Startup Lessons Learned: Closing Your Feedback Loop

There’s about 10,000 cloud based business apps out there. So it’s near impossible to connect to each and every one of them to create business dashboards. So where to start? Well, here at Dasheroo bet on social media and that’s where we got a lot of traction and new users.

Then we moved onto email marketing, e-commerce, billing, marketing automation and more. Some of this strategy was based on our own experience, and some from our users who want to track KPIs from these applications.

We have a very active dialog with our users and ask at key points in their journey with us what ‘next’ app they’d like us to add to our Insight library:

 

Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 8.25.18 AM

This is great input and we use it to help prioritize our integrations. But I think where we pay it off best is the simple text email communications Josh & Alf send when a requested application is added to our business dashboards:

Each person that requested the specific application receives an email letting them know we listened to them and delivered on it.

The lesson here is not asking for feedback we’ve covered that; it’s more in the targeted communication that closes the feedback loop on that item. Sure we could just include the news in our weekly email that goes to everyone, but this format really works and our folks seem to love it and it shows increased usage, conversion to paid plans and retention!

What are you doing to close your feedback loop?

Track Our Startup: Officially Beating Our Numbers!

We have one more week of QA and bug fixing to go before we release what we call the mammoth release from hell. We’re shooting to be dev complete by end of the week and ideally target a launch for next week, but as we all know it totally depends on the QA findings. Get ’em Court! Oddly enough we’re also working on the next few releases but this one has to go out the order it was placed.

Dasheroo signupsWe got some killer mentions last week at Social Media Marketing World, that awesome event put on by Social Media Examiner. Thanks Chris Penn and Jen Newmeyer, you guys rock!

We’re are beating (and have continued to beat) our ‘New User’ KPI for the past 4 months and this month is no slouch! We are also doing great where users connect to a 3rd party application (like Google Analytics and Facebook) for our ‘engagement’ KPI this month. It’s great to get new users but having them be engaged with the product is what we’re really after. Most importantly we’re beating our revenue number for the past few months and with a freemium model that’s very cool.

We’re getting some great traction on Salesforce Appexchange installs as well, around 1-2 per day. That’s pretty good considering we don’t spend anything on marketing. If you don’t know about it, you can see your Dasheroo dashboards right within your Salesforce account. Pretty nifty.

We’re also having some pretty cool strategic meetings with bigger companies both from a partnership and customer perspective. We’ll tell you more when we can!

Gotta run, coffee time!

Startup Lessons Learned: Take a Weekend Off!

As startup types, we all tend to work pretty damn hard. And we need to, no matter how productive we are, there’s always more important stuff to get done. And I’m my own worst enemy, I support my folks in work/life balance but don’t ascribe to that too much myself. I’m lucky I guess that my wife (Janine our CMO) is the same way AND we don’t have kids. But that can lead to serious burn out and really a lack of focus that can sneak up on you. So last Friday afternoon, I just said “F it, I’m gonna shut down, have a glass of wine and chill.”Dasheroo tomatoes!

That extended into a full weekend of nothing but a quick check of Dasheroo email a couple times a day. So what’d I do with all this free time? Breathed! And gardened. Janine and I visited the best gardening store in San Francisco, Flora Grubb  and picked up some lavender, succulents, a ton of herbs and even some tomatoes (we were told they may not be able to grow on an SF patio, BOB:-). We spent the afternoon potting and planting. It was relaxing, therapeutic AND productive. But personally productive! By the end of the weekend our little deck was tricked out complete with a drip system.

The cool thing was the project actually had a clear beginning and completion with the installation of the drip system. Oftentimes in tech the ‘end’ never seems to come.

When Monday rolled around, I was more refreshed than usual, and very energized to dive back into all the cool stuff we need to do for Dasheroo.

This weekend? Well, we’re busy cranking out cool stuff for our users so I’ll be back on the Dasheroo weekend shift, but for sure taking some quality time to go out on the deck and tinker in our garden. On this Friday, consider winding down a bit early and putting some time into doing nothing, or doing something non-work related. And let me know how you feel Monday!

Startup Lessons Learned: Your Network is More Than Your Social Network

This is mScreen Shot 2016-04-14 at 5.40.24 AMore like a ‘startup lessons remembered’ but worthy nonetheless. It’s about your social network, and how that can be limiting if you only rely on it to establish partnerships.

