Monday, September 30, 2013

Employee Net Promoter Score

In June I wrote a post outlining our use of the Net Promoter System to gain an insight into how likely our customers are to share our product with their friends and colleagues, and to get regular feedback from them on how we can improve our business.

2 months ago we introduced a monthly Employee Net Promoter Score survey to gain the same feedback from our team about how likely they were to recommend a friend to work at Shoes of Prey, and what we can do to improve that score. It's been an incredible insight for Jodie, Mike and I and has given us some fantastic ways we can improve.

Here's an email I wrote to the team earlier this month summarising the August. I've redacted two points which we need to keep confidential for now.

As discussed in today's huddle, the feedback from the employee net promoter score in August was once again fantastic and helpful for us as we strive to passionately create happiness and make Shoes of Prey an awesome place to work.


  • Redacted
  • The biggest thing people love about Shoes of Prey is the awesome colleagues we all work with.
  • The score improved from 35 in July to 39 in August. This is a very good score, we have a lot of 9s and 10s, but it's not as high as the 60-80+ scores we get from our customers and there is significant room for further improvement, so to focus on that...

Area to improve
3 issues from July were repeated again in August:

  • High workload and stress remains an issue. This issue is a challenge for any high growth company - limited resources and constant change are big drivers of stress. We'll continue to do our best to manage this by ensuring teams are resourced appropriately, and if you have concerns about this please speak to your manager or me. The proposal in August was to introduce more 'quick break' activities into the office beyond ping pong, football and frisbee in the park. Please reply to Lydia and I with ideas here. When Dave's back, we'll organise to eat lunch in the park once every few weeks when the weather is nice so we get some fresh air.
  • Redacted
  • Career progression is still an issue. When this came up last time we implemented the career survey form which hopefully everyone has completed and discussed with your manager. If you haven't completed that form please do so and bring it to your next 1:1. If career progression is still a concern for you after this, please raise the issue with either your manager or me and we'd love to discuss it with you further. This is an issue I think is critical for retaining the awesome people we have here at Shoes of Prey and it's an issue close to my heart. I loved working at Google but this is one of the key reasons I left, so I know what a concern this can be.

Some additional feedback/suggestions which we love and will improve:

  • Social activities and getting to know the team. People want more of this and to add activities that don't involve drinking. In response to this I've organised the "Jobs" movie night evening. We'll aim to do lunch picnics in the park (see above) and if someone would like to organise a Shoes of Prey sports team in a mixed activity like netball or soccer, the company will fund the entry fees. Let me know if you'd like to organise this.
  • Culture committee. We'd like to establish a culture committee with at least one person from each team. This committee will work with Lydia and I to continue improving the culture at Shoes of Prey and to execute the feedback in our employee net promoter score surveys. If you'd like to join the committee please email Lydia and I.
  • Founders are becoming more distant. We're out of the office and less in touch with what people are working on. This is good feedback for Jodie, Mike and I - thanks. I want you to know that we want to be involved and know what you're working on, we've added this as an agenda item to our catch up next week so we'll put together a plan on how to improve on this.
  • Banquet lunches. Some people have missed getting much lunch on these days. Let's all take reasonably sized first helpings and not go back for seconds until everyone has had a first helping. We'll also aim to balance the quantities we order and get that right.

Thanks again to Lydia for managing the process, and thanks to those who completed the survey, it's incredibly helpful.

We're planning to continue doing this monthly.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Why good leaders need to be able to make the tough calls: Vamos

Great blog post on Smart Company.

I've struggled with these exact same issues - giving feedback and letting people go. From what I've experienced open communication on these points has such a positive impact on the company, on the culture and on developing people that it's something I want to focus personally on continuing to improve, particularly the giving feedback point. I regularly refer back to Mark's blog post on giving feedback as these 4 steps work so well.

via Geetika Marek Guz

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Cats on the net

Everyone knows cats are popular on the internet. They're popular on the YouTubes and who doesn't love I Can Has Cheezburger? Lolcats. But now I've seen everything. I present to you two of our most liked ever posts on Instagram involving Lucy's cat Bear:

How can you incorporate cats into your digital marketing? :P

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Friends and Family Sale - Oct 10, 11 & 12

We're Hiring: System Admin / Software Engineer Intern

Shoes of Prey is an online shoe design company based in Surry Hills, Sydney. We started in 2009 and have since been gaining lots of attention in the startup community (checkout posts by Robert Scoble, Google, and TechCrunch to name a few). We’re a highly energetic company that continues to grow rapidly, and we are currently looking for a Systems Administrator/Software Engineer Intern to join our team.

