3 mindset changes that improved our productivity

Focus

It has been more than one year when we started playing with the idea to make an applicant tracking system. The idea was to build a simple tool that would be easy to use, for both recruiters and candidates. As many others we fell into the loop of featuritis (also know as feature creep or creeping featurism).

So, why after one year we still don’t have any customers. For us it breaks down to this:

  1. Not a full time commitment. In the last year we have only spend 2 hours per working day on building the software.
  2. No priority for features. We engineers tend to get excited when solving hard problems, but this is not always aligned with business goals.
  3. Motivation. It was (and still is) a challenge to motivate ourselves to work on something that might not be profitable.

How we learned to fix that during last couple of weeks:

  1. Stop thinking about it as a pet project. We started talking about PLY publicly, updated LinkedIn profiles etc. All this made us to take it more seriously.
  2. Getting customer feedback. When we learned what exactly our clients need, our focus in development went directly there.
  3. Embracing the risk. We are service providers and our work has relatively low risks. So how do you reduce risk of building a SaaS business? You don’t, you accept it and make it to work for you as a motivation to stay focused.

We haven’t found the magic potion to solve our problems, but we essentially understand what we are doing and this helps us going forward.

6 types of pitches you need to prepare

Broken Elevator

My latest read is To sell is human by Daniel H. Pink. It covers a lot about selling, or better, moving people. Book gives you real life examples and exercises at the end of each chapter. Chapter 7 is about pitches, and is very practical. Daniel points out 6 types of pitches:

  1. The One-Word Pitch
  2. The Question Pitch
  3. The Email Pitch
  4. The Rhyming Pitch
  5. The Twitter Pitch
  6. The Pixar Pitch

This are mine exercise results for pitching PLY.JOBS:

  1. Engage
  2. Why are candidates left out of your recruitment process?
  3. See why candidate engagement can optimize your recruitment process
  4. To know your candidate, you need him to engage
  5. Four ways to engage your candidates in order to save your time
  6. Once upon a time recruiters struggled to get good candidates for their clients. Every day, they were spending large amounts of time doing repetitive tasks and sometimes even spending time on wrong candidates. One day recruiters got a hold on a new tool Ply.jobs. Because of that they were able to engage the candidates who were able to provide them with more information about themselves. Because of that recruiters were spending less time interviewing wrong candidates. Until finally recruiters were able to give their clients the best candidates ever, those who might be missed in their old process.

Quiet people run this world

Musician with Tuba

Have you ever wondered why you feel tired after a social activity? Small talks bore the hell out of you? Or why you stand away from the crowd, usually near the exit? Well, let me brake it to you, you are probably an introvert. No, its not a disease – although some people feel like they are different and damaged from it.

My advice is that you read Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. It really changed how I see myself when it comes to social interactions. The society that we live in encourages extrovertism and sees introverted people as shy or even unconfident. As Susan Cain explains with many examples, the real shakers of modern society were really introverts. It is interesting, that introverts can go out of their comfort zones when needed. This happens to me during a meeting or even when doing presentations – otherwise I will be quiet as a mouse.

Susan also had an inspiring TED talk The power of introverts, that is definitely worth sharing.

5th anniversary of not having a job

A view of not having a job.

Today my LinkedIn profile says it’s my 5th anniversary at AGILEDROP. Officially that is not exactly true, but 5 years ago I truly did leave my last full time job. With more time on my hand I was able to experiment with different technologies and working with people remotely. I had my first US based clients working on a Drupal site just a couple of months later.

Last 5 years were fantastic, I was able to work on great projects, traveled a lot and meet remarkable people. It happens to be that I am entering the next milestone in my career just now. If 5 years ago I was betting on myself, today I am betting on the people around me. AGILEDROP team is moving into its own office and we are building our first SaaS product PLY.JOBS.

(The photo shows the view from the new office, you can see the Ljubljana Castle.)

Secret to success in sports

Soccer - Army Youth Sports and Fitness - CYSS - Camp Humphreys, South Korea - 111001

Recently I finished reading another great book from Malcom Gladwell: Outliners. The book is talking about how our understanding about success might be wrong or too simplified. I will not ruin your pleasure of reading the book, but I will show you one example. From my personal curiosity I went to check the example from sport. Please take a look at the following list of Slovenia national soccer team and see if you spot something interesting:

