Building in public 3: Key Learnings During Execution

  • How one should go about execution
  • The reality
  • Two problems and subsequent learnings from Steppen’s execution process so far

What is Execution?

I will consider execution to be the time after your product launches. Prior to launch you are living in a fantasy world where anything is possible. You plan and project but you have no idea as you have no real data. Once you launch everything shifts. It is not a time of planning but a time of reactivity and action.

The Framework of Execution

I discussed this in my previous building in my piece Building In Public 2: Startup = A Bunch of Simultaneous Experiments 👩‍🔬. The common approach to executing in a start up is:

  • Gathering Information: Product Data & talk to users
  • Hypothesis: Based on information come up with what you think people would do in a certain situation.
  • Test: Build something simple to see if correct
  • Learn: did people behave as expected ? Why did they behave this way?
  • Refine and repeat: take those learnings and start gathering more information so you can roll through the cycle again coming closer to building something your users want.

In Reality

All frameworks seem nice on paper. Reality bites. It takes real discipline to follow the above execution framework. Real life requires a bit more gut feel here and there and adaptability than strictly following a framework.

  1. We added year of birth and gender to our onboarding process
  2. We cleaned up our product analytics which was a mess (this is still a WIP)
  3. We sent out a survey to our users
  4. We got on the phone and started calling users
  5. Finally, we added one more step to the onboarding process asking users why are they here
  • We need to esure we are constantly gathering information. Gathering information should not be a ‘sometimes thing’ but an always thing. It is naive (and dangerous) to think you truly know your users as that breeds complacency.
  • Collect demographic information. It makes you straight away feel like you can understand your users better.
  • Sometimes you have to put things in the calendar and put frameworks around them. It can be easy in a start-up to think, ‘Yeah I will get to it.’ But then you just don’t because something more important//urgent comes up. There are some things which just need to be done. I now have a bunch of weekly tasks (taking a leaf from my well organised co-founder Jake’s book) which ensure we are consistently looking at important information and adjusting our efforts accordingly. This has been a real game changer for my work flow.
  • Every interaction with our users is an opportunity to better understand them so we can build a better product for them.
  • Having data but not analysing it is the same as not having it (thus why one of my weekly tasks is to ensure we are on top of our data)
  • You want a good mix of quantitative and qualitative information as both provide different insight. Relying on a single stream e.g. product data but not talking to users is not enough.
  • Personally I learnt a lot. As CEO it is my role to communicate context and ensure alignment across the team.
  • Just because something is clear in my mind it does not mean it is clear to others. It’s my responsibility to ensure the team understands what is important along with how their work ties into the bigger picture. There is a saying that goes something like when you are sick of saying it, that is when everyone is starting to hear it. It is important to live by that.
  • It is freeing to be able to say I don’t care about that problem. It makes work and focus easier.
  • Understanding the ‘why’ makes everyone understand their role and importance in the team. Without the ‘why’ people need more information and management. Not a good use anyone’s time.

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Cara

Cara

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Co Founder @Steppen. Working to democratise workouts. Lover of avo and halloumi.