Keeping your team in the loop can sometimes be a tricky task. For the most part at LooseKeyswe use Basecamp for our projects. Anyone who has used Basecamp with clients knows that can sometimes backfire; they don’t always use the site or understand how it works and then you end up with a mix of emails and Basecamp messages that you have to try to piece together.
There are some repeat clients we have at LooseKeys who I know love to work through email so with their projects Basecamp is out. When this happens I still try to update the calendar on Basecamp, that way everyone internally will know what’s happening. What I realized recently is even though Basecamp might be a way for me to keep all the projects straight, it doesn’t work for everyone on the team. We’re pretty transparent at LooseKeys and I think it’s important for the team to know all the projects that are happening. Though there are some projects I end up working on myself that are small, quick things that are in and out before anyone knows about them so, I don’t always put those on the site. Basically, I figured as long as I know what’s going on at all times then everything will get done. Since starting LooseKeys I haven’t put much of an emphasis on meetings internally. Internal meetings always seemed like a dumb idea, a waste of time. Ingrained in the startup culture is an idea that meetings are bad. But maybe they aren’t…
As you grow, you start to realize why larger companies do things like weekly meetings, limited vacation days and keeping track of hours with timesheets. Ok, now I’m not going to make everyone start filling out time sheets / logs because I hate those. But meetings and just giving everyone a rundown of what’s happening is something we needed at LooseKeys. Weekly meetings are something that can put everyone on the same page and make everyone feel like they know what is expected of them at any given time. Early on we used to do Monday brunches as a sort of meeting. Those brunches were tasty but they started to eat away at the day. So those went away and then it became all about Basecamp; if anyone wants to know what’s happening, check the calendar. Recently, since the team at LooseKeys has been growing, I’ve started doing Monday morning meetings. They are casual and can quickly get everyone up to speed with what the week has in store. We’ll see if we can keep them going or if everyone starts to hate them after a month.
Making sure everyone feels like they are part of the team and not just a freelancer, in and out for one job is important and I hope having everyone involved with the meetings makes the team stronger. It just shows that you shouldn’t rule something out just because it doesn’t make sense at first, as your business grows you never know what ideas you’ll adopt and what form they’ll take.
I find myself splitting my time between the tech start-up world and the craft beer community. I’m probably more involved in the start-up scene now since I’ve been building my own business over the last couple years but the beer world has given me a lot of insight. I’ve hosted an internet video series for the last five years about craft beer and I spend a good deal of time with brewers. I’ve noticed that the start up community and brewing community have some similarities in how they operate.
A Look Back We had a boom and crash with both industries in the 90’s. The beer boom and bust of the 90’s is something I’m less familiar with since I wasn’t able to drink at the time. Even though I wasn’t part of the dot com crash there is a lot more written about it so I get an idea of what happened. I’ve run into tech and beer people who look back at that time and either argue that it’s different or who often remind us that what is happening now is basically the same and we should get ready for the crash.
"All of This Has Happened Before And it Will all Happen Again."
I, for one am on the side that this is different. Most people are being a bit more careful this time around. The growth on both sides has been slower and more focused.
Changing Teams I’ve met a number of brewers over the years and have heard their stories about how they used to brew at this place and then went here and then there. Typically they have brewed at two or three places before the place they are at now. It’s pretty common to be moving around as a brewer, unless of course it’s your own brewery, then you might want to stay and build it. The same thing happens in the tech community, you hear about people leaving Google to work at Apple or how they helped build a couple of start-ups before getting hired or aquired by Facebook. You learn a lot when you’re able to move around and see how other people work. But the end goal for most brewers and tech folks is to have their own business that they are building or helping to build.
Start Small Growth in both usually starts small whether with a team of two or just one person who love’s brewing. They start small trying to gain interest and attention and they grow as it’s needed. No matter how big they get there is always a core group of people at the center making the calls, brewing the beer and figuring out their direction for the future.
Making A Great Product If you’re creating an app, a service or brewing beer you need to make sure the product is top notch. For the most part the ones that start out are making something great, not just focusing on the low hanging fruit to make lots of money fast. They want to create a good product, to stand out from the rest.
Things Fail Failure is a word start-ups know too well and they are fine with it. Services fail, they don’t catch on, or they don’t fill a need. You shut it down and move onto the next thing. Breweries fail too. If it’s not working, then it might be time to move on.
Make Your Customers Your Beta Testers You don’t know if something is a hit or a bust unless you put it out there and test it. This is something that’s a bit annoying on both sides but its something start-ups and breweries do all the time. Startups build something that sort of works and they push it out to see what people think. Then they release a new version and then another. Getting user feedback all the time to make it better or changing it all together to make something people really want. Brewers and breweries test on the customer too but often for different reasons. One, they can’t afford to dump a product so they put it out there even if it might not be stellar. But they also put it out there to see what their customers want. Beer is subjective so what might be too hoppy to you, isn’t hoppy enough to someone else. You have to learn what your audience wants.
