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Closing Out 2018

Closing Out 2018

 

Thank you 2018 for all the tough lessons. This year made me stronger and wiser.

2018 was by far my most challenging year to date, and also the year that I have grown the most. Trice started this year with a mega crash. Literally, on New Years Eve morning, we were given cards that would set the tone for the year.  The first quarter we solely focused on cleaning up. At the same time, my personal life was giving me many heartaches.

My mom had a very rough time with her COPD chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, my youngest son Ivar was diagnosed with Keratoconus a corneal disease that can make you blind and he needed eye surgery, and by the end of this quarter, my brother came home with severe stomach pains.  I know he can handle severe pain after his year as a professional Judo athlete, and also know that when he tells you he is in pain it’s probably a 9 or 10 on the pain scale! The first MRI indicated a tumor as big as an orange on the wall of his stomach close to the adrenal glands.

I still remember the echo in my head, 2018 had just begun and I found myself saying, “stop it, I have had enough”… I don’t think I could handle more challenges and I doubted that I could continue to show up and be strong as there were days I just want to crawl up in my bed a put a big blanket over my head and pretend everything was good.

With all the adversity, we persevered. We got up, we worked through all our bigger issues, we cleaned house, we didn’t avoid the tough conversations, we stood up against fears, and frustration, we choose courage over comfort and we were brave. This is in thanks to many great people around Trice. Considering the rough start, we ended up on top for the first year in our companies history we achieved OP (operating profit) every quarter.  

I want to give a big thank you to my Co-founder Åsa Nordgren and Martin Westin, and my closest colleagues Bernd Nuber, Sven Haynie and Dagi Nuber, and our board members Masood Jabbar, Don Jones and Bo Hedfors for riding out this storm with us.  I ended this year writing an article about my scaling learnings Moving Through The Teenage Years In Business.

2018 also brought on opportunities for me that would elevate the trajectory of my impact. One of the most rewarding and enjoyable things upon moving back to Sweden is the work I get to do with Sting Innovation, Almi Green Tech Fund, and Fatfish global venture.  I am grateful to be on the Jury every 6 months to select the 8 most promising tech startups in Stockholm. These startups that are privileged to be part of Sting accelerator program which provides an exclusive package of 300 000 SEK in funding, tailored coaching, support with financing, recruitment, and access to Sting’s network. It’s very inspiring to listen to every team pitch about their vision and dream for their product. Their energy and dreams are truly contagious. Thank you Pär Hedberg, Fredrik Rosengren, Ivar Strömberg, Boel Swartling, Anna Ljungbergh, Sara Bjelkstam, Henna Keränen, and Simon Josefsson it’s been exciting to be part of this jury.

Almi Green Tech Fund is a SEK 650 M fundraised to invest in technologies that can help us save our planet. The fund will invest in 50 companies until 2023 with the focus on technologies and services that have a CO2-reducing effect like renewable energy, recycling systems, energy, waste management, and combustion. I am grateful to be part of this investing committee, one of the most important tasks I have taken on this year. The last 3 years my anxiety about the environment has increased with 50 % every year and the last year it went through the roof.

United Nation said this year we only have 12 more years to limit climate catastrophe on our planet and the only we can get there is through new innovative technologies, regulations, and creating mass awareness for us all to do something about this today and not tomorrow.  So far, we have invested in 5 companies, Corpower Ocean, C-Green Technologies, Epishine, Altered and Maven Wireless. I’m looking forward to following their progress to help us take better care of our beautiful planet. Thank you Markus Hökfelt, Mikael Karlsson, Per Olofsson, Linda Krondahl, Boris Gyllenhamn, Karin Ebbinghaus, Lisa Westin it’s been a true honor to be part of this important investment committee and I’m really looking forward to our next meeting next year.  

My last but my most important thank you goes to my beautiful family. Thank you for supporting and loving me unconditionally. I am thankful that Ivar’s surgery went well, my brother’s tumor was not cancerous, and that my mom is doing better.

Finally, I want to acknowledge and praise my dad, Kent Hult, an amazing and very successful entrepreneur.  He always told me when he said “no” to multiple things I asked him for, that if I ever really needed his urgent help he would be there. I truly hoped that day would never come, but it did, and he showed up like he promised big time. Thank you, dad, for helping us!  

Thank you 2018 for all the great lessons and the failures that were even greater lessons.  I learned so much about myself, what I am capable of, and who I want to be. My wish for 2019 is fewer hurdles and more laughter and at the same time, I’m ready for everything you will bring!  

Happy New Year

 

Johanna

Scaling Is As Painful As Becoming A Teenager Again

Scaling Is As Painful As Becoming A Teenager Again

During the fall of 2016, we started seeing real growth and we were excited to be over the hump. Hitting product/market fit meant that we had built something of value. We had it. People were buying it. They were loving it. And now, our job was to scale it.

