Lost and Founder

In this special episode of the podcast I share my answers to three questions I received when doing an AMA (Ask Me Anything) with the Software as a Service community on Reddit this week.

Show Notes

It's hard to scale down an hour long conversation, followed by an evening of written Q&A on Reddit into a ~20 minute show, but tonight I tried.

On this special episode of the show I have experimented with a different format – with three questions from the AMA, and a summary of my answers. Hope you enjoy the episode!

In this episode I share my answers to:
  • How has working with the team changed over the years?
  • How have we managed to get publicity for GoSquared over the years?
  • What advice would I give to my 20 year old self?

Actions / take aways

  • As a CEO, a lot of your job is to: give direction, unblock, and communicate with your team.
  • Don't purely focus on the marketing that is measurable – take risks, experiment, be bold. Do things that are impossible to measure.
  • With your marketing – make time for responding and reacting to news-worthy events in your industry. Newsjacking is a thing!
  • Be clear with what you want from life, from your business, from your team. It will make a lot of things easier.
  • Find a coach to help you make time for yourself and clarify your thoughts. You'll be glad you did.

Links and further reading

Thanks, and see you next time!

P.S. I'm on Twitter https://twitter.com/jamesjgill

Music: Jakarta by Bonsaye, provided by https://www.epidemicsound.com/referral/yjub4r

What is Lost and Founder?

Being a startup founder is not all private jets and parties. Truthfully, being a founder is a lonely, difficult, stressful, yet rewarding way to spend your life. James Gill started GoSquared with two friends from school in 2006, and in this podcast he shares his struggles, excitement, and everything in between with refreshing honesty.

Hi, everyone. Welcome to another episode of lost and founder. This is episode seven. And I'm, I'm pleased to say this week is a slightly different episode. So, one I'm recording a little bit later in the week as I've been doing these, it's been slipping later in later, but I don't know if that's a trend that will continue.

It can't continue forever. Otherwise I'd never do a show ever again. Which is not my goal. This week though I'm recording on a Thursday and that's because today I've been doing. AMA an ask me anything on Reddit with the Reddit, SaaS community as in software as a service community. And I thought it would be helpful to just share some of the questions I've received as part of the AMA today.

Only a handful and I thought it would just be a good way to structure the show and that's it. Helpful or interesting or different? Well, certainly be different. And hopefully it goes it's, it's helpful for people out there, so yeah, let's tuck him and try this out. So yeah, episode seven, here we go.

The AMA. I started with a Twitter spaces session with with Daniel CH Daniel on Twitter. Our link is Twitter in the, in the show notes. And Daniel asked me a bunch of great questions live and I thought Well, while it was recorded, I thought it might be good to just relay those questions on, on this show.

And hopefully they could be helpful for people. And I guess, yeah, there's a couple of questions I just wanted to rattle through and you know, I'd like to try and keep the show to 15, 20 minutes. Yes. And that's certainly my goal today and not to go too far over, but I think one of the things I realized.

Talking with Daniel for over an hour today is that it's very easy to go down a rabbit hole on, on many of these topics and could easily spend all day talking about any of them. But the first time question or what are the first questions? I couldn't remember exactly how it was phrased, but Daniel asked me about our team.

He had already met a couple of other members of the team Beth and, and Russell who were both on the Twitter spaces live audio session and Daniel was asking me about essentially, how has the team evolved and changed and how, how do we work with, with people that are so driven and, and dedicated.

And I thought it was just generally quite a good topic to start with because I think. With, with the world of company building and especially with the world of entrepreneurial-ism and startups think a lot of the focus often goes to the founder or the CEO or the person at the top of the, the suppose that hierarchy of of the company.

And I think it's important. It is important to try and. Emphasize that, that obviously companies are made up of many, many people. And and that I think is a big reason why I love running GoSquared and running a company is that I get to work with some fantastic people. And I get to, you know, for the most part, choose who I work with.

And enjoy enjoy that experience. And I always feel very honored that anyone would choose to, to join us on this journey and join me on this journey because they're putting a lot of trust and faith in in me. But also in what we're doing. And I think from, from my perspective, one of the things that has evolved or changed over.