I’m working on a large partner strategy here at Dasheroo, and have 10-12 potential companies I’m targeting. Do I have C-level contacts at all of these companies? Nope. My awesome advisors have contacts at some of them; some very recent and relevant and others more of just a LinkedIn connection. And as we all know, all connections are not created equal. For instance, I’m connected to a few thousand folks; I may only really know a few hundred of those, and of those I’m not really that up to date on where they are or what they are doing.

So for the companies I was really lacking connections for, I started with what I call ‘LinkedIn stalking’. Go to my favorite social network LinkedIn and start searching for CEO, CPO and CMO folks to connect to. Then when they connect, BAM! I start a dialog that develops into my pitch.

This can be a laborious effort. And since it’s semi-cold, not always going to have a great success rate.  Same can be said of the intros you can get from one of your 1st degree connections to someone you want to connect with.

So the other day, I was having drinks with an old friend of mine. Nothing business related, just a catch-up after not seeing him for a year or so. Eventually we touched on business & I mentioned my big project. After a few minutes, Nick’s eyes lit up and he said “Have you ever thought of <company name>? They’ve switched their strategy the past year and this could be a perfect fit! I just spoke to their CEO last week.”

So Nick introduced me to their CEO, with great context and a very personal ‘in’. We instantly scheduled what was a very productive meeting that hopefully leads to a great deal for both of us.

What this reminded me was: all too often we hope or expect a connection on social media will turn into something, but working your personal connections can be far more productive. So get out there, hop on a Zoom or meet up in person and work it!

Startup Lessons Learned: Revenue Reconciliation

Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 4.25.09 PMIn the early days of just about any startup, any sale seems like a good sale, right? And that’s great. But early on, before you have fancy accountants and real revenue recognition processes, it’s easy to let things get a bit sloppy in terms of reconciling sales, because hey, any sale’s a good sale, right?!

Recently I started spotting a few small inconsistencies in our sales reporting. Our bank account said one thing, our manual sales reporting another, our billing system another. Now, I’m just talking a few hundred bucks, but as sales grow month over month, a few hundy can turn into thousands if you don’t identify gaps in your reporting and plug them…now.

So what to do? First, identify your reporting sources. For us, we use Stripe for credit card processing. We use Salesforce.com to record our sales contracts. We also back that up with an old school Google Sheet since we don’t have all the bells and whistles we need in SFDC yet. We use Quickbooks Online for accounting. And we bank with First Republic.

If you get on this early, it’s really pretty easy to spot some omissions or simply mis-understanding or gaps in the process. What’d I find?

  • We have a handful of 6 and 12-month prepays in Stripe. So that entire payment tracked as single month monthly recurring revenue, and overstated our MRR. We’ve fixed that problem!
  • We had a few larger deals that (even though we really push for credit cards), were invoiced but it wasn’t clearly noted that this was the case. So that understated our revenue, plus since there is almost always a lag in payment on invoices, they weren’t reflected in our P&L either. We now flag these in Salesforce and in our old school Google Sheet and it all rolls into QBO and eventually into our P&L.

That brought things into line! Now, are we prepared for daily revenue recognition? Nope. But we’re now tracking very closely to actuals on all fronts. Who’s job is this to do in a small start-up? Yours, if you’re the CEO.

Track Our Startup: What’s DaaS? + Infusionsoft ICON16 + Slideshows

Another week goes by and a ton of stuff is happening! With releases happening every other week, (sometimes every week!) we’re on our software toes. James is even asking to “go dark” and not talk to anyone for a few weeks so he can solve some opportunities our Sales Director Mimi is bringing to the table. A great problem to have I’ll say.

We’re knee deep in DaaS meetings. What’s DaaS? It’s our own Dasheroo term for “Dashboards-as-a-Service”. If you have a SaaS product and you want to incorporate Dasheroo dashboards into it, we’ll oblige! You can imagine a lot of marketing SaaS companies that have priorities other than upgrading their marketing dashboards might love this. If you’ve got one of those companies give us a call!

Dasheroo dashboards slideshow

You’ll be able to easily show off your Dasheroo dashboards on a rotating slideshow!

Scrollable Insights you ask? Working on it! If you want to see more data within a given insight on your dashboards and you want to scroll within an insight, we’re in the process of defining with that is so our engineering team can give us the thumbs up or down.

Slideshows is one of our most requested features is that you can rotate your dashboards automatically on a big screen.

We’re going to change up pricing at some point to a per-user model. Why? We need to make money! Will we stop our free offering? No way. You’ll always have access to that. This does pose some architecture re-jiggering that our product and engineering folks are working on as it relates to roles & permissions requirements. More on that as we know it.

We’re still working on our next integrations for Hubspot, Sendgrid and Mixpanel. Working hard.

