The Entrepreneur Podcast
The Entrepreneur Podcast

Episode · 2 years ago

19. Prioritization: How to cut through entrepreneurial overwhelm and focus on what actually matters with Janet Bannister, Managing Partner of Real Ventures

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Early this year Janet Bannister, HBA ’92, became the first woman to lead one of Canada’s largest early-stage VC firms.

Janet has built her career on quickly figuring out what matters, and then becoming the best in the world at those things. She has had a diverse career, with roles at Procter & Gamble (P&G), McKinsey & Co., and eBay, which led to her founding the online marketplace, Kijiji.

On this episode, Janet talks about her entrepreneurial beginnings, why a career in management consulting is great training for life as an entrepreneur, and how to cut through the noise to focus on what really matters in your start-up or scale-up.

You're listening to the Ivy Entrepreneur podcast from the Pierre L Morrisse at Institute for Entrepreneurship at the Ivy Business School. In this series, Ivy Entrepreneur and Ivy Faculty member Eric Jansson will anchor the session. Well, Janet Banister, thank you so much for coming in and sharing some time with us. Well, thank you very much. It's great to be here. Yeah, it's good to sit down with you. We've been looking forward to sitting down and having a conversation for a long time. Thanks. Well, I've been looking forward to this, so I'm glad we could make it happen. Yeah, good. So I got a lot of topics to talk about. I'm going to get into one of the main ones I want to focus on, which is prioritization and how to prioritize what to focus on on an earlier growth stage company. But before we get there, I want to rewind sort of back to your very, very early entrepreneurial career. So I did a little bit of homework and I may have read that you started a potential baking business when you were fifteen years old. Is this where it all got started for you? That is where it all guards started. So you know it actually, well, I suppose it started the sun where before that, when I was fourteen years old and I was at our cottage and I read Lyne around the cottage, was this book called Lee I caught I a coca, which was the story of Leaah Coca who had turned Chrysler around, and I read that book and I was just I found this story fascinating and and I decided that I thought business was actually extremely interesting and that I wanted to learn more about business. And so I am the youngest of four kids and my four older siblings were all working in the summer. So I had sort of decided that probably next summer, when I was fifteen years old, I would should get a job and start to make money. And so I thought, well, I want to get a job and learn about business. But I also thought, well, you know what, who's going to hire a fifteen year old girl with no experience to do something really medy and meaningful? So I thought, well, I know what I'll do, I'll start my own business and that that way all learn a lot. And so at that sort of how it started. And, as you say, I thought about okay, what do I love to do and I thought, well, I love to bake and I was also a competitive grunner at that time, so I was also focused on eating lots of healthy food. So I thought, I know, I'LL START I muffin business and it'll be healthy, yummy muffins, and so that's what I ended up doing. So I know he went to Julia before we got going here. That also your father was in sales. So did he help you get this off the ground from a sales perspective? Yeah, so it was great. So I guess two things. First of all, I had would had done the junior achievement program, which is a great program that teaches high school students about business. And then, as you say, my father was an IBM sales rap, and so through that, you know, my father encourage me. Hey, if you're going to do it, do it right, and so I you know, in those days we didn't look at things on Internet. We went to the library and got out a book. So I went to the library and got out a book about how to write a business plan. We had all about it road a business plan. My father taught me how to do projected financial statements and did a bunch of marker research during the school year, did unit cost analysis to figure out the cost of different types of muffins, did research in terms of what flavors would be most popular, and so road to ended up writing a very comprehensive business plan with financial projections by week etc. Finance projections by week for your baking business at the age of fifteen. Yes, exactly. And of course my father made sure that I had a structured sales call contemp like to go by. And so we lived in Toronto near Young and Lawrence, and so I decided I was going to sell my muffins through retail stores. So I went up and down Young Street and Avenue road and found little either bakeries or Delhi's or butcher shops, food markets or things like that that could sell my muffins.

