One of the advantages an early stage company has is its organizational structure. We want to stress the point that we were in a very different situation than other larger firms that employ lots of people who come to an office every day. Many of those firms are going through an incredibly painful time right now and have to make very difficult choices for the business and their employees. We feel compassion for them. Some of the big post COVID-19 questions are what will the workforce look after an explosion of telecommuting and the world hitting the reset button on the global economy.
Our organizational structure is one-part necessity and one-part pragmatic. Unless you can walk on water, most Founders need help in different functional areas of their business. We are no exception and intentionally sought out the best people we could find to support the company. One of our advisors calls it our ‘gang of good’. This evolved into our team strategy, where we have developed an ecosystem of service providers who support the company in all functional business areas. The necessity is that we want the best people we can find. The pragmatic part is that we did not have enough for them to do on a full-time basis and we could not afford them anyway. What we ended up with was a low overhead model that allowed us to flex capacity up and down, based on need and budget. We’ve found this works best when we clearly communicate our anticipated needs, budget and timelines. What we ask for in response are clear expectations around the ecosystem’s availability. The CEO’s role is to quarterback all of this, working to remove barriers and course correct as necessary.
An unexpected advantage came from one of our BHAG’s, “Real Job, Unreal Location”. Like many companies big and small, our company was intentional about developing our culture (more on that in later post if there is interest) and one of the tools we use to define our focus are BHAG’s. What we mean by this particular goal is that the company would provide opportunities to live in amazing places and have a real job as long as you got your shit done. If we can hit this goal, it is a tool we can use to attract, hire and retain the best and brightest talent. A competitive advantage. The step we took right away to meet this goal was to behave like a virtual company. We were already doing many of the things that other companies were unexpectedly forced into.
In relation specifically to the timing of the launch, we also identified a few unique trends and undercurrents. Your interpretation might be different.
Focus on relationships, we saw this as a great time to build community. It’s always extremely challenging to build community and create value. The unique opportunity was a general increased openness to connection, willingness to reconnect to those in your network and a willingness to support each other that seemed to be dulled by the previous hectic pace of everyday life. We are actively trying to do this, will probably screw it up and can report back on what worked for us and what did not. We’ve gone into this with the realization of build value now for the potential sale later.
In building community, authenticity matters. It has always mattered, but now more so. We are having this global shared experience unlike any in history in a hyper-connected world. There will be triumphs and there have been and will be some very scary moments. If it has not already, COVID-19 will affect you or someone you know in the very near future. It is unfortunately basic math. We are creating this blog to try and provide some hope for the path forward, but we too are scared for our health and concerned about the safety of loved ones and friends. It is human to be scared. We are all sharing a similar emotion to varying degrees and that creates the space for connection.
Speed. It has always been the startup’s friend and provides an inherent advantage against larger competitors. We can change quickly because we are smaller, faster and nimbler. Here are a couple of examples about how we have leveraged speed to our advantage, we are guessing you have as well. Our 6-month content and social media strategy went into the trash about 1 week into March. From here forward, we are planning 1-2 weeks out for content. We were able to quickly adapt due to a lack of inertia and a flat org chart that allowed for simplified decision making. New content is quickly approved and then changed as the world changes. Another example is re-prioritizing our product roadmap. We had a rollout strategy of different SKU’s that would support our overall product line. We made the decision to change the release order to better reflect market conditions. All it took was a couple of conversations with the relevant team members, an opportunity to voice their opinions and a decision was made.
Later this week, we’ll post again and debrief on how the launch is going.
Prior to Amari, I spent 10+ years working with early stage CPG companies and commercializing technology from a University setting. We leveraged a community-based model that put the best domain experts in the room with our client companies. I was fortunate enough to learn from those experiences and now apply those lessons as an operator.