This was a month with some changes regarding the way we work on our own products (investment time) and how we will approach the market to find new clients. We are sharing the summary of what we had been discussing, check it out!
New internal product development process: accelerating learning and shipping
As we are not investing actively on any product at the moment, it’s a good time to upgrade our product development framework based on what we have learned so far. So, for now on, we'll have 6-week product cycles for focused product work, inspired by Basecamp, Buffer and Intercom.
The new product development process is a framework to enable us to learn and fail by an order of magnitude faster than before. During this process, people will also be pushed outside their comfort zone and classic roles to be more complete individuals, have more impact and build better products.
Each team will have a Hustler, Engineer, and Designer but this doesn’t mean that each team has a person who owns each hat independently. Instead, the team should have a nice blend of skills that allows them to design, build and sell a product.
This new product development process will start in the first week of July and we wrote a bit more about it, check it out!
Regarding new business, the first half of the year was challenging! We worked with several clients and we also acquired new projects to work on, however, our sales machine is not working as good as we would like.
On one hand, we are depending too much on previous/current clients. We love our clients and that they like our work and hire us back but this gives us a false sense of security because it won't last forever and we should be constantly challenged with new and big problems to tackle.
On the other hand, we are more than a software agency that develops custom software. We are a team of problem solvers, and deliver more value joining our knowledge about UX, Business, and Tech to make great products! We want to position ourselves more towards a product team for hire.
To deal with the two things above we are working on finding a predictable sales process that brings more challenging work, by improving conversion of deals and positioning ourselves more towards a product team for hire.
There are two big topics that are key for us to achieve our long-term vision.
One of them is hustle! Hustle is not sales. Hustle is a state of mind that we should practice more either when negotiation new product or when thinking about our own.
The other, more long-term side of this work has been on how can we find a repeatable model to bring new business that aligns better with our long-term vision of building products and startups.
Read more about this matter on a future blog post!
June was a heavy month with a total of 14 new candidates! Most of them were for internship positions, which are all full at least for the following 3 months.
We’ve been getting quite a few of attention from people outside Portugal, or even Europe! A common aspect of these is that they all seek a different work environment, remote positions, to feel part of a team, to have ownership over decisions and products, transparency,… Overall - a better company culture.
We’re very humbled to be in the job seeking lists of these people, and at the same time very proud because is, in fact, validating the progress we’ve made throughout these months as a company.
The last retreat was a really nice week, but we didn't have all family there, which is a bit sad. We also have our first remote intern (Thiago from Brasil) which is being a new experience that we can learn a lot from. This makes more visible our need to find ways to transition from remote-friendly to remote-first.
This will require a balance between addressing the needs of the remotes and the bias of physical interaction around the HQ. So, it’s important that the remotes-union voice their concerns candidly and suggestions to fix it while involving the wider company as much as possible so that we are all committed to making it work. On the other hand, it’s essential that everyone else appreciates how important our remotes are in our daily work and ensure that they feel as much ownership and part of the family as anyone else.
Some problems that we can start correcting today:
- On small to medium sized meetings (4~8 people) with someone being remote, we should make the effort for everyone to be using their own camera/microphone. This makes it simpler for the remote person to understand who’s talking and to have a better overall interaction. The way we’ve been doing it - by passing along the microphone, rotating the camera, etc, not only takes up time, but it’s cumbersome and often quick replies/reactions go unnoticed by remotes;
- An implementation of pair buddies / 5x12 to foster ad-hoc chats between remote people;
- When organizing an event, even if during the well-planned retreat, take the extra effort to place as many of those events on the company calendar. Remotes and other people can then easily stay in the loop, without having to constantly pay attention to the ongoing chat on slack.
Billables wise, the past month was the poorest month since March, with only 54k€ of billables of the 72k€ goal we traced. This is mostly because of a few projects being now entering in the last 20% of development, and because of we've not yet acquired the type of projects we want to be developing from now on.
This is not good and we shouldn’t be happy with it.
Again, the biggest bottleneck sits in the type of projects we have been able to acquire this last trimester: we acquired 4 projects, but none above the 20k€ value. We have some promising leads in the pipeline, but we’ve not been able to close them yet.
In terms of the number of projects, we haven’t reached the goal of 14 projects (6 closed). That’s because we acquired some new projects (all below 20k€), but which aren’t big enough to justify the shutdown of other existent projects.
