interim.team has groWN into gro.team

interim.team has groWN into gro.team

interim.team has groWN into gro.team 🙂

We’re hugely excited to reveal that interim.team has grown and expanded into gro.team …please read the full story here

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Agility When Your Organisation Needs It Most

Agility When Your Organisation Needs It Most

Agility Where Your Organisations Need It Most...

Agile.

 

Everyone’s doing it, trying it, or talking about it. No longer just the preserve of software development teams, ‘Agile’ is becoming more pervasive in all parts, and at all levels of many organisations.

 

So where and when is agility most important in an organization, and which tool to use?

During a Major Incident, the importance and urgency of effective decision making rapidly increases.

You may quickly enter uncharted territory; have to interpret incoming data from many sources; work across functions in hastily assembled teams and quickly make decisions that will save your organization from impending disaster.

 

I think it’s during a Major Incident, when your organization faces the greatest immediate danger, that it needs to be able to demonstrate the greatest levels of agility.

 

A Major Incident may start off as a single ticket being raised, and investigated by one or two people in your immediate team. Small, contained, it is easily managed.

 

As the impact of the issue becomes more apparent, the complexity can quickly rise.

You may need to arrange internal and external comms, to a range of stakeholders, via multiple channels such as email, social media, corporate web sites, customer contact centers, and helpdesks to name a few. 

 

you need to get on and actually fix the problem and return the service to normal as soon as possible.

Pulling in expertise from different parts of the business to try to identify the root cause, put a work around in place and start working on a fix, and deal with any potential impact of the original incident.

 

As the team swells with members drafted in from across the business it becomes harder to keep everyone on the same page, interpret all the different incoming sources of information, agree a plan, make effective decisions and provide consistent messaging to all those stakeholders.

 

As your rapidly growing team assembles there is little time for the Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing cycle to play itself out. You need to perform now!

 

In this situation, the Kanban Board is my agile tool of choice. A Kanban board can easily be created on the nearest white board or on a wall with the help of a few Post-It Notes (other sticky notes available).

 

In its most simple form, you pull tasks from left to right through three stages, from ‘To Do’, into ‘In Progress’, into ‘Done’.  You can then add horizontal ‘Swim Lanes’ that map to different parallel streams of activity.

 

The board quickly fills up with a back log of tasks, showing what has been prioritized and what has been accomplished across the different streams of activity. One benefit of Kanban is that it allows you to add and ‘pull through’ a new task at any time.

 

This allows you to inject new work and re-prioritize tasks as the situation evolves. By creating your Kanban board in a newly requisitioned war room it quickly becomes a center of focus, something for team members to gather round to share updates with the rest of the team working on the Major Incident. 

 

It’s also great for showing nervous stakeholders outside of the team what is being worked on, and what has already been achieved.

 

The Kanban board can provide a structure for update meetings, allowing the newly formed team to quickly establish a rhythm, saving valuable time. You may have input from technology, infosec, external comms, customer contact centers and content teams.

 

With all these people in the room, it helps to maintain the focus of the meeting. By allowing each stream lead a turn to talk through their cards on the board, giving updates on items that were ‘In Progress’, moving them to ‘Done’ if complete, calling out the items that have moved from ‘ToDo’ to ‘In Progress’ and capturing additional tasks and adding them to the board as the other teams provide their updates.

 

Based on the updates provided and the tasks to be worked on you can then agree when it makes sense to meet again as a group for the next status update. In between status updates, team members can pop into the war room and update their part of the board or look at the progress of the other streams tickets as they move across the board. You may continue to have status updates for a few hours, a day or a week.

 

It just depends on how serious the incident was but if you’re carrying out the role of Major Incident Manager at the first sign of trouble, get a war room, assemble your team, throw up a Kanban board, clear your diary, start collaborating and go agile…

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Top 10 Tips For An Effective Digital Transformation

Top 10 Tips For An Effective Digital Transformation

Digital transformation deserves better than a buzzword and a marketing concept...

It is often associated with long, expensive and hazardous projects led by big consultancy firms, as well as expensive and (vastly) under-utilised technology. It should not be so.

 

I have helped deliver digital transformations fast and with a limited cost. I am pleased to share practical tips from 10 years hands-on experience with international companies, so that your company too can thrive in the digital world.

 

Tip #1: understanding the digital ethos

The irony in the digital world is that we, people, live and breathe digital in our everyday lives, when we shop online, exchange with friends and family on Facebook, check in on our smartphones, pay our taxes online… However, understanding the implications of how companies can grow in our everyday digital reality is clearly a different challenge when we put our corporate hat on.

The digital ethos is about:

 
  1. nurturing your customers’ satisfaction, by delivering a seamless experience and active communication with them.

  2. executing flawlessly on your brand promises.

The digital ethos is also about constant improvement, learning and outward looking, to keep up with a fast changing market.

 

Tip #2: digital transformation is all about the customer

I disagree with the idea that loyalty has gone.

Indeed the success of the GAFA is a story of strong loyalty driven by remarkable products:

  • Google as a search engine dominates as it is simply the most relevant and constantly tests and invests to stay so.

