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Launching a new product into the market is challenging, but launching at the beginning of a global pandemic is a whole other ball game.
This is exactly where Brendan Roberts, founder and CEO of Auckland based SaaS start-up Aider, found himself during the first COVID-19 lockdown.
Brendan had already committed to the Anna Samios Scaling Up Leaders’ Program and it turned out to be a silver lining amidst the uncertainty. The opportunity gave him space to assess how he could lead his business through this unprecedented crisis.
“The thing that interested me most about working with Anna was building a good business from a cultural perspective,” explains Brendan. “As a start-up, I’m looking at how we get the foundations right and find the right people that align with our culture.”
Aider is a mobile digital assistant for smarter businesses. It uses artificial intelligence to connect to the applications small business owners use every day and delivers easy access to answers critical for daily, data-led decision making.
Brendan was introduced to Anna Samios through one of his investors who felt the Scaling Up Program would be a good fit for Aider.
The twelve-month program brings together a small group of like-minded executives in monthly meetings so they can work with Anna on implementing the Scaling Up framework in a collaborative environment.
While Brendan had worked with other business methodologies, he had not come across the Scaling Up framework before working with Anna. But he soon realised that his new product aimed at advisers was the perfect opportunity to apply the framework under Anna’s guidance.
“We used a greenfield perspective to launching our new product and started off with Anna’s approach. That helped us cut through, without having to spin our wheels working out the right way to do it. The Scaling Up framework really helped us structure our thinking around business value.”
Working with Anna to implement the Scaling Up tools helped Brendan maintain momentum to launch his new product through the uncertainty of lockdown as well as giving him time to reflect on how he could use the tools across the rest of his business.
For Brendan, working with Anna on the core customer exercise had a tangible impact on how Aider approaches its clients. As a SaaS company, Aider products are built with a strong understanding of their ideal client. Still, the Scaling Up tools added a level of granularity that gave Brendan real insight into his new product.
“The exercise includes making a promise to our core customer… I’d never thought about that particular angle before. What is the promise we’re going to make to these people and how are we going to make it come true? That process was really useful for us.”
For Anna, the promise to the core customer is about having really great conversations with your customer, so you can identify what they need and want you to do. Then it’s up to you to provide products and services or even a customer experience or journey map that nobody else has delivered before.
That promise continues to be top of mind for Brendan as he works to support Aider’s clients, some of whom are in the hospitality sector. New Zealand’s lockdown had a heavy impact on the hospitality industry, with the sector reporting a 49% drop* in the June 2020 quarter compared to the previous year.
Brendan feels Anna’s unique perspective and experience bring a lot to the table. He gained insight from the stories she shared about how other companies had succeeded but also where they had taken a wrong turn. “It’s helpful to hear where people have tried to do something and it just didn’t work. Anna shares the stories in a way that is really useful.”
The Scaling Up Program encouraged Brendan to revisit Aider’s company values. He felt that while the company’s existing values were good, they seemed a little generic. Working with Anna saw him dig a little deeper.
“What I learned through Anna’s processes is that values should be led by the founder. In start-up land, the founder is the person who survives with the business after others come and go… So, I’m recutting those values because they need to be really tangible and specific to Aider.”
Anna’s approach encouraged Brendan to utilise Aider’s values to build his team of A-players, and so far, it’s working. “Our values are resonating with people more… so we are finding the right fit for our company.” The end result is an authentic set of values that Brendan can use to lead his business and build his team.
For Brendan, the opportunity to share and learn from leaders in other industries and at different stages provided a fresh perspective. He values the exposure to different ways of thinking and contrasting success metrics. He feels the leaders’ program has expanded his thinking beyond the tech industry.
“Sometimes I’ve said something in the group that was perhaps just an observation, but it’s helped somebody else. And that’s kind of great,” says Brendan. And of course, the collaboration runs both ways. Brendan has found himself getting answers to the questions he’s been working on.
In each session, the group starts with a check-in before moving to the structured program. And there is always the opportunity to share stories and learnings. “It’s good to compare notes with other founders and businesses going through the same process that we’re going through,” says Brendan. “There’s a lot of lessons across the board.”
As every leader knows, it is incredibly difficult to work on your business when your spending all your time in the business dealing with deadlines and with everyday operations.
Brendan has found real value in working with Anna and being part of the leaders’ program.
“It’s important to take time out from running the business, to think differently and to be challenged and introduced to new methodologies,” says Brendan.
“ I think that’s always useful. I definitely recommend that.”
*Source: Stats NZ
"Anna' is a champion. You don't often come across people with her enthusiasm and genuine interest in helping people. This is more than a job to her... it's her passion. Peter Salveson, CEO Hansen Yuncken.
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