Diary of a start-up: Growing pains, connections and working efficiently
The Bikmo founder shares the importance of being in the right place at the right time and why standing up meetings are driving productivity
It’s already March 2015 and we’re nearly into our busiest time of the year, when there’s a glimmer of hope in the weather, people start cycling more and the Spring Classics kick off – first weekend in and two wins for the Brits with Mark Cavendish and Ian Stannard.
My whole focus for the past few weeks, after the London Cycle Show, has been making sure we have the right marketing plan to hit our growth targets, development plan to deliver the technology on some big upcoming partnerships, and managing funding to enable us to invest in people to deliver those plans.
None of those are simple, but have been a crucial stage to work out our growth path for 2015 and beyond, and to make sure all of my team are on board which each aspect of the business.
I’ve sourced some additional expertise to make sure we make the most of our initial success – mainly around SEO and branding, which combined with an upcoming digital marketing manager role (anyone interested bikes and digital marketing?), will provide a sustainable base for growth.
Making connections at the London show
I’ve spoken about doing trade shows before and despite the cost of attending them, the sheer impact of being face to face with cyclists, and feedback from existing customers (and competitors) makes them totally worthwhile.
We’re not insurance sales people at heart so we use the cunning invention of an awesome coffee bar to our benefit. It’s a huge draw for people, pretty cost effective and gives us a chance, whilst people are waiting for a brew, to talk about Bikmo Plus, provide quotes, grab an email or just talk bikes. It all helps to give potential customers a good feel about the company and I’d always prefer to speak to someone who’s going to give me a good coffee.
The best bit however, was meeting one of my heroes, Greg LeMond. If you’re not into bikes, he won the Tour de France three times, was outspoken about Lance Armstrong, vilified then completely exonified (after losing his bike company) when the doping allegations were found to be true.
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He’s a superb character, totally still into his bikes and was ogling the beautiful array of carbon from Posh Bikes when my colleague Ben offered him a coffee. I made an espresso for him, took it over and started talking bikes. He asked what we did, talked insurance, about his LeMond brand in the US and handed over his email as he liked our approach and the US opportunity is brewing.
It may come to nothing, but we were there, made the most of the opportunity and have the opportunity to potentially work with one of the world’s most famous cyclists. You may not like bikes, but in my industry that is a huge deal.
Using tech to work more efficiently
One of my targets for 2015 was to use less tools/software, but to use the ones we do choose more effectively. There’s such a huge range of free or low cost collaboration and management tools available, it’s sometimes hard to know what to choose and using too many will mean your team don’t use any of them effectively.
Firstly, everyone did some training on Asana, our task management tool of choice, and brought a piece of learning to one of our weekly meetings (one of the Asana hacks includes a unicorn flying across your screen when you complete random tasks – just what I need).
Secondly, we looked at moving away from email. It’s no secret that emailing isn’t efficient, collaborative, nor necessary in a lot of cases. Some companies use a specific instant messaging service but I’ve opted for Slack.
Slack is a collaboration tool which effectively builds a timeline of a given project or subject. You can add files, comments, live chat in it, ask for polls, advice and choose whether to be in a project or not (you don’t want to be notified 24/7 of everything going on in your company, or at least I don’t).
It’s still early days with it but I’d recommend giving it a go – it’s free and integrates with loads of our other tools and apps. Note – I am not a rep, nor get any money from Slack, it just really is a great app.
Thirdly, though not software, we renovated our weekly meetings. We used to sit round a table on a Monday morning, talk, watch a short film them get started for the week. John (our newest developer) asked to try out a technique his previous company had used – standing meetings.
They’re quite simple in that it’s a case of letting everyone in your company know what the others are doing, and encouraging sharing of knowledge and collaboration. Each person shares three pieces of information;
- what I did yesterday
- what I’m doing today
- any blockers / need for support
The aim of being stood up is that you don’t get comfortable and waste time. Each person needs to stick to max 30 seconds – if it goes beyond that you get heckled from other team members and have to take the conversation outside of the meeting.
We’re three weeks in with it, often do it around our big desk, and it’s working pretty well. More efficient, less time and gets the same amount of information across. Just don’t give it a stupid American, bullshit bingo name.