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whitesmith.co

February Monthly Gathering

Rafael Jegundo

Overview

Culture, philosophy and the way of doing things

Over the last few weeks, we have been applying some of the changes launched on last MG, namely shorter cycles, more product focus, leaner process and more ownership. These weeks have been a bit more chaotic than usual but that’s perfectly normal in such a context of change.

As people adapt to new/more responsibilities and different hats, it’s natural that mistakes are made but these are actually the faster way to learn in many cases. Any possible downside from that is the support of fellow Whitesmiths through the process, and as long as we own our mistakes and learn from them, this will naturally guide us into an improved state of flow.

Teams and tribes have now gradually more autonomy in regards to process, strategy and all the little things that make them tick. So in the more general section of the Monthly Gathering, we will more and more discuss high-level concepts, strategy, and philosophy that are shared across the company. This will consolidate the foundation that each tribe and team should use to operate independently but aligned with the overall vision and wider-team.

Minimal process applied strictly

The road to more ownership and light process aims to ensure the company doesn’t grow in bureaucracy and hierarchy as it grows in value. This is important for reasons beyond flat companies and open cultures being cool. It is a strategic imperative if we want to evolve into a startup studio where members of our team regularly build products and spin them off into their own companies.

A new company is the opposite of structure and process. Nothing exists beyond an idea, a team, maybe some evidence of validation. Perhaps there were a few things we have done in the past that worked, but quite likely those will change rapidly in the next weeks or months as our product or strategy adapts.

To navigate those waters, we need to grow in our ability to self-organize and constantly create flow and harmony from chaos. We actually need to learn to enjoy it, the way Bruce Almighty enjoys cleaning the world with Morgan Freeman. It’s like that pleasure of organising things neatly or mise en place on the kitchen before service starts.

So whenever something fails, the natural response frequently is “We need to make a rule!”. And in some cases, we should. But many others, adding process is like adding train wheels to a kid learning how to ride a bike - they will never fall and get up the times necessary to be able to go on their own. That’s why whenever something fails, we should first do a retrospective and think what should have been different, so that we learn from the experience, and try to focus on teaching people to be more resourceful instead of building a process that removes the responsibility from them.

In the little process, we have, though, we need to be strict and disciplined. If the process exists, is because it is considered essential for the company, tribe or team to run, and therefore should be applied thoroughly without delays or complaints. This focus on discipline is perhaps less fun, but as the adage goes, Discipline is freedom, and it allows us to have more freedom on the rest. If we can consistently go through this process in an effective and efficient manner, we will have plenty of time to follow our intuition and the results will appear from the combination.

Naturally, no process last forever, so we should regularly take a step back and think if this or that still makes sense. But until it is clearly revoked, it should be applied strictly. Outside of that process, people have the freedom to make their impact with whatever schedule, tactics or way they see fit.

Without being able or wanting to avoid the nerd reference, it’s important to understand that with great power comes great responsibility. In this case, that means that when people have freedom to choose what or how to work on consulting, product or investment time, they have a responsibility for themselves and the company to optimize for impact and purpose. This means that any action should have a positive impact in the pursuit of the company vision or the person self-improvement.

It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have fun, but instead that we should find the things that bring together fun and purpose because that’s where the so hyped ‘passion about the job and mission’ comes from.

So whenever we have the freedom to choose what to do, we should ask ourselves: what is the most impactful and fun or challenging thing I can do for myself or the company?

Consulting

This month we made 4 proposals for Multi Layer Products (MLP) - which surpasses our aim to do at least 3 proposals for a MLP, for every month of this first trimester. We also won 2 MLP leads, and 2 non-MLP leads. Winning 2 MLP was actually our goal for the trimester, which we have already reached.

So, yes, it was a good month business wise for Consulting. Still, we don’t think that we have the business boat sailing with good momentum yet. Actually, we think that we still have a lot of work to do if we want to be able to get the quality projects we aim to keep getting in the next trimester.

In terms of billable work, in January we came behind: our estimates for the month sit on 43k€, which is not only below our goal of 50k€ but also below our average burn rate (for the past 3 months), which is 47k€/month. And naturally, this is not good. There were a few factors that contributed to this: our Hackathon during our retreat, more vacations than in other months, and the lack of enough projects to keep everyone on the consulting team busy with consulting work (they worked on Investment Time instead).

This means that next month we need to work towards not only reaching our goal of 50k€ but also need to compensate the losses we had in January.

Investment Time

This last month we started working on products (Qold and Unplugg) as part of Investment Time too. There was some collaboration starting from this, but many people are still connected to their previous work in progress.

Helping the products go faster is on the critical path to our vision of startup studio. Therefore is quite important that over the next few weeks more people volunteer to help with them. It’s not necessary to have everyone’s help, but a handful of people each week will make a big difference, leaving still a lot of time to tinker with other things.

There was also some consensus on how the demo is prone to delays, either in starting and finishing. As in any other sync activity, starting and finishing on time is essential, otherwise, the people who are punctual are penalized which is the wrong incentive, and it affects the ability to focus or make plans like beer Friday.

Still, the demo is an important checkpoint to transition between work and play and practice our ability to demo ugly work in process. Giving this, we will now have a strict time and duration to ensure that people have time to work before, take advantage of the demo efficiently, and it starts on time for some beer Friday time.