# Pos Player Birth date Caps Goals Club
1 GK Samir Handanović 14 July 1984 (age 30) 74 0 Italy Internazionale
12 GK Vid Belec 6 June 1990 (age 24) 1 0 Turkey Konyaspor
16 GK Jan Oblak 7 January 1993 (age 21) 3 0 Spain Atlético Madrid
2 DF Mišo Brečko 1 May 1984 (age 30) 72 0 Germany 1. FC Köln
5 DF Boštjan Cesar (Captain) 9 July 1982 (age 32) 81 6 Italy Chievo
6 DF Branko Ilić 6 February 1983 (age 31) 57 0 Serbia Partizan
13 DF Siniša Anđelković 13 February 1986 (age 28) 3 0 Italy Palermo
15 DF Andraž Struna 23 April 1989 (age 25) 16 0 Greece PAS Giannina
19 DF Dominic Maroh 4 March 1987 (age 27) 5 0 Germany 1. FC Köln
21 DF Martin Milec 20 September 1991 (age 23) 3 0 Belgium Standard Liège
23 DF Miral Samardžić 17 February 1987 (age 27) 3 0 Croatia Rijeka
3 MF Željko Filipović 3 October 1988 (age 26) 3 0 Slovenia Maribor
4 MF Dalibor Stevanović 27 September 1984 (age 30) 21 1 Russia Torpedo Moscow
7 MF Nejc Pečnik 3 January 1986 (age 28) 26 4 Serbia Red Star Belgrade
8 MF Jasmin Kurtić 10 January 1989 (age 25) 22 1 Italy Fiorentina
10 MF Valter Birsa 7 August 1986 (age 28) 70 5 Italy Chievo
14 MF Dejan Lazarević 15 February 1990 (age 24) 12 0 Italy Chievo
17 MF Andraž Kirm 6 September 1984 (age 30) 65 6 Cyprus Omonia
18 MF Rajko Rotman 19 March 1989 (age 25) 4 0 Turkey İstanbul Başakşehir
20 MF Kevin Kampl 9 October 1990 (age 24) 14 1 Austria Red Bull Salzburg
22 MF Aleš Mertelj 22 March 1987 (age 27) 14 0 Slovenia Maribor
9 FW Zlatan Ljubijankić 15 December 1983 (age 30) 44 6 Japan Omiya Ardija
11 FW Milivoje Novaković 18 May 1979 (age 35) 67 28 Japan Shimizu S-Pulse

Let me help you, look at the birth days, months specifically. You will find that 10 out of 23 players are born either in January, February or March. We can find this phenomenal in almost all sports. The selection of who is going to be in the A-team in your primary school was done by comparing the kids of the same year of birth. Those born in beginning of the year had almost one year of advantage to those born in December when it comes to body development. Now when this kids get into A-teams they get better training and this gives them even more opportunities to develop.

So this explains why I was fairly good in basketball in primary school and really sucked in high school – I was not among the tallest in my class anymore. This is also a good tip if you want your kids to be good in sports (or in life), just make those nights from April to June a bit more fruitful.

Comparing Web Summit with DrupalCon

IMG_1578

My first ever conference was DrupalCon in Copenhagen, 2009. It changed my career and after that I attended a lot more Drupal events. Last week it was my first time at Web Summit and my first conference of that scale. It may sound like comparing apples to oranges, but since it’s the only two I know, I don’t have a choice.

Networking was harder

Web summit had 20.000 attendees which goes way above my (and Dunbar’s) number, that is 150 people. First impression might be, that with more people you will get more conversations and you would meet more people. That is absolutely true, I never gave away so many biz cards like I did last week, but only had handful really meaningful conversations.

First reason is that at a event with just 150 people, attendees would have more things in common (professional niche, geographically, language). Second, they would have more time for each other. At the summit I had 4 seconds for each attendee, compared with a smaller event where I would have full 10 minutes. In reality it was impossible to meet the same person again in those 3 days.

Sessions were less specific

I don’t really attend sessions, because I think it’s a waste of time when all the sessions get recorded (and this is something everyone is doing last couple of years). I’ve been at some of them and they were focused at not being focused. That makes sense, since the public is very random and to please everyone you have to make the session as general as possible. At DrupalCon you get to hear very specific topics and actionable information . It

Session were mostly self promotional

I haven’t seen a lot of them, but the ones I did, speakers talked about themselves. I got the same feedback from other attendees. And there were a lot of panels where, again, people were asked about themselves and their companies. Unfortunately, they weren’t revealing anything new. We didn’t came all the way to Dublin just to hear you say: “Sorry, I can not say, wait for the official announcement”.

Speakers were more skilled and prepared

I have to be honest, speakers were awesome. You could tell they practiced and that it’s not their first time on the stage. If you consider that they were observed by 3-4 cameras and 3000 people you can just applaud them for not freaking out. This is where DrupalCon fails, where most of the speakers are not very good at public speaking, some of them even have trouble with English.

Exhibiting at startup booth worked

So this is something that might not work on DrupalCon, since the point of exhibiting at Web Summit was to attract investors. But a concept of having a small table for one day, where you can tell what you do, is great. My friends at Gotoky told me, that they meet so many investors and got feedback, that will drive them forward. It was also just a simple way to network, since there was no awkwardness to approach people at the stand and start talking.

