7 lessons learnt  when “starting-up”

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Matt Poll, Commercial Director at More Th>n, talks to Fluxx about what he learnt since working with them to launch a startup; and what he has picked up from their partnership while creating and taking Wagglepets to market.

It’s hard

Having the ideas is the simple bit. Working with Fluxx to gather the insight to develop the thoughts into meaningful and testable propositions was certainly made easier by their techniques and emphasis on MVP. We called it the minimum viable possible required to communicate an idea and see if it sticks. But letting go of preconceptions was tough. I thought I knew what we would be taking to market but I was wrong. The potential customer base were not ready, so there was no room to be defensive of my so-called solution. It’s tough accepting insight! It’s hard letting go. It’s difficult conceding what feels like defeat, but it’s essential.

The proposition doesn’t need to be perfect from day 1

Or day 50. The test and learn methods practiced by Fluxx – that kind of nimble ninja thinking is vital. From one week to the next our proposition could change – depending on what we learnt from prospective customers, so learning and listening to those learning is key. In fact, I believe that most successful propositions are work-in-progress. We have to learn to listen to customers more and move with what they need/demand. If you are a perfectionist this process can be a little unnerving. Until you get into the rhythm of knowing that you are always working to perfection…

 

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The people are ultimately key to the success factor

The idea alone is certainly not enough for success – no matter how brilliant it maybe. I have seen an attitude and culture develop around Wagglepets that has blown me away, it is clearly driving our journey. There’s a genuine emotional connection to our startup that I haven’t seen in the more corporate FTSE 100 world. Everyone involved believes whole-heartedly in our success. Whether this has manifested itself in giving up time at weekends to attend pet shows or non-animal lovers becoming experts in all things canine – there’s a palpable commitment and determination to make Wagglepets work. The team leave no stone unturned in the pursuit of meeting deadlines, satisfying customers or navigating logistics.

Listen; don’t guess

From day 1 Fluxx talked about gathering insight from pet owners/ dog owners/ real people. As I reflect on where we started, to what we have become I realise, and in fact can’t stress enough, the importance of never assuming. Actually it is paramount to never guess what people think/want: it’s futile. You have to listen to them. In their environment preferably. Within 3 weeks of our conception, members of the team went walking dogs with other owners and asked pertinent questions. They genuinely walked miles in our customer’s shoes and returned informed, enlightened and insight rich.

In a nutshell: what we learnt within the first 8 weeks from listening, moved our proposition considerably.

We had thought technology would be at the core or our offering but I it is now centered around total wellbeing for pets, with technology was only part of this. We wouldn’t have got there if we hadn’t got out and got to know our customers and I don’t mean through traditional market research.

Big business can’t afford to not do this

On initial face value it looks like an expensive way to get something up and running. However, the reality is working with Fluxx as partner is very cost effective. You can’t put a price tag on the rapid progress we have made or the cultural repercussions of the way we work. The loopholes we have stepped through, the time saved on research and even failing fast, the insight to customers, the navigating of systems, the intelligence gathered. We have got all of this in a year – from a scribbles in a notebook to paying customers – actually paying customers in a year. That simply doesn’t happen in the insurance industry. It doesn’t happen in many big companies and it doesn’t come cheap. But it is well worth investing in.

Escape the politics

I have to say from the outset that you never fully step out of the political limelight just because you have left the building with an idea. There will always be outcomes delayed by people back in the office who put their foot down and cause delays. But with some distance from the mother-ship and the fresh perspective of a consultancy like Fluxx you can make decisions faster, navigate the internal systems with new found agility and even confidence. But there’s no doubt about it, seeking to deliberately exclude certain stakeholders will come back and bite you badly later so don’t bother. Don’t attempt to anticipate the reengagement of the rest of the business: invite them to consider for themselves throughout the process. It’s vital to bring key players with you on the journey: invite them in, create an open environment for them to visit and showcase your thinking at every juncture.

We couldn’t have done it without Fluxx

From the speed at which the Wagglepets website was built to the already mentioned sleeves-up attitude, to gathering insight – there’s no way we would have achieved much of this on our own. In the time or in the budget. Fluxx’s fresh approach offered an alternative perspective as well as techniques and procedures. It was their lack of “shackles” that enabled us as a team to steam right into all the challenges and constantly solutionise in a practical way. But also their experience. Fluxx understand big businesses, the politics, the economics, the systems, the logistics, the technical challenges and even the hiding places. They have brought an energy to us and a can-do attitude that if I’m honest we’d previously lost along the way. Wagglepets is the product of a strong and certainly long lasting partnership between More Th>n and Fluxx. It’s a union that so far has excited us as a business, provided our first truly unique proposition in a long time and gone along way to prove that the experimental methods that Fluxx use, work for big companies whose thinking has often got very small and limited indeed.

Read more about the Fluxx experience with Wagglepets: Wagglepets, leading the way in innovation

 

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