I have a task by my mentor Dima and the task is as follows:
Please write a DETAILED
history of how SportID was founded and created. How did the idea came about (by
whom), what were the emotions at the time, feelings, what was the initial
trigger, what were your feelings at the time. Then tell the reader how it evolved
from there, the key pivotal moments, and feelings along the way.
Please try to make as detailed account as possible touching on all aspects of the creation. From the meetings you had, the things you actually said or remember saying, to pitching events – the history of the company creation in as much detail as possible.
The history of SportID
This is not the first time I have to tell this story and I am used to
That being said, I can start with things how I remember them happening. It must have been the seminar of Estonian Company Sport Federation in 2011. Maybe in early 2012. Our aim of making the seminar was to get participants to Estonian Company Sports Games. So we organized a sports seminar for Estonian companies to help them being active and to help us to attract participants. It was not the first one. We had done similar events before. We discussed nutrition, about sports clothing, about training, about recovery. I remember quite some of these presentations that were held by really good presenters. Most of my knowledge about sport’s clothing came from this event where Simmo Kikkas who represented Craft in Estonia told about different layers of clothes. Ott Kiivikas held a wonderful presentation about how to eat reasonably etc. Really compelling stuff.
One of the certain things were that those seminars were organized in one of the companies that
For that specific
Another thing promoted was that the organization was maintaining the wellness budgets of the member companies. It was not that sophisticated at all from what I remember. At that
After all the presentations we had a seminar of brainstorming. Everyone could say out loud what they were thinking that they could improve or that Estonian Company Sport Federation could improve. From previous times it was a lot like people saying that now I have huge motivation to change things in my company and I will turn things upside down and inside out and we are going to be the most hugely active company in the world. This time a lot of them were saying that they need a service like it is in Finland.
I started thinking. I asked from couple of participants if they would actually be using the service if we started one and they said definite yes. My background from the university times was that I happened to do some php programming + some web pages to earn some money. I did pretty shitty job, comparing to today’s standards but I definitely got some experience how software could work for you. So I thought that we actually do not need 10 accountants but a web service.
The thing was, that I had not written code for 7 years and I had never written a line of good code in my life. Luckily I understood that, even though I hugely underestimated the work that needs to be done. So I decided to talk to my old classmate and friend Kaarel Sikk who is a really good and talented back-end programmer and generally very-very intelligent person and understands how things in life work.
I tried to talk him into another concept back in
Kaarel was then kind of interested in the project but he was more adequate than me on evaluating the amount of work that needed to be done and said that “let’s look and see and maybe one day do the project”. That day never came. But then I called him to visit me again and presented another idea 10 years later – SportID. I already had the name and it took some mind-work as
Anyway, we agreed that he will work on the code, which was a bit larger WP plugin at that time (which was later totally
Another huge part of the start was convincing fitness service providers to join in. I visited I don’t know how many of them to hear that they can sign their own contracts with companies and do not need our service. They did not need us and for sure they were not willing to pay a cent to us. Fortunately for us, there was Indrek Raig from Estonian Postal service who told that he is so much interested in the service to run that I can talk in the name of their company. That seemed like a genius idea and it worked. I asked
Anyway, 1. August 2012 we were ready to open the doors for our first customers and launched an actual service for them. I considered that the hard work was done by then, but I guess I was wrong. But that is a set of at least dozen other stories.
Being mentored means questioning and thinking about a lot of things, I do not usually think about every day. For instance, the question of why we are doing what we are doing? What is the main driving factor of SportID that we all should feel inside of us.
I can think of several reasons of how employee activity is useful for them and for their employers, but the idea of this search is to look deeper than the product itself. The product cannot be a root cause or a driving factor of why we are doing what we are doing. It can only be means for achievement.
If I start peeling
The meaning of life?
A lot of philosophers have been searching for the meaning and I must be honest, I am not very familiar with none of their works. But I am confident, that everyone sees it somewhat differently. I believe for what I have read from some place that for instance Socrates’ meaning was to acquire wisdom as much a possible.
Having said that, wanted to control if I was right and found an answer from Quora which states that I am somewhat right. The article states that: “Thus, for him, life is meaningless if he cannot continue to seek knowledge.“
But maybe I am even more right, since the answer states: “Socrates, according to the Platonic dialogues, believes that in life we should seek eudaimonia as our ultimate end. This refers to a state of well-being, a healthy spirit, or a type of happiness. “
OK, since two great thinkers, me and
Yes, we can enjoy hard things in our life
Yes, we can enjoy hard work and learning because we can see the meaning. What is the difference in the feelings of the horse that has just plowed a huge field and a farmer behind the horse? A horse is happy because it is over, the man is happy because it is done and he knows why.
So, we can enjoy the work that we are doing if it provides some meaning for us and we know why we are doing it. Yet, human body, which is the only instrument that we have to use to continue the pursuit of our goals and happiness, is not a machine that’s parts can be changed easily when something breaks down. We need constant maintenance and moving our bodies keeps our blood moving in all parts of the body, providing everything necessary starting from oxygen and fuels to our cells, so we could think and do things efficiently.