  • Amazon got me in because of their wide inventory, perfect delivery and impressive customer service.

Customers are loyal to those companies because they trust them. The improvements brought by those companies are based on a systematic test and learn approach, which is a form of automatic listening to the customers even without them noticing.

The market research I did for my customers consistently showed me that branded terms drive a clear majority of the search traffic in most verticals. Customers care very much about Brands, and traditional advertising (TV, radio…) is still very powerful.

However, to be relevant, Brands have to ensure that they keep their customers satisfied, by addressing any pain points, poor execution or bad customer service experience.

The customer feedback is also a priceless opportunity to improve their offering and innovate relevantly: the customer is the real asset for most Brands, shame that so few companies have customer KPIs in their CEO scorecard or annual report.

 

Tip #3: digital transformation is all about the staff

Can you name a great Brand with poor staff morale? You cannot sustain a successful business if you don’t build a strong team who feel proud of their company, are strong advocates, and are ready to work beyond 9 to 5 on projects which they are excited about. Your staff also need to be genuine customers of the company (don’t force them), providing them with this healthy external view of their own company.

It is also a great time to fully recognise the value of the operation and customer service staff:

  1. they are the face of the company and have a decisive influence on the customer perception.

  2. they are the eyes and ears of the company and can provide some essential feedback.

The operation staff understand the details of how the products and services are delivered and will have a critical input in opportunities to improve the service more relevantly than any external organisation consultancy firm. They need to be nurtured and engaged.

The staff culture will bring you the digital ethos. You might still need to complement your core team with digital talent, or coach your team how to do digital by bringing interim staff to develop the process and transfer the skills.

 

Tip #4: a digital transformation is data driven

Every sperm is sacred laughed Monty Python.

In digital, so is every interaction and every item of spend as they form the basis of actionable insights to make better decisions across the company: how can we drive retention, how can we increase satisfaction, where can we invest profitably, which are the pain points we need to address, where should we focus our attention?

The issue is that before you know it, you can be drowning in data. This is one of the biggest challenge companies face: how to effectively “gold pan” your digital data? To solve it, you need to combine 3 skills which don’t come together often:

  1. business acumen (you need to understand what the business is about as well the economics of revenues and costs by product, customer and channel).

  2. digital proficiency (understand the digital levers and prioritise them based on the former).

  3. data wizardry (how to quickly and then consistently provide the right information to execute the key processes).

This is very much my speciality, passion and business; and I am really proud to have seen businesses do a fast turn again whilst cutting on their marketing addictions, by focusing on those areas that mattered.

 

Tip #5: a digital transformation is all about the culture

Combine the previous tips, and you start getting the picture of what a digitally transformed company looks like. They are:

  1. customer-centric as opposed to inward looking.

  2. fact based rather than opinion based (let alone hipo Highest Income Person Opinion based).

  3. information is shared and connected rather than standing in silos.

  4. they favour collective intelligence rather than ego.

It is a strong team culture where the energy is focused on collectively beating the outside competition.

 

Tip #6: it starts from the top

The digital transformation needs to touch all the parts of the organisation, cut across silos and foster a sharing culture. It cannot just happen or be contained to a specific team or department.

No digital transformation can happen unless they are sponsored by the CEO, and the C suite embraces the digital ethos: the C suite creates the cohesion by setting a compelling vision, and embodies the company values by leading by example.

 

Tip #7: it is not about technology, even less about money

Obviously, having modern tools such as analytics, CRM tools, ability to gather customer feedback and act on it, investing effectively in marketing is important, and technology can support companies execution very effectively.

However, none of the internet stars was ever created by hiring hundreds of big 6 consultants, or splashing money on expensive technology: digital transformation projects relying on technological promises will fail more often than not.

The focus on technology misses the digital ethos and culture dimension, they move the focus away from daily execution and absorb precious management and staff bandwidth: very often, process improvement generates better benefits than new developments.

Technology led projects also pay themselves by reducing staff, sometimes at the detriment of customer service or operational excellence.

Money is even more questionable as the technology is increasingly cheap as it evolves very fast: investing a lot in a tool which can be obsolete by the time it is implemented is not always very effective.

 

Tip #8: there is no silver bullet

Companies are bombarded by the latest tool which can turn around the business in the blink of an eye: I have got news for you, there is no magic wand or silver bullet.

You as management of the business and only you own the future success of the company, by proper planning and mobilising your workforce. We can help you there, using simple but effective audit and planning methods to identify your key areas of focus, and developing effective plans and processes accordingly.

This is really my business: help businesses see the wood for the tree, and bring people together around a compelling project. More Dumbledore than Harry Potter, really.

 

Tip #9: you need to focus on what you are best at, and work with trusted partners

There are very few pure digital or technological companies. Whether you are a travel agent, an airline, a retailer or a law firm, your company has a clear product and services proposition, and customers will keep on working with you based on the quality and consistency of those products and services, and how well you treat them. Period.

