- Jon discusses the evolution of Anthroware and how they have expanded their client services (2:30)
- Jon shares how Anthroware segments their customers based on their problem types, active vs. passive; latent vs. one with a defined solution. The group discusses how leaders can best match client fit with the strengths of your firm to create stronger value(6:45)
- The group discusses how to entrepreneurs should discern between “what they want” vs. “what the market demands” (18:30)
- Jon shares the process of defining a strategic vision both with Anthroware clients, and with the Anthroware internal team (33:40)
- Jon speaks to the research arm of Anthroware that allows them to be a strategic partner for their clients based on a strong understanding of the attitudes and beliefs of customers through “bottom-up value creation” (49:40)
- Learn more about Anthroware here.Learn more about Anthroware here.
- You can also follow Jon on LinkedIn, Twitter or Instagram
- Learn more about how TEAMES & CO builds effective and empowered teams that deliver results at https://teamesandco.com/teams/organizational-design
- Follow TEAMES & CO on Facebook LinkedIn, Twitter (@teamesandco) and Instagram (@teamesandco)
- Want to watch the podcasts on video visit TEAMES & CO on YouTube.
Do you want to develop your leadership skills, but are struggling to find time? Learn more about how TEAMES Global can support you and your team.
Listen to Episode 34
Episode 34 Transcript
Tracy Eames (00:00:18):
Hi everybody. Welcome to this week's episode of Building Teams with TEAMES & CO. Mike and I are super excited to welcome Jon Jones, co-founder and CEO of Anthroware, to this week's episode.
Hey Jon, how are you doing?
Jon Jones (00:00:36):
Good. How is everybody?
Tracy Eames (00:00:36):
Mike Vaggalis (00:00:39):
Good. Jon, it's good to see you. Thanks for joining the podcast.
Jon Jones (00:00:42):
Of course, anytime.
Tracy Eames (00:00:44):
But Jon, as obviously we've known each other for a couple of years and met through networking in the Asheville, North Carolina area. But why don't you give our listeners just a little bit of background about you, about Anthroware, just so we can set our right foot off and make sure everybody knows a little bit more about you?
Jon Jones (00:01:02):
Sure. Thanks so much for having me on. I think every time Tracy, you and I talk, I feel like I learned so much, so I'm very excited to be on your podcast. I have listened to a few episodes, so I feel like I have a lot to live up to with the type of guests that you guys have.
Jon Jones (00:01:17):
So, a little bit about me and Anthroware, my background, it started out in hard science. My first job out of grad school was a scientist. I got really obsessed with computers actually because I was working in a corporate lab and I realized that all the freedom I had in the academic world to experiment was all of a sudden very structured and with a laptop, if you knew how to code, you could build everything you want, you have it. You can buy a lab for a couple of thousand bucks and be super creative.
I think that my education in the background around science has really sort of shaped how we do things from an experimentation perspective Anthroware, but that was really a pivotal moment for me is just realizing that I could go buy a lab and build whatever I want with a computer.
I quit that job to work for a big consulting company, writing software to gain experience. Then very shortly after that, I met my business partner there and we started Anthroware, because we just really wanted to build things, "the right way", which is a super subjective kind of silly chip to have on your shoulder. But, it is a driving force.
So yeah, fast forward, Anthroware was born. We very quickly invested in design and design thinking. Then a couple of years in, we realized that we were talking ourselves out of a lot of business, because we didn't believe in... It's like, hey, have you really thought this through, you're going to spend a lot of money here and it's very hard to see a return. The light bulb coming on then that we were doing very strategic type consulting around the company's roadmap and they're trying to solve a problem where they know they have a pain point and they might have even valued it. I'm bleeding out on the floor, I need a tourniquet and morphine, but they don't know how to solve the problem.
When we started thinking about it that way, the firm really changed into this very full cycle, very comprehensive product studio, where we were pressure testing ideas. We are doing almost commercialization experimentation for new products in the pre-market, we're designing and building apps and platforms for healthcare and insurance and banking and see now, property tech and bees. We're building an app for bees and beekeepers. So we're designing and building things.
Then now we're also going to market with them and developing full on, go-to market strategies. Then the really exciting thing with that is, we're using the same research institution that we use to build the products well to achieve product market fit. Now once these products are in the market, either within a company, as a B2B type solution or a direct to consumer type solution, we've got a feedback loop where we're understanding, well hey, we built this feature, we would open up this much more market. Or, maybe your sales process stinks and, or your onboarding process stinks and you have poor lifetime value or you can increase your win rate.
So, we're very scientific method, run an experiment, design thinking, human centered design focused, full spectrum product studio now. So it's been kind of a fun journey over the last eight years.
Tracy Eames (00:04:35):
That's awesome. It sounds like you do a really good job of meeting the customer. One of the things that struck me about our first conversation and I'll get your saying incorrect, so I'll kind of put it in broad terms for our audience. But one of the things that I really was impressed by was a little bit of what you were just alluding to, which is, you and the team at Anthroware, don't just build standard kind of solutions. You don't have this cookie cutter approach that says, "Oh, everybody needs an app." Or, "Everybody needs X or Y." What you really try to do is solve that problem and up their game, so to speak and provide that extra level of value.
So maybe you could talk a little bit about that with our customers. One of the things we often speak about is knowing your customer, knowing the value you're going to provide to your customer and that's a big pillar for us, and it's where everything starts. That really resonates with us. We'd just love to hear you speak more about how you manage those conversations and how you help to deliver the most possible value, not just like a set solution.
Jon Jones (00:05:33):
That's a really great question. I'll do my best. It is something we deeply care about. I think business people can get real jargony too. I think removing some of that jargon is actually super helpful to meeting people where they are. As a professional services firm, when we get hired, there is some kind of deficiency, there is an outcome that our partner wants, they have a problem and it's a big problem. If they just have a vitamin problem, you know the vitamin and-
Mike Vaggalis (00:06:02):
It's like the vitamin versus Advil.
Jon Jones (00:06:04):
Versus morphine. Yeah. I say morphine, but if you run out of vitamins one night, are you going to stop brushing your teeth right out right then and go buy more vitamins? No. So, if it's a big enough problem and it's an active problem, then the conversations that we have, are around understanding the cost of doing nothing, which is a competitor that I think a lot of professional services firms don't understand well enough. They'll lose to just the client, not doing anything for the potential client.