And so ended up getting fifteen stores which agree to sell my muffins. And so then I would get up every morning around one o'clock, at one o'clock in the morning, bake about thirty or forty dozen muffins and then deliver them to all of the stores when they opened on my bicycle. Wow, this was not your run of the mill sell a few cupcakes, doore to door. This was you and commercial customers right away, and this was like, Babe, I used to buy bags of flower like twenty thirty pounds bags of flour and sugar and stuff. So yeah, I guess I went all in. That's awesome. So who incurd? Was it your father that encouraged you to do that? Why? Why not do what ninety nine point nine percent of the other people do, which is, I don't know, apply at the mall and get a job? What? Who encouraged you to stick your neck out of fifteen? Well, I guess I think for whatever reason, I was definitely the instigator and I was the driver who did this, and then my father, when he saw that I was excited, he was there to support me, but it was definitely me who was the driver, and I don't know, I just I think I just sort of thought about it logically and thought, Hey, I don't want to work at a mall like I'm that's going to get dull after a little while. And what is the best way for me to learn? And I think the best way for me to learn is to actually round a business. So, you know, let's run a business. And so that was sort of the extent of of my thinking. That's good, that's awesome. Good for you, what a cool experience to have at such a young age. Oh thanks, it was a great experience. And then I proceeded the next two summers. I mean again, you'll learn things when you're young. One then I realized, you know, hey, how do I scale this business, basically, and I thought, well, you know, I don't want to do this anyway. So I realize that you have to have a way to scale the business and I wasn't sure that I could get a whole host of other people baking muffins in their homes. I want to getting up at one o'clock in the morning and doing that add or doing a factory, and that wasn't going to sort of work. And so I ended up the next summer starting like a student painting company with my brother and so sort of like college pro except we did it under our own label so that we wouldn't have to pay the franchise fees. And I realize then, Hey, the first timmer we had about thirty students working for us. In the second summer we had about thirty students. So at first time we had about fifteen. Second Summer we had about thirty students and so that's when I learned about love verage and dumb how important it is to scale a business and be able to grow it. Wow, that's that's neat. So college pro nfortunately not around anymore, which I know handful of people that did it as a experience between sort of third and fourth year university. But student work still going strong. So I actually encourage people to do that if they're interested in an entrepreneur opportunity. Absolutely, it's an amazing experience. So a lot of young people when they graduate our face with this decision of going to work for a company or actually going and starting our own thing. So you actually had a really entrepreneurial youth but then, out of university, went to work for a big company. Maybe talk us through that decision. Absolutely, I mean I think there are two things. First of all, with my career I've always taken a very long term perspective and so I thought, long term I want to do something entrepreneurial, but I thought, I think in the short term I could probably learn a lot by going and working for an outstanding company and so then when I do become an entrepreneur, I can know more and be more successful as an entrepreneur. So that sort of one part of the answer. The second part is I think if I was graduating in today's world, I probably would have gone straight out and started a business. But it was very different than I mean, I don't know. I didn't know anybody from our graduating class who went and started a business after graduating for business school. I mean a couple of people went into a family business that they're their parents had already were let it was already up...

...and running and they went in that way. But entrepreneurship just was not a thing that was considered and so I think it was part of that. But, as I said, I thought, you know, that's what I want to do long term, so let me take advantage of this opportunity right now and work for somebody else and learn as much as I can first. And for you, reflecting back, you said you'd do it differently now, but was that the right call for you at the time? Absolutely, for me it was the right call. I suppose in life, you know you go down a road and you never really know, hey, how would have turned down turned out if you went down another road. But I can say that I feel very lucky and I'm very happy with the choices that I have made it in my career. Of course, you know some things. No, I wasn't perfect by any by any stretch, but I joined proctor and gamble when I graduated. I spent four years there. I was a brand manager there. It was an amazing learning opportunity. And then following that I spend about three and a half years I'm mackenzy and both of those experiences were very formative to me. They taught me a lot about business strategy, about analytics, about managing people, and that experience has been absolutely instrumental in helping me throughout my career. I see a lot of fanful of my guests that have come on I've actually made the move from consulting to then either joining high growth startup or going on to start their own thing. I have some ideas why that might be, but can you talk to why, maybe your opinion on why that is or why it was helpful for you to go from consulting to your first, you know, Higher Tech Venture? So I think that the advantage of consulting is that it teaches you to, I think, to major things. One it teaches you how to get into a into a situation and very quickly assess what's going on and what do you need to focus on. And you know, this talk is a lot about prioritization and consulting definitely teaches you prioritization in terms of, okay, there's so much information here, there's so many different things. What are the key things that I need to focus on as a management consulting? What are the key questions that I need to you resolve? And it very quickly teaches you to focus on those and to think through those things. So I think that's one thing. And then secondly, you know, frankly, teaches you to work really hard. You know, consulting, and I guess investment banking as well, is known for long hours and I think that that, frankly, I mean it teaches you, hey, you know what, you just sometimes got up put in the long hours and I think that that has been very helpful as well, and I see that a lot with the people that we work with. It just teaches you, hey, you know what, sometimes you just got to get it done and work hard and power through. So then, after three years at Mackenzie you went into your first I guess I might have been a leap of faith at that point, but in two thousand and one you went to Ebay. Maybe give us a feel for where was ebay AD in two thousand and one? was that a risky move at the time, or were they already at a firm footing? Yeah, so it was definitely it was. They was a firm footing. They had already gone public. But of course so, though. In those days companies went public far earlier than they do now. I mean the company had raised just over thirty million dollars when they went public. So again, very different than today. But where Ebay was when I joined it was a collectibles market place. Ninety percent of the things that were bought and sold on Ebay were collectible, so things like stamps, coins, etc. And so I joined Ebay to as a head of what we caught at that point the practicals category, so that was basically everything on the site excluding collectibles. So home and Guarden, jewelry, books, those sorts of things were all my responsibility and it was an amazing opportunity because what I...

