At the close of 2014, I was the only full-time marketer on The Iron Yard’s staff. Today, there are 7 of us total, meaning the last few months have been quite a fun adventure in learning and re-defining how the team works. Several of the people I hired had worked with me (and many times each other) on Iron Yard projects before. As a result, we’d developed a way of working that transitioned naturally from contract work to full-time work.
As I began to hire people who had no prior relationship with The Iron Yard or anyone on the team, though, I knew that our way of doing things wouldn’t necessarily be explicit on its own. As the new kid on the block, learning a culture and team and where you fit in can be a tough business as a lone ranger.
We decided to define our values as a team—the core elements of the way we go about our work and interacting with each other. Becoming an efficient part of a company happens much more quickly if you have a rubric by which to make decisions about what you are producing and the ways you communicate (or don’t).
This week on The Iron Yard blog I wrote about my friend and former business partner John Saddington.1 He’s left The Iron Yard to pursue a new adventure, so I recounted the story of how we met, what it was like to grow a company with him and the impact he had on me. Here are a few excerpts:
I was recently invited to mentor startup teams going through Iron Yard Ventures Digital Health Accelerator program2. The topic of the day was marketing, which can be a tricky, make-or-break struggle for early-stage software companies.
This is the fifth post in a series on productivity3. The articles are based on content from a workshop I led at The Makers Summit.
In the last article in this series, we discussed the idea that productivity can be an unintuitive pursuit. Today we’re going to dissect why and look at time (hours worked) as an example.
First, though, we need to discuss how we’re going to perform this dissection. As I said in my talk at The Makers Summit, much of what I cover when it comes to productivity is based on research, not opinions or anecdotes. The productivity industry is notorious for ‘tricks and tips’, but these are serious issues that affect our businesses (and personal lives) and it’s worth our time to find information based on solid research and analyses.
“It’s like magic!” a woman says to her family as they sit. “How do they find our table?”
This week I read a fascinating article about Disney’s MagicBand4. The post is packed with gems of revelation, but the big idea centers on the completely “frictionless” experience that MagicBand wearers enjoy before and during their time at the park. Here are a few snippets:
This is the fourth post in a series on productivity5. The articles are based on content from a workshop I led at The Makers Summit.
When I was a young boy both of my grandfathers had woodworking shops. I used to love (and still do) visiting and tinkering with tools to build things. For some reason, one of my clearest early memories of working with wood is one of the first times I got to use a hand saw. I must have found a branch or log that I wanted to trim and my grandpa probably thought it was a good opportunity to teach me safe and proper use of a saw. Like any eager and impatient youngster, I immediately put every ounce of my effort into cutting. My arm fatigued quickly and my frustration must have been apparent. Gently, my grandfather (who had wisely waited out my short flare of enthusiasm) took the saw and explained that the teeth are designed to cut the wood without requiring extreme, constant effort. “Tools are designed to make your job easier. Just let the saw do the work and don’t wear yourself out so quickly.” He would later reinforce the concept at the driving range, explaining again that a well-calculated, solid strike will beat out an all-out smash on the golf course almost every time. (The lesson stuck, thankfully, but not the love for golf.)
Productivity is one of those concepts that we like to think we understand, but as we’ve seen, taking time to actually contemplate how we use our time and ponder the definition of ‘productivity’ reveals a landscape more complicated than we might have originally bargained for.
This is the second post in a series on productivity6. The articles are based on content from a workshop I led at The Makers Summit.
The subject of productivity flows almost immediately to discussion around tactics—we’re all hungry to know what we can do to be more productive, right now. Oftentimes, that hunger keeps us from stopping to first evaluate our current state of affairs and second, more importantly, to put serious thought into what we’re really seeking to get out of increased productivity.
This is the seventh post in a series called Making it Count about getting things done and using our precious hours wisely7 .
So far in this series I’ve discussed the philosophy behind the pursuit of productivity and covered the ways in which I steward my time, attention, technology and the Internet. As I promised earlier in the series, I’m going to move towards practical implications of productivity as they play out in my day-to-day work.
Healthy, sustainable productivity
In this post I’m going to discuss what I believe is one of the key components of people who maintain a high level of healthy, sustainable productivity. I use the descriptors “healthy” and “sustainable” because you can be extremely productive in any number of ways and not all of them are good for you. People commonly employ substances (sugar, caffeine, narcotics, etc.) or sleep deprivation in order to get more done (or, at least, feel like they’re getting more done). Too much of a substance or too little sleep over time is unhealthy—something we’re all aware of.
The tricky part is that whether the levers you’re pulling are good or bad for you, the productivity gains are real. Unfortunately, it always seems easier and more convenient to make unhealthy choices, which creates a cycle of tangible productivity bursts followed by burnout or near-burnout—a pattern that takes it’s toll and almost guarantees severe burnout over time.
Recently I wrote a post about whether you should get an MBA8. Here’s a quick re-cap:
I don’t have an MBA
MBAs provide valuable knowledge and are most effective for people who want to work in a large organization or in academia
Over time those with MBAs seemed to end up with about the same outcomes as those without
You can be extremely successful without an MBA
Ryan Carson, the CEO and co-founder of Treehouse, doesn’t have an MBA either. Here’s a quote from one of his blog posts9:
As many of you know, I don’t have a business degree, so I’m learning as I go. At 50+ employees, Treehouse is now at the phase where I have to build out the management structure and operations to allow it to become a big company…As I said, I never went to Business school so I’m now hiring folks who know how to scale companies and build out operations.
Earlier this week I wrote a post about following your passion10. The thoughts can be summed up well in a quote I included from Mike Rowe:
“Staying the course” only makes sense if you’re headed in a sensible direction. Because passion and persistence – while most often associated with success – are also essential ingredients of futility.
I would add to Mikes thoughts the point that we often mistake “following our passion” for unmitigated enjoyment of our life and work. We think, “If I could just do/accomplish/be/get [fill in the blank], I’d be happy and fulfilled.”