For the last post in 2019, I wanted to look back at this blogging experiment that I’ve been running. The initial impetus for the blog was to use it as a mechanism to get better at writing. I’ve found writing to be a great method to figure out If I truly understand something. As with everything practice makes perfect and blogging is how I practice!
Always ask great questions – that’s the hallmark of a good leader – Every leadership coaching session
If everybody asks questions – who’s got answers? – Me
This post is a rant.
The difference between strategy and tactics is the most misunderstood phenomenon. 90% of the time the two are conflated. I recently read (twice, its that good!) the book 7 Powers: The foundation of business strategy by Hamilton Helmer. I highly recommend getting the paper copy of the book to make notes on and see the visuals. I plan to write some posts applying some of the concepts to industries I’m familiar with, but for today I’d like to talk about a basic framework, two sentences that illuminate the difference between strategy and tacticsRead More »
In the last post, I highlighted that SMB’s are mostly a long tail business with a majority of the market at the smaller end of the spectrum. An insight that I did not appreciate going into this market is the amount of sensitivity to price. The statement that “There are three things that are most important in SMB, price, price and price” is 100% true! With most small businesses being small and not really in it to grow this price sensitivity makes a ton of sense. So if you are a startup in this space you come across an interesting squeeze.Read More »
Small Business is the biggest market in the US and this is the best place to start a company in
This is an oft-repeated quote in many pitch decks, sorry to inform you, dear reader, it depends. After spending a decade in the SMB space, I’ve learned a few things – what follows is an attempt to describe some myths and mistakes. Hopefully, you don’t fall into the same traps!
Myth #1: SMB market is huge in the US and is underserved. This represents a big opportunity
The huge number everybody trots out is ~30M small business in the USA, the engine of growth, big big market, main street America – AMURIKA YEAAAAAH. Alas in practical terms this is a long tail market. This data set from the SUSB is the best place to start. Just by looking at the distribution of firms by employee size it is clear that this is a long tail market. There are a large number of firms that are <10 employees.Read More »
I’m a big fan of frameworks, they help us categorize and make sense of the world around us. As you are building products, frameworks help you systematically approach the process. I’ve always been intrigued by Reid Hoffman’s quote that mapped consumer social products to the seven sins. This was a great framework to map a product strategy to a core human instinct, in this case, vices.
The brilliant odd lots podcast had Richard Koo on to discuss his theory of a balance sheet recession. The central idea is that when a credit bubble bursts and the private sector and consumers both start to deleverage it causes the economy to go into a demand loss spiral, which is a counterintuitive result. If excess leverage caused the bubble then deleveraging and repairing your balance sheet is the most rational individual choice, but this de-levering in aggregate is the wrong choice for the economy as a whole. I would highly recommend reading this paper that goes into some details and also reading his book.
The last post was about what to avoid, this post is about what you can do to make a migration successful.
Sequencing is key
With any large initiative, the natural impulse is to throw a lot of people at it. Avoid this impulse at all costs. At the beginning of the project, it is better to have a small team of your crack developers and senior engineers and PM’s to focus on building a skeleton of what the end state would be like.
At some point in your product career, you will do a systems migration or a system rewrite. In this two-part series, let’s explore some lessons learned. This first post is about the things to avoid before starting a systems migration. The second post will walk through some practical tips for organizations on the most efficient way to pull this off.
To set the stage – How do you get to the point of needing a rewrite in the first place? The general arc of startups starts with an MVP that is designed quickly. It’s all lean in the beginning, this is the MVP phase. Most backend processes are manual. It makes sense – you don’t know if there is product-market fit and so you don’t over-engineer and make a full end to end software solution. As you find product-market fit, your user base starts growing exponentially and you enter the bolt-on phase. There isn’t enough time to slow down and add incremental features to the core product to make scaling easier. So you start bolting on hacks on top of hacks, pseudo automation based on excel macros and more policies and procedures to keep up with the growth. Your software system now gets to spaghetti level status.Read More »
I am not a winner.
My thinking goes somewhat like this. All desire is really ego, letting go of the ego is the best thing. But without the desire to win, where to summon the determination? Is there such a thing as an ego-less desire to win?