...got to do was helped to transform Ebay from a collectibles to a mainstream market place. I suppose in terms of where the risk was, if you called it that is definitely there was a lot of skepticism among the senior management and probably amongst everybody and at Ebay at the time in terms of, Hey, can ebay ever actually become a mainstream market place? Because, as I said, it had always been a collectibles marketplace and ECOMMERCE purchasing was a commerce was still very early in those days, and so the concept was, hey, I understand, if I'm a stamp collector, that I'm willing to buy stamps online or trade stamps, you know, by collectable stamps or collectible coins or whatever online. Quote use, because use are the only things that are collective post. But people were like, okay, well, wait a minute, so people are actually going to buy youth clothing from each other online, like how does that work? And you know, people were barely buy new clothing online and so but I love so you know, as I said, there was a lot of skepticism. I remember initially when I joined, after a few weeks, I went and met with a meg women and the rest of the executive team and I laid of this plan in terms of how we were going to grow these categories and I could just tell they were sort of like looking amongst themselves thinking, okay, this is this, like this person is crazy, because I had forecasted, you know, sort of tripling, quadrupling growth, you over a year, and I sort of late at why Ebay could transition. And so it was. I suppose for some people it was a leap of faith, but I believed in my heart that we could change Ebay. Maybe it was a bit of dumb lucker do so, a dumb faith that I just thought, well, of course we can do this, and so so, anyways, that's what I went on to do, but it was it wasn't. It was a wonderful experience and I'm very feel, very fortunate that I got to spend that time at ebay and Silicon Valley. Any advice for people who are making that transition to looking for maybe a company to join? How did what were your criteria for choosing the company that you were going to join coming out of Mackenzie? Yes, so, when I left Mackenzie because I decided that I wanted to join a younger tech company, and by Tech I meant just something like you could say, he is Ebay really a tech company or not? But at that point. It was in those days, you know, it was technology and abled and I have changed my career a few times, you know, make and made decisions in terms of joining, for instance, proctor and Gambo, joining Ebay, etc. And so the advice that I would give is, first of all, you need to feel a level of passion and excitement for what you're going to be doing and then, secondly, you want to go to a company, think about both the company and the role and make sure that your role is central to the company. So, for instance, I wanted to go into marketing because I thought that was a good general grounding, and so I went to proctor and gamble because marketing is a core competency at proctor and gamble and it is, you know, it's sort of if you looked at the history of the company, was through marketing brand management. That is where people went through in order to get to the senior leadership role. Now, if I had wanted to go into finance, for instance, be g may not have been the best place to go in a finance I would say hey, maybe if you want to go in a finance maybe you should go to a bag as an example. So I think there needs to be an alignment between what functional area you want to go into and is that functional area a core of the company's success and a core driver? So I think there's that. There's also, as a said earlier, there's the sort of passion. Do you feel the passion for whatever this company is doing? And I remember after meeting. Actually was introduced to Ebay through make women and when I had my first meeting...

