When I took a career break 3 years ago, I had a startup career at the back of my mind while practising as a professional coach. So I was thrilled, when offered a role at a fintech last year. I was ready for a refreshing change, having worked with traditional banks for the last 10 years. But never in my wildest imagination, did I expect to be staring at a global pandemic that defined how I work and live in my first year in a fintech.
My career in 2020 has been largely defined by Covid-19. A startup career compounded by the pandemic has created a lot of uncertainty and anxiety at both my professional and personal level. But I took it in my stride. In the last year, I also volunteered as a mentor to startups under the “MentorsForHope” initiative to raise funds for the underprivileged during the height of the pandemic and made new friends in the startup community. All these exposure and network has given me fresh perspectives.
Here’s my key takeaways from my journey
(1) Power Of Purpose
According to a recent study by Deloitte, Purpose-driven companies witness higher market share gains and grow three times faster on average than their competitors, all while achieving higher workforce and customer satisfaction. Today’s consumers often identify with a brand’s purpose, seeking to connect at a deeper level even as the brand reciprocally aligns with who they are and who they want to be.
We are often asked to reflect on our own purpose and how that is aligned with the company’s purpose as well. Purpose galvanise the team to work towards a common goal. While I still need to deliver on my targets but working for a start up on a strong mission to transform people’s lives positively gives me a greater conviction in what I do. That’s the power of purpose.
(2) Culture Of Failure
Creating a culture of growth rank high on the leadership team. Casey Carey, director of Platforms and Publisher Marketing at Google, suggests instituting a “quarterly failure report”—a surprising way to shift how a team works and grows. Celebrate failure and learn fast. In such a culture, there needs to be a high level of trust and there is no room for judgement and politics.
A structured culture of experimentation and iteration is what I have been immersed in for the last 12 months. This culture helps us roll out new features by stages, test, tweak and release, learn and tweak to that we build a product that really solve customers’ problems. In a start up, impact matters more than velocity. We always strive to develop features that delivers the greatest impact (relevance) to customers.
Any marketer working in a start up, need to use data and analytics and get used to create structured experimentation and iteration to drive growth, while ensuring brand alignment and consistent messaging throughout. Test, Test & More Test – that’s how we learn to grow and scale in the most efficient and effective way.
Retrospective workshops are conducted every fortnight to reflect on what works, what doesn’t, what can be done better (Rose, Thorn, Bud).
This video says it all about building a growth culture and constantly learning from past failures. #AGILE #SCRUM #MVP #ABTesting #SprintPlanning
(3) Deep Listening
In a start up, we put customers at the heart of everything we do.
From landing pages, mobile user journey, naming of the brand to marketing messages, everything are being tested. It’s a very integral part of market validation and product development journey.
We run tests through ethnographic research, 1 on 1 usability tests or test at scale like an “alpha” or “beta’ phase to gather user feedback to help us uncover blindspot and bugs.
How we run the test is important to avoid confirmation biases. In ethnographic research, we can’t just follow a structured script to a T. The ability to listen (sometimes even pauses or a passing remark provides clues) and ask “follow on” questions help us discover new insights. I have conducted many user tests and my coaching experience has trained me to focus on listening and asking the right questions to get new insights.
(4) Be A Value Creator
One of the best career advice I had was to be a “value creator”.
“A customer value creator is the entrepreneur with an external focus. Their goal is to create as many satisfied customers as possible, by seeking to understand customer needs and interests and to provide value propositions that address those needs and interests. A value creator build win win partnerships to grow the customer pie.”
Such mindset is critical to the team’s success, especially in a start up. The questions I always reflect and ask is “What is the impact of this feature/solution on customers?” (Impact vs Effort Analysis), “What’s in it for a partner to work with us?”, “What’s the more effective way to grow and scale the business?”, “How can I ensure the messaging is relatable?” – to help me prioritise growth opportunities, test and pivot accordingly.
The joy of working in a start up is I get to build things from scratch, thinking out of the box to create a competitive advantage and building the brand. Being at the start of the journey and contributing to the business growth gives me adrenaline. I wouldn’t settle for anything less.
(5) Learn Fast
In a start up, you need high learning agility. Juggling many projects and managing moving parts is the norm. I have to strike a balance between longer-term strategic brand building activities, mid-term lead generation and nurturing to build a pipeline, to developing compelling pitches, commercial negotiation and implementation of mutually beneficial marketing activities. And all these while being able to roll up my sleeves are important especially for any leadership role in a startup.
One thing for sure, my tech quotient has improved. Mr Google is now my best friend for any self help on creating analytics dashboards. There is simply no short cut, just self learn and learn fast.
Marketing has become so multi-faceted and more complex. Data is key to the future, so is human psychology. Marketers now need to be adept at interpreting data and understand the human psychology at the same time to deliver the right messaging, customer engagement and to drive growth.
Data + Empathy = Actionable Insights
In the last 12 months, besides continuing to hone my coaching skills, I have gone on workshops to understand the SCRUM methodology and the practice of agile leadership. This year, I became a certified Human Centred Design practitioner, equipping me with tools to help uncover new consumer insights and solve business problems.
I hope with this I can be a better value creator for the business.
I have had to unlearn and relearn many things in this journey. And this is only the start of a new inflection point just like the Sigmoid curve – a metaphor for growth and innovation, especially against the backdrop of Covid-19.
My final takeaway? CHILL! If Plan A doesn’t work, go with Plan B, if it still doesn’t work, keep thinking out of the box. Keep testing and keep learning. Nothing is impossible. Just enjoy the ride.
This sums up my first year in a Fintech. What a year!