Jon Jones (00:06:32):
So you have to value the problem and the opportunity which are different. There are a lot of "digital transformation projects" that fix the risks that don't address the opportunity. But it's really about understanding, hey, is this an active problem? Or, is it a passive problem where it's not a big enough deal for them to solve it? Is it a latent problem, where I just told you something you didn't know and now all of a sudden you're educated to this problem that you have, and now you want to fix it? Or, is it a problem where you can totally envision the solution and you just need somebody to execute it? Which is not really a design problem, it's more like pouring concrete.
Jon Jones (00:07:08):
So, we have to determine what type of problem it is and whether or not they even value what we do, because you're not a good partner to everybody. It has to be an outcome that they want, you have the capacity to do it and they have a deficiency that you fit in like a key. A lot of times when we're looking at partners, if they've already invested in UX designers in-house, they're already paying salaries, that kind of thing, then a lot of that education, for what we do and why they would value us is already done. But they've got a time crunch or they're used to doing incremental innovation and they do that really well, but they're facing some sort of big step up and they need some extra help or some outside perspective or something like that.
Jon Jones (00:07:51):
I mean, really professional services. The best you can do is say, "This is the process we believe in. This is why we think it's good. This is what we think you're dealing with and this is how we do it." They can buy it or not. There's really no hard sell, because I always say professional services are bought, not sold off. I heard that from a mentor a long time ago, and it's really stuck with me. You either fit or you don't. So I think looking for those clients that are already investing in trying to solve some of those issues and just maybe need some help, moves that conversation along a lot faster.
Did that answer your question?
Tracy Eames (00:08:23):
Yeah. It looks like Mike has a question, so I'm holding for him.
Mike Vaggalis (00:08:27):
Oh yeah, no, I was just going to ask, it sounds like the right fit for you, Jon, oftentimes is those firms that aren't just looking for an extra set of hands, but are looking for somebody to help them think through maybe a more disruptive innovation or just diagnose a problem they might not even know that they have, or they're aware that something's wrong but they're not sure what exactly it is.
Mike Vaggalis (00:08:52):
Is that part of the exploration, as you're finding the right fit for partners where you will filter some out on your end?
Jon Jones (00:09:00):
Yeah. I think everybody should be filtering out where you're not a good fit. We get hired at the end of the day, because we de-risk the projects. Hiring an outside consultancy that's done this 50 times, it de-risks the project. So kind of back to that pouring concrete example, by the time you get to pouring concrete, like you're pouring footers for a house, it would be foolish to just start pouring concrete, a lot of work has been done before you get there.
So, the solution has been designed, decoupling design from just moving pixels to make a screen with beautiful... You're designing a solution when you're building a blueprint for the house or deciding even how many rooms it needs, does it need a garage, where is that all laid out? You don't start building a house without a design. So when the concrete is being poured, you can put extreme parameters around that. That is a requirement now that you can, they're going to be placed like this, they're going to be this deep, you're going to pour exactly this much concrete, it's going to take exactly this much time to let it set and the outcome is fixed. Whether or not you accomplished it or not is easy to understand.
When you know that, hey, I need a house and I've got this weird funky piece of land and I know that I need a house, but I don't know what it looks like yet, you call an architect, you don't just start pouring concrete. So, if we come across a client that just wants to pour concrete, then if we push them through our entire process, which is, I mean, we look for long-term partners, as I'm sure you do as well. So it's just as much about them deciding whether or not we fit their needs, that they would want to work with us for months or years, as it is us saying, "Hey, are these people that would value us, that we trust, that we want to hang out with and be with for months or years?"
If we push that partner through that just needs a concrete pour all the way at the end of our sales process, they won't buy us anyway, because they're going to be more price sensitive, not outcome-based, because they already have the outcome that they need, they just need somebody to execute on it.
So, I think just knowing who you are as a firm, what makes your team tick, what gets them excited, it really helps give you focus with where you are the best team player with a partner. Because when you find that out, then the relationship you have is different, better. They trust you. You're a trusted guide. A problem comes up and it will and if you're like, "How might we, together? I'm never going to be the expert in your business, it's your business. I'm the expert in these other things, so how do we figure it out together?"
That's so much healthier for everybody involved. Our team loves that so much more, our longest term partners, we have that kind of relationship. We don't even have to talk about what the other type of relationship where it looks like everybody has been there and it sucks. So I think the more you know about yourself and where you are a good team player, the better it is for everybody.
Tracy Eames (00:12:01):
I think it's also a good lesson for all of our listeners. We work with organizations that are trying to scale and grow their business and sometimes the tendency there is to try to do it all. You're trying to boil the ocean. You're trying to offer everything to everybody and that doesn't really allow you to provide the best quality to the people who you can deliver the best quality to.
We have a similar situation at TEAMES & CO, we work from, figuring out what the customer value is, helping an organization set that strategy, like how do we solve this challenge? Then working with their teams to implement it. But if somebody came to us and said, "Hey, we don't want to do all three. We want to do is just this one little piece." That's much more difficult, because it's difficult on our team, it's also difficult on their team. Because to your point, you're kind of putting them through a process where maybe they're not sure of it and they don't get as much value. So in those situations we find it's really helpful to recommend them to somebody else.
If somebody came to us and said, "Hey, we need a new website." We don't build websites, so we'd say, "Oh, we don't do that. But we know this great firm that does, much better fit." Then the customer is happy.? We're still giving them value. We're giving them a different kind of value, which is referring them. But, that totally resonates with me. It's a great way to make sure that you're working together.
What I love about it, which is the other question I want to hear from you, because we often have to do this as well, we're a professional services firm, is you become part of the team. You're not actually part of the company, but you're part of the team and you're now delivering together. That's how we work. We implement with our partners, our clients. How do you manage that?
We get this question a lot from folks, which is like, "Oh, I'm hiring a firm or I'm part of a firm. How do I help build myself into their team? How do we align goals?" What does that look like at Anthroware? How do you manage that kind of internal, external team setup?
Jon Jones (00:13:58):
That's another really great question. We're doing a book club right now. We're going through one of Mike Monteiro's books and he has a quote in there. I'm going to butcher it, but it's something like, a vendor is the person that refills snacks in your break room, what you want as a partner.
