We recently concluded our much awaited team offsite to the Nilgiris, a hill range in South Western India. We visited Wild Planet Resort, Devalla and this came highly recommended from our friends. It was a 7 hour journey from Bangalore, an hour of which was navigating a no-connectivity zone. In fact, the property had only intercoms and no network for either phones or internet. They said it was deliberate. One of the signs read :
The comfortable cottages are built on stilts and the whole place was a haven amidst wildlife greenery. Among other fun things, we zip-lined, kayaked, swam, hiked and played snooker, poker and mafia.
There were two main reasons why we decided to meet every 90 days outside of work. Firstly, our milestones and OKRs are set per quarter. It makes sense to do a short but effective introspection, celebrate our wins and fine tune our next four quarter plan. Secondly, we work remote and are spread across multiple time zones. We huddle up every alternate week for marathon in-person problem solving.
While all of us find remote set ups appealing and highly productive, it makes sense to meet up as a whole for collective thinking and decision making. The method has better buy-in and richer discussions.
Our objective was to answer and get consensus on three pertinent questions.
- Which values and principles would drive work at Alltius?
- What would define success in the medium term? For us and our customers.
- Which bets should we evaluate?
For the first, we broke out into 5-6 pairs and listed down all the things we wished our previous employers had offered us. We also listed down one good value for which we would always remember our previous managers. Interestingly, all of the group had 80-90% similarity on both lists. In a way, what motivates (and by that logic demotivates) people to push the envelope has a fairly universal appeal. It is just a matter of identifying them and putting them in practise in your teams.
Here is what we agreed on.
- Customer and Employee First Mindset : We are obsessed about the happiness of our customers and employees. All our business goals align and subordinate to them.
- Respectful Listening : We listen to feedback with utmost humility - from our colleagues, from our customers. And being respectful while at it is non-negotiable.
- Everyday Learning : We must be better versions of ourselves with every new day. Any learning is welcome - especially if it's from our coworkers or our competitors.
- No Surprises, High Accountability : We owe it to ourselves to keep our stakeholders informed and self-govern accordingly. We are accountable to our and our colleagues’ outcomes.
- Keep it Simple and Nimble : We design for making things simple and efficient. We hold the same bar for our own processes, communication and problem solving.
Next, we did an exercise to figure out what success would mean for Alltius in a 3-5 year horizon. There were many metrics all of us came up with. Some were causes and some were consequences. But they all broadly fell in three categories.
Alltius must achieve material revenue scale ($ xxx ARR)
Ticket sizes and customer counts will always partly contribute to scale. Never wholly. Moreover, there was thumping consensus on having cash flow positivity in sight. To achieve this velocity, a win-rate backed by a strong value promise is important.
Alltius products must be loved (xx+ NPS : user level love, yy+ CSAT : account level love)
Nothing powers sales flywheel like retention. Almost all of the momentum is spawned by product love. If 1 was about value promise, this goal is about value demonstration.
Alltius products must be omnipresent (xx MAUs)
A company achieves a verb status when a really large number of people use its product very frequently. Along with product-love, it makes sense to achieve topical authority by being at the front of things and maintaining months of head start on your product.
Lastly, we discussed what kinds of big bets would take us closer to success. Obviously there are dozens of variables and eventualities, but the idea was to calibrate the ambitions of each team member and bring all of us on the same plane. From about 9 moonshots we agreed to evaluate, it was clear that our mission as a company was becoming clearer.
We unequivocally agreed that we are in the space to put really really smart AI powered assistants in the hands of all working professionals.