...with her, I remember leaving and I was just so excited about this opportunity to join Ebay and it just sort of like resonates your on my whole body and I thought like it just it just fell right, and I think that you know, you need to have that level of passion when you're going to make any career decisions because you're going to be working hard, is going to be tough times and if you don't have that level of passion to begin with, Passion with what the company is doing, passion about what the role is, then I think it's hard to get through. And then I think the third thing that I would say is think about the people who you're going to be working with. I don't think that you should necessarily pick a job because of your direct manager because your direct manager could leave the company in two months or there could be a reorganization and you could get a new direct manager. So I don't mean but you know, look at the quality of the people overall and are these the types of people who you want to work with? Can you learn a ton from these people? Then I think that would be the third thing that I would encourage people to look at. Interesting that you mentioned that Gut, the feel, the fuel component. So I feel least for me, it took me something that you sort of listen to when you're younger, but at least when I started my career I almost ignored it or push it out for maybe five to ten years, but then as you get a little more experience and get confident again, you start to listen to it. So I had posted recently. I posted on linkedin about a comment about doing what feels good, and I not going to say I got chastised for it, but I got a lot of push back on you know, doing what feels good is always, you know, the right answer, but I think as part of the whole equation, actually listening to your gut, that does factor and especially when you get confident enough to listen to it again. Absolutely, I think, a hundred percent. I think that you know, and I have had, frankly, a few times in my career, I would say, where I did things because I thought this is what I should do and it never really worked out. Um, I think that if you're going to do something like yes, it has to me both, you could say. It has to check both boxes. It needs to be something where you think, Hey, you know what, in this helps me, I'm going to learn, I'm going to build my track record, I'm going to build some skills like that's great. Absolutely, it needs to check that box, but it also needs to check the box that you're passionate about it, that you're going to enjoy it, because it doesn't matter what you're doing. If you are not passionate about what you're doing, if you do not love what you're doing, then that will show. And on the reverse, on the flip side, if you love what you are doing, you will bring a level of enthusiasm, a level of energy, you will think about it and you will perform at a much higher level, not to mention the fact that you'll be happier in your life and all that stuff. But I just I do not think that you can be. You cannot be as successful as you can be. You cannot maximize your personal success doing something that you do not like to do. Yeah, so got started at Ebay. I want to get into sort of the second half of our conversation here, which is maybe the craziness of Kijiji. Yeah, so you started at Ebay, grew the component of the business that you were responsible for. But taking back to the early days of Kijiji, how did Kijiji come out of Ebay and how did you come to be responsible for the Canadian component of it? Absolutely, absolutely, so. What happened was so I'd been at Ebay in the valley for about four years. It was great a grew those categories that I was responsible for, sort of triple or quadrup with them every year. You over a year. Wonderful experience. However, I was from Canada and wanted to move and my husband is from Canada as well and wanted to move back to Canada, and so I went to Ebay and said Hey, Ebay, want...

...to move back to Canada, this is where we want to have our family long term, and they said no problem, will support you. Let's go find out what role is available in Canada. And then they came back to me and said, okay, well, the only open position in Canada is head of product so basically responsible for the ebay dots a website, which for me was like, okay, we'll wait a minute. I have been running this two hundred million dollar business in the US and that's really exciting, and now I go and work on Ebay dot se a website where a lot of the functionality as dictated by the US team, Tame. But I thought, oh well, that's okay, I want to go move home. That'll be my ticket home. I'll figure out what I do when I get there. And so I moved back to Toronto with Ebay. And then what I did was, as soon as I got to Ebay, I thought, okay, let me benchmark how Ebay is doing versus every other country around the world, and what became immediately obvious was that Ebay in Canada was doing a great job of getting people to the site. So about thirty percent of online Canadians every month would go to ebay. As I said, one of the that was one of the highest ratios anywhere in the world for Ebay. However, once Canadians came to Ebay, the likelihood that they would actually do anything on the site, so bid, buy or listen item was half that of every other country around the world. So I thought, okay, this is interesting. So then I started doing some things on the product side and digging into it to say, Hey, what can we do the website to sort of change this or here they're shipping policies or something like that that we can change, that we can implement so that we can change that ratio, and simultaneously started reading about the Canadian market and the conclusion I came to after a few months was, hey, this is a more macro problem. Canadian spend a ton of time online, the research online. However, they are very reluctant to purchase online and in fact ECOMMERCE purchasing in Canada was about half that level, half the level as it was in the US, whether you looked at is, as you know, percentage of commerce that is done online, or percentage of d GP or however however you cut the matchs. And so I thought, okay, I'm not sure that I'm going to be able to change that fundamental, fundamental dynamic of the Canadian market. So therefore, maybe there's a better model that would work heard, maybe there's a different model that would work better for Canadians. And so I actually came up with four or five different models, one of which was a classified site, and then I did some more research and thought about them and came up with the idea, and sort of stilidifying my thinking, that hey, we will ebay should be launching a classified site in Canada because that enables people to quote, Research Online transacting person besides which, those classified sites you need to be in the same city, and you know Canada, despite being a large country and a small population, it's actually one of the most urbanized countries in the world. So that played into it, a few other factors, and I so I went to the senior executives that I knew at Ebay and I said, Hey, here's all the Daddy, here's all the rationality. We should be launching a classified site in Canada, because the ebay model, I do not think, will ever achieve the same type of growth in Canada that it has seen in other markets. And they said, okay, that's all very nice, but two things. First of all, Canada is not a priority for us and second like craigslist is already they are. And you know, this is a network business and craigslist is already they are. So how are we going to win versus craigslist? So then I went went way and I yeah, but you know, I still think it could work, and so I kick didn't give up on it. And then I found out that Ebay was preparing to launch a classified site in Europe. So I went back to the executives and I said, okay, now here I hear that this site is being built to launched, for like a classified site to be launched in Europe, and I'm wondering if I could basically take that fundamental site and localize it for Canada. So put it in English, in French and launch it in Canada. So after...