I think a huge part of that is how you sell into that situation from the get-go, how you are treated, is how you show up in the room, how you treat them and how you expect to be treated is the same golden rule stuff. So on the one hand, there's sort of a set of guidelines that we follow from a sales process that are practical and pragmatic. This doesn't work for everybody, this works for us. How important is this project in the organization? Is one of our questions.
If it's one of the top three problems that the organization is facing and the CEO cares about it, or maybe even the board cares about it, we're not going to have any stakeholders loop in that we didn't know about and undermine things, which is never the intention. But, I think that language probably works. If it's a top three problem for the organization, we're being hired at a strategic level anyway.
What we run into more is when we get... because we do a lot of stuff. I don't think we're trying to boil the ocean, but that was one of the concerns when we said, "Hey, are we really going to add marketing?" The reason why we did it is because most of the reason why we're good at marketing is because we built this amazing research engine inside the company, which is honestly what drives our business model consulting, it's what drives our design and now it drives our marketing and our feedback loop right back to product. So it wasn't for us, it was something we could be excellent at that allowed us to control kind of that full cycle or be a game time threat for our partners in that full cycle and it just makes sense.
But back to my point, if we get hired in to build an app, the biggest danger that we face is getting pigeonholed as the app developer. So like my recommendation, if there are any professional services firms listening to this, one thing to think about is your level of call into the organization. Who are you talking to? If you're talking to a mid-level director and you get hired to build an app in our case and then that same client has a really amazing opportunity that we would be perfect for, that's different or more strategic somewhere, then you might be pigeonholed as the app guy.
If your calling is to the C-suite and they know you have all these capabilities, but you're able to kind of crack that bundle a little bit and say, "Okay, yeah, we can fit in right here." Part of your account plan is that we're actually going to build a roadmap for this at a strategic level, so we can understand your company's goals. So you're communicating at a much different level, depending on who you talk to. For us, the calling has to be really high.
Then, that's what de-risks that situation around how they value us and how they view us, how we become a trusted guide versus just a vendor. But then it's consistency in the team. I mean, you don't switch your team a lot, you give them dedicated resources. The reason why that works is because for us, we care about mission alignment. There's something in your mission or some aspect of the problem that you're solving that is especially endearing to us, then our team gets excited about that.
We're lucky enough to have some partners where we get really, really excited about what they're doing and it feels just like doing anything else. Working with them feels like working for ourselves. So it's really cool.
Mike Vaggalis (00:17:47):
Jon, how did you go through the process of understanding that distinctly your role, the role of Anthroware? It sounds like there's a lot of introspection that went into discerning, are we a vendor or are we a strategic guide? We want to work with the C-suite on a top three strategic problem and in fact, we view an engagement where we may just be an execution partner, that's not really our sweet spot. But it is for a lot of firms. So how did you guys go through the process of understanding, this is who we are, this is our identity, and this is how we want to work with our partners?
Jon Jones (00:18:24):
Well, so this is eight years old, a lot of thinking has gone into this. Eight years from now, I'll probably give it a completely different answer. We might be a completely different firm. I think that entrepreneurs get really hung up on what they want, just like everybody versus what the market is asking for. So right now, the world appears to be asking for Anthroware to be a wisdom firm.
I think in the world of professional services, there's really three buckets that I've heard in my circles. There's like an intellect firm where it's a bunch of PhDs in a room that are solving problems that nobody's ever solved. We're not that. There's a wisdom firm where you're getting asked for case studies quite often, maybe you're talking to references, how have you helped other people in the past? You're getting hired because you've been there, done that. Then there's like a method from where they intellect and wisdom firms, you're doing a lot of critical thinking. You're not getting hired to produce a data point, you're getting hired to produce insight. You're getting hired for the critical thinking.
There's nothing wrong with any of these types of firms. With a method firm, you're generally very price sensitive and you're able to hire. Instead of hiring a bunch of seniors at a wisdom firm, you've got this process or method in place that allows you to hire junior level people and train them correctly and then be very price competitive and in a more commoditized manner.
There's a lot of signs that, just from our history, that points to where we want to go and where projects that were going fine, turn frustrating and, or clients that we thought would be a great idea to take on and they weren't, not that they're a bad client, but it's just, there's a mismatch in what we've been talking about.
Back to the pouring concrete versus architect thing, there are plenty of people that love pouring concrete, and it's an awesome job. So, that's where I think a lot of those method firms come in. But, the way that we talk about product, people are expecting us to raise our hand and push back and not just be yes people, but to really help form the solution.
I would say, the most concise answer I would give is just based on the type of terms that need us, they expect us to be a wisdom firm, not a method firm. That has just hard-fought lessons from what works and what doesn't. Now having that framework in my mind and that clarity it's like, well, obviously we're not a method firm, why would we take on that job? They need somebody that can just execute on what they want. They've already got a clear vision for what the solution looks like, and it's probably fine. They don't need our help. If we ask too many questions and we push back too much, it's the opposite effect of what we want. So it just doesn't work as well.
Tracy Eames (00:21:23):
Well, it sounds like to me, Jon, the thing that's really resonating with me and that I keep coming back to, as you speak through that is, there's a lot of product companies out there that actually make a tangible product. Anthroware, TEAMES & CO, we're more service kind of oriented firms. We provide a service. Obviously at the end of the day, you and your firm actually help develop a product as well. But that process is always really iterative for organizations. You hear a lot about innovation and roadmaps, product innovation and product iteration, and constantly improving your product.
What I love about what you're talking about with Anthroware is, you all are doing that with your service. Maybe when you started eight years ago, you had a certain expectation and then you did something and you learned, and then you met with another client and you learned. You're constantly iterating and innovating within your model to say, "Hey, yeah, sometimes those things didn't match up." We've all been there. We've bought something at a store where we're like, "Oh, that wasn't what I was expecting." Or, you get pleasantly surprised and you're like, "Wow, I wasn't expecting that. That's awesome." But it happens to all of us.