Holding steady poses (sitting behind the desk) or repeating the same movement cycles all over again (working with a machinery) does not provide the means for the body to keep good flow of supplements to the cells. Some parts work too much, some parts too little. Add a few extra kilos that we gain by not spending the consumed energy and things will become gradually even worse. If we start having pains in some parts of our body, we start worrying, we will lose focus from what we should be focusing on. We lose the joy from our life.
If we gain extra weight, we start to hate the shape of ourselves in the mirror. We start feeling that just moving our body from point A, where we are, to point B, the place we want to or need to go, starts getting annoyingly heavy. Again, we lose a big part of the joy in our life because of needless worry and dissatisfaction.
We help to keep happy
So how can SportID prevent people from this worry and
All companies need to earn more than they spend to be successful long term. We are doing better and better each year, still we were burning some more, again.
We have been discussing the issues with the team, with investors and with my mentors. Of course one of the obvious things is that we need to earn more by acquiring more customers in Estonia and abroad and also by updating our product line to get more money from customers.
So far one of the main issues of SportID, why we are not yet profitable is the fact that we need to man our growth – meaning the more our system grows the more manpower we need. So that the costs are always ahead of the revenues. When we look that the sales number has grown remarkably then the margin is a small one, but still this needs to be reversed.
One of the problems
There were 14 newcomers to the team 2018 and 2 of those were also among the leavers, so currently we have 12 employees who have been around for less than 1 year or so.
Recruitment is a pretty normal thing in rapidly growing companies. And like I mentioned before, we need the people to grow and we still need more. Also, it is quite normal that people leave from time to time for a new job. After all, slavery was lost in the southern part of Estonia in Livonia in 1819 – so 200 years ago.
Why is it expensive if employees leave
What is the normal rate of employee turnover? According to this article, the average turnover per month is 3,6%, which equals 43,2% on a yearly basis. The average number seems to be high and gives only 28 months of lifespan for an average employee in a company. But if we are looking what happened to SportID due to various circumstances, we see that we are even above the average of this. Turnover of 9/18 is 50% (18 being the number that started the year 2018).
Should we be a bit better and aim the average? I think not. If we believe that we are the cool employer on the
There is an equation on that blog post that also calculates what is the cost of such a turnover for the companies. In our case, we can calculate it to be around 65 000€ and we know that some of our employees have added really a lot more to this number due to the fact that their leave was not the ordinary one and has several other costs attached. Most probably the total annual loss exceeds 100 000€ in our case. We could build a whole new mobile app with this money! Even if we would invest only a third of it to teambuilding we could still benefit a lot and also enjoy a much better environment at work.
So the aim for this year should be to create an environment where our people want to stay with us and bring new good hires on board as well. Everyone who thinks that they know the answer how to make things better, feel free to let me know about your ideas.
These rough calculations might make us think that things are really bad. But there is a ray of sunlight showing itself between the clouds. Starting from August up to today things are looking so much better. Within the last 6 months, this turnover has been 0 and we can all feel how this benefits the whole company. So let’s continue this way and make 2019 a lot better than
PS Proofreading of the post, I got an ideal response, asking would I prefer having a hole or an asshole in the team. Sure that the first option is preferable. This post and the resolution of it, does not count the asshole factor at all and describes a situation where all employees would be ideal at their positions and the company would not want to lose any of them. In the real world this is not always the case.
Several times I have heard a question why we want to implement a training diary to our system at all? From our own team, from investors, from users.
Since a lot of the team was not around when we created the diary, I will tell a bit about the background why this was made.
First of all, we have not very clearly agreed what is the main purpose of SportID. Maybe someone from the outside could say that the purpose of our organisation is that owners/investors would get more return from their investment or our employees could get
Intermission – Ando’s mention on Tuesday’s meeting about how all of our employees described the service differently. I would add that maybe that is not a
Anyway, back to the purpose of the company, which is not written out on the wall. In several cases discussed, one of the most spread opinions is that SportID helps to make the users (therefore also our customers’ employees) more active. So paying a nice bonus for people to go to
The reason for the diray
The aim of the diary, when created, was to have company-wide challenges so that colleagues would motivate each other. Peer pressure is definitely one of the good ways of getting people moving. To show the leaderboard of the company is a nifty feature but maybe could be more promoted and emphasized on the platform to start working like we intended. Of
We have created some challenges on the diary throughout the history to get it going. Walk2Work on September’s is a good example (the current #hashtag solution unfortunately sucks). At some point, we pushed e-mail notifications to the users to advance the use of
Does the diary make us more active?
I see several possible ways of moving further with the diary and most surely they are not the only ways. One of those would be to continue with showing the top of the employees activity and push on with the rewards strategy.