...a few more conversations, they finally said okay, but you're not going to get any budget and you're not going to get any headcount initially, and I said, okay, that's all right, I'll just do this on this side. And so then we launched Kijiji in Canada. Originally we just launched it in call back because they were so convinced that I would never work in English Canada. So then we just launch and go back and then six months later we launched in the rest of Canada and then over time, luckily, got some more people and a bit of money and started growing the business in Canada. Wow. So such an interesting topic to dig into. And we talk about prioritization, because high stakes, huge opportunity that you had had drawn up for the business plan. Can you talk through, maybe before you get to how you prioritize what to do, give us a feel for all the things that needed to get done as part of that launch? There must have been huge list. Yeah, there was. I'm mean, I said of just bucketed it right. There was. I mean the the product was there, and so a lot of it was localization. So okay, we got to figure out. So which categories are we going to launch? And it doesn't sit, I mean from this in was as I think about it, I'm like, okay, there's nothing overly exciting but this. But it was just like block and tackling. So okay, now we need like our policies, like the privacy policy, and we need that, you know, the FA Q's, and they needed. Then needs to be in English, and then we need, Jesu said, get the legal review and figure it like it's just sort of like, you know, yeah, basics stuff. That would huge lists. Yeah, list it all out. There would be probably hundreds of things to do. Yeah, and then I just sort of plowed through it. I remember, yeah, we just set a plowed through it and and got it done. And I don't know, it was just sort of like okay, yeah, we did have very long to do it, but, you know, you just sort of plowed through it, get it done, and then it was just a matter of okay, now we're going to launch it, and needs you say, okay, what do you what do you focus on in terms of launching it? And I think a couple of things, and this comes to prioritization, but in my mind I thought, okay, there's three major buckets, there are three major steps that we need to go through in order to build this site. So the first thing we need to do when we figure out how to launch it first, so I first things we need to do after we launch it is we need to make sure that the site works. Like when people come to the site, do they actually do stuff? You know, does the site fundamentally work in terms of meeting a buyer and a seller? Dim need. Does it just as fundamentally, does it work for consumers? And then once we nail that that is sort of works, then we need to figure out how to get traffic to the site and make sure the traffic is there. And then the third thing is we need to figure out how to get money, how to monetize it, how to make money, and so I very much thought about it. I'm only going to focus on one thing at a time. So first of all, let's make sure that, you know, let's that we people come to the site. I used to say the team, hey, people come to say we want good things to happen. So, Um, we started doing a little bit, a very little bit of spent to make sure that to get some users to the site. And then they came and I we noticed, Hey, you know what, this actually works when people come there. And if you want to, can talk later about the supply and demand and how we did that, but hey, people are actually like coming in, they are listening items, they were spoiling to items. You know, as I said, I was like, okay, guys like Gard would say, in the team, which by sort of a little bit that we had one or two other people who had joined the team. I said, okay, guys, now when people come to say good things happen. So now we can send more people to the site. So then our next so the next building block was the traffic and again, I can talk more about that if you want. But then we get the traffic and make sure that, hey, more traffic and that traffic continues to be active on the site and then, Hey, once we get that nail out, then, and only then, when we've got a very bus site, then we're going to start, you know, working on the monetization. So interesting. So I...

