“Remember that time when…”
“If that wouldn’t have happened, we would have ended up in a much different place.”
From my perspective, the human experience is a series of moments. Moments that generate opportunities for change, action, and reflection. I catch myself reliving those moments with statements similar to the ones above. My assumption is that I’m not alone in this activity. Nostalgia and the act of reminiscing past moments is a common and valuable practice. Especially when you take time to be grateful for those milestones that lead you down a path towards accomplishing your goals. These moments happen in all spheres of life, both personally and professionally.
At Crema, I like to use the word ‘inflection points’ when looking back at those moments that kept us on mission and brought us to where we are currently. Inflection points are times of change or pivots in the life cycle of a business. They can be significant in direction or importance, and can sometimes include both. Our company recently went through a fantastic, 3-day exercise with Form, a company out of Liverpool. I am confident that our experience with Matt Johnson and Jon Minchin will be an inflection point for Crema. In 5 years, I envision our team looking back at March of 2019, and saying to ourselves, “If we wouldn’t have worked with Form, we would have ended up in a much different place.”
The 3 days we spent with Form were intense, inspirational, and gave our leadership team a doable list of action items that, if completed, will help propel us even closer to our vision. Let’s break down the days, one-by-one.
Day One: Where are we headed
Our first day consisted of introductory handshakes and hugs (our teams immediately hit it off) and a tour of our new space. We recently completed a remodel of a new space that is adjacent to our current office, and we were excited to show it off to our guests from across the pond. A testament to our new space, and the creative genius of Prairie Home Design, came when Matt and Jon mentioned that our space is one of the best they’ve been in. We are definitely going to hold onto that one.
Once the tour was over, our work began! We started by creating an aligned vision for Crema. Our company has worked very hard over the last several years on defining and practicing our values and mission. We turn good ideas into great product experiences, and we do that by practicing the values of:
- Constant Improvement
However, we needed guidance (i.e., a push) to identify our vision. We know we’re a tech company that builds products for enterprises and high-scale startups. But, the question we needed to answer was, “what is it all for?” At the end of our time, and with a few iterations, we landed on:
- Our vision is to make people’s lives better through design and technology, ultimately creating a world where individuals and companies thrive.
Needless to say, we really like it. We like it because it’s true, bold, and accurate to who we want to be. If we can look back 10 years from now and say that we have made the world better through our work, then that will definitely be worth the price of admission.
In the afternoon, we worked diligently on new sales language. The goal was to identify the key messages and positioning statements that clearly described who we are and why our clients would want to work with us. Matt and Jon expertly led us through exercises to help pull out fresh ideas and perspectives to create updated sales language that we can use immediately.
We ended the day with tired minds and drinks at Tom’s Town Distillery.
Day Two: Marketing, marketing, and more marketing
This day was probably the most taxing, for good reasons. It required 100% of our brain power as we dreamed a lot about the future of our marketing strategy and execution. However, it did NOT stop at dreaming. Matt and Jon are masters at guiding the group in a way that brings our high-level dreams and ideas down into actionable goals.
Our team spent the morning discussing three key aspects of marketing:
- Customer Acquisition
For each aspect, we collaborated on what we do well in each of these areas, and what we need to improve. At the end of these discussions, we chose one aspect (Acquisition) to focus on as part of our marketing strategy. We unanimously decided that in order for our company to get closer to our vision, we needed to get better at acquiring new clients. This led to more practical discussions in the afternoon that focused on how we are going to do this.
At the end of the day, our team was aligned in both the strategy and execution plan for our marketing efforts in 2019. The feeling of leaving Day 2, mentally exhausted but completely united in our path forward, was nothing short of exhilarating.
Day Three: Let’s get it on paper
Day 3 was probably my favorite day, as we started to put all of our ideas into a plan that we are committed to executing in the next 12 months. Form led us through an exercise where our leadership team identified key objectives for each area of our business (Operations, Sales, Products / Services, etc) for 2019 through 2022. Our team has participated in strategic planning exercises before, but the difference that Form made was twofold:
- Their intimate knowledge of the product studio space immediately created empathy and insight into the inner workings of our business. They were able to guide us as consultants AND as peers.
- The creative assets they used to conduct this session allowed us to focus our attention on one aspect at a time, while seeing each aspect in light of the whole. For example: it’s easy to create a revenue goal out of thin air that is baseless and connected to emotion rather than reality. The exercise they guided us through forced us to consider revenue goals in light of all other aspects of our business. This forced us to ask the question, “Is this revenue goal realistic and attainable in light of our goals for marketing, operations, employee count, etc?” If it didn’t match up, we went back to the drawing board.
At the end of the morning, we had a 3-year plan complete with objectives for the remainder of 2019 to get us well on our way.
The afternoon was spent on one of the most valuable and also difficult practices a service-based company can perfect: value-based pricing. There is so much to discuss and read about with regards to value-based pricing. For more on this topic, please check out this article.
In a nutshell, value-based pricing is a pricing theory where a business prices their services based on the value they provide their clients, not on the billable hour. Sounds simple right? Well...it’s not. It is an art and a science, and requires you to focus on the aspect of your business that provides the most value to the client. This is a good thing, but is a difficult conversation to navigate as most clients are used to hourly pricing.
The key take-away from this session with Form was to focus on the “afters”. A lot of time, we believe that the client is buying our service. Design, software engineering, consultation, etc. However, they are not buying this. Nor are they buying your time. They are buying the desired end state that your services provide. The end state is where your clients are connected to emotionally, as that is where all the value is derived.
For example, if you call a plumber to your house because your toilet is leaking and causing water damage, the value is not how many times he has to turn a pipe wrench to fix it. It’s not in the labor and it’s not in the materials. The value is derived from the desired end state of a well-functioning toilet that doesn’t cause damage and / or emotional distress. A peaceful state of mind is incredibly valuable, and that is what the customer is buying.
As we ended our session on the third day, we set next steps for video calls so that Form can keep us accountable to our 2019 goals. This is what separates them from a lot of other consultants. Matt and Jon are concerned about follow-through and execution more than giving advice. Knowing that we have Form as an accountability partner is icing on the cake.
Cheers to a new friendship!
Working with Matt and Jon of Form has been the highlight of our year. They were incredibly kind, focused, and determined to serve us with excellence and empathy. As we collaborated with them over that 3-day period, it felt like you were working through a problem with an old friend. Someone who knows you well, and deeply cares about you. We simply cannot wait to work with them again!