Year and a half, two years, obviously since the global pandemic is that for us as a company, we used to be entirely in one office. We used to all be around a set of tables in a, in an office in central London. And we had a very close knit culture in the office. We'd all get lunch together as a team.

Weird. Get in at similar times, leave at similar times. And we had a real routine as a, as a group of people. And, and that was a lot that I loved about that. And I think everyone enjoyed about that. And I think we were quite fearful that by going remote that as we were forced to do it early in 2020 I think we were worried that we would lose a lot of our culture.

That things would get worse. And that things would decline from where we were. And, you know, I can't say that going remote has, has made everything better or solved like, or solved problems left right. And center or that everything's unanimously been better, but I think. In many ways, the pressure to go remote encouraged us to rethink a lot of things that we had always taken for granted, or that were not considered changing or testing out or experimenting before.

And, and since going remote, I think over time, and especially as at least London and the UK has been starting to open up a little bit more, thankfully we've been finding new more, more I guess, adventurous or different ways of working together as a team. And I think over time we've seen the rigidness and the structure.

Become a lot more flexible as a team. So people obviously work in their own environments and and increasingly choosing where they work. Not necessarily at home, but from coffee shops or from or going into an office every now and again, if they want to, but also finding more flexibility in when they're working and when they're not wherever it's starting a little bit later or starting earlier and.

Yeah. It, I think overall those changes have actually, yeah. A really positive effect for a lot of the team. And I, I think a lot of teams are often worried about some of those changes. And for me, a lot of it really comes down to having shared trust within the team that you trust team members, you trust the people be working.

And I think maybe there's a, I don't know if there's a generational divide that, but like often when I talk to family members and whether that's parents or, or other relatives there's often this assumption that people working remotely, like it's hard to see what they're doing, or they might be Skyping off work.

And I think for the most part, the opposite has been true from what I've seen as a team over the last year, year and a half. And. Actually people are working far harder and more. And I think part of my job is to try and help people find the balance in in their daily lives to try and make sure they don't work themselves into the ground and, and have that balance between what they're doing in the working day and what they're doing in their personal lives and trying to make sure they have clear division between the two.

But I think all of the. The benefits we've seen from, from the team, having more flexibility and an autonomy largely stemmed from having good trust in the team and, and making sure that we all communicate with each other as effectively as possible. And it's obviously tested us on many fronts, but I think by, by hiring good people that you really do deeply trust to do their jobs.

And by, by giving them what they need that trust is earned on both sides. And I think a lot of my role as the CEO is really about helping to give, give the direction and enough direction that people can go and do their jobs. Not so much direction that people fell in trying to do their job for them.

Trying to, trying to really unblock people and making sure that people can achieve what they need to do and are not held up by, by me or by other people. And by just making sure I try to hold the highest standards of communication within the team. And I, I definitely know I've got work to do on all of those, but that's sort of where I see increasingly increasingly my role as a CEO, I think it's really important and arguably more important than ever as a remote team of autonomous driven people.

So that's pretty much one of the first, yeah, that's one of the first questions I caught and hopefully that's a helpful answer.

One of the next questions I got was around getting publicity for getting squared. It was a bit more of a sort of practical software as a service business building kind of question, but I thought it was quite a good one. And Daniel had clearly done some research into the company and maybe a and what publicity we received in the past.

But over the years go squared as risks. And a lot of publicity for various different. So we've, we've been in tech publications like tech crunch but we've also been in very well known public. Publications and been featured in in much broader, wider audience news channels and things like that.

So we've been featured in the BBC on the BBC news. We've been on sky news. I've been on Bloomberg before. I've been on the cover of Square Mile as Daniel mentioned in the, in the AMA and and the company has been. You've been featured in almost like every news that, that, that I can think to imagine for one reason or another not to mention all sorts of other things we've done, like getting into industry.