Some of the key day-to-day activities include:

  • Coding in JavaScript, Python, HTML and CSS
  • Maintaining our corporate network.
  • Sharing your technical knowledge around the office.

Your education and experience clearly identifies that you have the following traits:

  • An understanding of Web Applications, in particular Google AppEngine
  • A love of all things python
  • Sound skills with JavaScript, HTML and CSS
  • An understanding of TCP/IP stack and networking services such as DNS, DHCP, RADIUS, etc. (Experience working with Cisco equipment is a plus.)
  • In-depth understanding of common UNIX daemons
  • Experience with wireless networks, telephony and corporate PBX systems
  • Knowledge of server virtualisation
  • Experience with mixed environments (Linux, Windows, OS X)
  • Interpersonal skills and a positive attitude/strong team player

The compensation for this role will be based on experience and availability. As with all roles at Shoes of Prey, lunch + snacks + shoes are of course included! The role will report into the Chief Technology Officer and will be based in our Sydney HQ.

If you think you have what it takes to join us, please email your resume and short cover letter outlining why you would like to become part of the Shoes of Prey journey to Please use the subject line "NAME - SYSADMIN".

Image credit

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Should start ups be specialists or generalists?

I’ve spent a lot of my career flipping my mindset between thinking it’s better to be a specialist and do one thing really well or to be a generalist with a broad skill set. My recent experience of starting up Sneaking Duck Eyewear has led me to think more about this.

There are upsides and downsides to each - specialists stand more chance of being genuinely distinctive, but run the risk of being restrictively narrow. Generalists avoid this narrowness but risk becoming the ‘jack of all trades, but master of none’.

Starting up Sneaking Duck has stretched my personal generalist tendencies to the extreme - a single day might include accounting, prioritising strategic initiatives, customer service, copywriting, managing people and more. We get great customer feedback for everything from our product, pricing and customer service. I was therefore becoming convinced that being generalist was the better option.

But then I had an experience that made me stop in my tracks. It’s a bit random, but we needed a selection of nuts for a photoshoot. One of the team went to Coles but couldn’t really find what we wanted. The staff were well-intentioned and had top-level knowledge like where things were, but didn’t know the details. For example, they had no idea why whole walnuts were not available.

A bit of internet research suggested revealed a store called the Nut Shop. I dropped by on my cycle ride to work one day and what a contrast ! The store sold only nuts in all their forms. I asked the assistant about whole walnuts. Apparently she had spoken to the growers the previous day and that the weather was likely to be suitable for harvest later in the week, and therefore we should expect them to be in stock a few days after that - and would I like to order some. Wow! We got exactly what we needed and a whole lot more.

Whilst buying nuts is somewhat trivial part of my life and business, the experience made me think. If I want nuts now, I will certainly be straight on the phone to the Nut Shop and not head to Coles. Their specialist nature means they offer a vastly superior product and service to the generalist. It set me thinking that being a specialist was perhaps the better option - becoming the absolute best in a more narrow field is more compelling in the long-run.

What are your views - is it better for start ups to be specialist or generalist?

Image credit - Specialist Einstein and generalist Franklin

Saturday, September 7, 2013

NORA Education Program

Paul Greenberg, a co-founder of discount online retailer Deals Direct has been working hard the past 12 months to establish the National Online Retail Association (NORA) as an industry association to specifically address the needs of the fast-growing and innovative Australian online retail sector. I'm honoured to be a founding board member with 6 other fantastic online retailers (names and companies here). We're going to help advocate to government and industry for online retailers in Australia, as well as provide education and events for Australian online retailers. To join NORA visit the website here.

I'm part of the policy and education sub-commitee and I'm working on putting together an education program for budding online retailers. As a first step I went back through the 4 and a bit years I've been writing this blog and grouped some of the posts into categories I thought might make sense as weekly lecture topics.

