Author: Becci

POST #008

TWEET VIEW ON MEDIUM 

 

…the Lean Startup way

Here are my take-aways from The Lean Startup by Eric Ries, focusing on building a Lean Startup organisation. You can order the book online, and pre-order Eric’s next book The Startup Way.

Build an adaptive organisation

As mentioned in my previous blog How I want to build my business, startups are built on uncertainty.

So what sort of company do we need to build to excel in this uncertainty?

As Eric explains it “…we need an organizational structure, culture, and discipline that can handle these rapid and often unexpected changes”…“one that automatically adjusts its process and performance to current conditions.”

Eric recognises two powerful challenges for entrepreneurs implementing lean thinking:

  1. Building an organisation where these assumptions can be tested systematically; and
  2. Performing these rigorous tests without losing sight of your company’s overall vision.

Culture

A healthy culture is based on the ethos / environment as well as the processes implemented; and they require the support of the whole team, including the executive team! When looking at both ethos and process, my takeaways from The Lean Startup for building a healthy culture which I would like to employ, include a commitment to:

  • Learning;
  • Sharing;
  • Innovating;
  • Iterating; and
  • Simplifying

Structure

Something caught me off guard in this book — the idea that people find difficulty in measuring value on learning and instead measure value on productiveness. As a result, we build department-based teams where we all put our heads down, our bums up and move work from one department to the next. When we move work on, we see this as productive, whereas real productiveness is in the intangible value of learning.

As a result, we need to re-think how our teams operate, and how we can introduce learning milestones into the business as a value of productiveness by implementing effective experimentation systems.

  • First, we need to build smaller multidisciplinary teams. Strangely, functional specialisation has been proven to be less effective; and Eric suggests teams no larger than five.
  • Then, we need to reduce the batch sizes of work. “The ideal goal is to achieve small batches all the way down to single-piece flow along the entire supply chain. Each step in the line pulls the parts it needs from the previous step.”
  • Every role needs to spend time with the customers. A term I particularly liked was Genchi Genbutsu, illustrating the importance to go and see for yourself.
  • And, we all need to be beating to the same drum. Every activity and decision needs to be focussed around the vision and priorities of the business.

 

It’s important for a startup to build an environment for innovation, including building a community of entrepreneurs.

And as Eric notes, “A solid process lays the foundation for a healthy culture, one where ideas are evaluated by merit and not by job title.”

An ideal scenario is building an onboarding process to enable new employees to be productive on their first day, while also learning the culture of the company, and how all these processes work. Eric did this by creating a systems-level view, and asking new developers to change the production environment when they began. Then, if something was to break, this new employee would lead the fixing of the issue to ensure the next person couldn’t break it. This immediately taught the new employee the company values of fixing things straight away, and of continual improvement.

 


Discipline 

In essence, by implementing lean thinking effectively, we’re able to achieve validated learning, convert push methods to pull, reduce our batch sizes of work, keep nimble and then accelerate.

I had a real palm to face moment when Eric described the difference between the driver-to-steering wheel experience for a car versus a rocket ship. I’ve often taken the rocket ship approach, by planning every step and expected result far in advance. However Eric is absolutely right — I have certainly experienced times where down the track, minor errors have meant big impacts for me, and these could have been avoided with the car approach, identifying much sooner when I needed to take a sharp turn or whether it was safe to continue along my current path.

Lean thinking is a great way to look at providing the discipline needed to build an adaptive organisation and is discussed in more detail in my blog How I want to build my business, including a description of the build-measure-learn feedback loop, batch design and continuous development.


Communication

It’s important, particularly when working in multidisciplinary teams, to ensure everyone is on the same page, and they all have a thorough understanding of what’s going on. This means communicating in a more simplified way so those outside your technical skills can read, interpret and contribute. One example Eric provided was for feature requests to be written as customer stories, and for reporting, it means implementing the 3 A’s:

  • Actionable: demonstrating clear cause / effect so everyone can learn from their actions.
  • Accessible: using terminology so everyone understands them, plus ensuring everyone has access to them (e.g. a simple one-page summary of the results emailed / available via log-in).
  • Auditable: being able to test by hand (by talking to customers), as well as using a simple mechanism for generating the reports (ideally drawn directly from the master data rather than an intermediate system).

Teams are then in a much better position to evaluate how the changes made were related to the results they’re seeing, and to ensure the correct lessons are being drawn from the changes. This puts the team in a better position to evaluate the company’s position, and identify what direction it should take.


Pivot or persevere?

Eric also suggests teams hold regular pivot or persevere meetings. He recommends every 1–2 months; however notes the regularity will be best determined for the individual organisation. This meeting would include:

  • Product development team. They would provide a complete report on the product optimisation efforts and a comparison against expectations (over time, not simply since the last meeting).
  • Business leadership team: They would provide detailed accounts on conversations with both current and potential customers.
  • Outside advisors: They would be asked to provide external thoughts / advice where possible.

Management is human systems engineering

This book has been incredibly valuable in allowing me to question my earlier processes developed, and think about how I wish to build startup organisations in the future.

