Weekend Reading: Term Sheets, Customer Loyalty, and Epictetus

June 22, 2019 • #

📑 Opening Up the Atlassian Term Sheet

This is great to see from a company like Atlassian with “openness” as one of their core values. Their take is that the standard M&A process affords too few protections for the company doing the selling and too many for the big buyer. Most importantly, to me, these M&A engagements are one-sided by nature: the buyer has likely done it before (often many times) and the seller it’s likely their first time around.

M&A is a key part of our strategy – over our history, we’ve acquired more than 20 companies for approximately $1 billion, including Trello, Opsgenie, and AgileCraft. And one thing has become very clear to us about the M&A process – it’s outdated, inefficient, and unnecessarily combative, with too much time and energy spent negotiating deal terms and not enough on what matters most: building great products together and delivering more customer value.

👨🏽‍💼 Why Customer-First Companies Ultimately Win

An interesting way to look at customer service along the dimensions of scale and loyalty.

Customer loyalty is the holy grail of business and the ultimate moat at scale. Brand deposits are made with every single positive customer interaction but the only way to scale these positive interactions is to build a culture that self-enforces a high standard of excellence and customer service.

⚖️ Discourses of Epictetus: Summary & Lessons

I got a copy of Discourses recently and looking forward to reading. This post gives a nice overview of the high level themes of his discourses and lectures.

Andy Grove on Meetings

June 21, 2019 • #

You hear the criticism all the time around the business world about meetings being useless, a waste of time, and filling up schedules unnecessarily.

A different point of view on this topic comes from Andy Grove in his book High Output Management. It’s 35 years old, but much of it is just as relevant today as back then, with timeless principles on work.

Grove is adamant that for the manager, the “meeting” is an essential piece in the managerial leverage toolkit. From page 53:

Meetings provide an occasion for managerial activities. Getting together with others is not, of course, an activity—it is a medium. You as a manager can do your work in a meeting, in a memo, or through a loudspeaker for that matter. But you must choose the most effective medium for what you want to accomplish, and that is the one that gives you the greatest leverage.

This is an interesting distinction from the way you hear meetings described often. That they should be thought of as a medium rather than an activity is an important difference in approach. When many people talk about the uselessness of meetings, I would strongly suspect that the medium is perhaps mismatched to the work that needs doing. Though today we have many media through which to conduct managerial work — meetings, Slack channels, emails, phone calls, Zoom video chats — the point is you shouldn’t ban the medium entirely if your problem is really something else. I know when I find myself in a useless meeting, its “meetingness” isn’t the issue; it’s that we could’ve accomplished the goal with a well-written document with inline comments, an internal blog post, an open-ended Slack chat, or a point-to-point phone call between two people. Or, alternately, it could be that a meeting is the optimal medium, but the problem lies elsewhere in planning, preparation, action-orientation, or the who’s who in attendance1.

We should focus our energies on maximizing the impact of meetings by fitting them in when they’re the right medium for the work. As Grove notes on page 71:

Earlier we said that a big part of a middle manager’s work is to supply information and know-how, and to impart a sense of the preferred method of handling things to the groups under his control and influence. A manager also makes and helps to make decisions. Both kinds of basic managerial tasks can only occur during face-to-face encounters, and therefore only during meetings2. Thus I will assert again that a meeting is nothing less than the medium through which managerial work is performed. That means we should not be fighting their very existence, but rather using the time spent in them as efficiently as possible.

  1. A major issue I see in many meetings (as I’m sure we all do) is a tendency to over-inflate the invite list. A fear of someone missing out often crowds the conversation, spends human hours unnecessarily, and invites the occasional “I’m here so I better say something” contributions from those with no skin in the outcome. 

  2. This shows some age as we have so many more avenues for engagement today than in 1983, but his principle about fitting the work to the medium still holds. 

Run Shore Acres: Complete

June 20, 2019 • #

Earlier this week I finished up my personal challenge to run all of the street segments in my neighborhood, Shore Acres.

Completed Shore Acres

Here’s the breakdown of stats to get there:

  • Total distance: 125 miles — by my rough calculation there are about 39 miles of streets in Shore Acres, but it takes significant overlap running over past ground from my house to hit new streets
  • Total activities: 36
  • Average run: 3.5 miles
  • Longest run: 5.2 miles
  • Started: March 22, 2019
  • Finished: June 20, 2019

This was a fun challenge and added extra motivation for me to keep getting out there consistently. As I talked about in my post on habits, any form of personal challenge or goal-setting (even if manufactured) that forces you to get it done is a good one.

Now that this is complete, I’m planning to move on to Snell Isle to the south. Why not keep painting the streets with GPS tracks?

Reaching the Early Majority

June 18, 2019 • #

Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm is part of the tech company canon. It’s been sitting on my shelf for years unread, but I’ve known the general nature of the problem it illuminates for years. We’ve even experienced some of its highlighted phenomena first hand in our own product development efforts in bringing Geodexy, allinspections, and Fulcrum to market.