TOP activity and rewards
Let’s imagine that there is a feature that allows our customers to set the challenge and reward. For example 1 month training points challenge. Whoever collects more training points within
Company dashboard and general activity levels
We have made a training app together with Estonian Olympic Committee and Coop called Fit100. This is maybe not the best app ever and has brought
In my mind, when we agreed to develop this, was the idea that it’s fully integrated to our backend and we will develop all the features that we need for our own app in the future as well. Now it already contains several features that we planned at some point for our own app like following your friends and seeing their training feed and commenting it etc
But the reality is that the app does not fit well onto our platform and we need to keep in mind and do more development not to break it. These features used in Fit100 are not usable for our own future setup or at least this is said by Ando that there were so many compromises made by the previous developers for the sake of the speed of development that we lost all the point of why we even started with it.
The near future
In sTARTUp Day I met several companies who are interested in co-operation with this diary especially due to our corporate customer base. One of those is a startup company currently developing their MVP. The solution is planned to be a company dashboard of activity. The would want to get companies to give sports credits as a reward. The other one I met was a huge telecon corporation in Estonia. They have more B2C view to collect the training data of an individual into one place and they have an idea that people are willing to trust SportID as the service provider more than just a telecom company.
Then again Coop wants to meet and talk about the future of Fit 100 in next week. So really lots activities ahead and I am quite sure that I cannot be the only one in these discussions making the decisions. On Monday I discussed with Kestutis that most probably we would need some team that would “own” the training diary and Fit100 as products and would drive their future and development. So soon I will call for a #team_diary so that everyone who is interested in giving the input, drive this car and
What is the benefit for SportID?
Yes, we like to be on a mission. Who does not? But where is the revenue in this? In some cases like Fit100 or possible co-operation with other
When we started the project, the idea was that this driver is the fact that we will get a free marketing tool to companies that they can use to enhance employees’ activities and we would get them to onboard then start the upsell cycle. I am quite sure that marketing division would love this kind of tool if this is nicely made and actually interests people.
So let us continue the journey. I believe we need to set a good example to other companies with our own behaviour. So we will continue with internal training challenges on a regular basis. Reminder, today is the last day of January’s challenge. And we will gather together a group who will start to actually drive this diary as a product inside SportID. Come and join us.
The book was recommended to me by Dima and I bought this as an audiobook. It is about the new way of building up an organization upon self-management principles. It is hard to summon the principles in a few paragraphs but I strongly believe there is so much sense in all that, so I try.
The author has studied several of this “new type” organizations. In these org-s everybody has equal power as well as
Decision making process
Everybody is free to make the decisions that are needed – no matter how big or expensive. There is only one ground rule and mechanism that control how this works – the person taking the decision should before consult with at least one fellow team member who understands the issue. The decisions do not have to be unanimous, in
NB! What is a decision in this context is not explained. To reply to a customers e-mail or not is also a decision. In fact, every action is followed by some type of decision, but actually in lot of the cases you are just following the previously agreed principles of action (that we will respond to customers e-mails, for instance). To my mind decision-making in this context is needed when something new and previously unagreed arises.
Power and responsibility
Since everybody is free to make decisions, this also means that everybody
Also, the responsibility
The conflicts between team members are solved mainly in three phases:
- One team member tells another that he has
problemwith something (perhaps the other person regularly fails to deliver their promises). Team members discuss among each other and find the resolution.
- If this phase fails, they call in a third team member as a mediator for the conflict.
- If this phase fails there will be made a commission of team members that debate the issue and find out a solution.
Hiring and firing
All hiring is made by the team that needs a new team member, not by CEO or HR department. This type of organizations don’t even have an HR dept.
Firing is handled like all other conflicts.
The structure of company
There are no mid-level managers in this type of companies. There are teams inside
The main tasks of CEO, outside these groups, are to represent a company in public and to be a link between owners/board and employees to make sure the board and owners understand the principles how these type or org-s work and would not kill these practices.
Teams are not usually operating on some pre-fixed budget. It is assumed that team members are responsible and all expense is made for the sake of getting the results and revenues will follow.
There are almost no team meetings. Meetings are organized within team ad hoc, in case the need arises.
The purpose of being
The driving purpose for these organizations is not profit. It has to be something more meaningful the team. To heal some big problem in the world is a great purpose but actually to create and carry enjoyable work culture and jobs is also fine. The profit is needed to fulfill that purpose and keep activities sustainable.
The business results of these teams are not at all average. Generally, this type of companies are still hugely profitable and this is the reason in several organizations why boards and investors also accept this (in case this was not their initiative) – since the company is not working for profit but for a purpose.
Why they are not more dominant in the ecosystem? In lot of times Usually board and investors are eager to cancel these type of setup right after there is recession in economy and the economic results are not that good.
To summarize this interesting book, I would tell that I liked most of these ideas a lot and they made sense to me. They cannot be implemented with one huge campaign but gradually most of this is doable. I would definitely recommend the book. Especially for Kadri (How does our most titled psychologist think about it from organization psychology point of view) and Mehis. But also to others who are interested in how organizations should and could work.