But with the services, it is a longer-term relationship, so you have to figure those things out. I just love hearing you speak about it, because it sounds like you and the team are being very diligent around, okay, let's take our learnings, let's take our research and keep picking those clients that are closer and closer to where we provide the most value. That just seems like it'd be really fun for you and your team because you're working on super exciting projects that align with your mission, align with their mission and strategy. It seems like it'd be a really engaging environment when you're in one of those rooms.
Jon Jones (00:23:05):
I'm lucky enough to work with a bunch of people that deeply care, they're rigorous in their work and we all constantly try to get better. That is the only environment that I want to work in. It is iterative and I hope [inaudible 00:23:21] and we'll have it all figured out.
Mike Vaggalis (00:23:24):
No, I was struck by a really similar thing. We talk a lot about learning from our customers and understanding, well, what sort of problems do different people need solved? That's true, whether it's direct to consumer or a product company, whether it's a service's company, whoever our organizations are serving, we need to understand our customers.
The other thing, it sounds like you've got a great grasp of Jon and your team does, is a strong understanding of who you are and what your core internal capabilities are. You, based on that degree of introspection, and I'm sure your own conversations that you guys have had on what's our strategy, what's our strategic plan, who do we want to serve and how do we get there? You're able to find customers whose needs align really well with your internal capabilities.
That's something else that I'd layer in there. Because Tracy, you and I talked so much on this podcast and other forums about learning about your customers. I'd love to dig in a little bit, Jon, on the methods that you guys use to gain those understandings about your own team.
About our own team. I think probably the most unexpected answer I could give is, through suffering. You really learn the most when you're going through a pruning stage. If you couple that with a couple of growth spurts, it's all cyclical business. It's never a straight line going up into the right. You learn the most at an individual level and probably at a team level going through suffering and then you change the most going through a growth spurt.
Every time you get twice as refined in your thinking, you find that the stuff that was working before is not working anymore and so you go, "Hey, you have to change things." When you undergo change, that's when you realize whether or not you're outgrowing, the company is outgrowing people, or God forbid it's the other way around, your people are outgrowing your company. Well, not God forbid. The people that have left Anthroware for the last eight years are all very successful, amazing people. So, being a step on that journey is a privilege as an employer.
But, that's when those splits tend to happen, is when either you're changing things with your vision or your company or your processes or, where you're headed, that people don't agree with, or it wasn't the same company that they wanted to work for five years ago or whatever. I think that you learn the most and you tune in to the core values of the people that you want to be around, that work well in your environment, when you go through periods of growth and suffering.
I'm actually a little bit triggered by the culture fit phrase, because we're a product company. I don't want to hire a bunch of people that think exactly like I do. So just hiring for direct culture fit, would just be hiring a bunch of people that think like we already think. We've internally changed that narrative to the core values fit and so we've got a few things that are kind of boundary conditions. If you're not striving to be a very humble person, you're going to clash with our team and likely our partners, because if you have to be the smartest person in the room, we're all going to hate working with you.
So, we know that hiring people that have a sense of humility is really, really important and there's plenty of others. But that type of clarity has come from the waxing and waning of the business and how those pressures either cause leadership decisions to be made and that people don't like or they love. Then also just as this personal growth periods of going through suffering.
Tracy Eames (00:27:33):
Yeah. I think those parts are the parts none of us want to go through. There's those parts, we're all in that kind of common struggle. But it sounds like you and your team do a good job of learning from it and trying to decrease those friction points going ahead. So you go through a period where, "Hey, this isn't ideal. It's been kind of tough, but now we're going to learn from that and take those friction points out of the way, so maybe the next time we don't go through those." We might go through some more, to your point, businesses up and down and there might be a whole new set of challenges.
But that's what we talk to teams about a lot. You want to be agile in the way of not the development kind of term agile, but as a team, you want to be able to have that resilience to respond and say, "Hey, okay, we've been through a tough time together before, this might not look exactly like that, but we got through it once and we can get through it again. How do we do that together versus every person for themselves? I need to get myself taken care of versus the team being taken care of."
Jon Jones (00:28:35):
You have to be really open to see the people that in those moments are ready and chomping at the bit to rise above their current position. We've always seen that in times to transition, but you have to give that space. So yeah, it's a painful thing, it's hard to talk about, but every business goes through it and you come out better.
Tracy Eames (00:29:07):
Now, it's a real conversation. I think it's a question we get often too. That obviously everybody would always love a business to be smooth sailing and a perfect picture of entrepreneurship, everything is successful all the time. But I think true leaders to your point, real leaders step up in those times where the team is struggling and they say, "Hey, how do I help? Even if I'm not the formal manager of this team, how can I be an individual leader and help us all get through this? What can I do to improve our collective process? Where can I step up? Or, where can I step back?"
To your point, there are some times that as a leader you have to be like, "Okay, I have to step back a little bit and lead from behind to allow my team to coalesce in the ways that they need to, and take ownership around these things." I think it's a valuable lesson for leaders in terms of, okay, hopefully those struggle points will be short. But preparing the team for them and having a common approach and a common plan is really valuable and important because it allows you to enjoy the success a little bit more. You're like, "Oh, okay. We all got through this thing together, you'll laugh at this.
I'll do this shout out for Jeff Kaplan who was on the show before, which obviously I know you're a good friend of Jeff's and know him. But he was talking about the success of a team is so much more fulfilling. It's like that whole mosh pit on the World Series, like everybody's running and you are all running and celebrating together, because you did have some lows. There were some games you lost and it was a hard, long season and you had this collective, so to speak battle together and now you've overcome that and you've won. That's what we love about teams too, individual wins are fun. Those team wins, I mean, we think you can't beat them.
Jon Jones (00:30:57):
It feels good. Yeah. What we're getting now, is this underdog mentality at Anthroware where, joining the team now is akin to, jumping on board the pirate ship and sailing it into the yacht club. There's some rallying points too, just on the way up. Our clients are getting more and more sophisticated and the type of work we're being asked to do is more and more in line with what we were talking about earlier. It's all a journey. It doesn't just start at one point. It's like, oh, this is exact... I'm just going to say this now and because I said it on Tracy's podcast, now all of our clients are perfect. It doesn't work that way, it's a journey.
Tracy Eames (00:31:48):
This is what happens on the TEAMES & CO podcast. If you say it, it totally comes true. That's what we like to believe.
