Natalie Nagele – Is FOMO (fear of missing out) holding you back? – MicroConf 2017

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  • Woo - Postmark! (Sponsored the great reception last night)

  • Natalie’s up…

  • How many of you feel like you’re working on the exact right thing right now to grow your business?
    • Not many
  • At the start, you had a vision. Focused all your attention to see it through.
  • But now it’s Grow time.
  • Daily struggle to know you’re focusing on the exact right thing
  • Natalie
    • Wildbit
    • 16 years in business
    • 26 members
    • 3 products - beanstalk, Postmark, Deploybot. Conveyor coming soon
  • Something scary when you start to grow. GROWTH PLATEAU
  • Flatline growth after a great start
  • Today want to talk about – Fear of missing out. Focus is everything. Without focus, you die. But why? What makes focus so elusive?
    • Lots of decisions to make now. Lots of customers. Competition trying new things. SHOULD I BE DOING THAT TOO? Competitor hiring like crazy – am I missing out?
    • All these opportunities.
    • Start taking on too much.
    • Mess / chaos in your own head as founder; and chaos within your own team
  • Growth tempts you to lose focus, when it’s focus that defines your growth.

  • The focus framework:
      1. Focusing ourselves as leaders and founders
      1. Defining our company’s mission
      1. Focusing our product’s mission
    • These three things got us out of the plateau
    1. Personal focus
      • Chris and I married - how do we do that without it getting in the way?
      • For a long time felt like both of us had to be together in every decision
      • So focused in the day to day, building, that we didn’t stop to look around us
      • Market was changing
      • Competition growing exponentially
      • Met an advisor, who helped us figure things out
      • What is your job here? What should you two be doing each day?
        1. What are you good at individually?
        1. What do you love to do?
        1. What does the business need you to do?
      • Intersection of 1, 2, and 3
        • Uncovered a dramatic change. Me as CEO, Chris as CTO
        • Created new roles.
        • Me focusing on team + business
        • → Needed new people to drive marketing (Garrett), strategy (product management - Rian), Systems (Alex)
          • You have to start letting go - bringing on others where it’ll help you grow
      • If you don’t trust them to do it better, you need to find someone else. - Everybody needs to play to their strengths. Find what you’re good at. But find what the business needs you to focus on. AND FILL THOSE GAPS - with people; with software; with whatever, but don’t ignore them.
  • “Never confuse motion with action.” (Benjamin Franklin)