I’m excited to put this into practice, and share my progress!


 website plain postcard (1)

POST #007

TWEET VIEW ON MEDIUM 

 

the Lean Startup way

Here are my take-aways from The Lean Startup by Eric Ries, focusing on:

– business models; and
– processes of product development.

You can order the book online, and pre-order Eric’s next book The Startup Way. Hopefully I’ve done the book justice Eric!


Lean thinking

The bottom line to Eric’s concept of lean thinking, is to help you build a capital efficient, sustainable business. As he describes, this is done by “…radically altering the way supply chains and production systems are run” and it enables you to build quality value-creating activities / products from the inside out, and stop wasting resources! In turn, it helps you to make sure you are not building something nobody wants.

 

 

When Eric notes “…it’s the boring stuff that matters the most”, he’s talking about the 95% of gritty work companies complete in order to build a sustainable businesses—i.e. the processes you follow in order to prioritise product decisions, identify which customers to target and listen to, and to have the courage to “subject a grand vision to constant testing and feedback.”

To understand how the organisation should be built for lean transformation, see my second Lean Startup blog How I want to build my team.


Flip traditional business models upside down

“In the Lean Startup model, every product, every feature, every marketing campaign — everything a startup does — is understood to be an experiment designed to achieve validated learning.”

Startups are built on a foundation of uncertainty.

Traditionally, businesses have been focused on developing successful plans and executing properly — and heads have been on the stake sometimes because of it! However disruptive startups based on uncertainty need to do things differently in order to be successful. As a result, you need to focus on learning as quickly as possible. Eric suggests implementing a framework to help you do so.

Now as a side note, Eric does clarify:

“Those who look to adopt the Lean Startup as a defined set of steps or tactics will not succeed.” “Ultimately, the Lean Startup is a framework, not a blueprint of steps to follow. It is designed to be adapted to the conditions of each specific company.”

So remember, customise and implement as required to suit your business specifically!


Build-measure-learn feedback loop

The framework he’s referring to is the build-measure-learn feedback loop, where companies first identify their leap of faith assumptions for the business (those which the success of the business is reliant on), and then develop hypotheses to test these. Experiments are designed and run, measured using innovation accounting, and the startup is then able to collate the data and make decisions as to whether to persevere or pivot.

I have done my best to capture the essence in the below infographic, but first, there are a couple of things you need to know:

  1. The idea is to get through the full cycle quickly, and then do it again, and again, and again. Each repetition produces new ideas and hypotheses to be tested.
  2. Just-in-time scalability is about “…conducting product experiments without making massive up-front investments in planning and design.” That is, what validated learning can you capture as soon as possible, with minimal impact on your resources?
  3. A product is referencing “…any source of value for the people who become customers.” This means anything at all customers experience from interactions with your company.
  4. Market research helps you identify your key assumptions, and a solid strategy helps you to identify the best way of answering these assumptions — but together these are not enough. In the early stages, you do not know who your early customers are, nor do you know what your product should be.

 

 

This framework is followed repeatedly as new learnings and new assumptions emerge, and it is designed to enable you to more quickly determine who you customers are, what they want / what value is to them (by watching their behaviour, not by asking them), and then using a scientific approach to making decisions as the company grows. The idea is to move through this cycle faster than the competition, and Eric notes “…speed and quality are allies in the pursuit of the customer’s long-term benefit.”

It’s “a new way of looking at the development of innovative new products that emphasizes fast iteration and customer insight, a huge vision, and great ambition, all at the same time.” 


Innovation accounting

This is the method of measuring the experiments conducted, and it allows you to ensure you have a quantitative approach to creating learning milestones. i.e. to:

  1. Identify where you are right now (baseline data on growth model);
  2. Identify micro changes / product optimisations to move the baseline toward the ideal; and
  3. Identify whether you are more productive than before.

The idea is to move away from vanity metrics which do not provide you with the learning milestones you need to make business decisions, and instead focus on actionable, accessible and auditable action metrics such as those provided by using a cohort analysis, focusing on customer behaviour.

 

Any negative results you receive will then provide you with the motivation, context and space required to seek qualitative feedback so you may be able to improve the offering.

When it comes to innovation accounting, startups won’t have a maintained quantitative financial model to evaluate rigorously to begin with and will therefore be operating on intuition. As a result, it’s imperative startup entrepreneurs translate these instincts into data as soon as possible, by following Steve Blank’s famous advice — “get out of the building” and start learning.”


Implementing a lean transformation

Eric recognises two powerful challenges for entrepreneurs implementing lean thinking:

  1. Building an organisation where these assumptions can be tested systematically; and
  2. Performing these rigorous tests without losing sight of the company’s overall vision.

I have developed a blog specifically focussing on these: How I want to build my team; which talks about the culture, structure and discipline required in order to build an adaptive organisation.

The first two critical questions for any company going through a lean transformation however, are: what activities create value; and which activities are simply wasteful? Included in the infographic above are ways you can focus on reducing waste in all areas of the build-measure-learn feedback loop.

A game changer for me however, was how to look at team set-ups. Eric provides fascinating examples of successful companies who use multidisciplinary teams to work on smaller batch experiments and he suggests a team of no more than five, following a basic batch framework. I’ve put this into the following infographic, as well as including some valuable commentary from Nadya Direkova on Google’s design sprint methods.