Jon Jones (00:31:56):
That's why I'm here. I'm going to hang up and just sit beside my phone and wait for it to start ringing. But yeah, I mean, it's so important to know where you're going and realize that it's aspirational at the same time, because it's frustrating to hear me talk all the time about our ICP, our goals and where we're headed. Then if that's not reflected by reality 100%, and you don't have the right attitude about it, it's like, well, then why did we take this client? It's like, well, that client slipped through, we tried, we're not going to get them all.
But that lighthouse, that aspirational that you never actually get to cause you hit the rocks. Knowing where you're going and being able to make sure that you're comparing actions to that, that's what gives you [inaudible 00:32:41] with the team to say, "Hey, we're imperfect, you're following a bunch of imperfect leaders. We're making mistakes, we're doing the best we can to serve you and listen. This is where we think we're going and here's how these decisions align with that."
You've got to just lay it all out there, because we're a very small company, there's no need for anything but transparency. So, we talk about where this is going a lot and we're doing a better job allowing for the types of conversations that are just really meaningful to people. But, I think that's maybe advice that I would give myself five years ago is to listen more to that kind of stuff.
Mike Vaggalis (00:33:25):
Yeah. How do you set that lighthouse? When you set the strategic direction for the firm, how do you guys do that? Is that a leadership decision? Do you engage different team members in that conversation?
Jon Jones (00:33:43):
It's one of those things where it's a lot easier to poke at something if you've got a picture to start with. If you have a starting place already defined, it's easier to see issues with it or see things to get excited about. So I'll generally throw something out on paper, and then we talk about it as a leadership team and then we share with the team and have a feedback session around that. That goes to financial goals, it goes with any kind of cultural goals we have or, wealth building within the team, anything like that.
We actually have a five step process that we go through with our clients when it comes to building a winning product roadmap and we generally drink our own Kool-Aid with that. We're looking at the risks and opportunities. We're prioritizing things. We're going through a lot of the same activities that we go through with our clients minus the discovery phase, because we know about that part already.
But yeah, I think it's something that we revisit yearly and along with an analysis of what's working, what's not working and what's missing from a leadership team and then we actually set... Like, one of the things that COVID did, is it forced me to learn some online collaboration tools like I'd never learned them before and I was able to set up some Miro boards, so our whole team could participate in the same exercise we did as a leadership team. The leadership team is ultimately responsible for carrying the stuff out, but the voice of the team is most certainly heard there.
When you talk about doing it for us as easy, I would say, because we have really close collaborative stakeholders and when it comes to goals, we're pretty aligned. It's amazing how aligned we are with the high-level stuff. How we get there is where we argue and fight and stuff. But it's healthy, the healthy kind.
One of the things we did in 2019 and late 2019, maybe early 2019, I'm not really sure, we did this in the past, that's all that matters.
Tracy Eames (00:35:55):
We're all on the same timeline, Jon, don't worry about it. What year was that?
Mike Vaggalis (00:36:01):
Last year really didn't happen.
Jon Jones (00:36:02):
People say, I'm missing a year though, that year definitely happened and it was brutal, but we didn't miss it. But anyway, we were doing a refresh on our branding, which we're undergoing again now, because of some things that are shifting or ICP is shifting a little bit. We opened up a lot of exercises to the whole team, because branding it's not really saying, "Hey, we're going to be that. That sounds good, I want to be that." It's much more about interpreting who you already are and explaining that very clearly to your ideal customer.
One of those exercises, we asked the team, what Anthroware looks like in a year, three years or five years? That silly, that classic HR, "Where do you want to be in five years, before we hire you?" I hate that question. But we asked that and the interesting thing was, I had written down where I thought we were going to be in terms of what people, revenue, culture, that kind of stuff. When the team responded, their dream for what Anthroware could be, was bigger than my own, and it blew me away.
We're currently doing a study right now, where I'm asking this question to our team members where I say, "Okay, tough year, tough a little bit. What does Anthroware look like in two or three years where your friends are jealous that you work here and that being here was the best career move of your life?" We're getting responses that some of them are very practical, "I want to be able to work remotely from another country for six months out a year." It's just like a very black and white thing, which is okay by the way. The person that asked that, that's fine.
But some of them are very hard to put your finger on, but really, really important and more about the feel of the place. If you think about it, we can build the company and culture that people really want to work at and it's up to us to do it and it's not just up to leadership. The leadership has to open up to letting the whole team really be a part of that.
So, that's been a really interesting survey as well, just to get a pulse for that and it helps. That obviously goes into setting our goals as a firm of where we want to be.
Tracy Eames (00:38:37):
Jon, I think, one, I love that you're answering questions on here. This is like the Q&A live with your team around the responses to the survey questions. So I feel like we're real-time helping build the team here. This is great.
But I think also what strikes me is, there's a lot of organizations and we hear this a lot is like, how do we adjust? We've all had a really hard year and a half now, some businesses have grown quite quickly in that year and a half, because just based on the changing dynamics, things needed to ramp up for them. Other businesses have obviously struggled and maybe their business has slowed down and they've had to lay people off. But overall, I think all businesses are taking a step right now to say, "Okay, what's the next thing for us? How do we build the next thing? How do we make sure we're successful in the future?"
It sounds like you all at Anthroware are doing a lot of research and branding and making sure you know who you are and how that comes to life in the world. But what are some of the other ways that you're changing the way you think about the future? We hear a lot of organizations saying, "I'm no longer ever making a five-year strategic plan ever again, five years is too long, I'm going to be going shorter." But we hear different things from different businesses.
So, are there things that you used to do as an organization and as a leader to say, "Hey, I think this is the best way to set our organization up for success." Now, knowing what you know and all the agility we've all had to build in the last year and a half, are there new things that Anthroware is just trying to put into practice to be more successful and more agile as you approach the future?
Jon Jones (00:40:21):
Well, to backup for a minute, a five-year strategic plan has been too long for a long time. I'm just throwing that out there. Business and the world moves faster than five-year increments.
Yeah. I think that over the past 18 months, we have definitely been in attack mode, this is an opportunity, we don't want to go out and back into the cave and shrink away. We want to go really to take advantage of the opportunity as we can. I think there's going to be a lot of opportunity for a while. Especially, you've got the big consulting firms like KPMG and BCG in Maine on massive, massive hiring sprees. You've got one and a half trillion dollars in private equity. You've got two huge influxes of cash. So we're having an inflation conversation obviously like, where's that money going to be spent?