In a fast changing and highly technical data and digital world, it is hard to hire and retain individuals and build strong teams from scratch. Competition is high, and you also need to give their fair share of daily challenge to individual who are motivated by problem solving.

It is also very difficult to build a pragmatic but effective digital architecture to support your business. The good news is that we can help you on both aspects, recommending and implementing simple, effective tools which will not break the bank but deliver high value. We also train your people to look at the data they need to constantly improve the company performance.

 

Tip #10: it is beautifully simple

You just realise that digital transformation is a new name for business re-engineering, or no more than a reformulation on how best to create a business for the long term.

It is about developing a compelling customer proposition, focusing on the execution and customer service, communicating effectively (Brand is really the formulation of the company proposition), underpinned by a great company culture based on facts, trust and accountability.

Having done this a few times now for small, medium and big companies, I will be delighted to help your business thrive.

I cannot recommend enough the read of the attached article: http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/the-ten-deadly-mistakes-of-wanna-dots. What is still baffling me is how fresh and accurate it is despite dating back to … 2001, yes, that’s right, 16 years ago and counting.

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Darth Vader’s guide to Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)

Darth Vader’s guide to Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)

Since its launch Google has been heavily pushing AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) but two years down the line how have things worked out?

 

Is it really worth creating AMP pages/sites and does AMP deliver the benefits Google said it would?

When it launched AMP in February 2016 Google said that web pages were too slow and clunky on mobile devices and we needed a new approach tailored specifically for the mobile web.

 

It talked about “websites and ads that are consistently fast, beautiful and high-performing across devices and distribution platforms…” and promised SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and customer experience benefits with AMP.

 

What is there not to like about that?

 

Umm…well firstly it means the not insignificant amount of work of re-writing your page/site using a new stripped down and restricted HTML/CSS/JavaScript mark up format. It really is different as well, you can’t even use your existing Google Analytics JavaScript tag.

 

If you accidentally write “normal” JavaScript in your AMP page Google creates a “critical issue” in the Google Search Console and implies it will stop serving your AMP page to users. Frankly we were so scared we couldn’t breathe until we had fixed it.

 

So..is AMP faster? Well not necessarily.

 

With two very similar looking pages https://gro.team/index.html and https://gro.team/ampindex.html the second AMP compliant page loads in 2 seconds compared to the normal version which loads in 1 second on 3G according to Google’s own testing tool (https://testmysite.withgoogle.com).

 

Drat that’s not good news.

 

What about the SEO benefits? Well yes a bit. A quick test has shown that whilst browsing incognito on the web and phone the AMP page is currently ranking one position higher than the web page for the same keyword.

 

There is another benefit with AMP in that Google will serve it from it’s Content Delivery Network (CDN) free of charge. Thanks Google, that should help keep download times low around the world.

 

If you don’t want your AMP page being seen as a referrer by Google you’ll need to add cdn.ampproject.org to the Referral Exclusion List in Google Analytics, though.

 

So is it all worth it then?

 

You’ll have to make your own mind up.

 

Google are right in that given most web sites now have more than 50% of users accessing the site via their phone it really is time we built experiences tailored for their device profiles and bandwidth situations and at least AMP is open source rather than proprietary.

 

AMP is still pretty young compared with HTML over the web (which has been around since 1991-1992) and my hunch is that it has some way to go but it is around to stay.

 

 

Rorie is CEO and Founder of gro.team which puts high impact temporary team members into organisations that need something done quickly, done well or delivered against the odds.

 

 

SAAS – The Four Letter Word Which Can Turbo-Charge Your Start-up

SAAS – The Four Letter Word Which Can Turbo-Charge Your Start-up

SAAS – the four letter word which can turbo-charge your start-up

 

Many start-ups commence trading using spreadsheets to manage their core finances. It is often the best way in the beginning, but in my experience, there is a tipping point after which no amount of spreadsheet wizardry will compensate for having a good financial management system.

 

When I joined gro.team I was confronted with exactly this. I started at a time when there were just a few transactions per month and so the spreadsheet which had been used to kick-start this rapidly growing company, adequately met the needs of the time. And being a Google sheet, it was “cloud-based” so it provided some of the basic benefits of a SAAS product. I constructed a “better” Google spreadsheet to get additional clarity and this allowed me to improve operations. However, as the business grew rapidly, this had a foreseeable life-cycle of but a few months.

 

The breaking point hit us not long after. The system which had previously worked perfectly well for hundreds of simple linear transactions, finally reached its limit with one specific requirement. It was the most demanding customer project to date, with a larger team, multiple currencies, increased billing frequency and differing international taxation settings. Accurate manual reconciliation was time consuming and becoming near impossible, resulting in delays and anomalies. In the fullness of time this would have resulted in some financial loss, irritated suppliers and unhappy customers.

 

I knew we had to upshift to something better, and fast – we had reached the limits of this approach.

Before one invests in software to address a specific problem, it is important to assess what benefits one is looking for. I found that apart from standardising all core financial operations, the hidden jewel in the crown was to get enhanced reporting capabilities. Having access to real-time reporting, with detailed on-demand drill-down analytical capabilities, can turbo-charge an enterprise when used effectively.