Blogs and getting mentioned by big names on Twitter and things like that. And so I guess, yeah, some of the questions were really around, like how have we managed some of that? And I, I thought initially I was quite humbled because I hadn't really thought of it as anything. Amazing or special, but in total, I think there's a lot, perhaps that is helpful to share from what we've done to achieve some of that.

And it made me reflect on, on the actually some of those achievements we've had. And, and I think in many ways, a lot of the things we've done well in terms of publicity have been, have often been fortunate encounters and lucky situation. And timely opportunities that we've jumped on. And I think a lot of them come from being quick to respond and quick to act.

And and the session today I mentioned I picked up a book called news jacking a while ago, and it was featuring lots of bigger name brands. Jumped on the news cycle to to further their own brand image. So all sorts of high street names and big global brands jumping on various news. I'm trying to think of examples.

Like I think that, yeah, th it struggled to think of an example off the top of my head here, but. I think that, that, that book inspired me quite a bit with some of our approach. And when you look at some of the things we've, we've done a lot of them have been very timely. Yeah. And an opportunistic and I guess the main takeaway from that, I think I would say is that often, if you want to find exposure and awareness, You can't plan for it all.

And if anything, the thing you need to plan for is, is having, making that time to be responsive, to be able to react to things happening. And so every day there is news. Every day, there is something. That people are talking about whether you want it or not, whether you like it or not. There is always a new cycle, wherever it's the latest Twitter trend or the latest headline on BBC news.

There's always something new that, that people are talking about. And every time that happens, there's POS possibly an opportunity for your company or brand. Yourself to have something to say about it. And every time you have something to say about something, that's an opportunity for some exposure.

Obviously you don't want to be doing that every, every day. And you don't want to be doing that all the time. And there were topics you want to stay well clear of. But it's, I think it's a fascinating and often undervalued approach. And I think the tendency in tech and in SaaS, in particular in our industry is to look at very clear, cut, very measurable opportunities and marketing tactics that have very precise, clear success or failure measurement, and a lot of these.

Opportunities by their very nature. They can't be, they can't be measured. And even when you've done them, it's very hard to see sometimes what the impact is or directly attribute any impact from it. But I think in many ways with marketing, you have to just be comfortable with the idea that a lot of what you do, marketing wise.

Can't be accurately measured and that if you only do what you can measure, then your end up overall with a very dry and probably ineffective actually marketing strategy. And that you always need to be doing things that are hard to measure that maybe are even almost impossible to justify with numbers a day.

And I would encourage you to just put time aside for. For jumping on opportunities and being relevant on a daily basis and try it for a week, try it for a few weeks and see if there's anything you can jump on. Maybe putting a little bit of time aside each day and give it a go and then see what happens.

And I wish you the best of luck trying that out.

The final question I wanted to talk about on the show this week was I thought a question that led to a much deeper, deeper conversation than maybe I was expecting. And it was, what advice would I give to my 20 year old self? And the question itself made me feel quite old. Yeah. It feels like yesterday I was 20.

And I am now the grand old age of 30. And and they certainly made me reflect on, on, on things. And in the short space of time I had on a live video broadcast on Twitter. I tried to think about the most significant things that I wish I had known when I was 20. And yeah. I think probably, well, I know what I said on the broadcast and I think it still remains true having reflected on it for maybe an hour or so more.

And that is that. Getting clear with yourself about your own goals and what, what makes you happy and what doesn't make you happy in life is really, really important. And the clearer you can be with yourself about what you want, then the easier a lot of other things become. Yeah. And I think this is especially true for people that are in a small team.

We're looking to start a business. The number of times I've talked to other, other founders, and they're asking me for advice on whether they should go and raise funding and how best to do that, and whether they should target this customer, that customer, or whether they should build this or that. And frankly, I'm a terrible person to give an answer to and to that because I can give you my opinions, but those are my opinions.

And there are no right or wrong answers to what, what you as a, as an entrepreneur or a founder should do. In reality, what, what you should do is try and get clear on those answers for yourself. Because anyone who says one way or another, and that that's the only way is almost certain. Wrong. Because you can build a company in so many different ways.

