Yesterday we held an all-hands meeting for Provo Labs where our team all met each other for the first time. It turned into a three hour meeting, which is too long for me, but I think it was useful. We talked about our business model and each of our portfolio companies briefly.
As we incubate companies, we need to make them cash flow positive on our own small investment or we need to prepare them to be fundable by angels or VCs. John Richards spoke to our team about what it takes to be fundable. His top four criteria are: 1) the right CEO 2) a clean cap table 3) great financial projections model integrated with P&L and Balance Sheet and 4) the right person leading marketing/sales. He elucidated on each one of these.
Every member of our Provo Labs team had a minute to express the single thing they personally need to be more successful. Here’s my list:
1. A better solution for sending personalized emails to a large list of contacts stored in excel, rather than the current Excel Macro that is being used.
2. To have our Knowledge Manager (codename) finished, which, when it is done, will allow anyone to launch a full-featured web site in minutes
3. Testing resources and machines for a new web service that is nearly finished
5. To have the spin out of TenSpeed Media completed (including new offices, cap table, and investment from Provo Labs)
6. Figure out how to spin out companies, including the accounting
7. A schedule of what projects need to be completed and when
8. To know what hardware (with OS and services) is going to be needed as we build new projects/companies
9. A work flow process along with communication and training
10. A checklist that goes along with our company processes
11. A LAN with a file server for internal collaboration
12. A central knowledge base where all our portfolio companies can share information and code snippets with each other, so we don’t duplicate efforts
13. When we get content from web sites/publishers, to know which web sites/search engines it will be used on
14. To know what our web sites are going to look like before we start coding them
15. A flexible license agreement that we can use with all our content partners
I might have missed a couple items.
I have agreed (under pressure, because I don’t like meetings) to do a brief managers meeting on Tuesdays and Thursdays and I volunteer to have a company meeting every Friday. I understand Larry Page and Sergey Brin still have a Google company meeting on Fridays where they answer any questions from anyone. I have heard that it is a very open forum. I like that approach.
I told the team what I needed most was for each one of them to have a personal success that will permanently change them and how they view work and the internet. I want them to have the experience of having a great idea, quickly implementing it, and then watching it succeed — all within a very short period of time, say 24 hours.
For example, if a member of our content acquisition team identifies a great new database that we should publish, I want them to be able to download it, have it data prepped and added to our live web site, and to have an email sent out to our customer database and distribution partners about it, and a press release issued, and hundreds of new keywords bid on in Google and Yahoo, so that within a day, thousands of people have used our new content, have given us feedback on our customer feedback site, and have taken a survey to tell us what they think of it. Knowing that your idea turned into reality and actually affected a lot of people in a short period of time permanently changes you.
A similar example could be described for a developer who has an idea that gets implemented into our Knowledge Manager (I think we should change the name to Website Manager or something else) and is coded and rolled out onto multiple web sites with a measureble positive impact.
I have watched friends and students have a transforming experience when they realize that you can go from idea to implementation to rapid adoption by users, in ways that were impossible before the internet.
But most employees have so many dependencies, and most companies have such a bureaucracy and a waiting list, that employees stop even having ideas because they know they won’t go anywhere.
I remember heading up a project at MyFamily.com a few years back (Note: I am no longer involved there as an officer or director.) It was extremely revealing to me about how company goals don’t often align with individual employee efforts and how unempowered many employees are.
I surveyed almost 100 employees and asked them each the following questions:
1. What is your key goal/metric?
2. What reporting tool do you use to measure your success?
3. What resources are available to you to accomplish your goals?
4. What dependencies might get in the way of you succeeding.
I have been a big “The Game of Work” fan, so I believe that every individual should have a personal scorecard that measures the results they are generating. And I believe in individual and team goals.
I found, however, that most employees didn’t have a goal that aligned with the company’s overall goals, or they didn’t have one at all.
Most didn’t have a report that they could look at to see how successful they were, although many people in sales and marketing did.
If a company has solid goals, and then conducts a survey like this, they can answer this question: if every individual achieves his/her individual goals, will the company achieve its overall goals?
If the answer is no, then individual goals will need to be changed, or the company’s goals will need to conform to what the individuals can achieve.
I like to keep track of key metrics every day. At 10x marketing we developed a daily scorecard system for each of our clients that showed how many web site visitors they were getting from various channels, what the conversion rate was, and what the overall daily revenue was.
Dan Oaks at DVO.com has adopted this system and improved it over the years, so that his company is a daily internet marketing machine. He showed my BYU class how he manages his company. It is so impressive.
It’s amazing what happens over time if you measure the right things every day and make sure employees are empowered and aligned.
That is where we want to be.