...think the slippery slope would be to think I've got to do all of these things. Oh my Gosh, how do I run them all at the same time? But you very much just said Nope, we're going to take the most important thing and focus on that first, exactly, and then once the site I remember, once the site was working, then I said okay. Then I was like, okay, now we need to focus a hundred percent on traffic and figured out how we were going to get traffic and experimented right and I think it's a matter of it's not just blindly say blindly saying, Hey, we're going to focus on these things. It's I think it's more nuanced than that, because you need to say, Hey, I think that these things are the right things to focus on, so let me do some testing and iterating and let me also test another thing and then figure out what works and then hammer down on those. So, for instance, in terms of getting traffic, we tried several things. I remember going to a trade show or the early days, which was a complete waste of time, but we had a fun made popcorn all weekend in our low trade show booth like that didn't work. Then we did some other community things that didn't really work, but that was okay, you know, you just try these things learn and then finally I realized that there were three things that we had to focus on. Number one was SEO, or search engine optimization. So that was I make sure that when people go on to Google and search for, you know, Sofa, for say, out at whatever, or you know by you know that no dog or whatever, that the Kijigi came up. So that was sort of number one thing because, as I said, we didn't have much money. So psych okay, we gotta we got a nail that one. And then the number two things that I said, was search engine marketing, so basically making sure all of our money was basically sped on make on hey, if people go on to Google and search, that they would be the right ads for Kijiji. And then the third thing was pr because again I thought, hey, that's basically free and I can do that myself. And we were doing pr but each of those three things I said these are the only things were going to do and we are going to be world class. Particular in the first too, the PR well I was running at so maybe not world class, but um I said that. First too, we are going to be the best indos and we did a ton of work and that's really what drove the success of Kijiji was we simply focused, as I said, it was primarily Seo and sem and out executed everybody else on those things. So how did you how did you do that? Did you start doing yourself and then build people? How did you start? How did you do that? So hired a great person, but it was basically done in house by tools. I think you know. I hired somebody who was amazing, fantastic person who ran the paid search but then we all so did it vary on a on a granular level, we would optimize our by word, Burber, sorry, by city, by category, but you know, at the most grant and your level. So we would and we would vary at every single day. So we would say, Oh, wow, there's let's say there's a lot of sofas on the site in Halifax and these sofas have been listed and they're not getting many bids. Okay, therefore, we need to turn on the search engine marketing for sofas in the city of Halifax. And we would have tested all the different iterations of what words we should use, one landy page, we should do, etc. Except to optimize it. So it was really a big mathematical algorithm driven continual test, continual optimization process to do the s, to do the CEARACH engine marketing. And, as I said, it wasn't it was just a focus and a thoughtful ness in terms of how are we going to do this, how we going to think it through, and every single day. I think the other thing...

