Hiten Shah is an entrepreneur who co-founded analytics tool KISSmetrics and heatmapping tool Crazy Egg before most recently starting FYI, a search tool to find team documents from Dropbox, Google Drive, Slack, Evernote, Confluence, and more in one place. And he's an active blogger who shares advice about founding companies, marketing, growth hacking, and more.
This AMA took place on Tuesday, April 7, 2020.
I used to throw "Hiten Bombs" around at KISSmetrics. And I wrote about it. The post is called "My Billion Dollar Mistake" and is one of the most popular if not the most popular pieces of content I've written to date.
Countless people told me they were sharing the post with everyone on their teamsand a bunch even read it out loud at their all-hands meetings. People have told me that it resonated so much with their experiences working with founders, CEOs and executives. They would say oh, [Executive Name] Bombs are common in my workplace.
This experience clearly seems to resonate with people. And I personally consider it my most memorable and also painful learning moments in business. I learned that my influence is such that people on the team are willing to drop everything they are doing in order to do things related to conversations I have with them even if I try to explicitly tell them not to when I share an idea.
I have further developed various methods to prevent this situation where I'm distracting the team since the KISSmetrics days. I take more notes than I ever have in order to write things down versus say things to other people at inappropriate times. I also now thing about whether something I'm thinking matters "now vs. later". If it matters now, I will think about the appropriate time to share it with the team and usually will write it up before I share. If it matters later, I will put it in my notes for later. This gets things out of my head and into a more appropriate place and format.
In 1-2 years I think the collaboration technology and availability of high(er) speed Internet will lead to innovation in voice, video, screensharing and even virtual reality.
The current acceleration will most likely cause more investment in collaboration technology now that we are all more exposed to collaboration products at work and personally too.
It's absurdly easy for me to hold multiple view points at the same time. So on one hand I believe that SaaS is crowded and on the other hand I believe there is more opportunity in SaaS than ever.
I guess the most controversial thing I can say is that both things are true. What's really happening is that SaaS is getting very mature now. And the SaaS explosion is not going to stop plus we'll just start seeing a lot of permutations as SaaS becomes more commoditized. Here is some relevant content:
As Marc Andreessen put it, "Software is eating the world" and this is more true than ever.
I keep it simple and probably boring. For daily use I prefer tools that I can rely on, are flexible in their use cases (horizontal tools) and are easy to use. I primarily use G Suite (Gmail and Docs/Sheets), Slack and GitHub pretty much every day. And Airtable and Bear (for note taking) on most days.
People tend to have this illusion that a new shiny tool will solve all their collaboration challenges. In reality collaboration challenges are a result of process problems. And having a great process that you improve over time is what makes collaboration smooth.
Communication, switching tools and finding documents are the challenges we have heard the most at FYI. All of these tend to be described as challenges related to tools. Not so much process and people.
Yet process is what I believe should dictate the tools you use, not the other way around. There are some tools that are very opinionated such as Basecamp but even with the product's strong point of view, it's still flexible enough to work with whatever processes you have.
So, first off I recommend that companies rate their collaboration focused processes such as product development on a scale of 0 - 5, with 0 being the lowest rating and 5 being the highest for each of these four attributes:
I call it the VACA method. I might be diving in deeper into this in the future depending on how helpful people find it to be.
We had this challenge at KISSmetrics when we went hybrid after years of being fully remote. The key is to think about everyone on the team's experience.
After some iterations with our processes and lessons learned we realized one simple thing:
People who are remote should not feel like second class team members.
For example, if you're doing an all-hands in a hybrid company I would strongly suggest that you have everyone join via Zoom virtually instead of letting folks in the office view folks who are speaking live. And also potentially encourage chat via Slack at the same time if that's appropriate.
The key is to ensure that the experience people have regardless of how and where they work is consistent across the team. If it isn't you'll see a lot of negative cultural damage as a result. People will not feel part of the "same team" and instead you'll develop an "us vs. them" phenomena that is best to avoid.
Take care of people.
It was one of our values at KISSmetrics and one I literally live by.
I also have been known to include this quote by Zig Ziglar in the signature of my emails: "You will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want."
I'm guessing though that you'd get a better answer from people who I work with!
I really thought it would take a very long time for remote work to be tried/adopted by companies. Despite this being "business as unusual" under our current coronavirus pandemic, the majority of companies are forced to figure out how to have their whole team work from home.