 

Sure, it is possible to do some of this without specialised financial software, and I acknowledge that many are perfectly happy with that approach. However, when it comes to gaining real business insight and making informed decisions, without the right tools it feels like groping in the dark, or at best, doing a lot of manual computation (which can be less accurate).

 

In our case, it is vital for us to analyse profitability regularly, not just across the enterprise, but also per individual, per partner, per team and per project, over different time periods and from different perspectives. This was near impossible with a spreadsheet (or at best, very time consuming and error prone), but once we had the right tools, we were suddenly empowered to make well-informed decisions based on accurate data, which in turn allowed us to confidently optimise the business model to maximise profitability.

 

So how did the implementation go? Having enjoyed a long career in the ERP industry, I knew we needed a simple cloud-based product which would suit a fast-moving start-up. One which was cost-effective and quick to implement, but also had the capability of scaling as the business grew. I was happy to quickly discover a multitude of excellent and cost effective SAAS offerings which fitted the bill. While there are many on the market, I limited my evaluation to the following products: FreeAgent, Freshbooks, SageOne, Quickbooks, Xero and Zoho.

 

Broadly speaking, they all do the same thing and I am sure one can get equally satisfying results with any of these products, but all things considered, we decided to try http://www.xero.com. It seemed to tick all the boxes and matched our company’s ethos: “urgency, clarity, delivery”.

 

The project was a resounding success – within just a few days (and albeit a few late nights!) we were able to migrate and reconcile all the historical bank data, setup invoicing, and most importantly, structure the organisational model, chart of accounts and tracking codes to deliver precise reporting and drill-down analytical capabilities. Once these aspects are setup correctly, the product takes care of all the intricate computations and provides enhanced financial visibility with just a few clicks. As your accountant can also use the same tools to perform routine filings, you may find you can reduce your annual accounting costs too, as it is a lot less effort for all involved.

 

After several months of successful operation, a financial year end and numerous insight-driven strategy shifts to improve profitability (which would have been impossible with even the “better spreadsheet”), I can safely say that we are delighted. Moving to a professional SAAS product solved all the issues previously faced and delivers 99% of what is needed.

The missing 1% is minor and not worth worrying about. For example, billing multiple currencies on a single invoice would have been handy, but given this is a simple SAAS solution and not a complex built-to-order ERP implementation, none of these minor gaps are show stoppers. I find that as the product evolves, some of these gaps are addressed. Or, one may decide to use a bolt-on product from the add-on eco-system if you need more intricate functionality – there are some pretty impressive tools out there, covering everything from CRM to Workflow.

 

Apart from the obvious tactical benefits, we have experienced an improvement in liquidity as we can invoice far more efficiently now and have fewer late payments. Most of the time, the system’s automated reminders are sufficient to initiate settlement of overdue customer invoices, so there is little need to intervene or escalate.

 

So, to summarise, the great parts of using SAAS packages like this are:

  • Fast implementation

  • Cost effectiveness

  • User friendly and simple interface

  • Cloud and mobile readiness

  • Good standard reporting tools

  • Better business insight

  •  

Ratna Chengappa, interim CFO, gro.team

  •  

So, all in all, we are happy to have streamlined and standardised our financial operations. I would recommend any start-up or SME to upshift to SAAS solutions, sooner rather than later.

If you are grappling with similar business or technology issues on any scale, get in touch on hi@gro.team or +44 (0) 800 246 5735

gro.team are Now Deploying High Impact Interim Talent Remotely

gro.team are Now Deploying High Impact Interim Talent Remotely

Building on their high impact interim service gro.team are now deploying their high impact interim talent totally remotely.

Location is now no longer a barrier to getting the best expertise available – when you want it, where you want it…

As our latest customer put it…

“gro.team have been amazing. They have been really customer focused and have connected us with someone with very deep experience in the areas we need. They have shared the cost savings from remote working with us so they are actually very cost effective as well…” – Loraine Bautista amzLenders New York City.

Give gro.team a shout if you need something launched, fixed or changed or improved, gro.team think that the more people they help become successful the more successful they become.
gro.team #highROI interim talent without borders

The B2B Growth Hacking Playbook – eBook Chapter One

The B2B Growth Hacking Playbook – eBook Chapter One

Download your free  “what is growth hacking?” chapter from our eBook “the b2b growth hacking playbook”  here

 

Ready to growth hack? Need a hand? How much does interim B2B growth hacking cost?

 

Not that much actually. It depends on what the singular target is but to double/treble traffic, sign ups, customers or whatever we would need to do a one-three day deep dive with you followed by a campaign execution phase of one-ten days a month until the target is reached. That normally takes 2-6 months depending on the start and end points.

 

We won’t take an engagement unless there is an #highROI up for grabs and you will end up “hugely up on the deal”. We really think that the more people we help become more successful the more successful we become…

 

If any of this is of any any interest why not give us a shout on hello@gro.team or +44 (0) 800 246 5735 for a friendly informal chat about your biz dev needs?