Our current administration is probably going to do something else important one way or another around our environment or the economy that's going to stimulate a lot of entrepreneurial activity. I mean, if you're not thinking of this as an opportunity, then I would suggest you call Tracy or call me and we'll talk you into it. It is an opportunity right now. Anthroware, I think if anything else is just very bullish about that.
I think it would be a little bit silly to say that our goals have completely changed. That would mean that we've been bad at setting goals. Before the pandemic happened, we were still right on the cusp of a recession. We absolutely do for one, we still are. So, those are the types of things that you need to be thinking about as a business owner anyway. So I don't think our plans have dramatically changed, but I do think that we learned a lot. We had an accelerated learning period over the past 18 months.
The other thing I think is probably going to be on the front of everybody's mind is how personal work is. It was personal before, that hasn't changed either, but our resiliency tank is pretty low right now. I mean, it's going to take a while for that to build back up. Even though, in the United States, at least the pressure is off quite a bit, from a pandemic standpoint, we're kind of on the other side of that score as how most places are operating.
But that we have been depleted from a resiliency standpoint so much that it adds a lot of stress to everything else. Employee care, team care, we're accelerating different benefits and stuff that we're providing and, in an expanded way, because that is going to continue to be very, very important.
I'm interested in your perspective on the job market. Obviously, a lot of companies are realizing that they can trust people to work remote just fine. Which, is so funny to me. You didn't know that before? You did not trust your people? But that is changing things and our market is very unstable right now, because it's like normalizing towards the larger market in terms of salaries and stuff like that, instead of the other way around, which is a little bit weird.
So, I think there's a lot of turmoil. I don't have a crystal ball, but at some level, I think if you have a good plan, you're just going to plug away and do the activities that you know work for you and try to get better at them.
Tracy Eames (00:44:09):
Yeah, no, I would agree. I really love what you're saying about the team. I think we always focus on teams. I think the organizations that are going to be successful are recognizing, "Hey, the way that we were doing it before may not have been what we're doing now." But I think there's new expectations from people. This has been an incredibly difficult 18 months. To your point, it's still incredibly difficult in a lot of places around the world. I think organizations recognizing that, trying to support their teams in a way that obviously businesses need people to work.
But to your point, I was always very surprised. I've worked from home from basically the beginning of my career. I started off my career as a sales rep in a territory and so I never worked at headquarters. So, this whole idea that team members can't be productive if they're not directly in an office with each other, is a very foreign concept to me. I realized my career may be unique in that I've mostly worked outside of a headquarters. There's only been a few times in my career I've worked at a headquarters.
But I do think that there's a real recognition by organizations that they need to be able to empower their teams and give them the resources to be successful no matter where they're working. That for us is a huge opportunity in terms of being able to help organizations build those processes, build those resources.
But I think also to your point, one of the things that we're seeing a lot of growing businesses doing, is shifting their tact. Maybe to your point, maybe they're not doing the exact same thing they said they were going to be doing, but they are able to say, "Hey, a customer need has changed in this way and we're going to adjust to that and we're going to be able to serve our customers even better."
You've seen this in really obvious ways in the last 18 months. Curbside, pick up, a lot more delivery services, but you've also seen it in nuanced ways where people are maybe building in features the products or tech products that they have and make those things easier for people.
So, I think that we're going to continue to see that shift where people first, whether it's from an employee standpoint and a team standpoint, or from a product standpoint has become a really big focus. Not that it wasn't before, but I think like people first and customer first is taking on a whole new meaning, given the pressures that we've all experienced this year. So I'm intrigued to see how we all come together.
But that's the thing that I've been most, I'll guess I'll say pleasantly surprised, just because I'm lacking a better term. I think the ability for organizations to come together to innovate in a critical time for our society as a global community is really impressive to me. Whether it's at, again, the obvious level of healthcare companies and pharmaceutical companies working together to create these vaccines very quickly, or even at an organizational level below that or in different industries. Just people really working together to say, "Hey, we've got some common challenges and while we didn't use to work with these other organizations, it's really exciting."
I hear more and more people saying they're referring customers to different clients or different providers. I think there's just this new level of collaboration between businesses to help everybody get to the next level that I'm super excited about and I'm really intrigued about where it goes. So I think that's going to be something we continue to see a lot more partnerships, a lot more co-innovations. I'm looking forward to 2021 to see how that plays out.
But, I'll let Mike add his thoughts as well.
Mike Vaggalis (00:47:51):
Yeah, no, I was going to say, I think a lot of this conversation filters back to a couple of things, Jon, that you had mentioned earlier. One is, having values alignment with the people that you bring onto your team. So the fact that it's a surprise for so many organizations that they can trust their people, I'm surprised that you're surprised. That should have been something that you're hiring for people that have enough alignment from a value's perspective to say, "Yes, we can trust this person to get the job done regardless. They don't need a babysitter. They're an adult. They don't need their boss looking over their shoulder." I'm surprised that you're surprised. You'd think that you have some filters in the hiring process to filter those people out.
Then another thing that jumped out to me, was the conversation on humility earlier. I've got Anthroware site up on my other screen and I'm seeing the cycle through on the, we believe statements. I think that those are really powerful and particularly the humility to infiltrate a lot of ways.
Jon, you were speaking earlier about seeking the feedback of employees in understanding what is our strategic direction? Not giving them a totally blank target, providing some direction there, but then having the humility as a leadership team to listen to the feedback of your team, I think is really cool.
Having the humility, Tracy, to some of the points that you're making to respond to the market in different ways and say, "I'm not always right." My view of the world and where I think we need to go, you know what? That can change if it needs to, based on the market, based on what we're hearing from customers.
Jon, that you've invested and Anthroware has invested tremendously in this big research division or research tool. That wasn't a direct correlation to what we were talking about before. I'm just super interested and curious to hear more about that and your guys' differentiator as you look at what enables you to be the more strategic partner as opposed to the execution pair of hands.
Jon Jones (00:50:06):
I love that question. I'm super passionate about it, so I'll try to keep it down.
Mike Vaggalis (00:50:15):
No, don't keep it down, keep it up.