You can choose so many ways to raise money. You can choose to build a company without raising money. You can choose to build a business that focuses on revenue growth at all costs. You can focus on building a business that is. Driven and monetary revenue figures come a lot later or never a tool because you want to be acquired.

You can not want to build a company at all, and you'd go work for someone else. You all of these things though, two years and the individual and getting clear on what you want to do. And that's why in terms of advice, I would give myself the advice. If I was talking to my 20 year old self today across the table, I would I would give myself the advice to spend more time thinking about what I, what I want and getting to, and what I enjoy and what I don't enjoy.

And one of the best ways I have found. Finally start getting through with myself on that is to work with a coach and to find someone who will be there to help guide you through that thinking. And the reason I suggest getting a coach has been, because if you're anything like me, then it's very hard, hard to answer some of these questions sitting on your own or like writing in your own notes.

Without any external prompting or helping. It's very easy to put answering those questions off because they feel like they're not very urgent and no one's going to know definitely whether you've done them or not. But I find working with a coach and I've worked with a coach for every year. To be incredibly valuable for forcing me to put time aside and to think about myself and what I am struggling with, what I'm excited about and what I want and everything.

Every few weeks I have a session and mostly that session is me talking. Yeah, it's vocalizing and getting out what's in my head. And the reason that coach is so valuable and helpful is that they don't spend. Much time at all talking, but they ask choice questions and good questions to help guide, guide your thinking.

Go do what you're saying and to help you surface a lot of answers that you already have within yourself. And I think that's, that's incredibly valuable and incredibly powerful to realize that actually so many answers to the big questions you already have inside you somewhere. You just need to find a way to unlock them.

And working with someone else and talking with someone else can be the difference between those things. Staying locked up in your head forever. And you actually doing something about them step by step, day by day. So I hope that's helpful.

So there, we have it – three questions from the AMA today. I could, we've done probably about 10 questions, maybe more, and I could have done a lot more to talk through any of those questions. If you would like me to do another show like this, please let me know. Because there's plenty more where I came from.

And if it was helpful, if it was a good format, if it was a better format, if it was a worst format, I really want to hear from you so that I can keep iterating and improving the show. And if you've got questions, you wanna ask them, please Chuck them away. And and I'll do my best to read them up.

I just in wrapping up the show, I always like to do a little, few little action steps and action. I'm winging this a little bit, but I think pretty much overall, I would say in terms of the first point on the team try to, as a founder, I think I would say first and foremost, try to make sure you're spending your time, giving people direction on blocking them and communicating clearly with them.

I'd also say that building trust within a team starts with hiring. Great people and being really diligent of your hiring process. And then also just make sure once you've hired great people, that you give them the space to be autonomous and, and live to their full potential within your team and give them what they, as much as you can, what they need and get the hell out of their way when they don't need you.

The second one around publicity and getting more publicity. I think the one thing I would just encourage them on that one is, is just try to put time aside for the unexpected and be comfortable with the knowledge that not everything you do can be measured. And actually some of the most valuable, impactful stuff often is extremely hard to measure.

And just open your open yourself to the opportunity of doing things that matter. Maybe have some risk and maybe have some uncertainty, but that could, could be good opportunities and test it out, try it out and see what happens. And then last but not least, I'm giving advice to my 20 year old self as an age old, 30 year old, make time for yourself and get clear with what you want and what you want to do.

And the best way in my eyes to do that is to, to find someone who can be a coach for you and someone who can on a regular basis, talk with you, listen, move you and help you unlock what you already have in store. So I hope that's been okay. A valuable session. Thanks again to everyone for tuning in. I'm sorry for being a, a day late this week.

But I hope you can figure me and I very much look forward to chatting with you again next week. And if you have any more feedback, just share it with me at anytime. I'm @JamesJGill on Twitter and yeah, drop me a note in the, in the podcast, glare of your choice. If you have feedback on the show and want to share it with other people, it helps get more exposure to the show and continue to grow the show and helps encourage me to keep doing these.

So thanks again for listening and I'll catch you next time. Cheers!