down 5% from March
up 34% from April 2014
Comscore rank: 13th of all Food Sites
down 2% from March
up 27% from April 2014
Comscore rank: 10th of all Home Sites
As we hit the softest part of our year, immediately after the annual January traffic explosion, it's the right time for me to catch up with you all and explain what we're going through internally right now.
Chapter 1: Rebuilding Our Processes and Growing Up
Alena's departure in January triggered a great deal of taking stock and the very real need to re-assess our internal systems as I sought her replacement. That process has been hard at times (I'm still not done) but has also had some very unintended benefits. With the fresh eyes and experience that Rich Greco has brought to the company in the past two months I've realized that the way we work together has improved over the years, but it has grown very organically and reactively to each new situation that we've found ourselves in. In other words, our processes have been okay but not great, not very efficient and definitely not scalable as we add more people to the company at a much faster rate.
Instead of fixing up the shed in our backyard, it is now time to tear a lot of it down and build a real house. This turned a problematic transition into an exciting new opportunity and a fresh source of energy for our shared future.
We started in the finance department with Rich and Sara reworking our chart of accounts and slowly making their way through our entire financial process system - from order taking to invoicing to collecting bills. Along the way they've uncovered a ton of dust bunnies and knotted balls of string and therefore identified many places to de-clutter, clean, reorganize into immediate improvements.
They are about 2/3 of the way through that process right now. It has been inspiring for me to watch them bring tremendous experience to problems that we've grappled with in the past without a sense of a perfect answer. What was fuzzy in the past is now super clear and the "right" way of doing things is being infused into our systems.
I will admit that I've never had a great relationship to systems and process and have far preferred to just roll up my sleeves and get to work. That's fine when you're ten people in a room, but it doesn't work well when you're forty and it becomes a disaster when you are aiming for one hundred. But it took seeing our financial systems through Rich's eyes to see that we've been missing clear, organized processes that would allow us to do our work more easily and give us greater visibility into the future.
Many of you, like me, may have a fear of corporate red tape or too many layers of process, but that's not what this is about at all - it's really about a better design for the increased work that we've been doing which will allow us to do a better job and remove a lot of stress and uncertainty around what is meant to happen next.
It's also about growing up.
In my experience, children have difficulty planning ahead, making commitments and keeping them and mature adults do not. It's a sign of growth when one can improve on one's own processes, increase productivity and the quality of one's work and make plans into the future - budgeting for all of this so that one becomes richer and not poorer in the effort. It is our more immature, childish impulses that resist this and want not to be pinned down, want to be free of responsibility and not stick to the budget if we really think that something better might happen if we borrow more.
I am guilty of this for sure, and my years of Apartment Therapy have been a constant growing up process after being faced with exciting but often harsh and sometimes depressing realities. I would even argue that entrepreneurs are probably the worst in this way as they thrive on the freedom and adrenaline of the startup and tend to jump out when things get too predictable and processes need to be put in place and followed.
That's why this is a big deal for me. For the first time I would say I not only see the need for establishing organized processes around all we do, but I also see the beauty of it as well. There is a real joy to creating a process that really works for yourself and your team, one that borrows from the wisdom of experience and tailors it to your own unique use. There is a beauty to being able to think about what you want to do, plan it ahead and then do it. There is a tremendous gratification in living life on a larger arc than simply waking and responding to the outside or inside impulses that come at you every day.
So, for me, this is an opportunity to grow up as an business owner and enter a more mature phase of my life with this company. It's also an opportunity to take on a really exciting new challenge in stretching myself to a place I've never been before.
And as we enter 2015 there really is no choice.
If Apartment Therapy Media wants to continue to grow and become as big an idea as I think it can be, it and everyone working for it needs to step back with me and reassess everything we're doing to see if it can be done any better. Then it needs to implement intelligent processes like a new operating system that will allow it to grow by achieving far more work with far more people without fear of falling apart.
Rich made this very clear to me with regard to our financial processes, which, he also said, were not so hard to clean up since the science around finances is very well known and our business was not very different than many others. All the other things we do, however, even the way we talk with one another involve processes that are much more abstract and challenging to describe.
It was at that point that he said what we really needed, in addition to a new financial system, was a "common language" which we could all refer back to and which would give us a system and way of thinking about all the other things we do. I wasn't sure at all what he meant, but it sounded interesting.
And then he recommended Turn The Ship Around. Oh no, I thought, not another business management book! While I have loved a number in the past, so many seem overly complicated, overly hyped or simply not useful to me. And then I began reading...
To be continued...