The Mail I Sent To My Team 3 Years Ago
3 years ago, I wrote the mail I write to my team at the end of every year. I’m about to prepare for the next one. When I think of how much we’ve grown, it’s essential to remember where we started, to know that there are bigger milestones to achieve no matter where we get. Here are the lessons we learnt earlier:
Every year in December, I take some ‘me-time’ to review the year gone by and think about the possibilities of the next one. Yes, I am pretty nerdy about this (so far). And having failed to keep multiple New Year resolutions I finally had to innovate on them. So for the past 5 years or so, I have been picking a word or a phrase that I want to work on for all of the following year. Just one word that I can stay true to and repeat it to myself for the motivation that I need. I seldom take the last 15 days of the year to pick my word, it just emerges from nowhere and I have my little ‘eureka’ moment.
An awesome by-product of this process is that I am also able to think, review and write about many broader aspects, such as our business and these musings- so indulge me.
What a year 2013 has been. In many ways this was what I would like to term as the ‘bridge’ year. We crossed the bridge of product and market validation. And trust. The latter has been the most critical aspect of our product — do people trust our solution? Do they see value in what we are doing for them? Do they trust we will be around or do they think we will run away with their money? The average small business owner buys from us primarily for two reasons — distinct value (also ROI) and trust. Almost everything else is a layer on top of these two. So yes, we were able to get past this — the product works, the selling process is clean, we set right expectations and we remain engaged with the customer.
Things like the above stand out for me. So do other highlights about our business in the following buckets:
Product & Purpose
· It’s only obvious that I feel that we have an awesome product. Even though you have heard me and the other co-founders debating (read trashing) our product very often and very loudly, it has always been towards improving it. If we like our product beyond a certain point, we won’t improve it.
· So yes, our product is not perfect BUT we have something that is truly enabling digital inclusion for the masses. I encourage you to sit back and think about it…wait for it… we give sustainable websites via SMS?! Which are auto-SEO? And location-tagged? And help grow our customers’ business? I hope this amazes all of you as much it amazes me EVERY SINGLE DAY. And it is this passion that we need to stay true to. Our product has a purpose. Let’s start feeling this deep inside before we make that sales call or start adding another feature.
Customers & Satisfaction
· We crossed 4500 customers, with over 1300 paid. Man!
· We now have customers from across the world. And consumers from many countries! People signing up based on our promise.
· From the 20 odd renewals we have, from a base of 40-odd, a few customers called us to renew and some bought additional stores. That is not only customer satisfaction but also satisfaction for all of us, which, we must feel as a team.
Experiments & Momentum
· One of the most-often-asked questions to me (and many of you) is around strategies that can make stuff go viral. The strategy I am 100% sure about is what I call — T3 or Try, Try and Try. Refine and then try again. We will continue to do this.
· 2013 also saw us experimenting a lot. From customer acquisition channels such as outsourced sales to partnerships, to hiring differently. Many of these worked or are still in progress; but many FAILED. With every failed attempt we got closer to what we really wanted. And as an outcome of this failure we kept moving. MOMENTUM then, was the biggest outcome of all our experiments. I truly hope we continue to experiment and hopefully fail many times, because we would have never given up. And that’s what matters.
People & Passion
· We have 11 people who have been with us for over 1.5 years. Given we are only 2 years old this is phenomenal. Many of these people have worked with low salaries (some for no salaries), no real infrastructure and most importantly without any distinct direction (100% direction, and we wouldn’t have been a start-up).
· All of you have had to compromise on your family front for NowFloats. I know this. It’s impossible to be in NowFloats and have a great family life. So I want to take the time to acknowledge this and want to thank each one you for the sacrifices you make every single day.
· On many days I turn up at work and see people running around crazy, music blaring and all sorts of white-boarding that I have no clue about! My years of conditioning at leadership positions in large corporates makes me feel completely ‘out of control’ in a situation like this. But then I dig deeper into myself and realize that these people are all moving towards the same larger goal and without any briefing on explicit ownership. And many times without my knowledge — which I feel is totally amazing! So kudos to all of you who make NowFloats the crazy place it is.
Execution & Focus
· It’s pretty hard to execute along with building a product. It’s like refuelling in mid-air, except I am talking rockets not airplanes! Look back and see what we have executed on: many product updates if not products themselves, in-numerous design/UX changes (and 1 complete make-over)… WHILE we have had sales growth every month. Each of these is like a start-up in itself. In fact, the biggest gripe from our advisors/investors is that we are doing way TOO much! We know we have to do a better job of focusing on lesser things. Guilty as charged, but we know we can do a lot many things!
If 2013 was a bridge year for us, this is the year to grow-up. This is a year to get into RIGOR. We will have to change a lot in 2014. And the only culture that will support (and survive) will be the one that is ready to change. Almost every other week… So strap your seat-belts!
Finally, as we close 2013 and we look ahead on 2014, I am leaving you with something that I heard recently and it resonated immediately. Even though this is over a year old, it sums up my mood for 2014 — “Ummeedo wali dhoop; sunshine wali asha”. Here is the link to this and you may want to listen to it twice — once to read the text and once to hear what is being sung.
Here’s to a sunshine walla 2014!
NOTE: I am not a brand ambassador of Coke nor do I endorse it :)