This article is a part of Founder's Banter series, where I share how our tiny company deals with the crisis and searches for paths to create the best workshop management solution for training companies.
Before sharing right away what we're doing now, it's essential to give you some insights as what was in the past. To some extent, the mistakes we made in the first quarter of 2020 became the motivation for this series. The knowledge of our previous steps would draw a more complete picture for you.
Because of the mistakes I made in the first couple of years, our position was already difficult. You see, workshop Butler serves three types of customers: individual trainers, training companies, and certification brands. For a small team, it's two types too many.
Certification brands bring us the lion share of our revenue, and the product suits this group of clients best of all. Unfortunately, there is an issue with this particular group: there are not enough businesses in it. Besides that, they are very challenging to target: different approaches, different namings.
Individual trainers are a nice niche but too competitive with many quite good products: TicketTailor, Eventbrite, etc. The skills of our team are more aligned with building products for small-to-medium companies, not micro-companies.
Based on these thoughts, we decided to concentrate on training companies from the start of 2020. We had a few customers in this group and planned to use them to learn and adapt. There was one small impediment though: I promised to deliver a new significant feature - card payments - to one of our certification brand. Besides, there were a few minor promised improvements. So to start moving in the chosen direction, we needed to keep our promises first.
While thinking about how we can deliver what was promised and increase the revenue, we came up with a hypothesis that card payments could be very valuable for individual trainers and may motivate them switching to our paid plans. So we said to ourselves, "We will add card payments nevertheless. Let's hack a bit more, improve our support for paid trainers' plan and increase our revenue right away".
You see the problem, right? Starting with a blurred focus, we decided to blur it further. And we didn't stop there 🤦🏻♂️.
At the beginning of March, it was clear that there would be a dip in the number of workshops and our revenue. By our estimates, we expected March to be so-so, and April quite bad. We decided to wait and see the results of card payments' release. The announcement was made two weeks before the launch. The initial response from trainers was promising; many of them wanted to stay in the loop about this feature.
We finished the card payments by the middle of March and made one client who requested them, very happy. However, we saw a little interest from others. Something should be done, but what?...
Five years ago, I developed a tiny simple service for sharing virtual kudo cards - Kudobox. About 2,000 people used it monthly, and I genuinely have been doing nothing else with it. As many companies and teams switched to remote work, Kudobox usage increased 5x, to ~11,000 per month, with hundreds of cards created daily. The service is free, but the increase in visitors made us think of monetising it. Through experiments, of course. Should we add it to the list? Sure, why not?!
We had card payments for individual trainers we wanted to succeed, ongoing support for certification brands, plenty of requests from training companies, and Kudobox. Did we stop?
Of course, not 😁. Though many trainers had to cancel their workshops, others saw an increase in interest as they taught online. It was also clear that more and more workshops will be online soon, so I started interviewing trainers on how they run online seminars.
April started with me realising that I'm exhausted. We ran experiment after experiment in different areas - Kudobox, card payments for trainers, additions for training companies, interviews, but it didn't feel like we were moving forward. And don't forget, there were just two of us, working fulltime. The most worrying thing was that I didn't understand anymore what we were going to do in the next quarter or two. For a whole week, I woke up thinking about our next steps and went to bed with the same thoughts. That week was hectic, but the end of it finally brought consolation - I figured out that we completely lost our focus.
I lost my focus. And I urgently needed it back.