Getting Acquired This is something that is pretty common in the tech world when Facebook, Yahoo! or Google purchase an app or team for a crazy amount of money. In the beer community it’s something fairly new and we haven’t really seen much of it yet… the bigger one we’ve heard about was AB-InBev buying Goose Island. This isn’t the last we’ll hear of these sorts of deals. I think they aren’t as common now because it takes more time and money to build a brewery than an app. The bigger breweries aren’t interested in you until you have a big following. You’re not on their radar. That’s where the tech world and the brewing industry still differ. The big guys in the tech industry want the software, the app, or the idea and it doesn’t have to be known or heard of by a lot of people. The big breweries right now are only interested in acquiring a smaller brewery if that brewery has the people and beers in place. Sometimes when an app or service gets bought by the big guys, the app or service gets better, grows its fan base, or is included or bundled with something already existing. And then there are the times when an app or service is bought just to squash the technology. Hopefully, for all the craft beer lovers out there, the big breweries don’t take a page out of the tech industries play book and start acquiring breweries at that same rate.
Groupon and Living Social tried to coupons cool, and it was working… for a little while But at some point we all just got stick of it. I’m sure someone has pointed the reason for the fall but for me was I just got sick of keeping tracking of coupons. I’m all for saving money but when it becomes a chore to deal with, well it’s not worth it.
It’s the same thing that happens when you think you’re going to pick up the Sunday paper and start clipping coupons. You do it for a little while and start to save money but some it’s a hassle it’s more work and you realize pulling out a bunch of coupons at the store is lame. Plus when you go to the store or restaurant and you forget your coupon.
That’s why I’m loving services like Belly, LevelUp and Foursquare that offer a deal not a coupon when you are at the location. You’re already at the location, you likely didn’t make a special trip and it’s a bonus you’re saving money. We’ve seen Groupon and Yelp start to offer deals when you check in or are nearby and that’s great. The less work I have to do to save money makes me more likely to use the service and come back to the location. Foursquare is really smart with the last couple moves with American Express and now Visa. They are offering discounts if you check-in and use the credit card you have linked with your Foursquare account. Talk about easy! I was already go to check-in with Foursquare and since I was to use my card too since I almost never have cash.
Everyone wants to save money it’s simply figuring out how to make it work simply and without have to luge around a coupon organizer and looking like a totally nerd.
Looking to learn a little more about what goes into the projects at LooseKeys?
In this LooseKeys project recap, Brad Chmielewski and Jake Williams talk about creating the B2B explainer video for Taplister. Grab yourself a pint and learn about how they took just a couple key features from the founder and built it into an awesome video that not only explains the service but is fun to watch
If you have any other questions about this project, feel free to contact Brad or Jake.
Having issues listening to the audio? Try the MP3 (10.6 MB).
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This Week In LooseKeys comic features Jake Williams and I going stealth at 1871. On Thursday we stopped by 1871 for a talk and a tour and ended up just hanging around most of the day. Why is Jake carrying a case of Miller Chill and Fosters when you know the LooseKeys team loves craft beer? Well, if we’re sneaking in 1871, there is no way we want to leave any trace that it was us.
For years before I started at Daily Planet Productions ltd. I was a freelancer. I had no boss and I was focused on perfecting my craft. Everyday I was learning and growing as a better designer, which as a freelancer is key; you need to become one of the best in your field otherwise no one is going to hire you. As a freelancer you have a sort of freedom to work and do whatever you want since there isn’t a long-term commitment to any one employer.
When I left Daily Planet Productions ltd. over a year ago I knew I could start freelancing again and jump right back into that world. Instead I wanted to build my own business; I wanted to build something that supported the craft. I knew I didn’t want to just be a freelancer forever. I wanted to manage and organize a team that creates amazing and profitable work. Gone is the idea of having no boss and instead I am the boss. That’s one of the big differences between being a freelancer and an entrepreneur, it’s less about you and more about what your team can do. You’re thinking bigger and taking more risks.
Although the lines blur at times and I take much of my experience as a freelancer and put that towards how LooseKeys runs, I no longer call myself a freelancer. I own and run my own business. Some days it feels like its a lot of risk but most of the time I notice the rewards.
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In this series, Sebastien Lhomme will be interviewing top motion designers and agencies in the community to give you the inside scoop on the persons behind the explanation videos we showcase here. Today we’re bringing you an interview with Brad Chmielewski, the talented designer and entrepreneur behind LooseKeys. [ Read The Full Interview ]