I'm interested in getting your feedback. If we were to put together an education program for online retailers covering these 10 topics would you be interested in joining NORA and signing up? Any other topics you'd like to see added to the series?

1. Developing a business plan
Should you discuss your business idea with other people?
A Simple Business Plan for Online Retailers
What is Your Competitive Advantage?
The Benefits of Differentiating Your Offer for Online Retail
Comparing the Costs of Launching an Online v Physical Retail Store
Niche Online Retail
Zynga - Ghetto Testing and Minimum Viable Product
Safely Scaling Your Startup

2. Sourcing
Tips for negotiating in Hong Kong and China
Negotiating in Hong Kong and China (Part 2)
Reflecting on 5 weeks in Guangzhou (Part 1)
Reflecting on 5 weeks in Guangzhou (Part 2)
Chinese New Year
The Rapid Pace of Change in China
3 weeks in China
Finding Great Suppliers
Finding Suppliers in China
Getting Your Ducks in a Row: The Buying Trip
Doing Business in China: How We Found our Suppliers

3. Logistics
Shipping from China
Our Japanese Courier Company

4. Legal processes when launching an online retail business
Company registration
A Trademark Happy Ending
Hiring Interns

5. Hiring and Culture
Hiring for a startup
Putting People Management Systems in Place as we Grow
Culture Memes - Do You Have a Duck of Awesomeness?
Don't be Nice; be Helpful
Our Business is Less About the Founders and More About the Team From This Point
Sydney Office Culture
13 Ways to Thwart Recruiters From Pillaging Your Team
Doing Business in China: How We Hired Our Team
Working From Home
Offering Lunch to Our Team
Should Your Team be Based in One Office?
Values - Passionately Create Happiness
Shoes of Prey - Culture & Values
Culture - "Work is Life Enhancing"
Career Ladders
Cameron Herold - Hiring and People Management
9 Things That Motivate Employees More Than Money
Employee Share Options Plans - Are They a Major Issue?
Employee Share Plan
360 Feedback
The Daily Huddle
The Shoes of Prey Table Tennis Table

6. Funding
Bootstrapping a startup
Funding Your Online Retail Startup
Investors Can Provide More Than Money
7 Options for Australian Startups to Raise Capital
Raising Capital
Raising Capital - Do it in Parallel Rather Than Series
Why Entrepreneurs Should Never Meet VCs Unless They're Formally Pitching
How We Raised a $3m Round of Funding in Australia
Outbound VC Dialling Programs - Total Disrespect for Entrepreneurs
8 Tips for Startups Raising Capital
How to Negotiate with VCs

7. Marketing
Naming our baby
The Incredible Power of a 16 Year Old Video Blogger
How We Tripled Our Sales Using YouTube
TV v YouTube
Google AdWords Lesson
Marketing to our Existing Customers
Creative Marketing Campaigns
Should You Censor Negative Comments on Your Facebook Page?
Discount and Managing Margins
Using Custom Reports in Google Analytics to Identify Influential Pages
Why Didn't our Valentine's Day Facebook Campaign Work?
Facebook Pages: Fantastic for Word of Mouth Focused Online Retailers
Email Marketing - We'd Love Your Advice
Developing a Media Strategy for your Startup - Part 1: The Story
Customer Survey - What do you think?
Orabrush and YouTube Marketing
Developing a Media Strategy for your Startup - Part 2: Responding to the Media
Developing a Media Strategy for your Startup - Part 3: Getting Your Story to the Media
Creative Marketing
Customer Acquisition at Scale
Zappos and Repeat Customers
Photoshoots: It's All About the People, Not About the Money
When Magazines and Online Shopping Collide
Marketing Through Your Packaging
7 Tips for Turning Facebook Likes into Buys - Part 1
7 Tips for Turning Facebook Likes into Buys - Part 2
Prue Healey - PR for your Startup TechTalk
How do You Manage Your Small, Profitable Customers?
What Price is Right?
Online Video Boosts Conversions
Customer Focus Groups on a Shoe-String
Creating a Media List with Zero $
Commerce as Content, Shopping Through Art
How Target Figured Out a Teen Girl Was Pregnant Before her Father Did
Marketing Strategy - Don't Get Excited by What's New, Get Excited by What Works
Facebook Advertising - Valentine's Day Gift Certificates
Email Marketing
Measuring the ROI from our Facebook Competition
Growing Email Marketing Subscribers
Lorna Jane's Facebook Page
Mr Porter and Storytailing - When Retail and Media Converge
SurfStitch - How to React When Your Site Going Down
Are You Making the Most Common Pricing Mistake?
Email Marketing - What System Do You Use?
Free Shipping
Advertising on YouTube
Lifetime Value of a Customer