I think we're still early in this whole situation and at this time I'm focused on thinking of the facts of our current situation and "things that won't change" as Jeff Bezos puts it.
People have been thrown into working from home all of a sudden but it's not business as usual at all. It's more like business as unusual. My co-founder Marie recently wrote about what's different about today's coronavirus work from home situation compare to normal remote work.
What's not going to change is that people are going to need work, especially with the incredible rise in unemployment we've seen in March 2020. Just wow.
I don't think we're ready to start predicting the lasting impact just yet. I'm taking everything in day-by-day and developing frameworks to help myself think about the future. But I don't think anything is set in stone yet. A lot of it depends on how long our current situation lasts and what various governments and companies do to react.
It really depends. Scaling distributed teams has taught me that there is a purpose for both methods of collaboration and often people get confused by the two.
With distributed work, it's really important to write things down. So asynchronous communication where you are writing things down can be really really effective for getting things done and so can quick videos using Loom.
I also have a simple way of collaborating in real-time that I have found to be very effective as well.
Good for getting things done with up to 3 people and get things done fast in a remote environment.
I was interviewed on this topic recently by Nathan Baschez and he wrote up wonderful article about what we discussed. In general I like mental models a lot and also like to create my own from "inputs" and my own experiences. Read the article here.
Just about anyone's guess is as good as mine at this point. Best recommendation I have to answer this question is to follow what types of categories that are being hit the hardest and see if you can predict what'll happen once things turn around.
Looking at the folks who are doing layoffs can be telling but doesn't really explain what'll happen afterwards.
I'm guessing that we'll see SaaS companies go out of business that are reliant on offline activities for revenue (tradeshows, conferences, field sales, etc...) and ones that are focused on brick and mortar businesses which are being hit very hard right now. Basically if you can't sell anymore or if your customers go out of business, there's a lot more risk to your business' survival right now.
Sounds slightly cheesy but simply asking people how they are feeling from time to time is really impactful. We're all humans (I think) and so we should care for each other enough to ask and listen non-judgementally.
I tend to share what's on my mind pretty often. I've more recently have been more public about my sentiment around how "nobody knows what they are doing."
I want into more detail on this concept and more in this podcast I did with Harry Stebbings.
Uncertainty is something that I am very comfortable with.
I've tweeted about this, obviously. Twitter is magical
In terms of follower counts, I followed a lot of people when DMs required both parties to follow each other. I was and am still very active in DMs. I create lists and the algorithmic feed is actually pretty good too.
Content and marketing should match your audience and their needs. I've found both to be effective and it just depends on what the goal is. Blog posts tend to build brand and ebooks are good for getting people's emails. Both can be used together as well.
The concept of work will change. I don't think these coworking spaces will go away completely. We're clearly going to see a dip in their usage for a bit. Human connection is so very important to us and these types of spaces provide that to so many people even those who work remotely. I can't imagine the recovery to be 100% any time soon. But, I'm just guessing. Not enough time or information yet to make a solid prediction.
Meditation, walks, drives and anything that gets me outta my head is what I tend to do. Movement of mind, body and soul you could say.
Double down on competitor research where you focus on understanding what people think about competitors without having to do customer interviews or anything like that. Here's an explanation of how we think about competitor research at FYI.
This would require a lot of time and typing to answer thoroughly.
High-level my take today is that all work is distributed work thanks to all the apps we use on a daily basis and the ability for a growing number of people to technically be able to work from home.
What we call work today which involves the majority of people going into an office will be seen very differently in the near future. Since just about everyone that can be exposed to working from home has been recently, the definition of work will change sooner than later. It might already have!
I meditate in different ways. Silent meditation, walking meditation and with various mantras or breathing exercises. Contemplation is what some might call what I do often, more than meditation. I also tend to do a lot of "thinking about thinking" which helps me get to root causes and first principles.
I think as true as this seems to be, there is a lot of concern and uncertainty about the future. I would really think about how your product fits into people's lives right now instead of trying to just do marketing at this time. Just like always, if your product is relevant to people then they'll entertain it. If not, they won't.
Focus on being cash-flow positive. Do whatever you can possibly do to make sure you have enough capital to survive. That means doing things you might be very uncomfortable doing such as laying people off, cutting people's salaries, negotiating with vendors, reducing R&D spend and anything else that you might not normally consider doing during the good times.
Basically, just about everyone is forced to evaluate their current investments into their businesses and determine how best to conserve cash versus spend it.