Jon Jones (00:50:19):
I'll be the one screaming in the podcast. So yeah, I think there's a couple of dots to connect here when you're talking about the market and you're talking about change, and then you're talking about research, because your customers didn't just change their behavior due to the pandemic that we've just been through and are kind of on the tail end of. They didn't just snap back to who they were before, they'd likely changed forever.
So many businesses are guessing at who those customers are now and they don't know them anymore. It's insane. So, when you have any organization that's focused on human centered design, anthropology is in the name of our company for a reason. You're studying people to figure out what really moves the needle for that individual. We call this bottom up value creation.
If you solve the problem for that individual, then number one, are they going to buy it? Number two, did they use it as expected? Number three, does it have the intended outcome? That is product market fit demystified. You can put metrics on it, it is not magic pulling a cat out of a pad or whatever, it is literally something you can measure.
So, our research function that I talk about at Anthroware is across between, we're using user experience researchers and designers to uncover business outcomes and business use cases. So when we go into a project or if we're doing this ourselves, or, there's an element of research that could be a survey, which is what a lot of people think of. Then, there's an element of it where it's just really deep one-on-one insights.
So, whether this is like a win-loss study, which we're doing one of those for a big company in the sales enablement space right now, or it's a B2B application where you're selling to a buyer, but the buyer isn't the person that has to use the software. Literally, you could buy a piece of software or build a piece of software and meet the needs of the organization perfectly. But if you're not meeting the needs of the individuals that have to use it, they're going to use spreadsheets or whatever other work around they can to be outside of the system. Guess what? All that efficiency gain that you paid for goes out the window.
All these projects are directly tied to some outcome or our customers, our partners. So in the case of a digital transformation project, maybe it's capacity. Maybe I've got a low margin, high volume business, and it takes a lot of head count and I have all these inefficient processes. They don't have to be paper, the whole digital transformation needs to get rid of paper processes. I mean, that was 10 years ago.
What we're dealing with now, is the crappy digital transformation projects that happen then that are just digitizing a process. We're not researching what actually, what is the job to be done? Forget about the way you've always done it. What's the outcome you're trying to get to? Which parts of that can we automate? Which parts of that can err make more human?
For the past 30 years we've been using software and computers just to automate things. We're realizing now, thank God that there's aspects of this, where we need to make things a little bit more human again. If my CRM was... it's totally smart enough to know, hey, tomorrow is... No, I'm guessing tomorrow is not really your birthday, Tracy. [crosstalk 00:54:08].
Tracy Eames (00:54:07):
No, it's not. But that would have been awesome if it was.
Jon Jones (00:54:10):
But let's say, tomorrow is Tracy's birthday and my CRM is going to automatically send out a birthday message. We've got great AI, because it's 2021 and it can even sound like me. But if that happens automatically and I don't know it's Tracy's birthday and we get on this call or, I see her tomorrow or whatever and she's like, "Thanks for the birthday message." That's a failure of technology. What we should've done is, added friction into the system, not automated it, to alert me, "Hey, tomorrow is Tracy's birthday. I've made this great message, you can send it or you can customize it or you can call her or whatever." But I need to know. I mean, that's just one instance of slowing that back down.
So there are places in digital transformation processes where you can take huge chunks of work that should be done by a computer off of a human being's plate. There's also places where you can humanize that experience and make it enjoyable. If you do that, then they use it time and time again, then all of a sudden the same 50 people in that company can do 30% more work. I don't have to hire any more headcount. So I've increased my leverage ratio in that business by 30% and that's pure profit.
So, when we're talking about even like B2B projects, we think of them like a B2C product. I have to make this something that that individual would buy. They'll buy it with their time, or, I might ask them to be a beta tester. I might ask them to write a review that I would publish. So I might be asking them to transact their reputation or their time instead of money, but it is a transaction.
Then that little micro cycle, every time they're doing that value creating activity at the individual level, that goes into the next cycle, which is usually something like revenue or cost savings. Then if you think about it from the geeky point of view, now that we live in like a data-driven society, if you're actually able to track people's activities at an individual level and report upwards, then you're able to group those data points together, connect the dots and say, "Well, this is an insight."
Then now, when you're at the strategic level and you're saying, "Okay, where do we want to make our lighthouse just to wrap all this up? What's our 24 month roadmap?" Because, nobody is going to do five years. That's silly. But what's our 24 month roadmap look like? We say, we now have data and insights to create predictive models that actually inform at a strategic level where the company is going.
That bottom of that value creation is hardly ever done in practice because businesses sell to buyers and they don't put enough emphasis on the consumer. Practically, I would say, go learn who your consumer is. If you don't know how to do that, there's a bunch of resources online, or you can ping us and I'll tell you how to do it.
I mean, a lot of times it's overkill to hire an agency to do that. Lots of people can do it on their own. There's times where it makes tons of sense too. But that shouldn't be a hurdle. Go learn who your users are, learn who your customers are again, because they've changed. Then, don't go invest a bunch of money without doing that learning first, because you'll likely waste it.
Mike Vaggalis (00:57:31):
Jon, there's a book that I think I've talked about on this podcast before, it's called... have you heard of the challenger sale?
Jon Jones (00:57:39):
I'm aware of the challenger sales model. Yeah.
Mike Vaggalis (00:57:42):
What you described sounds really similar to that, where essentially the challenger sales model says, if you're working with a client in a B2B space and you understand a problem that they have, that they might not even know that they have, you do that by understanding deep insights about their business or their industry, and really importantly who their end consumer is.
If you're able to explain to them, "Hey, you have this, this problem, that you might not even know that you have, or they might be deeper or more negatively impactful than you realize." But then because you have that deep insight from the end consumer, you can also present a solution that solves that problem and is much more impactful.
So it sounds to me like what you just said was similar to that framework.
Jon Jones (00:58:34):
Let me add to that a little bit, because it's really helpful. I would call that a latent problem. We talked about problem types 30 minutes ago. But a latent problem is a problem you don't know that you have until I tell you. That's not as effective for professional services firm as an active problem for obvious reasons. They know they have a problem, but they don't know how to fix it.
