Founder Diary — Week 15
This week’s Founder Diary covers 3 key topics. Owning you own mistakes, managing expectations and test driving employees/roles.
When something bad happens, don’t sweep it under the carpet. It is so valuable to own it, and build from it. If you dont get front and centre & own the issue, someone else will.
A classic example is how we built the EdAid ‘Cost Calculator’ for students looking to see how much a loan would cost via EdAid versus the Student Loan Corporation.
Our caclulator accurately relfected the government’s data around student financing, but we had never looked too deeply into how they modelled their numbers, and how relevant their model is to the student audience they claim to represent.
When we dug into their code (thanks to a thoroughly good shake down from Economist, Academic & Student Finance expert Andrew McGettigan) the model was listed essentially as ‘Middle Class, White Male’ hardly a representative & accurate model to base the earnings calculator of graduates with student loans and therefore potential cost of debt for students.
We failed to probe deeply into the government’s model, and as such this affected the quality and integrity of the data we showed. This will not happen again, and we are a more informed team for having been positively challenged.
It is incredibly important when building and managing teams that you clearly outline, and regularly reiterate your expectations for the challenge at hand.
One of my biggest bugbears is not being adequately prepared for the tasks we are faced with on a daily basis. I have incredibly high standards around professional conduct, work ethic and value creation.
These have been honed through a robust combination of military school education, a brutally brilliant grounding as a professional athlete, and a rigorous business career over the last 16 years.
This is not to say that I have always got it right, god-forbid. I have been in the dog-house at work more times than I wish to admit (we shall not mention my private life, where I have decided to move my sleeping bag permanently into the dog house) but every time I have got it wrong I have come back stronger, having learned and built a better version of myself as a result.
As a founder or manager, you need to make clear what you want, how you want it, and why you want it. You need to be clear, to the point and, ensure you are understood.
If meetings start at 1pm, and at 1.10 your team are still wandering in, half eating lunch and about to slip into a food coma. Stop the rot, deal with the issue. Change the time of the meeting, change the structure of the meeting (short sharp, stand up meetings can be effective), recommunicate your expecations, and if that doesn't work, change the team.
NB. You should also remove anyone from a meeting or conference call who absoluetly doesn’t have to be there. They will suck the energy and oxygen out of a room, and will only act as expensive trophies sat around adding little value. Give them that time back, and challenge them to solve n problems while you are in the meeting trying to get sh*t done. Divide and conquer.
You would never marry someone without dating them, building trust, confidence and ensuring you both have similar values, ideas and ambitions for life.
Yet we jump into business relationships with little regard for the same valuable process, and then wonder why we got it wrong, when it (inevitably) does all go wrong.
So it may seem obvious to you, but we are now implementing a 3 month trial period for new hires as contractors. This provides them with a chance to road test EdAid and vice versa.
This is unlikely to be a bomb proof solution, nor a one size fits all, to successfully hiring the right team, but it will give all parties the chance to dig deep into culture, values, role, expectations and ‘fit’ prior to making a permanent move.
Only time will tell. However, we have a constant quest to build a better version of EdAid each day and part of that is absolutely looking to do things a little differently.