We are seeing something exciting at LL. Never before have so many families and stu- dents and potential Partners been interested in becoming a part of the LearningLeaders story. It should be no shock to anyone here that the number of placement tests we’ve seen in the last two months is a record high for us, the number of applications for coach- ing and non-coaching positions is similarly hitting new levels, and the zeitgeist from mag- azines like Jing Kids (who visited our opening ceremony on 6/15) says it all, “We would be lucky to work with you on some events!”
Add in a few US National Championships for teams and individual speakers, an attainable/ affordable course selection, and the best team in the country at what we do, and we’ve got a sterling market reputation right now.
At this point, I feel confident (but don’t want jinx us, of course) to say that we are in the process of achieving excellent ‘Product/Market Fit.’ In the land of startups and Silicon Valley and Unicorns, PMF is a huge deal. In fact, legendary founder and VC Marc An- dreessen (of Netscape and Andreessen Horowitz fame) says there are really only two phases in a startup’s life, before PMF and after PMF. While I don’t like thinking of LL as a startup, but more as a rapidly-growing enterprise, let’s unpack a bit what Andreessen means by this and see how it applies to LL and our recruitment and operations priorities for the next 6-12 months.
Product/Market Fit describes the idea that as a young company, you probably think you have a great product or service that everyone else wants. It has all the bells and whistles and does exactly what your customers need it to do. But then, you need to actually take it out to market and see if other people are willing to pay for what you are offering. If many people are willing and excited to pay for what you’re offering, then you’ve likely achieved Product/Market Fit. If you have a baby, but everyone else thinks it’s ugly, then you proba- bly haven’t achieved Product/Market Fit just quite yet. So you iterate and change your product slightly until others are buying what you’re selling.
In a different example - you’re going out on the town with friends. You’re heading to your favorite bar and you put on your bright pink T-shirt with the words, “I’m an Ares! What’s your sign?” At the end of the night, you didn’t find any cute guys/girls to talk to and you head home, frustrated. You have two pretty simple options to change and iterate: change the product, or change the market. If you change the product, maybe you replace that pink T-shirt with a more edgy top and dark pants. If you change the market, maybe in- stead of going to this bar, you go to the one down the street with a slightly different crowd, but you can keep your favorite pink T-shirt on.
In either case, iteration and small changes to your Product/Market Fit strategy can play out positively for you in achieving your goal: to strike up a conversation with a cute guy/ girl.
Andreessen and many other VCs go a step further: the ‘classic wisdom’ in the Valley is that before PMF, a startup’s job is to find PMF. After PMF, a startup’s job is to scale as rapidly as possible and become a Unicorn. Three steps to making a billion-dollar compa- ny: 1) Achieve PMF, 2) Scale, 3) Profit. Sounds simple, right?!
It is! Except when it’s not...
As a company like ours grows and we have achieved (for the time being) what someone might refer to as PMF, we then encounter a whole number of other challenges: internal operations, cost minimization, communication among Partners and with clients, effective resource allocation, legal and government relations, just to name a few. These are not challenges that disappear if we leave them alone. They all have to do with satisfying the demand that is now in the marketplace, rather then necessarily seeing if there is demand at all!
I feel confident in saying that we are over a certain meaningful hump.
It is more likely now that LearningLeaders could die from indigestion, not starvation.
Thus, over the remainder of the year and particularly during our second half planning day in July and for all of our Key Results Areas, it may be best for us to generally prioritize making what we already do better. In other words: “What can we do to improve the peo- ple, products, and processes we already have in place?”
I have been listening to what you’ve been saying, believe me. We’re all working on too many things at once, it seems like. So now is the time to buckle down and optimize the workflows that we have in place to prepare and buckle in for a ride that is about to take off in a big way come H1 2019.
It’s incredibly tempting, and I’m perhaps the most guilty of us all, to continue to want to reinvent the wheel and make newer and bigger things. We already have an amazing port- folio of experiences. We already have the largest selection of travel trips and competitive experiences available on the market. We are already the market leader in the space.
Of course I want us to keep going and keep growing. I’m not turning down the level of ambition whatsoever. Rather, sometimes we need to follow the following mantra:
Go slow to build trust. Build trust to go fast. Go fast to go far.
Rather than ‘more,’ let’s build ‘better.’ And if we have ‘better,’ let’s build, ‘even better.’