 

At the time of writing gro.team is #1,#2,#3 and #4 on Google UK for “interim growth hacker” and we have lots of happy clients we can tell you about…

 

Please also see the first second and third posts in our growth hacking series

B2B Growth Hacking 4 of 4 – Setting Up Your Growth Channels

B2B Growth Hacking 4 of 4 – Setting Up Your Growth Channels

 

Creating, Testing And Learning With Growth Channels

OK so you have a B2B product/service you want to growth hack and you have read the firstsecond and third posts in this series about B2B Growth Hacking and are ready to create growth channels and start signing up customers…

 

What we need

At this stage your product/service needs to be in MVP form at least, a blog, an email management tool and you need to have set up the conversion goals (see previous posts) so we can measure success.

 

Top Tip – if you are going to change any URLs or move to SSL (https:// …) do it all now before we start. We don’t want to change anything once we have started acquiring links back to your site (known as backlinks).

 

Money talks

 

Before we start you need to decide, estimate or measure a few very important things;

 

Growth Metric – The first thing we need to do is to choose our Growth Metric. To Growth Hack is to have a pathological focus on one and only one thing and do anything and everything necessary to grow it. What is the one thing we want to grow? Something like revenue is too high level to accurately establish cause and effect as we measure-act-measure so things like landing page visitors, web page conversion, registrations, subscribers, check outs, and cart abandonment all work well as they are very important but focused enough for us to influence and measure accurately.

 

CLV – the customer life time value needs to be measured or estimated for your product/service. This sets the parameters of our growth hacking because the customer acquisition cost (CAC) needs to be lower than the CLV. (If CLV < CAC we aren’t growth hacking – we’re buying customers and that isn’t the road to business success…)

 

Top Tip – In simple terms CLV can be calculated as the monthly sum of all the revenue you expect a customer to give you  x the number of months you expect to keep that customer. (Other less simple ways of calculating CLV are described here). For example – if the average customer will earn you $12 per month and you expect that customer to pay for your product/service for at least 18 months then your CLV is $12 x 18 = $216. If you have a “freemium” product/service then you will need to estimate the anticipated conversion rate from free to paid subscribers to calculate a CLV. If it is a new product/service then it is very much “finger in the air” at this stage but don’t worry – we have to start somewhere and you will be able to refine this number based on real data in the future.

 

 CAC – the customer acquisition cost per channel is easier to measure as it is simply total cost of the customers acquired through a channel/number of customers acquired through that channel.

For example…if we acquired 200 customers through AdWords at a cost of  $670 then our Adwords CAC is $3.35

 

Choosing your initial search keywords

 

If you are growth hacking an established product/service you can use Google’s Search Console to see what phrases are driving traffic to your site. See https://gro.team/how-to-track-google-search-engine-keyword-ranking-for-free/. If it is a new product/service you will need to use a paid for service like Google Adwords to test and learn.

The Google AdWords tool (here) will suggest 50-200 potential keywords for you. Filter out the ones that obviously aren’t relevant to create a starting search space.

For example…with “interim” as the seed word AdWords suggests 157 phrases. I would filter out phrases like “interim in English”, “interim pronunciation” and so on. The suggested bids range from $8.64/£7.10 for “interim finance” downwards (gulp).

 

Search, Display and Paid Inclusion Advertising

 

There are lots of ways of paying for web traffic but they can be broadly classified as Search, Display and Paid Inclusion.

Search – paying to be displayed before and alongside the “natural” or “organic” search results on search engines. What makes it so important is that the people typing the phrases have intent. They want to read, find or do something. That is not necessarily the case with Display Advertising although it will be interesting to see if Facebook search ultimately becomes more like Google search…

Display – paying to be shown amongst other content on web sites, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or whatever. Not as valuable in growth hacking as Search advertising because people looking at what their friends are eating (or whatever) are much less likely to want to buy a product or service than people searching for something relevant to your product/service. What makes Display advertising very interesting though is just how hyper targeted it can be. You could literally target a single individual with Facebook advertising.

 

Top Tip – if you are producing video content don’t forget to include sub titles so people can “watch” the video with the sound turned down.

 

Paid Inclusion – paying to be included in a directory or some other content.

 

For example…when Workteam started one of the things they tried was being included in the software directory site Capterra (each click cost $2).

 

Setting Up Your Growth Hacking Channels

 

By now hopefully we have a landing page on our web site optimised for conversion, a blog, an email list management tool and a large collection of search engine phrases we might want to try. The tags for Google Analytics (and ideally something like Hotjar) are installed and success goals are set up so we can see what happens when people get to our site (see the second post in this series).

 

Top Tip – we should be aiming to convert more than 33% of the people we send to our optimised landing page. We’ll probably be nearer 10% at the beginning of our growth hacking journey though.

 

Sprints And Retrospectives

 

The optimum way to manage growth hacking is to choose a set of channels and test and learn on them during two week or monthly sprints. At the end of every sprint the performance of each channel needs to be reviewed in a whiteboard session known as a “retrospective”.

