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 of layer after layer I have come to the conclusion that the reason must be to feel joy and fun in life. To enjoy life would be a really nice driving factor and to me, it seems that this might be the main reason for human life as such.
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
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 Sokrates, 🙂 have reached almost the same conclusion independently from each other, let’s come back to joy of life as the main driving factor of everything. Ideally, we would like to enjoy the things we are doing in our personal and professional life. We are even willing to do the hard things and enjoy them as well. Since we a capable of feeling the satisfaction of achievement and can see how personal development helps us to new levels. Even learning new things can be pleasurable experience in the end. Forcing the formation of new circuits in our brains is the most challenging and exhausting for the brain itself and consumes a lot of energy, so it is hard to enjoy it, instead it would be only natural to avoid it. I feel that this “hard learning” is different from curiosity, which is our need to get new knowledge and keep our brains working.
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
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 lose of focus? How can we help to return to the joy of life or not lose it at all? We just need to spread the word why people should keep moving, why they should be active throughout the day and maintain their hearts and blood in good condition. This helps them to be happy in their life. This helps them to push their limits further and not give up or lose focus, which afterwards brings them more satisfaction and joy in their lives. We help the people and their employers by educating them and by providing different worthy tools so they would not lose their joy of life due to unhealthy living habits and could focus and achieve on the things that make them happy.
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 in the last year was employee turnover. We lost no more and no less than 9 employees within 1 year. Let’s remind of how it went: Kaire, Kärt, Taavi, Artur, Mihkel, Eve, Ieva, Kristjan, Kristel. There are 11 names who are in our team now that were there also before 2018 and here I am counting in also our supporting powers like Ilme, Keijo and Sander.
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 company? There are several costs attached: recruitment costs of searching new employees and hiring them, the company loses productivity, loss of morale for the people who are staying, training and onboarding costs and the loss of knowledge and development speed within the organisation.
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 marke and the place where people would want to work we should aim to keep this rate much lower than that. Maybe even 2-3 times lower than the average number.
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 previous one.
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.
Training diary is most probably the weirdest feature of all in SportID when we look at it. We adopted it in 2014 and it has not changed much since. Just a very simple web form. It does not generate any revenue for SportID. It is seldom used. In fact mostly only when we have campaigns some more people use the training diary. In the last Funderbeam report, one of the investors asked why the KPI is falling and I gave him a response that we have to chances, to actually improve the product or cancel measuring the KPI.
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 payed for the job. Hopefully maybe the situation is not that bad but most probably the average person would talk something about companies paying sports compensations conveniently to their employees.
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 disaster, since most probably all interested people were also asking from a different angle. For instance, one would answer differently when a person asks about what is SportID or another if the question is how SportID can be beneficial to our company.
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 gym is a nice way of doing that but most probably we all agree that this is not and will never be the only way of getting people to be more active.
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 course we have to keep in mind that maybe it never will, despite our hardest efforts.
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 diary, but for some weird reason this stopped. Maybe the reason is that the whole transactional e-mail and newsletter system was a bit clumsy and under severe development process (we are not yet out of this). But I considered this as a good practice and in my heart I am sorry that we did not find any resources in pushing this further and correct the mistakes in those letters but instead pulled the plug.
Does the diary make us more active?
At this point we have seen that for our own employees the diary works if there is some sense put to this. Let’s say a small or not so small (Apple Watch) reward is tempting us to mark down what we have done. Does that work for other companies as well? What could be that reward in that case so would not have to buy it ourselves?
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 group will get a reward. Let’s say a sports watch or a parking place in front of the front door for a whole month or whatever the customer-compnay is willing to hand out. The idea in implementing the activity and rewards strategy is that the SportID sports benefit is handed only to those who are active enough. A company can set a target, let’s say 8 pieces of training in a month and you will be in a compensation plan that gets 50€/month. Less than that and you will get only 25€. Could very well be a premium feature for SportID.
Company dashboard and general activity levels
This is quite a fierce filed of competition already where we see a lot of activity. Perfect example being Omron together with Japanese biggest telecom Docomo offering their healthcare platofrm
AlsoWithings corporate solutions orFitbit corporate solution. If we would want to go there then for sure we are in a heavy competition situation with all trackers producers, but we might have a better solution – different manufacturers integrated. Why not? Or even tracking without tracker, which is a much cheaper option to start for companies, not that precise as a tool for measurement of course.
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 lot of contradictory moods inside our company as well. What is it for? How does that app benefit our company or our software?
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 direct where things could go, can jump on board.
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 companies it is still hard to say where the resources come from. So generally, there needs to be some revenue driver for us so we could be able to work on these issues.
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 equal responsibility. Everybody is free to contribute in the areas where they feel most beneficial and where they feel their heart belongs. How it works in most important aspects of the company’s everyday life? Just a few examples and ideas that I have filtered from the book.
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 fact they almost never can be for different reasons and still everyone can make them, but like I mentioned they have to be discussed with other team member(s) upfront.
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 in the team has full power and full authority. The author of the book states that if everyone has power rather than only one person (the CEO), this empowers the whole organization. Everyone can feel important and that their input really matters.
Also, the responsibility in this case is not a zero-sum game. Everybody is fully responsible for everything that happens, since everybody has their own say or possibility to influence the outcome. If the decision was made by colleague in our team, what did we do to prevent this happening? If it was made in other teams, did we care enough to join that team and give our input?
The conflicts between
team members are solved mainly in three phases:
One team member tells another that he has problem with 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. Usually team members understand the reasons and most probably do not feel the right motivation anyway to continue. Firing is a very rare case, since everyone can generally find a place in the organization where they can do what they enjoy and where they are valuable. Usually employees in these organizations also do not slack off due to the fact that they enjoy their work environment too much.
The structure of company
There are no mid-level managers in this type of companies. There are teams inside company for different purpose and tackling different issues. Everyone can actually be in these workgroups/teams where they feel most beneficial and most motivated. Teams can have leads but all members of teams are equal and bear equal power and responsibility. CEO is just another employee and in workgroups/teams is just another team member.
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.
Marti Soosaar on Rohelise erakonna liige, ettevõtte FitQ tegevjuht, endine spordijuht ja harrastussportlane