 

When developing MVPs, there are a number of ways to ensure you are operating effectively, and reducing waste. They key is to ensure you’re:

  1. Not making moves without the relevant information to suggest you should do so, and
  2. Not focusing so much on strategy you limit getting out and interacting with customers.

 


Eek—something broke

Sometimes problems occur. As a result, it’s important to implement adaptive processes for continuous development. What does this mean? It means fixing problems as they occur, investigating the root cause, and implementing prevention tactics to ensure the problem does not occur again in the future. The process works as follows:


I’m seeing positive results—am I going to succeed?

This does not mean you’re building a sustainable business.

“My goal in advocating a scientific approach to the creation of startups is to channel human creativity into its most productive form, and there is no bigger destroyer of creative potential than the misguided decision to persevere.”

The majority or products do not have zero traction, and you can often end up caught with Clayton Christensten’s Innovator’s Dilemma, or end up in the land of the living dead. That is, you achieve moderate success (enough to stay alive), and continue to provide sustaining innovation by making incremental improvements without developing breakthrough products and disruptive innovation. You can achieve higher profits / margins each year, and still the business can suddenly collapse.

When this happens, you are no longer moving the drivers of your business model, or living up to the expectations of your investors and founders, and you’re unable to illustrate genuine progress to your stakeholders.

As a result, it’s imperative you develop a formal growth model, and identify new sustainable sources of growth along the journey by “systematically figuring out the right things to build”. As Eric explains, companies need to “manage a portfolio of activities, simultaneously tuning their engine of growth and developing new sources of growth for when that engine inevitably runs its course.” It’s important the growth priorities are measured alongside your innovation accounting.

 

It’s all about using validated learning in order to build a sustainable business before you run out of resources. That is, to increase your runway, look at it from the point of view of the number of pivots you have left!

 


In summary

What does this all mean?

It means to build a sustainable, capital efficient business, focus on your vision or true north, repeat the build-measure-learn feedback loop, be willing to pivot your strategy, and always be optimising your product.

This way, when your product is “ready to be distributed widely, it will already have established customers. It will have solved real problems and offer detailed specifications for what needs to be built.”

Get through the cycle quicker than your competition by reducing waste of resources, and most importantly remember: “…if we’re building something that nobody wants, it doesn’t much matter if we’re doing it on time and on budget.”

This book questioned a number of ways I’d previously looked at process priorities and implementation techniques. I’m eager to put these into practice and share my experiences going forwards!


  website plain postcard (1)

POST #006

TWEET VIEW ON MEDIUM 

 

…and here’s why

Getting to yes — negotiating agreement without giving in” by Roger Fisher, William Ury and (for the second edition) Bruce Patton.

We negotiate all the time — so why are we not brilliant at it?

In my previous roles focused on partnerships, I always relied on developing mutual wins — otherwise, the relationships would be short ones! I’ve found however, my negotiation skills in partner deals have often been more productive than negotiating the TV channel with my husband, or a pay rise with my employer. Roger, William and Bruce help you identify the skills and processes you use in your productive negotiations, and lay these common sense principles and experiences out as a “useful framework for thinking and acting”. Talk about #processporn!

It’s an easy read (and a quick one also), but it packs a punch!

And guess what, if the person your negotiating with has read the book and implements the principles — you’ll also be better off!

Getting to yes teaches you how to better understand yourself, better understand others, and allow you to both win. As they explain it, it’s about winning the important game — so you can have the satisfaction of getting what you deserve and being decent!

So what’s the game?
The meta-game, a game about the game: a better process for dealing with your differences — i.e. a better way to negotiate.

Each move you make within a negotiation also helps structure the rules of the game. The process they suggest is called principled negotiation or negotiation on the merits, and was developed by the Harvard Negotiation Project. Essentially negotiations can be fairly judged by whether:

1. They produce a wise agreement (if agreement is possible);
2. They’re efficient; and
3. They improve or at least do not damage the relationship between the parties.

The trick is to avoid positional bargaining; be firm but flexible; and be hard on merits, but soft on people, by:

– Focusing on interests, not positions;
– Inventing options for mutual gain; and
– Insisting on using objective criteria.


Focusing on interests, not positions

Positional bargaining
I consider myself  as someone with an open mind — I enjoy learning new things, and I try hard not to be so strict on opinions. As a result, I often find myself in the position of devil’s advocate. This isn’t simply to push others, but instead to push everyone’s thinking (including my own) and delve further into thought process, identifying exciting new opportunities.

The same goes for negotiation. With an open and inquisitive mind, you learn things, and sometimes your view will change and new opportunities will become known. As a result, it can be risky going into negotiations with a strong position held (e.g. “I will not agree unless I get X”)— you can end up not backing away from your position to save face (or ego), and you can lose out because of it. As the authors note, “…it is far better to know the terrain than to plan on taking one particular path through the woods”.

But doesn’t having a bottom line provide you with protection over making an agreement you shouldn’t?

The answer = BATNA!

 

It shouldn’t matter how powerful, wealthy or connected they are. Once you have identified your and their BATNA, and understand everyone’s interests and emotions, you can develop an effective strategy for negotiations. You can “dance with your partner” and not “try and trip them up”.

