Friday, January 31, 2014

The Risk Not Taken

Great post by Andy Dunn, co-founder and CEO of Bonobos, on risk and his decision making process to start Bonobos versus taking a high paying job at a Venture Capital firm.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Happy First Birthday to Shoes of Prey at David Jones!

Friday was a very exciting day at Shoes of Prey as our beautiful and high performing store in David Jones Sydney turned 1 year old! It's been an incredible year with a huge list of achievements:

  • Dave Knapp along with Matt Newell, Andrew Fraser and the team at The General Store did an incredible job designing, building and launching the store. Riwtik put together this awesome time lapse video showing the build process.

  • Our amazing tech team took our web based shoe designer and converted it into a very user friendly iPad app for our customers to use in store.

  • Dave handed the keys over to Lydia and Maria who did an unbelievable job hiring our store team which currently consists of Anita, Annabelle, Chloe, Kitty and Vibha. The team do an incredible job in store, not only has the store smashed it's first year sales targets but we regularly receive amazing feedback on the team in our NPS emails.

  • Lydia has done a wonderful job building our relationship with David Jones. We now have shoes in their bridal suite, we've trained their shoe floor staff to know when to refer customers to us and we have great relationships with everyone at DJs from the shoe floor staff and their manager Julie, right up to DJs senior management team and board.

  • The work that Dave and The General Store did on the store design was so fantastic that late last year the store won the award for "Best Store Design under 1200sqm" at the World Retail Awards in Paris. This is an incredible achievement and speaks to what an amazing store we have to work with and share with our customers.

We're very excited to celebrate an amazing 12 months in store!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Storytelling: We love complexity but need simplicity

I've been doing a lot of speaking and I'm always working on making sure I am delivering something interesting and useful. It got me thinking about a few things I'd love your thoughts on.

The people I find the most interesting and engaging in life are the ones who seem to be full of passion and complexity, but are able to share it with me in a way that's short, punchy and compelling. They're also people who are interested in what's happening around them, drawing out stories and including others in the conversation. When speaking, it's an interesting challenge to look for the balance between talking for 30-60 minutes about Shoes of Prey while also involving the audience and hearing their interesting stories.

Being real
I know a lot of people get nervous about public speaking, but I'm really lucky to say that I don't. One reason is that I do it a lot. The other and possibly the biggest reason is that no-one outside of my co-founders and I know the topic of Shoes of Prey better. While I'm not an expert on the theories of marketing or technology, I'm someone who can share experiences. I can tell you what worked and what didn't at Shoes of Prey and my theories on why that happened. I can tell you what I would and wouldn't do again. And I aim to make this valuable and applicable for others. I try to share experiences that have short term actionable outcomes and also ones with longer-term more strategic thoughts that I haven't quite solved yet with a view that things I say may resonate now or at some time down the track when you face the same thing.

Dealing with complex topics
Shoes of Prey is a pretty complex person :) I generally try to stick to one topic in any presentation. I could spend hours on any single topic, let along covering multiple topics, so here's how I've broken it down:
  • Technology and how to use it to disrupt an industry
  • Technology and fashion
  • Retail: clicks to bricks, multichannel retailing, the future of retail
  • Women in business (the journey really is so different)
  • The personal journey of an entrepreneur: The truth as nobody tells it
  • How to deal with "failure" and how to properly assess the possibility of failure so it doesn't become a barrier to taking a step forward.
  • Stopping expertise from getting in the way of a good idea
  • Innovation: What it is, how to foster it
  • Agile: Why you have to do everything before you are ready
  • How to make the change from a traditional career to your dream career

    Sharing the experience
    Although I don't use quite as many anecdotes as Malcolm Gladwell, I do share learnings through stories. I do it to give context which can:
  • Set up mental triggers for when you find yourself in the same situation I was in
  • To try and make it memorable
  • To create a bridge between the learning and practical tips on how to/not to do the same thing.

    I never ever try to dress up my delivery with fancy anything. I have slides sometimes, but there's no fancy transitions, sound effects or video. My style and approach is to create an intimate discussion. I try not to take myself too seriously. I don't think about pauses and intonation. I just try and make it a great conversation. Like an audition to go to a really great dinner party.

    Being asked to speak
    I get about 3 requests a day and I'm just starting to look at formalising all of this with an agent. If you are or have ever been involved in this industry, I'd love to hear your tips!

    Who have been some of the best speakers you've seen?
    What did they do or say that really made an impact?
    What are some of the things you think about when you're speaking?
    Or, what are some of the worst things you've seen speakers do?