Janine wrote a great article on Inc.com, When Your Business Partner is Your Partner (wonder who she’s referring to there?) and 5 Phrases Great Leaders Never Say. Check out if you say any of them!ICON16 hosted by Infusionsoft

We’re heading to ICON16 on March 1-3, Infusionsoft’s amazing annual conference for small businesses. If you’re going to it in Phoenix, drop me a line, love to meet you there. Did you know we integrate with Infusionsoft? You can get a 1-month free trial of all of our Infusionsoft dashboards!

We’re knee deep in our investor deck, we are having a ton of meeting with interested people. Nuff said.

Back to work!

Track Our Startup: Easy Onboarding + Custom Data Dashboard

You may have heard that we have a Zapier integration that we’re pretty happy about. Why? We’ve got a ton of great users who want us to integrate with their applications but we just can’t do it all. So with Zapier, you can take a trigger from any app that they integrate with and point it to a Dasheroo graph…voila! You’ve done the integration yourself.

What Else is Going On?

We released a new onboarding process. We wanted to do a few things with it, namely make it easy to understand, easy to connect your data dashboard to  your data sources and easy to get to a custom data dashboard!

Now when you first come in to Dasheroo you’re met with the following screen designed to get you to the right place as well as highlighting our custom data feature for your dashboards:

Dasheroo data dashboard onboarding process

We also wanted to make it easier to find our custom dashboards – Now when you add an insight or connect to a new data source you’re met with a new screen:

Dasheroo custom data dashboard

So you can easily get your data into your dashboard from our Push API, a webhook or our new Zapier integration. Pretty cool, huh?

We’ve also redesigned our template gallery where we’ll be adding even more dashboard templates for you to start off with.

Dasheroo dashboards template gallery

You Want More? 

We launched with Infusionsoft dashboards, and since those insights are only included in our paid plans (not free!) we’ve decided to give you a free month so you can kick the tires. You need to use promotion code: infusionsoft-trial.

We’re planning an integration with Hubspot soon, we’re not ready yet but we’re working on it. We’ve also got Sendgrid you’ll be able to add to your dashboards as well.

Janine wrote a zinger for Inc. “The Door Isn’t Always Closed, ‘No’ Just Means ‘Not Yet‘”, she got published 0n Relevance.com for “3 Tips to Securing Inbound Links” and I got a piece on Business.com for “Nail Biting, Be Gone: 3 Ways to Avoid a Big Mistake When Making a Big Decision“. Check ’em out, they’re worth a quick read.

We’re planning on raising another round of funding. We’ll let you know how that goes. The environment ain’t great but we’ve got something great going on, at least our users think we do! We’re even thinking of extending our A round to get the right folks in.

We’ve got another board meeting to get ready for this week, here we go.

Startup Lessons – Managers and Employees: Be Honest, Be Open

Dilbert Cartoon for Dasheroo's Startup LessonsI just had a tough situation where I had to fire one of the Dasheroo family. And we really are family here, even though
we’re in a distributed work environment
. Plus this person is a long-time friend and also colleague who I had worked with successfully in the past.

And since we are distributed, I had to do the deed via phone; not the best format but it had to be done, and I’ve had to do it that way in past jobs. A few days later we were actually able to meet F2F to take care of some paperwork, but mainly to discuss ‘what happened’ and why.

The specifics aren’t relevant here, but it reminded me to remind everyone on our tight team to address issues and communicate with their manager early on. Personal and professional. If there’s an identified issue a “What’s going on, everything OK?” often opens a door to a productive conversation. Issues rarely solve themselves; and one of our responsibilities here is to help make our people successful. If you don’t start a company with a very open and honest culture, you aren’t gonna retrofit it later.

And just telling people to be open and honest is only one part of this. As leaders, we have to ‘show’, not just ‘tell’ this aspect of your company culture in order for it to take hold and build a valuable environment for your business.

What are your thoughts on how ‘open’ communications should be between team members, especially between folks and their managers? Let me know!

Startup Lessons: WFH Ain’t For Everybody

Work From Home Meme for business dashboard Dasheroo blogKids knocking at your door? Dog needs a walk? A shiny object just appeared? Working from home sounds too good to be true doesn’t it?

I’ve talked before about the distributed work environment we have at Dasheroo. Actually it’s semi-distributed as we have an office in Austin that our engineering team is located building crazy business dashboard features, but the balance of our awesome team is spread across the Bay Area, where everyone works from home. Or a coffee shop. Whatever works.