...about prioritization is every single day trying to get better, trying to get smarter in terms of, okay, how do we improve this even more and how do we get better and how do we get better and never sort of saying okay, great, we did that box is checked. Now we can think about something else. And with your team did you? Were you that explicit and clear to literally write down and say, okay, we now, good things are happening now, everybody, this is now the focus and like literally, like how did you write it on a I don't. I was like how did you get it out there? Talk to the team all the time. They actually thought this was funny. I mean I'm sure if you talk to them today, because I'm still very good friends to some of them, but Um, like they would say, Oh yeah, yea, I remember you used to say that all the time. Good things are happening. I'd say they so I would like, okay, we had a small team, but oh yeah, I would say. At all the time. There was no question what our priorities were and it wouldn't just be talked about, but then we would have our chordedly plan, our monthly plan, our weekly plan, our daily check INS, like there was no way anybody was going to be in that office and non know what our priorities were and how what they were doing contributed to advancing our priorities. It if you don't mind maybe spend a couple of minutes on that. How did you what was the cadence or the sink to keep all the team's aligned? So, you know, as in the early days it was just a couple of us, how it's pretty easy, but I think you know, as the team, as the team grew, and then I was promoted because I had mentioned that. You know, we're talking about a lot about Kijiji and Canada, but what happened was Kijiji and Canada was the fastest growing market. And so then I was promoted and I headed the Global Kijiji business, which was Canada and China, Thailand and a few European countries, and then we expanded into several when I was heading the global business, we expanded into the US and too, several more European countries, and so then it was even, I think, more of a challenge in terms of how do you keep everybody along? Like when you're all in one office, it's relatively simple in terms of you know, every week we have a meeting. Okay, here's what we're focused on, here's our metrics. When you have a global team it's a little bit more difficult and there are, you know, sometimes the priorities some there's some over riding priorities or for the entire organization in some country specific. But I think metrics are gray way to always be driving. So I'm a huge believer in like tracking the metrics. And so every week, whether it was when I was running the Canadian business or whether I was running the global business, you know, it's like, what's that expression? Like you do what you measure, and so if you are measuring, you're going to be measuring a ton of things. But if you put the spotlight on the metrics that indic against your priorities, then that can be very helpful. If every single week you are talking about how are the metrics tracking against our priorities and hey, what have we all done to move the metrics that evaluate how well we're doing against these priorities, and then boil that down so that, hey, everybody has their own individual metrics that track to moving the priorities, and so I think that's how you can sort of, as I said, at a level, keep it high level, make sure you're talking everybody in your meetings. Make sure everybody knows how here the metrics. But for the whole company. But then, as I said, that's sort of one step in terms of talking about it to everybody, but then that's one step and the second step is making sure that every person then understands how their work directly impacts the priorities. And it may just impact one of the priorities, but they need to understand. Okay, I understand that I need to do this. I understand why I need. You know, if I'm an engineer who's writing code, I need to understand how this quote, this initiative or this product enhancement that I'm working on, I need to understand how this is integral to our overall priorities.

And then what that does is it creates alignment throughout the organization and it creates a greater sense of ownership and people feel like, Hey, we're all on this team together and we all understand there we're all working to move the same needles. Are there any there's a few methodology that I think I've been around for a long time but have maybe just been popularized. So I know Andy Grove used to talk a lot about okay, ours and John Door just wrote a book called measure what matters that talks about them. Yes, I think maybe it just sort of hit me at the right time. I was in a business that was kind of chaotic and growing quickly, and I think that methodology hit us at the right time and made a lot of sense to us, so we embraced it. was there any methodology that you used, or was it the there was, I'm by the way, a lot of our company news and now a lot of the portfolio, a lot of these, I should say a lot of the text companies that I work with. They use okay ours. They're definitely very prevalent. We didn't have like there wasn't the okay our lingo around as much it is it today. So I just did what I thought made sense, and I often look back at those documents even now as templates and they really at the heart they were like okay ours right. They were just like okay here. I didn't think of it like that. I just thought, well, this makes logical sense to me. We've got, you know, here are the priorities we need to hit as a business. Here's a or, here's our strategic priorities, here's the metrics in terms of how we're going to attract them, here's how work. We want to move those metrics and then, okay, let's chuckle them down. Let's figure out how everybody in the organization is working on that. Let's make your transparent what everybody's doing, let's ensure that everybody has a metrics driven goal. comes back to what we talked about earlier in the conversation, when you talk about hey, starting to work at a parked and gamble and a mackenzy, that sort of thing. It came to me natural. It was like, well, of course we're going to do this. Is that we do. We'll I have the plan, we have metrics. Were first you have the strategies and then you've got the metrics and then you funnel it down and you make sure that, hey, if everybody moves their own individual metrics or if everybody delivers on what they're supposed to do, that you will get, as a team to the end goal that you want to get to. You know all of that. I suppose it came sort of naturally to me because I had had that foundation earlier in my career in terms of how to think about businesses, how to be very quantitatively driven. Yeah, it's it's it's simple, but not easy. I guess you know when you're when you're in it, it's a lot more challenging. You get caught up in the day to day. You know there's a million things to do and your calendars always full and everybody's debanding your time and it's easy to sort of lose track of those things unless they're written down and there's a cadence or a rhythm around keeping track of them. So absolutely, absolutely, and you know what I mean. It's interesting, as we talked about prioritization, I was in the San Francisco a month or two ago and I had dinner with a great friend of mine who is the CEO of a very successful publicly traded tech company and he joined a few years ago and it's really turned the company around and we were having a great conversation and he's got a couple young kids and so you know he has work life balance that he tries to maintain and you know, he was telling me about what he's focused on and how he decides what to do and the key things that he had done to turn the company around. I sat by the end of it, I looked at him, I said. You know, really all business comes down to is, you know, identifying the right things to focus on and then focusing on those. Like, on one level, it's as simple as that. Like you need to make the strategic decisions to prioritization. Those decisions need to be right and then you need to make sure that you focus and you execute against those and absolutely it's simpler said than done, but in a way that's what it all boils down to. So, in your role now, as it's a general partner at real ventures,...