    Jodie x

  • The Start-Up Vortex of Doom

    Great post by Rebekah Campbell of Posse.

    Tuesday, January 21, 2014

    Board Meetings

    I've slowed down on the blogging a bit over the last few months as it's been an incredibly busy period. My workload seems to be getting back to normal now so I'm going to spend some time reflecting on what I've learnt over the last few months and hopefully turn that into some blog posts over the coming weeks.

    One thing I've been reflecting on recently is our board meetings. This post from Mark Suster on his excellent Both Sides of the Table blog sparked some thoughts around this.

    For the first 3 years of Shoes of Prey we didn't have a board. We were self-funded so didn't have investors who would naturally want to join the board, and while we had a good group of people we went to for advice, we hadn't put a formal board together. In hindsight that probably worked ok, but having worked with a board over the last 18 months it's been a big help for getting us thinking through the big, strategic decision and more recently for holding us as accountable as a management team.

    I had never attended let alone organised a board meeting before, so our first few board meetings were pretty unstructured. Our board and observers helped provide some template structures for running a board meeting and putting together a board pack and for the last 6-9 months I think we've been doing a reasonably efficient job of running the meetings.

    Evaluation ourselves against what Mark suggests for running a good board meeting:

    • Our management team put together a detailed board pack which we email out to attendees 48-72 hours before the board meeting. We start the board meeting assuming this pack has been read by everyone and that's generally the case, we don't walk through it slide by slide, rather we'll quickly flick through the slides and people can shout out if they have questions or want to discuss any particular points. Putting the board pack together is time consuming for our management team, but it's a good process for us to evaluate what's happened over the previous month, and we've synced it with a lot of our internal reporting that we need to do anyway, so it's a useful and relatively efficient process. The pack has evolved over time as attendees have shared their feedback and thoughts on it.

    • I don't schedule 1:1 calls the week before the meeting, and this is an interesting suggestion from Mark. I do have regular conversations with our two board members Rick Baker and Bill Bartee (almost weekly with Rick) so I think that's a good equivalent. And I'd have semi-regular conversations with our board observers, so I don't think the scheduled 1:1 calls are needed in our case.

    • I think we do a reasonable job of setting the agenda of the board meeting to deal with the most important topics, but I could improve on this. We have a section each board meeting titled 'Key Topics for Discussion'. Usually I put one or two topics here for us to run through. I put this slide at the end of the deck but for the next board meeting I'm going to change this and bring it up to the front of the deck. In a related post Mark mentions "Remember, your goal in a board meeting is to maximize the amount of discussion time you have with the smart people you’ve assembled and get their reactions to the key strategic issues you’re debating internally. You’re looking to get their experiences from other companies and to challenge your thinking." Bringing these key strategic areas to the top of the board pack should help us maximise this time. We have two other sections with updates on our key projects and follow up actions from the previous board meeting, and those work well covering off the other main areas. Then we have a section on the areas Mike, Jodie, myself and from next board meeting Joel as our Senior Marketing Manager identify as the successes, failures, red flags and key actions for the next month. We get a slide each and it's been suggested a few times that we tighten this up so for the next board meeting I might experiment with halving the space we each have and changing the headings to 'Wins' and 'What keeps me up at night'.

    • We've recently started taking minutes in the board meeting so that we're recording all the action items, and Todd who collates these has been emailing them out after each meeting. We then report on these in the following board pack which holds us accountable to actioning them. This has been working really well.

    Mark mentions that the ideal board meeting is split time wise as follows:

    • Provide information / context (15%) - we probably spend slightly more time on this, perhaps 25%, but it's generally only in relation to giving more detailed background on key areas that we want to discuss and debate rather than areas that aren't important, so I think that's ok.

    • Discuss, debate and potentially reach decisions on the most important topics (70%) - this is where we spend the bulk of our time which is good. We can improve on it though, I think we get distracted by smaller issues sometimes, so I plan to bring the key strategic issues to the front of the board pack so we can deal with those first.

    • Deal with company admin: 409a valuations, approve stock options, vote on key measures (15%) - this is an area we actually spend less time on and that's a failing of mine, I tend to ignore these company admin tasks which isn't a good thing. I need to improve on ensuring we get these things done. To action this, I'll ask for a list of the admin tasks that need to be done each year and slot them into a schedule so I don't miss any.

    For some other startup board related reading this post from Posse's Rebekah Campbell is a good one.

    Any good lessons you've learnt from your experiences with board meetings?

    Image credit. A meeting of a board of directors of the Leipzig–Dresden Railway Company in 1852.