Interests
Understanding everyone’s interests helps you define the problem, and the causes for people taking specific positions. Each side has multiple interests, and these can include compatible interests (e.g. a tenant and landlord both want stability, a well-maintained home, and a good relationship with each other), as well as conflicting interests (e.g. one sister wants the orange for the meat; the other wants it for the rind: you could each receive 100% of what you are after).

Behind opposed positions lie these compatible and conflicting interests, and by asking why and why not (in a way to understand them rather than have them justify their position), you can better identify these interests, talk about them, and open the door to new mutually beneficial opportunities. In terms of identifying interests, the authors suggest to start by thinking about basic human needs, i.e.:

– Security
– Economic wellbeing
– A sense of belonging
– Recognition
– Control over one’s life

Emotions
Understanding emotions is imperative — recognising how you feel, what’s producing these emotions and identifying how you want to feel. What about the other side? Understanding their emotions is not simply putting yourself in their shoes, but understanding “empathetically the power of their point of view” and feeling “the emotional force with which they believe in it”. Acknowledging these emotions as legitimate is a super powerful negotiation tactic as they will feel understood and will be in a better position to face the problem with you side-by-side.


Inventing options for mutual gain

There are a number of examples throughout the book illustrating the importance of being open to opportunities. A simple example is the one of two people in the library, one wanting the window open, and the other wanting the window closed. When the librarian identifies their respective interests (i.e. fresh air, and avoiding a draft), she opens the window in the adjoining room, letting fresh air in without a draft on the gentlemen. Seems simple right? As the authors describe, there are “four obstacles inhibiting the inventing of an abundance of options”:

1. Premature judgement
2. Searching for the single answer
3. The assumption of a fixed pie
4. Thinking “solving their problem is the problem”

Keeping this in mind, they provide a useful process for brainstorming sessions as well as four basic steps for inventing options. They suggest running these brainstorming sessions with your particular team, as well as with the other side where possible.

 


Insisting on using objective criteria

The explanation of this section is best provided verbatim: “The more you bring standards of fairness, efficiency, or scientific merit to bear on your particular problem, the more likely you are to produce a final package that is wise and fair. The more you and the other side refer to precedent and community practice, the greater your chance of benefiting from past experience. And an agreement consistent with precedent is less vulnerable to attack.” The authors remind you, when negotiating with objective criteria, to focus firmly, but flexibly; and:

– Frame each issue as a joint search for objective criteria
– Reason and be open to reason as to which standards are most appropriate and how they should be applied
– Never yield to pressure, only principle


But what if they won’t play?

Yes, sometimes the people you’re negotiating with stick their heals in and won’t budge from positional bargaining…. so what do you do?

You create a new game and continue to focusing on interests / merits, options and criteria… and you implement negotiation jujitsu.

 

You can also introduce a third party who knows how to mediate using the one-text mediation procedure. This simplifies the process of inventing options and deciding together. Keeping in mind the best mediator is someone who is more reliant on an agreement taking place, than on the particulars agreed on — for example, a manager may be more focused on his two colleagues reaching a collective decision and moving forwards in the business, rather than on the particulars of what decision is reached.

The authors also suggest looking at the personality / implementation style of the other side in your negotiations — mirroring them where possible to increase the psychological connection. They provide 10 indicators to help you adapt and get in step.

 

 

Ok, but what if they’re using dirty tricks?
This can happen a lot, with the use of tactics like deliberate deception (e.g. phoney facts, ambiguous authority, dubious intentions, less than full disclosure), psychological warfare (e.g. stressful situations, personal attacks, good-guy bad-guy routine, threats), and positional pressure tactics (e.g. refusal to negotiate, extreme demands, escalating demands, lock-in tactics, hardhearted partner, a calculated delay, take it or leave it). Roger, William and Bruce have a process for this too!

  1. Recognise the tactic
  2. Raise the issue explicitly (question the tactic, not their personal integrity)
  3. Question the tactic’s legitimacy and desirability — and negotiate over it by developing an agreed procedure for negotiation using the same process: i.e. focus on interests, not positions, invent options for mutual gain, and insist on using objective criteria
  4. Know your BATNAe.g. consider walking out on the grounds of them not being interested in working together to develop a fair negotiation; invite them to call you if you’re mistaken so you may continue; and explain until then, you can proceed with the court option.

Closing

I really enjoyed the focus of this book being around understanding. The authors make it very clear that “understanding is not agreeing” but it does provide an incredibly powerful tool to aid in building a strategy, communicating effectively, and working together to develop mutually beneficial agreements — i.e.producing wise agreements (if agreements are possible), efficiently, while improving or at least not damaging the relationships between the parties.

This is another book hitting the mark for Type-A personalities like me; however I think this one will be suited for all personality types! The second edition is a good one to purchase, as they have taken on all the questions they received from their first edition by Roger and William, and rather than re-writing the previous version, they have added the additional valuable content at the back — very helpful to those who have already read the first edition!

I’ve developed a reminder checklist taking into account the key items to consider under each step of the negotiation — see below. The book provides fantastic examples of each of these and talks about all the steps in more detail — make sure you give it a read!

Happy reading!

_________

Once you’ve read “Getting to yes — negotiating agreement without giving in”, let me know what you think, and feel free to suggest great books for my next review!

