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Squarely's Squares: Gathering the puzzle pieces for growth
Sanity Check • No. 019
I’m Ben, and welcome to Sanity Check. The newsletter for tips, stories, doodles, and even some questions about working in the data field. Glad you’re here.
QQ: QUICK QUOTES
Here’s what’s new with me:
🍼 My lil sister just had her first beautiful baby girl! Excited to be an uncle and cannot wait to meet her ❤️
🚗 Did you know the ‘ol “turn it off and turn it back on” works for cars? My check engine light came on after suddenly losing the ability to accelerate. A quick “reset” of the car’s computer made the problem disappear.
❄️ My friend’s work is being highlighted as a Snowflake case study. They are processing billions of data points to monitor for security events. It’s neat to see his hard work getting the recognition it deserves. (link to webinar)
Squarely's Squares: Gathering the puzzle pieces for growth
Starting fresh is a relief. You get to drop unnecessary baggage and reset ossified assumptions. At the same time, starting fresh is intimidating. There is no momentum to carry you forward, and a blank page offers infinite options. This is where I find frameworks indispensable. Frameworks can help “prep the page” to lower the burden of getting started.
In this article, I will apply a few frameworks to provide some shape to Squarely as a business. Once we understand the business, we can game plan how to instrument and analyze it.
Right People, Right Seats
Our first framework is a small piece taken from the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS). The EOS is Gino Wickman’s formula for helping businesses get control over their future. His book, Traction, goes over all the pieces of EOS. Right now, I’ll focus on “the people component.”
For the people component of EOS, it breaks down into two subtasks - Right People, Right Seats.
Right People - individuals that share the company’s core values
Right Seats - the org structure needed for growth in the next 6 to 12 months
The goal is to match people who are a good fit with the company into seats where they can leverage their best skillsets.
You’ll often run into situations where you have the right people, but they must sit in multiple seats. Not all of those seats will be the right seat for the individual. This is certainly the situation for Squarely early on.
We have two “right people” and eight “right seats”
Filling out the accountability chart, we run into a few right-person, wrong-seat situations.
My dad has done a good job fielding customer questions so far, but if the volume of requests becomes too much, he will not be the right person for the job. Similarly, I am out of my comfort zone with taking on marketing responsibilities. I can try it as we bootstrap this puzzle launch, but there are many more qualified people than me for that seat.
This will have to do for now. As the business grows, there will be the opportunity to hire or outsource the responsibilities that are not a good fit for Dad or myself.
Front Stage & Backstage Departments
Now that we have our seats - or at this scale, more like our departments - we want to map out how each one contributes value to the business.
A common approach is to divide departments between “profit centers” and “cost centers.” Personally, I’m not a fan of this distinction. It leads to teams being marginalized and under-invested in. No one wants to work in a cost center.1
I find Dan Sullivan’s division of departments to be a healthier alignment of business incentives. Dan’s Strategic Coach program frames your business as a theater production. Tasks, systems, and departments get broken out between front-stage and back-stage. Front-stage is customer-facing. Backstage supports a smooth front-stage experience.
Applying that framing to Squarely’s seats, the breakdown would look like:
Marketing | Product | Customer Success
Operations | Finance | Data
You can think of this entire series as a backstage pass!
Jobs To Be Done (JTBD)
So far, we have talked generally about what seats Squarely needs to fill and how they are divided between client-facing and support responsibilities. But specifically, what are these departments going to do?
To answer that question, I’d like to use the Jobs To Be Done framework.
Traditionally JTBD has been used understand the underlying “job” a customer is trying to accomplish when they purchase a product or service. For Squarely puzzles the customer’s “job” they are trying to “hire” for is straight-forward. The customer wants an enjoyable way to pass the time that makes them feel smart and accomplished as they solve a puzzle.
More interestingly, can we apply the JTBD framework to internal teams? I believe so. Here is what I would look for when “hiring” these teams:
Marketing - I’d look to marketing for generating interest and awareness about Squarely. This means attracting new customers and messaging previous customers about new puzzle books or an app release.
Product - I’d expect a good product team to iterate on Squarely puzzle offerenings. This includes everything from designing the puzzle layout to packaging puzzles into a new book.
Customer Success - My hope for a customer success team would be to field incoming questions or gather feedback from customers. While interacting with customers they should try to delight them. Then once off of the front stage, they should pass along learnings to other departments which sparked the initial customer outreach.
Operations - For my operations team I want them focused on keeping the wheels greased. If marketing is able to drive thousands and thousands of people to the site, will it scale to meet the demand? If the online store is flooded can we manufacture & ship enough puzzle books in a reasonable timeframe? If my dad and I take a vacation - or simply focus on our day jobs - will everything function as intended?
Finance - At this stage all I want from finance is to properly keep track of what is owed to Uncle Sam and cash accounting approach for P&L reporting. A more advanced finance department for a more mature business would take on financial planning & analysis to funnel money toward well-performing growth initiatives.
Data - Any business that I’m involved in building would have a data team. They would be hired to measure performance across the organization, then resurface those measurements with other teams to create a feedback loop for continuous improvement.
Now that we have the internal shape of the business, how is that front-stage going to interact with the world? How is Squarely going to grow?
Conventional methods model growth as a funnel. A customer moves through a series of steps. Some fall out of the funnel along the way, but when a customer gets to the end of the funnel the relationship ends. It is a linear way of thinking and will yield linear growth.
I have had success with growth loops as cover in Reforge’s Growth Series. I’ll save evaluating which loops would be appropriate to deploy at Squarely for a different issue — but to doodle the big picture, here is the framework overview from my notes.
Growth is a balance between three inputs acquisition, retention & engagement, and monetization. The growth process spins around via the growth model, user psychology, and experimentation. Then the faster you can spin the more defensible your position. As the BattleBots Captian Shredderator would say, “you’ve got to spin to win!”
Zooming back out from individual framework details, in this article, we established key building
blocks squares for our burgeoning Squarely business.
We defined our org structure and assigned ownership with the EOS Right People, Right Seats framework.
Using Strategic Coaches’ “Business as a Theater Production” framing, we moved from thinking about profit vs. cost centers to customer-facing or supporting departments.
With the JTBD framework, we analyzed how departments would need to interface with each other.
Finally, using Reforge’s Growth Loops, we began strategizing how to set up the company for sustainable growth.
Next week, we will move back into familiar analytics territory again. We will outline what tooling is in place to support our departments’ JTBD and our analytics architecture to gather data to inform the company.
Thank you for reading.
Let’s keep it going. 💜
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This may be my bias coming through. Misunderstood data teams are often lumped in as a cost center.