...how do you help your portfolio companies do that? Because, as you said, it's one thing to be able to do it when you're in the room with I don't know, ten, twenty, fifty people, another to do it internationally, but a whole other to do it across the whole portfolio of different companies. So how do you do that? Yeah, you know. So I am very fortunate and that I have a total of seventeen companies that I work with that are in my portfolio. These are all fast growing, young tech companies and I think that, frankly, I can have a unique role, because you talk about the importance of leveling up and for you know, so, ie, what I mean by that is lifting yourself up from the day to day and thinking about the priorities, and I try to play that role with my founders to ask the questions and help them make sure that they're working on the most important things and then being the you know, if every week I'm talking to them and okay, great, let's come back to those priorities that we don't we know our priorities and what has happened in the last week to push them forward, and then I think that it often helps them to have an outside person who's, you know, always saying hey, well, what about those priorities? What about those priorities right? So that can be helpful and I also think just bringing an external an external viewpoint, somebody who has seen as a set. I've got seventeen portfolio companies, I've got a bunch of work experience and having that perspective that I can bring to a founder is hopefully useful to them. Are there any companies or resources that you'd say do it really well or resources that would help people see it or understand it a little bit better? So I think that in terms of the okrs you mentioned, that absolutely. I I would say generally speaking, we, most of our companies, use okay ours as a way to both prioritize and ensure that everybody has aligned. So that is one thing. And I also find you know, I was talking to a founder the other day in and and she was saying she's CEO of one of our companies and she was saying, Hey, is this the right way or is that the right way? Does to set this up? And I would say, you know, at the end of the day, don't get too worried about, hey, should I have this format or that format? You know, if okay ours work for you, that's great. A sales force, as an example, uses a slightly different thing, calle vt mom, which is, you know, a different way. And then there's also, you know, you maybe you make up your own methodology. So I would say do something that works for you and works for your team, as long as it is something that keeps everybody on track, keeps everybody on the same page and ensures that everybody knows what they're supposed to be working on and why it is important, that's great. That's good advice. Lastly, as we wrap up here, any advice that you'd give to current could be ivy students could be students in general that are maybe either working on a, call it a side hustle, trying to decide if they want to start it, whether they should join a company, or even just general advice that you'd have to some of these students. Yeah, I guess the one thing that I would say what strikes me when I come to Ivy is, and I love coming here. I graduated with HBA several years ago but, you know, love the school, love coming back. But what strikes me is the students today. I sense a level of anxiety that I don't think existed when I graduated twenty five years ago. There's a level of anxiety in terms of what should I do? How do I get their quote right job? What is if I have two offers, which is the quote right offer for me? And my heart goes out, frankly, to these students as I see them and talk to them and feel the level of stress and anxiety. And so I think what I would...

...say to those students, or anybody, is that there's no great answer and there's no wrong answer and you know, think about hey, what do I want to be doing? What is going to enable me to learn and to grow and to keep my options open, and then do that, and do that to the best of your ability and learn as much as you can. You're going to have some great experiences, you're going to have some bad experiences and that's okay, and if you get a manager that you don't love, that's okay. Just like learn from that and then you know, your career will change and you will move on, but you know you will end up in a great spot if you just keep your mind open and always try to learn and contribute and make the most of every opportunity. That's fantastic advice. Well, thank you very much. I appreciate you being so generous with your time and sitting down with us to have this conversation. We really appreciate it. Okay, thank you very much. It was great to be here. Thanks to here, you've been listening to the Ivy Entrepreneur podcast. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player or visit IV dot se a forward slash entrepreneurship. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time,.

In-Stream Audio Search

NEW

Search across all episodes within this podcast

Episodes (55)