But I would think of it like, you're on the right track. I would think of it more... think of the scientific method. You run an experiment and there are no incorrect outcomes. Every outcome is a result. When you start a process where you have sort of a vaguely defined or even well-defined pain point, then you go explore that more. When you talk to people, you're in what we call a divergent phase, where you're going wide, there's no wrong answers.
These people might internalize that pain point, totally different from these people over here, you might find an even bigger pain point than you predicted and you might have to rank those later to see what pains you want to fix, or it might cause a pivot, but you don't care. You don't care what the outcome is, you want to run those experiments, get that learning and there's no wrong answer.
Then when you synthesize everything you've learned, you're going into a convergent state. Now you're converging again and you're going to put a fine point on that and say, "Now, I understand my customer's pain point now, and this is what it is." It's a period, not a question mark.
Then you have to go through another divergent phase and say, "Well, what should the solution be?" This is like an ideation phase where everybody's brains are cranking and you're thinking hard about all these different things that could be a solution and they're all guesses.
The nice thing is what we've learned is, and this is like not even Anthroware, I mean, this is a play that we use at Anthroware, but I think the kind of the design thinking Double Diamond came from IDEO. So there's a lot of thought that's been put into these models. Once you've gone wide again with all these different solutions, guess what? You could talk to your users again, and this time you present them, not with a, "Hey, do you like it?" But a lot of times what we'll do is we'll run a selling experiment where we say, "All right, Mike, this isn't ready yet. It's going to be ready in three months. If you pre-order it right now, then I'll give you a discount for the first six months in return for one hour of your time, a quarter so that we can just check in and get product feedback."
I'm asking you to buy it right now. You're going to write me a check or give me cash or a card or something. You're going to think that you're giving me money right then and I'm asking for a sale of your time and maybe even your reputation. I might ask you, "Hey, if you love it, I'm going to put your name on a website." Kind of those currencies we talked about before.
So when you run a selling experiment, a lot of times people get to that point, companies get to that point and they'd say, "What do you like about this? What do you not like about this?" People will tell you. But they are not product designers. If they don't think they're buying it, then there's a high likelihood they're going to give you a counterfeit or noncommittal yes, instead of a very committed yes. When they hand you that money, you know for sure that that is a real signal, that that product is something that they will actually buy.
So, that type of learning in that second converging phase, where you're trying to make the rubber hit the road as fast as possible, we haven't written any code yet. This is all in the design phases. You can run 50 of these experiments really quickly and then when you get to that point, you're like, "Okay, I know pretty much exactly what the pain point is. I've done all this research. Now from a brand standpoint, I know how to talk to Mike, so that when I say this phrase, Mike has an emotional response because he feels that pain point. Then I show him the solution and he's willing to buy it right now. Why don't we build that?"
You've spent, in comparison to rolling out a product, 20% of the cost, 15%, and then you have to go through and actually design the full product and build it and release it on that. But you have a much better chance of success. So that design thinking and that research model to get at that information in a way that you can then present and, stand behind your recommendations with real reasons, that are not. Because one of our consultants is so smart, it's because we've talked to all your customers, all the people that are going to be using this, and they would actually buy it.
It's a much more powerful tool for stakeholder alignment on what is going into a scope. Then, beyond that, now it's building it. Now you're pouring concrete more than you were before and that engagement changes a little bit and its nature.
It was a great question.
Mike Vaggalis (01:03:36):
I love the human centered component there, the way that insights are developed, is through human interactions, with real people where you can understand and diagnose real pain points in a way that's not artificial. Putting them in that real test sale environment is not just, we all have that tendency to want to tell people what we think they want to hear and forcing somebody to put their money where their mouth is literally and say, "Okay, write me a check." Or, "I'm going to need to put your reputation."
I loved how you phrased that, the reputational value is really testing that before you write a line of code. I think one of the other core messages there that totally resonates is, don't over invest in infrastructure before you have a really good understanding of the deeper visceral, emotional pain point of the end consumer.
Jon Jones (01:04:35):
Mike Vaggalis (01:04:36):
If you can understand that, okay, holy cow, now we're cooking with gas. To your point, consumers' pain points and their views of the world, they change rapidly. They certainly changed in a world where, in the past 18 months or whatever, we've all been stuck inside a lot more. So that need for human centered pain point discovery is so needed now.
I don't have anything more. I was just echoing the points that you said emphatically
Jon Jones (01:05:03):
Tracy Eames (01:05:08):
No, this has been great. I think that we could probably chat with you, Jon, for about six more hours if you let us, but I realized that we're we're at our time. So I do want to make sure before we cut off that we tell our listeners how they can get in touch with Anthroware, so maybe you could tell us where people can find you on social media or on the web. Then we can share that also in the show notes, so people have an actual written reference to it.
Jon Jones (01:05:33):
Yeah. I mean, anthroware.com and make sure you type in W-A-R-E, the other way you spell it is a totally different website, that it's not human centered design. But yeah, that's the easiest way to contact from there. I'm on LinkedIn. If you referenced that you heard this or that you know me somehow, I'm generally really good about wanting to connect and talk to people. Those are the two best places to get us.
Tracy Eames (01:06:04):
Awesome. Well, we will put all of those links in our show notes, so folks can find that. You don't have to worry about how you type Anthroware, we'll make sure it's in there. We'll also put those links in our social media posts, so remember to follow us on social media. If you have any questions for us or for Jon, you just use the #askTEAMES and we'll respond to those. If we need to reach out to Jon to get a more robust answer, we will also do that.
So, Jon, thank you so much for joining us this week. We thoroughly enjoyed the conversation. Like I said, if I don't stop it now, I think we could probably make this like a three-part series.
Mike Vaggalis (01:06:39):
Tracy Eames (01:06:40):
We'll let you go for now, but potentially invite you back for another session of data analytics with Mike.
Jon Jones (01:06:47):
I would love that. Thank you so much for having me. This has been great.
Mike Vaggalis (01:06:51):
Thanks. Before we log off, make sure to wherever you're listening, give us a thumbs up, give us a comment. T Tracy's point, if you have any questions, feel free to reach out to us and we'd be happy to engage with you that way. While you're at it, give us a share with your friends and family or your coworkers or whoever. But, we'd love it if you can continue to share the Building Teams with TEAMES & CO podcast.
Tracy Eames (01:07:16):
Awesome. Thanks everybody. Have a great week.