At first thought it was “easy peasy”, and looking back, scaling is by far the hardest thing we have done to date.  Scaling is not a simple task, but a very interesting challenge. How do you scale and maintain operational excellence when it comes to product quality, great customer service, team spirit, onboarding new customers, new innovative features, and launching in new countries when you have an annual growth rate around 100% and launching your product in 15 new countries per year?  

We would soon find out the hard way. Scaling a global product and company is like being a teenager with popping hormones and growing pains in your entire body. Below, I have listed some of our biggest challenges and learnings so far, and while still scaling, we are constantly learning new ways to improve and tackle the daily challenges and growing pains.

A global partnership agreement is just a license to hunt

It’s a big victory when a startup signs a global agreement with a Fortune 500 company. Please celebrate it big time like the king and queen you are.  You earned it, and also know, this signed global agreement is only a license to hunt. Now, the hard work begins, and now, it’s time to make this partnership a success for both parties.

There are several steps that come next. You need to co-create an implementation plan and establish common procedures and routines to continuously improve the following processes, commission structure, product training, roadmap, and business model. The most important step, however, is to be able to handle internal resistance and politics.

Do not underestimate the power of internal resistance.  Your partners need to have strong leaders on the inside that can guide and eliminate fears and resistance, especially when you have a technology that could feel like a threat to their existing business. It is essential to be transparent and has open communication so you can tackle the problems together and create a business that will make both companies successfully build and scale.

Scaling shifts your engineering teams focus

Building a product that people loved was hard, there’s no doubt about that. It took us a long time, and a lot of money, and we had a number of setbacks and near-death experiences along the way.

All of a sudden we had thousands of users and millions of transactions using our platform. With more and more customers onboarding our platform, Tricefy bugs and incompatibilities are being found all the time. When this happens, we are not able to move as quickly or as aggressively as we would like to. More bugs mean less time for our team to develop and improve Tricefy, and it keeps us from tackling our product roadmap. My important lesson in this phase is to not let growth come at the cost of your existing customers’ experience, and make sure to invest in innovation that ensures long-term customer growth.

Stay innovative and open to pivot old processes

It has been hard for us to stay innovative, launch new features, and pivot outgrown and inefficient processes like finance, HR, customer support and sales. I think it is a very common problem for companies that are scaling fast. It is very easy and natural for the entire organization’s focus to be on taking care of the existing and new customer needs, and making sure new countries, partners, and teams know the existing product and processes.  At least this been our case. I think it is important for the management team to really think through this challenge and make sure they have a strategy in place in advance to ensure they get clear on how to handle improvements in every process and every department in the organization.

My two biggest learnings here are, don’t build organizations silos per continent or country, and try to eliminate as many repetitive tasks from your team as possible.  Both problems slow down your growth. With silos, fractions, and different processes create 100 different ways on how to perform different tasks like onboarding customers, support, sales etc. Systems are a lot easier to scale quickly than humans, so be sure to automate every step you can.

Fastest return of investment might not be what you think

As you grow, everything gets more and more expensive. The bigger your business gets, the more expensive everything will be. Be careful not to let your costs scale faster than your revenue. Many companies believe that the fastest return on investment is focusing on building new features, services, and new distribution channels. This might be the case long term but short term this will be very costly for your organization. I’m not saying don’t invest in new features and services long term as this will be important for your companies survival. But, I have learned this year there are 3 areas that will give your company a much faster return on investment than anything else. These include:

  1. Iterating your business model & pricing structure
  2. Improving existing partnerships and alliances
  3. User experience

Next year we will definitely focus more on these topics since it is also proven by many studies.

Don’t assume if it works in America, it will work anywhere

Do not make the same mistake we did by assuming if it works in America in the ultrasound segment, it will work in any imaging segment and any country.  This is not true. People say entrepreneurs are so naive. I don’t necessarily think this is a bad thing. Before you launch big time in a new market, you will need to adjust workflows, communication, and a pricing strategy on that specific market. A key component for us has been to have very flexible features, meaning we have multiple ways for our customers to share data, store data, access data, and create reports so we can adopt the service for every customer and for each country’s need.

Building a strong culture and team spirit

The absolute biggest challenge we have faced during this phase is building a strong team, spirit, and culture. It is very challenging when you have business in many countries. There are additional complexities with different cultures, languages, and with only meeting face to face once a year, effective, clear, and direct communication is critical.  It can be easy to misunderstand each other in texts, emails, and phone conferences. Scaling in this environment is where fractions and subcultures are born and often lead to fractions between groups and people.

