This is one of the most interesting statements I heard this week, unfortunately not the only one.
“After the takeover everything stopped, we stopped being client facing and we needed signatures for everything”
I will share the story of a Product Owner, I will change her name to Paula because of confidentiality!
Paula worked as a PO at a fast growing start-up called F@str. Having around 400 clients all over the world and only 25 employees. They made money providing an easy to change low-coding product that focused on financial solutions, bookkeeping, reporting etc. Their licensing model was very lucrative paying based upon usage. They grew by 100% per year!
The owner was a very charismatic and funny guy able to fix contracts with unicorns, big corp but also NGO’S. The company consisted of a brilliant architect, developers, sales but also consultants that serviced the clients.
The consultants interviewed, implemented and configured the system but also provided support. Their main goal was to make enough money to compensate themselves and had a direct line with clients, which she said was easy and resulted in very high-quality service.
Customer support was in the Netherlands, two dedicated people committed to help clients the best they could.
The founders knew to that they were very successful, but they also thought about attracting investors to prevent competitors crushing them at some point. So they decided to sign with a big US based financial corporate.
After the signatures it took one day for the new CEO to come in. A slick business guy in a suite jumped on on a table telling everyone that this will be the best thing since sliced bread, so many opportunities!
12 months later:
- 50% of employees left. Mostly the people with creative minds and the will to really make a change for clients;
- Short term sales pushed over long term success;
- The development team decreased by 50% while the licensing fee doubled;
- The support desk was moved offshore, customer satisfaction decreased by 50%;
- Infrastructural issues took weeks to fix as there was an infrastructure team in Hungary that had a lack of knowledge;
- 40% of the employees got promoted to manager so more meetings;
- New features came to a halt, as capacity drastically decreased.
For Paula it was more and more difficult to add value to her customers. She wasn’t allowed to talk directly to clients as there were managers in between. Priorities were set by higher management so she didn’t feel like a PO anymore. ” My main job was convincing others to not build brainfarts and writing stories.”
Now this story can be copy pasted a lot. Two days ago I had a coffee with a PO that told me the exact same story in a different cover.
Ask yourself, what is the reason that the company purchased is so successful? Is it because of it’s people, trust, drive and the ability to adapt fast?
- Don’t add complex managerial layers if people are self-organizing?
- Enable instead of control, interview the employees and figure out how to help it to be more successful?
- Facilitate creativity instead of pushing targets and deliverables?
- Support a clear vision, strategy, what are the objectives?
- Keep the startup vibe,