The number of customers acquired per channel and the CAC for that sprint needs to be compared with the other channels and LTV.  Everyone in the team should be included in the retrospectives, growth is critical for any business and everybody in the team will be able to contribute insight and ideas.

During the retrospective you should look to increase spend in the successful channels, adjust or pause unsuccessful channels and launch new channels.

 

Top Tip – if you want to hit the ground running with email you could ‘seed’ your email list from your LinkedIn connections. In LinkedIn click on My Network –> Connections. Click on the Settings cog in the top right and you’ll see “Export LinkedIn Connections” in the top right. Don’t change the suggested Microsoft Outlook (.CSV file) format and you will have downloaded a file of email addresses you can easily upload into MailChimp or other email marketing platform. Getting an unsolicited email from you like this will irritate some people but as long as you allow people to unsubscribe easily then they will only ever receive one email. We generally see very low un-subscription rates as long as you don’t spam people and only send things of genuine interest or potential value.

 

A Starting Set of Growth Channels For Sprint #0

 

A good set of growth channels for Sprint #0 might be

  1. Email

  2. Blog

  3. Google AdWords

  4. Bing Ads

  5. Paid Inclusion e.g Capterra

 

Once we have started to get some learnings from Sprint 0 we can start to think about adding in other channels like SEO, guest blogging, referral and so on.

 

Top Tip – write your own Blog content. It should be an authentic communication channel for you to communicate things of interest/value to potential and current customers. If you need help with it make sure that the outcome is still very much communicating your ideas, thoughts and opinions in your voice.

Top Tip – wait until you have some real data before setting your SEO strategy. It will be one of the most important channels in the future but it takes a fair amount of work to make it effective and a bit of analysis before you start could save you a lot of time in the long run…

 

 

Ready to growth hack? Need a hand? How much does interim B2B growth hacking cost?

Not that much actually. It depends on what the singular target is but to double/treble traffic, sign ups, customers or whatever we would need to do a one-three day deep dive with you followed by a campaign execution phase of one-ten days a month until the target is reached. That normally takes 2-6 months depending on the start and end points.

We won’t take an engagement unless there is an #highROI up for grabs and you will end up “hugely up on the deal”. We really think that the more people we help become more successful the more successful we become…

If any of this is of any any interest why not give us a shout on hello@gro.team or +44 (0) 800 246 5735 for a friendly informal chat about your biz dev needs?

At the time of writing gro.team is #1,#2,#3 and #4 on Google UK for “interim growth hacker” and we have lots of happy clients we can tell you about…

Please also see the first second and third posts in this series

Start-ups: 17 tips for starting out in 2017

The Best Things I Learnt as a First Time Entrepreneur (and wish I knew before)

Ratna Chengappa, interim CFO, gro.team


Start-ups: 17 tips for starting out in 2018

It’s another new year already and this young century has already seen change like no other.

With so many leaders out there in social media and so many new enterprises to watch and learn from, you would think that an ideal ‘win-win’ should come easy to the first time entrepreneur. Not always.

Media is flooded with great stories from superhuman billionaire entrepreneurs. They make a fascinating read, no doubt, but often I find they rarely address the practical issues and day-to-day problems experienced by the majority of mere mortal entrepreneurs like myself.

I love working with start-ups and am very fortunate to be currently working with two such ventures, serving as the CFO of gro.team, experts in Growth Hacking and C-level leadership, and my own new venture for 2017, Intelligraft, specialists in next-gen ERP and cloud solutions.

I learnt a lot before, during and after my first foray into entrepreneurship. Much of it was not something I could have prepared for, no matter how many business management seminars I attended or books and articles I read beforehand. I found it was not easy to get good advice on these matters, so I hope these 17 lessons, learnt the hard way, will help ease some the challenges you may face.

  1. Watch the money like a hawk:

    Are you making a profit? How much? How often? If not, why not?
    Make sure you have unrestricted and frequent access to all financial data (bank statements, financial KPIs, expenses, budgets and P&L reports), especially when others are involved. Focusing on revenue and sales alone can be misleading and can give a false sense of success. Profit (the bit that’s left over after deducting costs) is often the truest measure of how well you are doing. Of course, it can be hard to compute without the right tools (see point 6) and while many entrepreneurs dismiss the need to make a profit (often citing examples like Amazon and Uber) most companies need to, and should, make profits to have a serious shot at surviving and thriving.

  2. Collect your dues:

    It’s your money! Bill fast and chase arrears.
    It surprises me how many experienced business people whom I meet are adept at dealing with customers, sales and tech but let the mundane task of collecting “their” earnings slip. Always make sure that you have a well-managed cash-flow and sufficient operating reserves at hand – if you’ve earned it, collect it. Think of it like having enough fuel in the tank and no leaks, otherwise you will be stranded!

  3. Preserve your assets:

    If you can, move your excess capital into a separate account from the one you use for day-to-day transactions.
    It can be a simple and effective way to ring fence it so you need a formal board approval to use the extra capital. Also, it can help protect against falsely overestimating how much money you are really making (or losing) on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.
    With one windfall that we earned from a large deal, the board voted to invest in a high-yielding investment to protect this dormant capital while making it work for us at the same time.

