Thursday, January 27, 2011

Consulting Partnerships

Today's Lean Coffee Toronto features an interesting case study from Big Bang Technology. As usual, I took a few notes:
  • They are a conservative company
  • Diverse team with very different, non-overlapping skill sets
  • Started doing consulting work with hobby projects on the side
  • Found a partner that:
    • Had many years experience and successful offline business
    • Had a strong need for technical expertise
    • Visionary
    • Great with sales
  • They don't own the product, but they have a revenue sharing agreement
  • They do own 100% of their company
  • Goals are aligned
    • They put 100% of their passion into their client's product
  • Advice: Don't go cheap on lawyers -- good agreements are gold
  • What might they do different next time?
    • Take an equity stake? (Additional potential reward for taking on more risk)
And a few of my thoughts:
  • They have a really great agreement that seems to work very well aligning goals
  • A partner like this is probably exceedingly difficult to find
  • This arrangement came out of a failed project
    • Should you chase failed projects for opportunities like this?
  • What do you do if the client is a control freak?
Great job guys, and looking forward to the next case study!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Annual Planning

My weekly notes from this morning's Lean Coffee Toronto on "annual planning":
  • When to plan:
    • Before your fiscal year, or
    • Before the calendar year
  • Strategic vs. Financial -- which one first?
  • Goals and Vision:
    • Does it include longer term goals?
    • Does your team know them?
  • Review:
    • Monthly?
    • Every 3 months?
    • Review the previous year's goals and results?
  • "Doing" lists:
    • What to start doing
    • What to stop doing
    • What to continue doing
  • Employee 1-on-1's
    • Know their goals
    • Make sure they understand your vision
    • Goals and vision need to be aligned with company's
We also talked about some goals and visions for Lean Coffee itself:
  • Learning, supporting, networking
  • Sharing of specific information (ie. real problems, real numbers)
  • All advising each other
  • "Group therapy"
  • Case studies
  • Want honest critique and feedback
  • Establish a standard format
Really enjoyed the "Café Americano" and the great discussion. Always such a great way to start the day! :)

If you're interested, check out the HTML5 Meetup tonight. I'll be doing a brief intro presentation, followed by discussion and networking.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Customer Development

Another really interesting Lean Coffee Toronto this morning.

Here are some of the notes I took from the conversation:
  • Always have checks and balances in place
  • Verification: The best way to determine product-market fit
  • Dave McClure metrics for startups (The "AARRR" presentation)
  • Four Steps to the Epiphany (book by Steve Blank) (.pdf file)
  • Canadian startups tend to skip this step or do it too late
  • Use a rapid prototype instead of just an idea
  • Don't redesign the whole thing just based on your first customer's feedback
    •  Know when to say no
    • Customers may not know what they want
  • When first starting have the "seven conversations"
  • Measure. Validate.
  • Look for lovers and haters -- anything that evokes a strong response should be investigated further

Some personal thoughts on the subject:
  • You can learn a lot from "negative" feedback
  • If someone tells you they won't use your product, ask, "Why not?"
  • You may have a good idea or product, but lack the ability to explain it well enough
  • The most successful products are the ones people actually understand
  • It can take a long time and many iterations to figure out your "pitch"
  • Don't stop working on it until you can tell people "get it" -- for better or for worse
  • If they are indifferent, you have a problem (mentioned by Andrew near the end of the meetup)

Great conversation again everyone! An hour just isn't long enough. We always seem to be just getting into the good stuff when wrapping up :)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

How to fail successfully

Today I attended Lean Coffee Toronto's 15th Meetup. What a great group of people and amazing discussions.

We talked about the concept of "failing successfully". Here are a few notes I took:

  • Don't put all your eggs in one basket
  • Make sure you learn lessons for future projects
    • Admit your mistakes frankly
  • When do you stop?
    • Sometimes it's very hard to let go of an idea
    • Always get external feedback -- advisory boards, etc.
  • Example of successful failure: the production of Iron Giant
  • Metrics and measurement:
    • Define success and define failure
    • Did you make money? Did you build your brand?
    • Tie your metrics back to goals
  • Always do a port-mortem

... and some thoughts of my own on the topic:

  • WGMGD -- What gets measured gets done
    • My biggest take from a Services Marketing class I took a while back
  • Don't be "stealthy"
    • Get your product out there as early as possible and get feedback
    • "First to market" and "stolen ideas" are myths
  • "Failure is always an option"

Thanks again everyone for a great meetup!