William, I hope this post is on point 🙂

Thanks Casey Ellis for recommending this one!

 


 website plain postcard (1)

POST #005

TWEET VIEW ON MEDIUM 

 

On the toilet?

In the startup community, I hear about all sorts of must reads. But when does a startup have the time to read the thousands of books suggested? They often forget to allow time to go to the toilet and eat! Well, I have the book for you to either read on the toilet, while you eat, or if you’re doing both at the same time (no judgment…sort of).

 

Sustainable product engagement growth (i.e., more customers getting engaged over time) is hard for any investor to ignore…So if you have only a hundred customers, but have been growing 10 percent a month for six months, that’s attractive to investors…

…traction trumps everything.”

 

What I loved about the book Traction by Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares, was how it was set-out. It provided all the strategic thinking in the first five chapters, talking you through a valuable process to follow in order to “brainstorm, prioritize, test, and then focus”. The following 19 chapters were then delving further into specific elements — chapters you can read once you get started implementing the process for your business.

The key topic for this book is implementing a system for any business (consumer or enterprise, large or small) called the Bullseye Framework. And the way you go about this system? It’s called the Critical Path. I’ve developed an infographic to best capture my understanding of the book. It’s certainly not perfect; however hopefully it’s a helpful illustration of the process for you!

A5 Copy 3

Outside the Bullseye Framework system and Critical Path, my five favourite takeaways from this book were as follows:

Takeaway 1: The 50% rule

This rule refers to spending 50% of your early-on time dedicated to product development (startups often spend a great deal more here). The other 50% is then dedicated to traction. Pursuing these in parallel provides you with more effective data for the product’s success, identifying the leaky holes to plug and assisting you in identifying product market fit. This book is dedicated to helping you achieve the 50% on traction, and a book called The Lean Startup provides you with the other 50% — “what Lean is to product development, Bullseye is to traction”…they go “hand-in-hand”.

Takeaway 2: Don’t act scaleable?

You’re thinking what the? This is really about your focus on moving the needle. To do so in the early stages, you want to capture all the data you can to determine the most effective strategies. In order to achieve this, this book tells you to rely on un-scaleable traction strategies (e.g. manually getting users in the door). Then, once the needle moves and you have significantly increased your traction, you can then build strategies to increase this traction further.

A5

Takeaway 3: Biases shmiases

The authors found two interesting things through their research. Firstly, people and companies often utilise the channels familiar to them, or the ones they assume would suit their product or business. Secondly, it’s very difficult to predict the most effective traction channel for your current goal. As a result, tests must be run, data must be captured, and you need to be open-minded. As Gabriel and Justin say “Actively work to overcome your traction channel biases”. I.e. give them ago, capture data, and make informed decisions about changes as opposed to operating on bias. An additional approach may be talking to founders who have failed as well as those who have succeeded at what you’re trying to do.

Takeaway 4: Gotta love processes

When defining your Critical Path against the particular traction goal, the authors suggest working backwards to determine the absolutely necessary milestones to get there. They suggest assessing and reassessing at each milestone along the way, and not being distracted by things not impacting your immediate traction goal (e.g. requested product features). The authors suggest building this behaviour into your management processes, where you not only quantify traction subgoals, but you input them into a calendar to properly monitor your progress over time. If you’re not seeing the traction you want, investigate your valuable customers. Identify why they are engaged and whether this can be expanded on. If there are no bright spots, it might be time to pivot.

Takeaway 5: Rinse & repeat

Once you hit your traction goal, you will develop a new one and your strategies will change. The Bullseye Framework is something you repeat for the new goals as your business scales. The goals must continue to be aligned to your company strategy and change things significantly for your business (e.g. become profitable, raise money more easily, or become the market leader) — i.e. your goals may move from: product market fit goals > downloads/paying customers/daily customers/growth% > % of market share.

The four traps to be aware of are described as follows:

A5 Copy 2

There are a number of great people who were interviewed and are referenced throughout the book. Here some of my favourite quotes included:

Sean Ellis, Growth advisor to Dropbox and Eventbrite
“…don’t start testing until your tracking/reporting system has been implemented”

Marc Andreessen, CoFounder of Netscape & VC firm Andreessen Horowitz
“The number one reason that we pass on entrepreneurs we’d otherwise like to back is they’re focussing on product to the exclusion of everything else”

Andrew Chen, Investor in 500 Startups
“Over time, all marketing strategies result in shitty click-through rates”

Naval Ravikant, Founder of AngelList
“Traction is basically quantitative evidence of customer demand”

Paul Graham, Founder of Y Combinator
“A startup is a company designed to grow fast. Being newly founded does not in itself make a company a startup. Nor is it necessary for a startup to work on technology, or take venture funding, or have some sort of “exit.” The only essential thing is growth. Everything else we associate with startups follows from growth.”

Phil Fernandez, Founder & CEO of Marketo
“Instead of beta testing a product, we beta tested an idea and integrated the feedback….early on in our product development process”

This book certainly hits the mark for Type-A personalities like me, with their clear format, wonderful step-by-step process, and great example strategies and data capturing metrics. My competitive tendencies kicked in as I danced from one traction channel chapter to the next and my brain was overflowing with ideas.

