An early stage business shares many of the same functions as a larger company such as product development, marketing, accounting and customer support. Where a large company might have an entire department of people focusing on just one of those areas, members of a startup usually are required to wear many different hats.
I personally enjoy the variety that comes with the need to spread myself across many different roles. In any given day I could be recording content, deploying Facebook marketing campaigns or producing a profit & loss statement using Xero.
Whilst working on many different tasks helps keep things fresh, it certainly can be difficult to manage. Even working alongside Leo every day we still need to devote time to managing and organising our workloads in the hope of keeping the focus on the most important task at any one time.
Sometimes it’s easy to get lost in the act of being busy, without questioning the value of the work you’re doing. As the launch of the new website dragged on into its fourth week this issue of focus became highly relevant for us.
What we learned
At the start of the week, the design of the website was essential done. Leo had built an extremely attractive WordPress website that featured 5 uniquely designed pages. However, despite the fact that the design was done the messaging and the user experience had not been properly thought through, which meant the launch date was still nowhere in sight.
Sometimes you just need to block everything out and focus
For the last two weeks, I’ve been locked away in a room recording the Internship Accelerator course. Whilst I was doing that Leo had been designing the Upstart Academy brand and the website.
Now that the Internship Accelerator was finished, the only thing left to finish before the launch was the website. Everything else that we had planned for marketing our service depended on the Website being live. Halfway through the week, we both agreed to put everything else to the one side and focus 100% of our efforts on finishing off the website.
We spent the entirety of Thursday, Friday, Saturday and then Sunday finishing off the website but it was certainly the right move. When we hit play on the new website on Monday afternoon it felt like a huge boulder had been removed from our path, freeing up our attention to move on with our go-to-market plan.
What’s changed for us?
One of the recurring themes of these blog posts is the ever developing working relationship between Leo and I. Working together on this website was another great example of how we’re getting better at producing work together as a team and learning the fine art of collaboration and delegation.
When to collaborate
Finding the right message isn’t always easy. Especially when you’re trying to market a completely new product/ service like we are. Dealing with people with limited attention spans makes clear and concise writing on websites crucial.
Admittedly Leo and I have vastly different writing styles. I have a tendency to be very literal with my written words, where Leo coming from a more creative background like to use emotive language.
Combining these two styles can produce a well-balanced piece of prose. The process that we’ve now refined for doing this is to collaborate on each section of the website together until we narrow down on the perfect message.
(the document we used to adapt our copywriting. We start with a foundation and then add or subtract parts until we’re both happy with the final product.)
The trick to making this process work is to keep the momentum going. With each piece of text given no more than 10 minutes attention, we avoid the trap of trying to cram too many meanings into the one message.
When to delegate
Obviously, there are some tasks that need to be completed by the person with the right skillset. Leo has a talent for design and I like to think I’m capable of creating some half-decent content. This is why I’ve been responsible for producing or learning content, whilst Leo has been handling the design of the new website.
Despite the fact that each of us understands that we are responsible for a certain task, that doesn’t mean we need to do everything ourselves. When creating the Internship Accelerator I had Leo design all of the slides that I used. When creating the website Leo needed me to outline the specific content of our Digital Marketing curriculum.
(a comparison between my wireframes on the left vs the completed website on the right)
To achieve this outcome efficiently I designed some extremely basic wireframes using Balsamiq that included the basic structure of the website and the copy to be included. Leo then took these designs and turn then into new pages on our website, all in just a matter of a few hours.
The plan for next week
With our new website launching on Monday afternoon, we’re looking forward to switching the attention onto marketing our service. Leo is going to be leading up our marketing efforts, whilst I’m going to be in charge of building our content and managing the user experience.
With the official halfway mark of the program ticking over next week, we’re completely focused on delivering on our promise to start building traction in the coming weeks. The month of May is going to be a crucial one for the Upstart team and we’re excited about the challenge!