8. Website Development
Landing Pages
Product Page Research
E-Commerce Website Feedback - Hip Industries
Site Search on SurfStitch
Website Optimisation
Improving Conversion Rates

9. Managing and Developing Yourself as an Entrepreneur
The Flexible and Extended Work Life of an Entrepreneur
Procrastinate No More!
Follow Your Passion
Prioritising the Work to do in a Startup
Careers and Risk Taking
Careers and Risk Taking - 3 Ways to Minimise the Risk of Launching a Startup
Working Through the Holidays
Startups are like Computer Games
How Do You Turn Down Meetings?
The Risk of Not Failing
Startups Are Hard
How to Become a Great Finisher
The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us
How Great Leaders Inspire Action
Making Big Decisions
Where to Invest Your Time in a Startup
Balancing Growth in a Startup
Keeping a Balance
Balancing Short and Long Term Activities in a Startup
Focus v Diversification - Sneaking Duck
Core v Non-Core Activities
Mark Zuckerberg on Being a CEO
First, Fire Thyself
The Startup Rollercoaster
How to be Happy
Feedback - a Gift That Nobody Likes to Give?
Why Startup Founders are Always Unhappy
Leadership - Finding Right is Different than Having to Be Right
What Separates the top 10% of Startup CEOs From the Rest?
The Self-Conscious Entrepreneur

10. Wisdom From Other Online Retailers
Brad Lindenberg - Lindgolf
James Stevens - Roses Only
Gabby Leibovich - Catch of the Day, Scoopon, Grocery Run
Andy Dunn - Bonobos
The Shoes of Prey Story in 55mins

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Fishburners - General Manager Role

Fishburners, an excellent startup co-working space and entrepreneurial community in Sydney is looking to hire a General Manager. You can view the job description and apply from here. I like Fishburners a lot, it's having a fantastic influence on the startup community here in Sydney. If there had been something like it when we started Shoes of Prey we would have rented desks there for sure.

Peter Bradd has been in the GM role at Fishburners for a while now and is moving out of the day to day role. I think the role would be awesome for someone passionate about the startup space and wants to be immersed in it without running their own startup, for a few years at least.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Election 7 September

We have an election in Australia this Saturday. And our two major political parties are in a race to be the most cruel towards the most marginalised people in the world - those fleeing for their lives and seeking asylum. Labor took the lead by not allowing any legitimate asylum seekers arriving by boat to settle in Australia, and now the Coalition have raised the stakes by not giving asylum seekers access to legal aid!

I have enough trouble navigating our legal system and I studied a law degree. How the hell a non-English speaking person from another country is meant to represent themselves is beyond me. And making them do this in a life or death situation is beyond cruel.

When we sing our National Anthem we sing: "For those who've come across the seas we've boundless plains to share." What's happening to our society for us to change our values so dramatically? What sort of society do we want to live in? Our political leaders should be leading, not attempting to tap into the xenophobic undercurrents in Australian society.

As an entrepreneur, in theory the last party I should be voting for is The Greens. I've not voted for them before but I can't be a part of this cruel shift in values in our society, so based on both refugee and climate policy The Greens now have my vote in this election.

I'm still undecided on who I preference. Both major parties have good NBN policies, however neither of them have come out with a strong Computer Science eduction policy which I think is the most critical factor in developing a strong Startup Ecosystem in Australia. With only 4,500 Australian graduating with computer science degrees each year who is actually going to build applications and services that use the NBN? So I can't really distinguish between the two major parties to decide on who to preference. They've both dedicated so much time to issues like asylum seekers which should have a compassionate, thought out, logical, bipartisan approach, that they've ignored critical issues like eduction.

So I'm voting for The Greens this election. No policy of the major parties is enough to get my vote at the expense of such a deplorable change in our values.