For the cheaters in the group, there are great summaries at the end of each chapter; however if you skip the content in-between, you’ll miss the juicy juicy examples!

Happy

reading!

 


Once you’ve had a read of Traction, tell me what you think, and feel free to suggest great books for my next review 🙂
COMMENT HERE

VIEW ADDITIONAL RESOURCES HERE


004 previous postcard v2  website plain postcard (1)

POST #004

005 banner v2TWEET VIEW ON MEDIUM 

 

The daughter of an entrepreneur

As a daughter of a serial entrepreneur, I have experienced the highs and lows of having it all and losing it all. It’s an incredibly exciting world, with the high-risk high-reward status quo.

I certainly have the entrepreneurial spirit of my father; however I have taken a much more conservative approach to my existence — the intrapreneur existence.

As a result I have focused my energy on strategic thinking and exciting opportunities for existing businesses who pay me a steady wage. So what’s an intrapreneur? Let’s give Wikipedia a go:

 

“Intrapreneurship is the act of behaving like an entrepreneur while working within a large organization. Intrapreneurship is known as the practice of a corporate management style that integrates risk-taking and innovation approaches, as well as the reward and motivational techniques, that are more traditionally thought of as being the province of entrepreneurship.”

 

Chris Oestereich describes intrapreneurs as “…the people who naturally take a holistic approach to reviewing existing systems as well as to designing new ones.” Chris also explains how the radical of us don’t take no for an answer…“…equipped with the stubborn belief that through a mix of dogged determination and the unrelenting pursuit of ingenuity, they will achieve things most would assume to be impossible.”

I’m not sure I would consider myself a radical intrapreneur. Yes, I’m forever wanting to push boundaries and drive change; however some boundaries I would really only feel comfortable doing with my own money (you know, just in case you send someone else broke).

 

So here’s the question…when do you go from being an intrapreneur to an entrepreneur?

 

Well, some people will remain intrapreneurs and they will contribute greatly to the scaleability and innovation mindset of existing businesses. Ideally we want to keep some of these brilliant intrapreneurs in these organisations! Those of us however, who have this urge to try something on our own, will one day take the leap from intrapreneur to entrepreneur — or perhaps we’ll do both : )

 

The questions then become: how do you take the leap, on what, with whom and with what goal in mind?

 

I believe I’m taking a very strange and conservative approach to this. Perhaps to justify potential failure, perhaps to allow myself time to continue throwing myself into other people’s endeavours as well as my own…I’m hoping it’s the third reason however— to delve into research.

 

My entrepreneurial research project

My husband and I are often brainstorming what we think are some pretty cool and crazy ideas, and I would like to try a startup as a research project.

That is, I would like to have a go at one of our ideas (one we think would simply make our lives better), where we would be happy to invest in the product with or without customer acquisition. We would incorporate all our research and understanding of developing a valuable product and building traction — documenting the experience, capturing the data and reporting on our experiences, emotions and findings. Not sure it’s the cheapest learning curve; however given the amount we paid for our two degrees, at least this PD is a tax deduction!

I’m hoping this research project style approach will allow us to be more objective, look at things more holistically, and focus on following the steps the various books and successful entrepreneurs talk about over and over. As a result, I have started re-reading a number of the ‘must reads’ and will be sharing my major insights from some of them with you shortly.

 

So which idea to we delve into?

 

My first idea

I remember my very first SaaS product idea 7 years ago.
An online wardrobe.

Inspired by the movie Clueless, you could purchase clothes in store or online, and with the barcode information of the item, access the online 3D imagery of that particular piece and hang it in your online cupboard. You would upload your personal photo (whole body) and dimensions, providing you with an on-screen 3D replica of yourself.

Then, swiping your various wardrobe items across the screen onto your 3D on-screen body, you could select the perfect outfit from items you own, or help you select items to purchase via online stores. Sharing your wardrobe with friends would also allow you to swipe through each others’ wardrobes and select what you each wanted to borrow on your next girls night out.

clueless 01 clueless 02 clueless 03

The idea never left the kitchen table.

I was only 21 years old, and assumed my 95% “this is a ridiculous idea” feedback received meant I should think no more about it. It’s still to this day something I would love to have, and today’s technology would make it bloody possible.

When people hear of an abstract idea, often there’s a great deal of question around its potential success. We’ve seen so many successes where people ignore the negative commentary and throw themselves into new opportunities. You can look at the negative commentary and blame them for you not pursuing these; however if you ask me who the ass is, I’ll be looking in the mirror for this one.

 

One of my husband’s gems

I remember Tom and one of his colleagues once had an idea around an app for meeting people — you start a conversation with someone and as you engage further, more of their image is revealed. A few months later Tinder came out — a simple swipe right/left on an image before a conversation starts…. certainly less friction and in line with mainstream thought processes; however I love the blindfold removal gamification idea they left in the bar.

 

What’s next?

They say no idea is a first idea anymore….so hopefully there are some wonderful people out there building me my online wardrobe!