Night life was well organised

Sooner or later you would bump into Web Summit attendee even in big city like Dublin, but the organisers made sure we were all on the same street at a specific day. There were also pub crawls organised, where some magic (based on data from attendees) was introduced when building groups. Not sure how successful that was in general, but definitely a nice effort.

Wifi didn’t work as advertised

If you were at the Summit you saw this one coming. I never really believed wifi would work well, but that was not enough to get backup mobile internet.

No place to work or meet

I am used to have my labtop with me, to do some work, reply emails etc. At the web summit the only place you could sit down was the session. Unfortunately the sits were too small for two grown-up male to comfortably sit next to each other, without working on a computer. At DrupalCons there are always chair and tables available where people get together and code. If Summit does not need that, it certainly needs a place for people to meet.

Free coffee available, like all the time

What I learned from organising two Drupal camps in Slovenia is that people need wifi and coffee. If Summit failed at Wifi, they sure did a good job with coffee. It was not the coffee, yes, but considering how far from Italy we were, it was still OK. I remember that at DrupalCons coffee wasn’t always there which is similar to Wifi working just sometimes. Kudos to Web Summit to have infinitive cups of coffee for 20.000 people!

 

I wont end the post saying which conference is better, since I always preferred camps with 150 people anyway. If you want to get the most of the conferences, try to find smaller, niche conferences where you will be buddies with all the attendees after three days.

So what do you do?

This is the question people often ask me when they first meet me. I will keep and update this post for a reference for my self.

I am the co-founder and managing director of AGILEDROP. In a nutshell we are a Drupal development studio, which means we are focused on building web sites and web application on framework called Drupal. Our flagship service is Drupal theming, which is front-end development for Drupal. We are working with direct clients and web development agencies all around the globe.

The other, recently more important role, is the product manager of AGILEDROP’s first product Ply.jobs. Ply is an applicant tracking system focused on getting insightful job applications with a powerful selection mechanisms. Ply is in a heavy development stage at the moment, but we are happy to show what we have right now if you are interested.

Apocalypse survival kits don’t sell if there is no apocalypse

Post Apocalypse

Couple of weeks ago there was a lot of buzz in the Slovenian tech community about Oivo – a little widget that enables you to recharge you iPhone with 4 AA batteries. The team ended their Kickstarter campaign, realising that they will not reach the goal.

My first impression was that Oivo was useful enough to keep it in your travel bag for worse case scenarios, but definitely not useful enough to keep it on your keychain all the time. My believe is this is why they were not able to reach the goal.

People have hard time imagining the worse case scenario. Couple of years ago there was a boom with selling life Insurances with savings plan. You would get calls from high school friends trying to sell you a plan. On their BS seminars they were taught that people do not care about insurance, so they focused on the part about how much money will they save after 30 years. They were right, no one cared about insurance when in one piece.

Trying to sell something? You think beyond apocalypse survival kits.

What movie Locke taught me about the simple things

I so need to FOCUS a bit more on the simple things in life~EXPLORED [ Way over 10,000 Views thanks everyone ]

Watching Locke was a refreshing experience for me. I am not a sophisticated film critic, but I have never failed my self watching a movie with a bad review twice. This post also begins with a bit of a spoiler alert.

We are so hungry for action. So hungry for more information that we feel trapped watching one man dealing with his average Joe’s problems while commuting. When you strip all the action from a movie, you are left with a story. This is what happened in Locke and the story was the only thing left to consume. With that much consummation sensibility it made Ivan’s story felt like the first couple of minutes of Saving private Ryan.

There is a lot of talk about the simple things. Simple things make us happy. Simple design is more useful. Simple sentences are more clear. When we consume less information it brings more value to us.

So, next time you need to solve a big problem break it half. From those two problems take the most crucial one and break that one too. Don’t stop breaking them until you see your problem in all its clearness. Solve that problem and you solved your big problem.

Bootstrap podcasts

Army boots

I am always surprised when I run into a new community around something that I am passionate about. This time it’s the bootstrap community. So bootstrap in this context means to start a new business with own resources. By resources I don’t (necessary) mean money to burn, but rather time and energy.

I came across podcast called Startups for the rest of us. Each week they are talking about personal experiences in building a company by bootstrapping. There also also many other podcast, like bootstrapped.fm and Bootstrapped with kids. What I like about those podcast is that they are done by people actually running a business. They have occasional self promotion, but delivered as valuable content.

I encourage you to listen to them if you run any kind of business (I am not even going to say online, everything is online!). The topics spread from solving technical problems for SaaS companies to making sure customers are happy.

 

(One thing I noticed is that, I really enjoy listening to podcasts while cleaning the dishes. Try that too!)

 

Photo by Staffan Vilcans