In terms of trimester revenue, our estimates point that we achieved 185k€ of 200k€ goal.
For the next trimester, we should keep growing, and so we will get back to the 200k€ goal we traced last trimester. The same goes to the number of projects at the end of the trimester: We should be aiming towards 13.
Goals for next trimester:
- Revenue: 200k€
- Projects in course: 13
- Projects with >20k€ value: 3
Goals for July:
- Billables: 72k€
- Projects with >20k€ value: 1
Investment Time was created for us to invest in ourselves as a company, excluding consulting work. So far we have used our Fridays for Investment Time, which meant that we work on our products such as Qold, Unplugg, and Soundy or other internal projects. And it's also for us to be able to learn something new and thus better develop our skills. The only rule is that by the end of the day we need to do a demo and show what we worked on IT.
For now, we decided that the best thing to do is to kill Investment Time Fridays. We can take 20% of our time and place where we want throughout the week. This flexibility will help on things like focusing on the work that we are doing for IT and avoiding the chaos that some Fridays might attract. However, we can't forget that we need to get out of our comfort zone in order to evolve. So, the day of the week changed but the responsibility to improve not.
Demo time is for… demos. We will keep our demo day on Fridays, in order to improve our ability to show what we do and to establish the mindset of having something to show even if it’s something that at first doesn’t seem very worthy of sharing.
June was a month to reflect on the past months of work and write our post-mortem. It was a productive exercise, writing down so many things we've been speaking or thinking for some time now. With a written post-mortem, we shared it with the whole company, both the written doc and a small presentation to everyone. This is part of our strategy to increase our company-wide product wisdom hopefully, to make better products, faster.
After this, we defined the tasks that need to be kept so our clients stay happy, mostly process and technical improvements to help the ongoing support become smoother and more efficient.
From July on, and until further changes, Qold will be in support mode, to ensure all our clients have the best experience.
Last month our objective was pretty straight forward: Close a deal for data consultancy services on energy.
We could not achieve it.
During June, mainly due to the lack of results on our strategy we've decided to have a new approach to our process to acquire new clients for data consultancy project, and we decided to merge the hustle job for Whitesmith and Unplugg, allowing us to scale our capacity and focus on achieving better results.
Last May we had two prospects in that resulted in two proposals for data science projects in the Energy Field during June. Moreover, the changes we made in how we hustle for Unplugg allowed us to get two new interesting leads, that we are already working on the proposals.
Therefore there isn't much news here, but we achieved a few good results. Our main concern here is to keep the pipeline for this kind of projects. Right now we don't have a predictable source of leads, that allow us to have more control over the process. This is always a concern and a focus of our hustling efforts.
During next month we will keep hustlin' to win the two proposals we've sent, and keep working on the two proposals we've started during June to win them over.
Although our focus is clearly on getting data science projects, we have good news about Unplugg. During the last month we've had some users making hundreds of API calls to Unplugg, so during July we will also contact these people to better understand what they are doing with Unplugg, and understand if there is any kind of pattern of business case potential.
This month we didn’t reach our goals regarding the blog posts, we have some blog posts in progress but we need more variety in content. Also, although we have done some changes on our newsletter, we have not received any response yet.
Regarding our inbound strategies, we received 4 contacts as expected, but most of these came from old/current customers, which is pretty nice because they really like our work. But, for next quarter, we want to improve this and guarantee that our inbound leads come from other sources.
The results for June were:
- 3/6 blog posts
- 4/4 contacts through inbound
- 0/2 replies to our newsletter
In June, we also took Digital Meets Physical to Lisbon and did our first meet up outside Coimbra.
Everything went pretty well and we are now collecting feedback from the participants and preparing the new edition.
The results for the 2nd quarter were:
- 12/16 blog posts
- 12/10 contacts through inbound
- 0/5 replies to the newsletter
- 2 Digital meets Physical
For the next quarter, we decided to keep the same goal for blog posts and contacts through inbound, with the difference that inbound contacts can’t come from old/current clients. We spent some time thinking about our strategy and outlining a plan.
Like we said before, we are preparing a new edition of Digital Meets Physical for September. It will take place in a different city, do you want to guess where it will be?
The goals for the 3rd quarter:
- 16 blog posts
- 10 contacts through inbound
- 1 Digital meets Physical
See you in June
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!