Both of these ideas are a little too in-depth for our interest in a basic research project though; so I think we’ll look to some of our simpler MVP potentials bubbling up…more to come here : )

 


Are you an intrapreneur or entrapreneur?
Did you take the big leap?
COMMENT HERE

VIEW ADDITIONAL RESOURCES HERE


003 previous postcard 005 next postcard final website plain postcard (1)

POST #003

TWEET VIEW ON MEDIUM 

 

Under the mask

So, according to the Myers-Briggs test, I’m an ENFJ — what is this you ask? Apparently extraverted feeling with introverted intuition: an abbreviation used in the publications of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). Have you done the test yet?

There’s a great deal of controversy around the Myers-Briggs test, a multimillion dollar business, with around 2 million people taking the test each year and a large number of businesses using this test for decision making in both recruitment and management. As you can imagine, saying each and every person fits under one of 16 personality types can pose some gruelling questions, and I have been part of interesting debates around this test over the last 12 months.

 

I did take the test however; and I found it very interesting!

 

As Wikipedia explains, ENFJ is one of sixteen personality types and they account for only 2–5% of the population (possibly a good thing). A really interesting blogger Tim Urban did a Myers-Briggs analysis of his readership, compared it with the US, and noted:

 

“If you’re an ENFJ, congrats — you manage to be the only type that’s rare among both sets.” Hmmm.. is he saying congrats for the personality, or lucky there’s only a few of us…?

 

**My famous ENFJ friends are said to include Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey, and my favourite Jennifer Lawrence!

Your personality type is determined by a bunch of multiple choice questions, identifying:

– How you focus your attention or get your energy
– How you perceive or take information
– How you prefer to make decisions
– How you orient yourself to the external world

Various websites have differing complimentary titles for each of the sixteen personality types, and ENFJ have very nicely been given the title of the giver, or the protagonist.

I read through the various personality traits with my husband, and he certainly found it entertaining! Luckily, he received an INTP score which apparently is very compatible with mine…lucky Becci…very lucky.

After reading a bunch of different explanations of the ENFJ from multiple sources, I saw there were some major standout traits. Here is a summary of the ENFJ descriptors most regularly identified by the various ENFJ sources. Perhaps an interesting read if you are one, or have one in your life 🙂

Otherwise, skip right to the bottom for additional commentary / links.

Note: If you’ve read my previous posts, public thoughts, and gamify-ing my life — perhaps the following descriptor will make you laugh or cry (or a combination of the two) — as I watched my family and friends read this post in front of me, there was certainly a great deal of nodding and cheeky grinning.

 


 

Descriptors

We’re a pain in your ass
The first being our desperate need to inspire others to achieve and do great things in this world. We’re driven to implement our “vision of what is best for humanity” and identify potential in others beyond how they see themselves. We can scare people away with our intense optimism, and can communicate with “reason, emotion, passion, or restraint” — whatever is required. We rely on our charm, charisma and idealism, falling back on manipulation when desperate…yes…guilty.

Run, run, run
We have been referred to as ‘idealist organisers’, preferring to make plans than the achievements themselves (weirdos). Our relentlessness for a forward directory can get out of control, and we spread ourselves to thin. We cope with stress by exercising, and under extreme stress, become very critical of others, ignoring their emotions, and do things to excess (eating, exercising etc.).

Our poor colleagues
Our perfect work environment allows for innovation, creativity, is forward thinking and people-centred, and includes an open door policy and trustworthy environment. We’re always looking for newer and better solutions, implementing procedures which need to be flexible for the long term strategy, concentrating heavily on interpersonal issues. Apparently we don’t understand or appreciate impersonal reasoning, always looking to incorporate the human element rather than sticking purely to logic and facts.

Let’s be friends
We are said to identify others’ motivations and can connect seemingly disconnected events. As natural chameleons, we pick up on moods and motivations and can amend our tone to suit our audience — while ensuring we keep our voice and stand up for what we believe in. This works well in drawing out even the most reserved individuals, and uniting and motivating the team towards a common goal. We do become exhausted from negative emotions and respond poorly to people who do not have genuine intentions however; and in disagreements we find other perspectives fascinating. We gain energy from social situations, and are recognised as those who know a lot of people.

Get practicing Becci
Onto the improvement metrics, it appears we need to use active listening more regularly, encouraging others to articulate their needs and allowing ourselves to pause and think more — this includes undertaking critical appraisal earlier to ensure we’re not coloured by our own subjective viewpoints. Thinking more includes learning to observe and accept the negative aspects of people we admire, and spending time alone more regularly — which can be difficult as we often turn to dark thoughts. Where possible, ENFJ’s need to steer clear from jobs with exceptional situational awareness — as we will simply burn out too quickly with the stress we put on ourselves.

Emotional wreck?
This is my favourite. As emotional beings, creative outlets allow us to pick up on feelings and this can be a very moving experience — this explains my crying when listening to music, watching dancing, seeing kids perform on stage, or simply kids winning prizes and generally being excited about life (happy tears I promise). Apparently we are also the most likely of all 16 personality types to believe in a higher spiritual power…I’ll leave this one alone for now… one day we can chat about this (possibly outside your current human form) 🙂

 


 

Summary…

Positives:
Overall, the main traits have been described as energetic, loyal, honest, open-minded, straightforward, hardworking and we are team players who seek to resolve ambiguity, radiate authenticity, concern and altruism. Apparently we see the big picture, and as quick learners and multitaskers with a positive vision, we often become mentors or leaders, and are entrepreneurial at heart.