Moore’s “Technology Adoption Life Cycle” is the axis of the book:

The chasm

In principle, the advice laid out rings very logical, nothing out of left field that goes against any conventional wisdom. It helps to create a concrete framework for thinking about the “psychographic” profile of each customer type, in order from left to right on the curve:

  1. Innovators
  2. Visionaries
  3. Pragmatists
  4. Conservatives
  5. Laggards

It’s primarily addressed to high-tech companies, most of which in the “startup” camp are somewhere left of the chasm. The challenge, as demonstrated in the book, is to figure out what parts of your strategy, product, company org chart, and go-to-market need to change to make the jump across the chasm to expansion into the mainstream on the other side.

There are important differences between each stage in the market cycle. As a product transitions between stages, there are evolutions that need to take place for a company to successfully mature through the lifecycle to capture further depths of the addressable market. Moore’s model, however, distinguishes the gap between steps 2 and 3 as dramatically wider in terms of the driving motivations of customers, and ultimately the disconnect of what a product maker is selling from what the customer believes they are buying.

The danger of the chasm is made more extreme by the fact that many companies, after early traction and successes with innovators and visionaries, are still young and small. A company like that moving into a marketplace of pragmatists will encounter much larger, mature organizations with different motivations.

The primary trait displayed by the visionary as compared to the pragmatist is a willingness to take risk. Where a visionary is willing to make a bet on a new, unproven product, staking some of their own social and political capital on the success of high tech new solutions, the pragmatist wants a solution to be proven before they invest. Things like social proof, case studies, and other forms of evidence that demonstrate ROI in organizations that look like their own. Not only other companies of their rough size, but ones also in their specific industry vertical, doing the same kind of work. In other words, only a narrow field of successes work well as demonstrable examples of value for them.

Knowing about this difference between market phases, how would a creator prepare themselves to capture the pragmatist customer? One is left with a dilemma: how can I demonstrate proof within other pragmatic, peer organizations when they all want said proof before buying in? We have our own product that’s in (from my optic) the early stages of traction right of the chasm, so many of the psychographics the book provides to define the majority market ring very true in interactions with these customers.

Presented with this kind of conundrum in how to proceed, Moore’s strategy for what to do here is, in short, all about beachheads. He uses the example of D-Day and the successful Allied landings on the Normandy beachhead as an analogy for how you can approach this sort of strategy. Even if you have a broadly-applicable product, relevant to dozens of different industries, you have to spend so much time and energy on a hyper-targeted marketing campaign to connect with the pragmatist on the other end that you won’t have enough resources to do this for every market. The beachhead will be successfully taken and held only if you go deep enough into a single vertical example to hold onto that early traction until you can secure additional adjacent customers. Only then can you worry about moving inland and taking more territory.

All in all it was a worthwhile, quick read. Nothing revelatory was uncovered for me that I wasn’t already aware of in broad strokes. However, it is one of those books that’s foundational to anyone building a B2B software product. Understanding the dynamics and motivations of customers and how they evolve with your product’s growth is essential to building the right marketing approach.

Father's Day

June 16, 2019 • #

I’m not a big holiday person, so I don’t think much about it when something like Father’s Day rolls around.

Simple morning with the kids doing breakfast, then I spent most of the day over at the old place getting it prepped for listing this week. Home Depot trips, painting, yard work, and power washing. Looking forward to getting that thing sold.

Elyse made me a great card this morning. She knows I love maps!

Elyse Father's Day card

Weekend Reading: The Next Mapping Company, Apple on Pros, and iPadOS Workflow

June 15, 2019 • #

🗺 (Who will be) America’s Next Big Mapping Company?

Paul Ramsey considers who might be in the best position to challenge Google as the next mapping company:

Someone is going to take another run at Google, they have to. My prediction is that it will be AWS, either through acquisition (Esri? Mapbox?) or just building from scratch. There is no doubt Amazon already has some spatial smarts, since they have to solve huge logistical problems in moving goods around for the retail side, problems that require spatial quality data to solve. And there is no doubt that they do not want to let Google continue to leverage Maps against them in Cloud sales. They need a “good enough” response to help keep AWS customers on the reservation.

Because of mapping’s criticality to so many other technologies, any player that is likely to compete with Google needs to be a platform — something that undergirds and powers technology as a business model. Apple is kinda like that, but nowhere near as similar to an electric utility as AWS is.

👨🏽‍💻 Apple is Listening

With the release of the amazing new Mac Pro and other things announced at WWDC, it’s clear that Apple recognizes its failings in delivering for their historically-important professional customers. Marco Arment addresses this well here across the Mac Pro, updates to macOS, iPadOS, and the changes that could be around the corner for the MacBook Pro.

📱 iPadOS: Initial Thoughts, Observations, and Ideas on the Future of Working on an iPad

I’m excited to get iPadOS installed and back to my iPad workflow. This is a good comprehensive overview from Shawn Blanc, someone who has done most of his work on an iPad for a long time.