We also made a bit of retrospective on the recent launch delays and to solve some of the issues we set the following Goals:

  1. Ensure all projects have working doc and systems for local setup, staging, and production. This should apply to Qold, Unplugg, Soundy, Slackmarq and any other new project;
  2. Ensure that issue trackers and basic process documentation are up to date
  3. .

Qold

January was a transition month for Qold. We came from 3 months to validate 1 segment, and aimed for 3 segments in 1 month. Plain simple. Added to that we decided we’d have the new sensor version ready for production. We failed. We only got 1 segment validated (pharmacies) and it wasn’t even good for morale, as it turns out pharmacies are well served with their data loggers that you plug into the computer every week to download data. So the reasons for just validating 1 market, in our opinion, are:

  • Lack of experience, both estimating and executing it. This is the main cause because the others kind of derive from this;
  • Low rhythm of execution was also constant. When beginning something new naturally takes it’s time to find the rhythm, but despite that, we sense that we had the ability to have performed better;
  • Strategy wasn’t the best. We should have taken a smaller number of users for the initial sample instead of making a big sample already. With that initial sample, we could have found the nuances of the business and then address more users with that intel;
  • We didn’t do proper homework, so we were caught many times off guard when asked about prices or certification. That affected our confidence and morale when making direct contact.

Having this in mind, we are now shifting our focus to high-end restaurants in February. We aim to validate that market while being attentive to possible needs that we haven’t predicted.

The other goal for February is to have the new version of the sensor ready for production. It should have been done in January but our hardware partner at Enging was sick and only now has been able to help us assemble it and test it.

Meanwhile, we’ve been improving our site with a new plans page deployed and a contact form almost ready for deployment, we’ve enhanced our sales material (with a booklet, a brochure and a simple how it works doc that helps us get to the users easier).

On the other hand, we finished documenting our system, so that we can keep bringing people in on Investment Time with more ease and smoothness. In February we’ll keep doing this, probably even more than we did in January.

Unplugg

January was very focused on business development and customer experience improvement. We've also been able to improve lots of things in our process, mainly the instructions about how to use our API and get an [API key](http://unplu.gg/test_api.html), and a page with all the stats of calls made to our API (28 calls at the moment of this writing).

Unfortunately, we couldn’t achieve all the goals. We could not achieve:

  • Setup quality metrics for benchmarking: It is very difficult to find out benchmark results from other companies and algorithms since most companies avoid to publish these data for obvious reasons. With this data, it would be easy to attack those companies through a benchmark analysis;
  • Find new sources of leads: We couldn't find new sources of leads that suit the customer segment we are working on. It is difficult to find the right companies but also the decision maker or at least someone that is willing to help us. We clearly need to improve this, but once we had we will have a greater capacity to find potential clients and new leads to our pipeline.

In February we will need a more pragmatic approach. As stated in last monthly gathering at the end of February we need to have enough data to re-evaluate if we should stick only with the forecast for energy or have a broader approach. To validate this we established as the key metric: clients using our algorithm for two weeks in a row and we have basically one month to achieve this goal.

As you may know, B2B sales cycles are very long, therefore we need to focus on potential sales on the 27 leads we are already engaging. It is clear to us that we need to find new sources of leads, it is an ongoing process, but we cannot rely on those new leads to achieve the February goals. Moreover, we need to have people testing our algorithm for 2 weeks, which means we have until mid-February to have 5 clients. So it is clear for us that our best chances here are the current open leads we are talking too -we need to nurture them and show them the potential of using Unplugg on their infrastructure.

This analysis allowed us to establish the goals for February:

  1. Optimize to close open leads, as cycle time might take too long (we have 27 conversations ongoing);
  2. Find new sources of leads;
  3. Get 5 clients who use Unplugg two weeks in a row for energy forecasting.

Marketing

Are you missing our blog posts? Sorry! Last month we just shared one technical blog post (super nice actually) but we know that we have much more to share. The main reason for this was our lack of focus on content, which is not good taking into account that our monthly goals are all about content. The fact is other things came up and we left content activities behind. Also, we are still not sharing the Monthly Gathering posts on the right time (which should be just after our MG meeting, that happens on the first Friday of the month) but we will make an effort for February.

January Goals:

  • 1/4 blog posts for WS blog (technical blog posts);
  • 2/2 blog posts for Behind the Scenes;
  • 0/1 slideshare.

February Goals:

  • 2 blog posts for WS blog (technical blog posts);
  • 2blog posts for Behind the Scenes;
  • 1 slideshare;
  • Have a guest writer on WS Blog;
  • Be guest writer on a blog/publication.

As you see above, in February we also want to do something different regarding content. So, we will invite one person to be a guest writer on our blog, and we will find a blog/publication about IoT/product or web development and write a guest post there. We think this way we can reach a new audience and create more brand awareness about us and our products.



See you in March

We would love to know your thoughts about our monthly reports. What else would you like for us to cover? Or what can we share that would be helpful for you? Feel free to share any thoughts or questions on twitter!

Check out the posts of the past months:
January part 1 & 2
November part 1 & 2


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Rafael Jegundo
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