacked this guy for being a thief, and they were right.

I could have joined that discussion to be honest, for me, it felt like joining that discretion because I got angry about it too, I posted it. But instead I calmed down, and I thought, ‘Okay, respect, let’s just try and see what’s actually going on here.’ I contacted the developer and asked him, ‘Could you be honest about what’s happening here? I’m giving you one chance. I’m closing the topic. I’ll give you time to collect your thoughts, a day, and you can respond, but be very honest, or I’ll presume it’s true, what’s standing there, what’s written there or I’ll just have to remove you, but I’m giving you this chance.’

He came back to it. He was thankful and nice and the most important thing, he was very open, very honest. He said, ‘Yes, most of it is created by myself, but all the content stuff you see, I wanted to cut corners, I wanted to earn money faster, and they saved me a lot of time. Templates are free, graphics are free, so I can simply use them, so I thought. Now I see it’s not always the case. There’s a gray area. I did something wrong.’ So he openly said, ‘Sorry, this and this I did, I’m going to fix it. Allow me to get back to you.’

Three weeks later, apparently he and his team worked very hard, everything changed, his themes, his graphics, his templates. I think they didn’t sleep for about three weeks. He came back and again apologized, again showed his work and that’s when the beautiful thing happened, all the people who got so fashionably and rightfully angry at him said, ‘Well, okay, you owned up, it’s okay. Don’t let it happen again. But now it’s okay. It’s fine; it’s forgiven.’ And that’s a beautiful thing. If I had just joined the bandwagon of angry people, this would have gone very differently.”