    • Books - management books. Turn the Ship Around! (L. David Marquet), Traction (Gabriel Weinberg & Justin Mares)
    1. Defining your Business
      • Your BUSINESS, not your product. You, your cofounders, your team. The product is what enables your business to exist.
      • Really important to separate these two - When we saw Postmark wasn’t growing – lot of options
      • Hire a great sales team?
      • New features like competitors have? - How can you decide if you don’t know what your business IS - What is Wildbit (the business)? → Then we can decide what to do with Postmark (the product) - What type of business do we want?
      • How many people?
      • Stay close to the team, or have awesome management to handle? - There is no wrong answer, we build businesses for personal reasons - Create a support system around you. Advisors, friends (advisor comes every two months) – they’ll build better conference than following what you read on the internet.
      • Advisor asks challenging questions. Ask questions, answer questions. Build confidence that you’re building the business you want
      • Friends – conferences! Tremendous support from friends with (sometimes much bigger) businesses than ours. People who are in the trenches, know what’s going on, helps you solidify that you’re running the type of business you want to run - “How come you haven’t raised money?”
      • VC isn’t inherently bad… but you have to decide what type of business you want before deciding whether VC is right or wrong for you.
        • “How would you spend $1mil in cash?”
          • How would you make it into $2mil? Or $10mil?
          • We’ve never found an answer to how to do that. Sometimes it’s more wishy washy than $1 in, $2 out
          • So VC may not be right
      • Define what you want out of your business. Face in the direction you want the car to go.
    1. Focus the product’s Mission
      • We built products to solve pains
      • Beanstalk - managing SVN repos was a pain
      • Postmark - Beanstalk was sending lots of emails and there was 0 visibility into where they were going - Postmark - decided we were the only one focusing solely on transactional email. It’s different to marketing emails, needs to be treated differently
      • Customers loved it at first
      • Then hit this plateau
      • Looked internally. What’s going on?
      • Looked around us. What are others doing?
        • Marketing email is helping all these companies grow. Leaving a ton of money on the table. That’s scary. Should we branch into marketing emails?
      • So… we talked to customers
        • Why do they love it so much?
        • We weren’t selling a feature, we were selling reliability and performance
        • Customers relying on us to get emails to customers as fast as physically possible
        • We were more expensive (“Charge More!”) – but you need a better product. We didn’t know WHY customers were choosing us when we were more expensive
        • We needed to figure out that value prop and show it to potential customers
        • We were fastest
          • We gotta show it!
          • This changed all our marketing.
          • Changed status page. Changed marketing pages. All about being the fastest - that was the promise that our customers had been buying into without us realising
      • Big shift in 2016. Competitor made a big strategic decision. Market shift. (Beneficial to us)
        • When something changes – is it something we changed? Or something changing in the market
      • Reversed that growth plateau. We stopped talking about marketing features. Focused solely on we are the fastest.
      • Last year - 45% growth
      • This year targeting 55% growth
      • Can’t handle any more than that right now 😉
      • When you focus like that, even your customers start focusing on it and marketing it for you.
      • “Send the emails you care about through Postmark” – A Customer
  • I don’t have growth hacking tips for you. Just that framework.
      1. Focusing ourselves as leaders and founders
      1. Defining our company’s mission
      1. Focusing our product’s mission
  • It’s in finding those gaps that you really start to grow your business.
  • Constantly define that business.
    • It changes. Keep asking yourself those questions
    • So you’re doing it for the right reasons.
    • So in 5/10 years, you’re proud of what you’ve built
    • Be honest with yourself – why are you in this business? No wrong answers, but be honest.
    • And once you’ve defined the business, then you can know what to do with your product
  • Retreat recently with friends. Everyone’s tripling down on content. 2 pieces a week. 3 a week.
    • Chris and I – “we don’t want that”.
      • Our marketing strategy this year is conferences and personal connections
      • Might work, might not
      • But it fits what we want our business to be
    • Read those books. Speak to friends. Do what works for you and what you want your business to be
    • Build a product because it feels right and makes you proud
  • Natalie Nagele
    CEO of Wildbit
  • Q&A
    • “You mentioned all this work on infrastructure, reliability, performance, and then the market shifted around you (to your benefit). Did you have a strategy in place for if that hadn’t happened?
      • Think the changes we made would’ve helped, just slower. The marketing changes definitely helped in their own right, but the market shift helped accelerate that
    • “You talked about building the business you want. Finding the people who could fill roles. I’m not in a position to hire for all those positions in my business.”
      • Always looked at what’s the priority right now. Is it marketing? Software? If you’re doing finance stuff and it’s not taking a ton of your time, keep doing it, don’t hire a CFO yet. Figure out what the biggest bottlenecks are, prioritize those
    • “All the stuff about you being the fastest. Have you measured how many customers asked for other things, like more email templates”
      • We don’t measure it. It’s secondary to our priority (speed). We can focus our features on that one value prop (speed, reliability).
    • “Running 1 business is tough enough. How do you manage 4!!!”
      • Not easily :) Products all have different needs, because they’re all different ages. Dedicated teams for each one. Like Amazon - runs multiple teams. Autonomous groups, own goals, own missions, with a leadership team across the top. Postmark is in a really active growth phase. Totally different beast. If all 4 were exact same phase, it’d be tough.
    • “You said you had to ask customers why they go about buying – why they pay a premium for Postmark. HOW did you figure that out from them?”
      • There was a race to the bottom from the big companies. We didn’t want to do that. Spoke to customers and potential customers. Why are you looking at / not looking at Postmark? Pricing rarely came up as a barrier.
    • “I struggle to come up with the thought experiments – what business do I want? Were you able to leverage your team and the people around you to help with that?”
      • Yes. A lot of strategic thinking together with the team. Everyone’s involved. “What makes us the product that it is?” Work through that together as a team.
    • “Your new product – Conveyor. The process of deciding to go ahead with a new one. How do you play that?”
      • Beanstalk’s 10 years old. Conveyor is the next iteration of Beanstalk. 3 or 4 years ago sat down, to figure out Beanstalk’s future. How do we play it against Bitbucket/Github. We didn’t want to just build all those extra features.
        If we were to build this from scratch today, how would it look?
        It’d look different to how Beanstalk looks now
        To do our customers proud, need to start over, fresh slate. It’s not even a web app, it’s a Mac client. Take everything we know, how would we start afresh today? (And pro tip, don’t build a Mac app 😉)
    • “We used Postmark for quite some time. Part of the process was you talked to your customers. But you didn’t talk to me! Serious question - what process did you go through to talk to them?”
      • Very rudimentary. Spoke with some customers / non-customers.
        Transformative conversation with someone who was using a competitor. Huge pain point – emails not arriving. Generated tons of support headache. (They were selling something that was delivered by email). “I’d pay anything in the world to know that those emails are getting where they need to go”. MPS scores… started to formulate (but we never use really formal processes… not our thing at Wildbit).
  • END - next up, Russ!

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