Negatives:
We emotionally invest wholly and our confidence plummets when we don’t meet a goal or help someone we said we would. We are demanding and impatient with high standards for others, becoming offended when others’ efforts are not reciprocated when the opportunities arise. Our over idealistic views can result in others defying our principles which drives us crazy, as we seek understanding not blind obedience. We are forever seeking criticism as we define our self-esteem by our success at living up to our own ideals, we neglect our own needs which can impact those around us… and..wait for it…we talk too much.

My husband:
Apparently we are dedicated to finding a lifelong partner, and take dating relationships seriously, selecting partners with an eye towards the long haul. Well, I suppose I did refuse to date my now husband at the age of fifteen, saying “If I date you, I’ll never get to date anyone else…you’re the sort of guy every girl wants to marry”… Three months later he made me crispy bacon on toast and we never looked back.

Yes, food again Becci.


What did you get on the test?
How do you feel about your result?
COMMENT HERE

VIEW ADDITIONAL RESOURCES HERE


002 previous postcardv2 005 next postcard v2 website plain postcard (1)

POST #002

002 bannerv3TWEET VIEW ON MEDIUM

 

Did someone say prizes?

Once I realised how much satisfaction I received from beating expectations and reaping the rewards, I decided to gamify my life…

Pardon?

Well, I’ve drawn on my competitiveness, my a%@l-retentive tendencies, and have found a way to manipulate myself in order to achieve certain goals. Everything can be scored — and when you score there are prizes!

The more formal way of describing gamification is found here:

 

“Gamification is the concept of applying game mechanics and game design techniques to engage and motivate people to achieve their goals. Gamification taps into the basic desires and needs of the users impulses which revolve around the idea of status and achievement.”

 

A number of SaaS products today implement gamification into their products or services — this helps to further engage users and can strengthen referrals and brand awareness . I say if it works for SaaS, it can work for self.

My results? As someone often in trouble by doctors for “burning the candle at both ends,” my gamification started off in a potentially detrimental way; however it has become a useful process to prioritise activities in order to tip-toe closer to a healthy and balanced lifestyle. I say tip-toe as I do not have a balanced life yet (and I’d hate to be in trouble for a misleading post) : )

 

Family intervention

My personal competitiveness was clearly identified through a family intervention.

About 5 years ago I joined a group fitness website where you would receive a new activity per month (e.g. 100 squats, 1 minute of plank, 100 crunches — per day for a month). When you achieved this you would receive a star beside your name! (the little things in life) : ) The terrible thing was, if you doubled the activity, you received 2 stars, 3 stars if you achieved triple, and so on…. I’m sure you can guess what happened next.

I gave myself a set timeline to be at the top of the leaderboard — and the limited time I’d allowed myself meant at least tripling each month’s activity. After being caught sneakily fitting in squats during family gatherings (difficult to squat with a chicken wing and apple cider in hand), I received a family intervention. I had to promise to quit the group once I made it to thetop of the leaderboard.

 

I stuck to both promises : )

 

A%@l-retentive?

Generally, if I’ve taken on a new activity — there’s a spreadsheet for it. It’s become a running joke with family and friends; however it’s a great way to introduce gamification into your life.

My latest spreadsheet included a list of activities I wanted to become daily habits, including:

– water to start the day each morning, followed by a Berocca
– removing make-up, and flossing (yes, I was very lazy prior to this)
– making my bed and keeping the house tidy
– all my physio exercises
– fitness activities
– yoga and meditation

I scored each of them against their timeliness, difficulty, and my hatred of them; and I noted how many times I would realistically like to achieve these. As a competitive person, I like to beat expectation. As a result, I ensured the scores were not easy, certainly achievable; however also beatable. I then determined the potential total scores I would likely achieve in a given fortnight, and identified rewards.

 

gamification image (4)

Yes, I really like bad food. We’ll cover my diet another time ; )

The maximum points was something I added given my previous family intervention… I’m learning!

 


Are you this ridiculous?
What did you implement and what results did you see?
COMMENT HERE


001 previous postcard 003 next postcard website plain postcard (1)

POST #001

001 bannerv2TWEET VIEW ON MEDIUM

 

Email to myself

I found an email I’d sent myself some time ago, and I thought this would be quite a personal way of starting to write in the public forum.

It was interesting to compare my previous thoughts to where I am now and the direction in which I’m currently heading…and having immersed myself in the new world of digital technology, surrounding myself with brilliant minds in tech innovation and courageous startup founders, I thought…

 

It’s about time I start documenting my thoughts, ideals, and understanding as a foundation for future reflection, and let’s be honest…embarrassment.

 

My husband and I have recently finished our house renovations, and we’re packing up our things to head over to San Francisco for a couple of months. I’ll be working with RedEye Apps, an exciting Australian tech startup.

I look forward to sharing the experiences and adventures ahead, and the many contradictions these chapters will most likely serve : )

Hopefully others may relate to the following…

 

Email to myself:

email to myself

Hence…my first entry : )

 


002 next postcardv2 website plain postcard (1)