Some of our folks came to Dasheroo with previous experience working remotely; for others it’s a new experience. We’re in the startup stage and we need to work collaboratively on building the best business dashboard product for our thousands of customers worldwide so we HAVE to nail this remote work experience.

Personally I’ve done both, and even when I was running a sales division for a big public company, it was still somewhat distributed as I had people reporting to me from multiple locations around the world, and my boss was located in Boston. So I’m very comfortable with it. But that doesn’t mean everyone is!

I recently had to let someone go here at Dasheroo. And we both came to the conclusion that the work from home (WFH) scenario just wasn’t working out. This person, a good friend of mine, needed both the structure and social aspect that a more traditional office environment offers.

It got me thinking about how our current folks are experiencing WFH; how they manage their time and the challenges around it. So I asked ’em, and here’s some verbatims:

Mimi (Director of Sales):

“For me it’s time management!  For some reason, when working from home it seems that time just flies by!  So I use my calendar to also assign myself time for different tasks.  In that way, I’m alerted that it’s time to start doing something else or shifting gears.”

Nivi (Sr. Product Manager):

“Setting up a schedule to start working, lunch, even breaks for errands helps in being productive as you are creating an environment very similar to work. Also planning your day in advance in terms of tasks is important so that we get to everything in our to do list.”

Josh (Co-founder & VP Product):

I feel SO much more productive when I work from home because I’m able to manage my time and the lack of distractions makes a big difference. I try to structure my days to align meetings in a way that doesn’t have me tied up for more than 2 hours at a time within a given day. This way I can still have productive session with team members but I’m still using 90% of my day to just get stuff done. With Zoom and Slack I can be in direct contact with team members no matter where I am which is great in terms of flexibility. Another quick win? I get about 2 hours a day more productivity by not commuting!”

Jen (Customer Success Manager):

“I cannot believe how fast the work day goes by at home!  This WFH is new for me,  and initially (not so much anymore) missed working with people in the office; just being able to see people and talk face to face, but thank goodness for technology I am able to talk with all my co-workers multiple times a day just like I would if I was in the office!”

It’s important to remember that WFH success is situational too; at some points in people’s lives a WFH situation may be perfect, but in other times it’s just not gonna work. So we strive to bring on people that have past experience and thrive in this environment. I’m also a fan of WeWork, so we’re beginning regular, 2x per month, office hours very soon. What are your thoughts on a WFH structure? Let me know!

Startup Lesson: Business Process Focus – When Your Team Is Under Water

Cartoon about business process for business dashboard startup DasherooAhh, start-up land…finite resources and infinite things to get done! And all of those projects can appear to be critical to your success – or survival – right now. And if you don’t have a clear business process, you and your team can feel, well, under water.

At our business dashboard startup Dasheroo, we’re so excited to launch new features, integrate with more applications, get more traffic in the door and improve our in-app experience, that it can be dizzying at times.

And recently, I started to feel the springs almost starting to pop. You’ve probably been there, too. Progess? Sure, but not enough projects getting pulled over the finish line. Too many projects stuck in that ‘WIP’ category for too long.

And when that starts to happen, it’s time to reboot! And that means regrouping with the team, having an open discussion, focusing on the real priorities (maybe re-prioritizing), a real business process and executing.

We had a great meeting recently, where we revisited each major deliverable for Q4 across marketing, product, sales and engineering. It resulted in us taking a few things off of our plate, at least for now. Just agreeing that “we’re not gonna do that”  this quarter. Or, “we thought that feature was really important a few months ago, but now that we’ve learned more it really isn’t mission critical'” It’s sobering, necessary and productive.

So what are some of the actions we took?

  • We delayed one big engineering project to Q1, and re-scoped another one that dramatically reduced (almost eliminated) additional engineering time. That meant we can focus on and complete a couple immediate revenue-generating projects – Insight alerts, branded dashboard exports and an agency & partner console that were all stuck in that ‘we’re almost there’ category.
  • We took a hard look at which social media and content outlets were providing us the best (and worst) results, and adjusted our publishing schedule to optimize the time spent on writing and socializing articles so we could spend more time developing a pricing test and a new onboarding experience.
  • We decided to take a couple app integrations off the Q4 table and focus on two key integrations that are more deep, more valuable and focused on driving user acquisition in a key market.

Although these discussions usually come a little too late, it’s the nature of the beast. I’ll try to get a better read on the ol’ ‘under water’ crystal ball, but the bottom line is addressing these issues immediately, getting everyone on the same page, and executing!

How do you identify and resolve business prioritization in your company? Let me know!