  4. Sharpen your finance skills:

    It is possible to do well without an intricate understanding of corporate finance.
    In a 2007 TED talk, Sir Richard Branson jokes that he only recently learnt the difference between net profit and gross profit (after decades of building successful and enormous businesses). [ref: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3XQcdVp9sls]

    That is Sir Branson, though.

    For lesser-mortal entrepreneurs, it is a good idea to make sure that you understand the key financial factors which relate to your business.

    If you need a jump-start, grab a copy of Entrepreneurial finance – Steven Rogers. It is written in a simple and easy-to-follow style, and I quote from pg 2: “They [entrepreneurs] must realize that finance is not as difficult as it is made out to be. It must be used and embraced as it is one of the key factors for entrepreneurial success”.
    I personally found executive education to be extremely beneficial, helping me to sharpen up my business skills, however this takes some effort, planning and investment. But going to business school is not the only way – now there are even quicker and more direct options: lots of quick and cheap MOOCs, books and websites which you can easily avail of. At the very minimum, it is a good idea to understand your company accounts and key concepts like direct costs (of sale), gross profit, net profit and EBITDA. If you can go further, learn about funding strategies, taxation (including withholding taxes if you have foreign companies) and the mysterious topic of company valuation – topics which are really handy when securing investment, sharing profit, granting equity and planning exits.

  5. Budget wisely:

    Whether you are bootstrapping, or using investor’s money, use your resources well.
    A budget can be hard to devise and even harder to stick to. It is not necessarily an attractive way to run a start-up but will hold you in good stead. To emphasize this point let me simply quote an outstanding example from Bill Gates. “The thing that was scary to me was when I started hiring my friends and they expected to be paid. And then we had customers that went bankrupt – customers that I counted on to come through. And so I soon came up with this incredibly conservative approach that I wanted to have enough money in the bank to pay a year’s worth of payroll, even if we didn’t get any payments coming in. I’ve been almost true to that the whole time.” [ref: pg. 100 – What They Teach You at Harvard Business School – Philip Delves Broughton]

  6. Tool-up fast:

    Upshift to a professional finance platform as soon as you can, especially if your business is growing.There are plenty of cost-effective SAAS offerings available now, far more than when I started out a decade ago. You can get accurate, real-time and on-demand reports to easily assess your financial position without having to struggle with increasingly complex (and error-prone) spreadsheets and estimates, or having to wait for the annual accounts prepared by your accounting firm, usually several months after your financial year-end.Leveraging these tools effectively will help you cover the points mentioned above, and also empower you to make well-informed decisions.
    Look out for more on this in my next article.

  7. Strategise:

    Many entrepreneurs take the “Screw it. Let’s do it!” approach (ref: Losing My Virginity – Sir Richard Branson) – I was one of them.
    At some point, though, even when you are in the thick of it, you should invest time in defining and regularly refining your strategy, by sometimes abstracting yourself from day-to-day operations. Ask the important (and difficult) questions.
    For example – Are we performing better selling services or products? How much should we invest in product development and innovation vs consulting and services? How do we make money with those products and services – licensing, subscription, sales, or by some other deal structure? Is our goal to hold out, give it away for cheaply/free and try and sell once we have traction? Are we entering a mature and well established market and if so, how can we compete with the market leaders and/or first movers? What are the margins? What happens if a key technology we are relying on gets acquired? (This is what happened to us, with the Sybase acquisition by SAP – we were lucky to be able turn it to our favour).
    Obviously there are many more questions to ask, some more relevant to your business than others, and it is not possible to predict and analyse all future scenarios (Brexit and the recent demonetisation of the Indian currency, for example, seemed to take everyone by surprise), but it is certainly worth exploring and including the ones you can foresee in your game-plan.

  8. Plan for the best and the worst:

    Building a venture takes an enormous amount of drive, enthusiasm and up-beat determination. But there are always two sides to a coin and you can land on either one on any given day. Playing the devil’s advocate could be your saving grace. Don’t shy away from taking a pessimistic view when assessing risks and performance, and being ready to react and adapt should the worst happen.Especially before you find yourself at risk of losing your home, pension, life-savings and/or children’s college fund, which can happen sooner than you think, if you cling to non-viable ventures and investments, funding them yourself (David Brent: Life on the Road). You have to be brutally honest about how well your business is performing and knowing when (and how) to take action can be essential.

  9. Get good tax advice:

    Spend time investigating what the most tax efficient structure could be before you grow too large.A good set-up could be to have a local company to transact but an offshore holding company to retain profits and/or hold intellectual property. Locating yourself in a state with lower taxes could be another option. Be wary of transfer pricing and other subtle, but internally relevant operating costs. Get professional advice when setting up such structures – do it right the first time so you don’t lose sleep (and money) over tax issues later.

  10. Get good legal advice:

    Gentleman’s agreements, e-mails, personal favours, written assurances, verbal promises and friendly alliances are hard to enforce, and sadly, often forgotten – rely on them at your own risk. Just because you have a contract does not mean people will stick to it and enforcing such things in law is slow, risky, stressful and very costly. It is sad, but some can try to take advantage of this, so make sure you have the right processes and measures in place to identify, regulate and enforce things quickly, easily and up-front.Even if things don’t go according to plan, you will be in a better position if you made the effort to get legally enforceable contracts, agreements and resolutions in place, and stuck to them.Do it sooner rather than later. Shop around and find a good lawyer with reasonable rates and one that you are comfortable with and understands your business. You will be glad you did, especially if a crisis occurs.

  11. Approach the topic of equity with great care:

    If someone approaches you for an equity share, they need to bring something really special to significantly enhance the business. Cash injection, strategic partnerships and technical skills are usually not enough – all these can be borrowed, rented, hired or contracted in – and are usually not good enough reasons to give away equity. If they want a partnership, first try a dealership or reseller arrangement, so that they can prove the relationship works and is profitable.There are always exceptions, of course, which you need to judge carefully before committing.

  12. Don’t be in a hurry to share:

    If you have to give away equity, don’t do it too early and have a strategy defined up-front.
    This is a huge topic which is discussed at length in The Founder’s Dilemma – Noam Wasserman, but some basic tips are:
    a) Have separate classes of shares for different purposes e.g. Class A voting stock, Class B non-voting stock, Class C non-voting stock/non-dividend bearing, and so forth. Separate share classes are key because dividends and voting rights do not need to be equal across classes.
    b) Ensure you utilise vesting periods, options and exit terms to protect against people accepting them and quitting soon after.
    Some agreements have in-built termination clauses that withdraw share options when someone quits.
    c) Get a cast-iron share-holder agreement and have it registered in court officially by a lawyer – if things go wrong, this can be your only defense.
    d) Be very clear in all the main concepts (anti-dilution, anti-competition, drag-along/tag-along rights, unanimous agreement topics, inability to participate due to death or incapacity, enforced exit, etc.) – but beware, these can be used against you also.

And at the risk of repeating myself, get professional help! Sooner rather than later.

  1. Trust and respect your customers:

    Getting customer contracts signed can take a long time. And some can be really lengthy and complex, especially in highly regulated industries. In my experience, however, it is rare for a customer to use these complex clauses against you, so these can be less risky than your own internal dealings, especially with large well-known firms.
    Clients hired you because they want you to deliver. They prefer you do a good job in the first place, especially if they have been through a complex vendor selection process to get you on-board. So, it is worth being flexible to respect and accommodate the legal policies of such customers (who often cannot bend).At worst, if something goes wrong unavoidably, you need to fix it with skillful and pro-active management. And even some free/discounted remedial work. Keep things sweet and make sure you get paid and that they remain happy.

  2. When dealing with experienced investors be very wary:

    Professional investors know every trick in the book and more. They will try to get their pound of flesh (with blood), if not two!
    In my experience, even when reputable law firms are involved, you need to be careful – I found mistakes (possibly intentional) in contracts written by prestigious law firms which would work against me had I not spotted the errors and challenged them there and then. Impartial advisors can in fact be secretly biased. So please read up, stand your ground and be prepared to negotiate or even walk away, if they cannot agree to fair terms.

  3. Experienced hires don’t always deliver:

    When you are experiencing the challenges of scaling you may feel lost.
    It is tempting to hire someone more experienced than you who has worked on a larger scale, in the hope they can steer you in the right direction and help you reach new heights. Unfortunately, I found this does not always work out. Zipcar’s founder, Robin Chase, says it best: “Our mistake: hiring a big-company guy for a start-up. He spent a lot of money on lunches and parking, created huge lists and detailed tasks and procedures that were 25% out of date by the time they hit my desk and 50% out of date by the following day. He was used to working at a much later-stage company where the goal was to put procedures in place and follow them strictly.” [ref: Chapter 8 – The Founder’s Dilemma – Noam Wasserman]

  4. Individual motives may not always be in the best interests of the company:

    I had always assumed that like in sports, teams would align and focus on achieving a common goal. I was naïve.Unlike sports where the goal can be clear to all players (beat the other team), business goals can often have different meanings for different people. This can result in people tugging in different directions or forming competing factions and groups. This can be disastrous amongst a group of share-holders and board members. Even though I experienced this first hand, it is hard to say how to avoid this. It is possibly one of the trickiest challenges of all, as summarized in this quote “ Business is a constant process of keeping your own guard up – in fact, it is the only way to do business – while encouraging others to lower theirs.” [ref: Pg 16 – What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School – Mark H. McCormack ]

  5. DO NOT neglect your health and family:

    I learnt this the hard way. It is so easy to put your business first and your family second. I made this mistake for many years – in my experience, no venture is worth ruining either, or both, of these for.


Launching or already running a business? Need help with leadership, growth hacking, coaching ¦ mentoring operations or tech?

Why not give us a shout on hi@gro.team or +44 (0) 800 246 5735 for a friendly informal chat about your biz dev needs?


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