This is challenging, an ongoing learning process for any leader and organization, but I think it’s extra challenging when your team is spread out all over the globe and come from different cultures. How do you keep the team inspired, motivated, dedicated, and respectful to each other?  Of all the challenges we had so far, this is the most interesting to me.

I have always been fascinated by human psychology.  Understanding the brain, how our minds work, willpower, dreams, and especially human behavior alone and in groups. I love to read books about these topics and have deep conversations about life for hours with friends and people. Through these conversations and our rough learnings this year when distrust, fractions, and conflicts started to grow in our company, I knew at the foundation as humans we all want the same thing.  We want to belong, be respected, be heard, trusted, seen, and loved. When distrust, fraction, or conflicts hit, it is imperative to rebuild a foundation of trust. Here are my best tips to do so:

  • Intention: Get clear on what you want to create and why it matters
  • Relationship: Establish a communication that is open, honest, respectful, without judgment, and respectfully view and listen openly to both sides
  • Be as transparent as you can / talk about the white elephant in the room
  • Be reliable (be your word) meaning do what you say you are going to do
  • Connect with the vision and company culture: Learn what matters and what the drivers are and why
  • Take responsibility and be accountable for your own mistakes
  • Acknowledge people and tell them about the potential you see in them and what they mean to you and the company
  • Advocate and connect with people’s fears and frustration
  • Be bold and courageous, and set clear boundaries on what is okay and not okay

My last tip on this topic, and my most important criteria is that is when you are hiring a new person on your team, make sure the person has the right mindset and core values that align with your company vision and culture as knowledge and experience are much easier to learn than to change a person mindset or core values.

When you grow fast you need people that can analyze the issues from many angles, and see each other’s perspectives and intentions.  You don’t want people on your team that are judgmental, think they know it all and always needs to be right. You want people that can give others the benefit of the doubt and extend generous thoughts and feedback.

As I look back at what we’ve battled, learned, and overcome over the past 30 months, and every battle yet to be fought, one thing is clear to me: scaling is, without a doubt, the hardest part of building a business so far. But after all of this years and especially this year together with my co-founder Åsa, Martin, and our great team, I’m 100% sure we will overcome any battles and hurdles the world will throw at us. Perseverance has become our middle name and we are getting closer and closer to our bold dream to become embedded in every new imaging device so we can make sure to provide quality of care for people everywhere.

 

    “Change is hard in the beginning, messy in the middle and gorgeous at the end”

 

How do you create a product that your customers fall in love with?

How do you create a product that your customers fall in love with?

Screen Shot 2018-09-12 at 14.00.48

What most of us don’t realize is that creating a product that is loved by your customers is as important as selling it to generate revenues. The key to the ultimate success of any business is knowing your customer and providing catered solutions that fix their problems.  I learned many things over the years building Tricefy and coaching other software and hardware companies how to create a stand-out product.

 

Here are some of my tips:

  • Create a user-friendly and visually appealing product. If you are selling online, your interface should also follow the same norms.
  • Try to simplify every workflow!!  Eliminate steps by taking away features rather than adding new ones.
  • To make the training and adaptation of the system easier, steal with proud features/behaviors/workflows from modern consumer product like Google Drive, Facebook, etc.
  • Innovation is not instant. It takes lots of lead bullets to make a silver bullet. Don’t chase brilliant one-offs when seeking innovation.  It’s best to be very open-minded when launching a product so that you can build in customer feedback and adapt and learn from your user’s behavior.
  • Provide a wow element with the design, usability or business model and keep on providing wow element with every new big feature or product your company launches.
  • It very important when you launching a new product that you simplify the market message, you literally have 2 seconds to get the customer to understand your product, so present very easy use cases.
  • Don’t forget that the user buys the feeling you provide them with. So create visual stories and marketing that attract your target customers and leave them feeling good about their choice.
  • Engage with your customers and ask them what the need and what they think.
  • Monitor your customer’s digital behavior and learns what works and not works.
  • Be fast, flexible and ready to adapt to the market needs.
  • Give back and contribute to social causes.

 

The baby years building a global company

The baby years building a global company

Bild artikel

The first year is about convincing people to believe in your dream.  Then you need to be a good salesperson, storyteller, and a pitch master to convince investors, potential customers, and partners to believe in your vision and to test your product.  You will need to show your customer and partners how your product will make a difference, solve their problems, and how it will provide cost savings and workflow efficiencies. Be prepared to integrate and adopt the business model and product thousands of times until you have the perfect recipe.  Then, make sure you buckle up and are fit to come up against strong resistance because building a new company comes with many growing pains that can either inspire you or take you down.

We have had many moments that have knocked us down. While we can laugh about it now, the grit through tough situations is what shaped us to be stronger, faster, smarter, efficient, and more humble.  

I will share one of our first resistance stories.

In 2009, we went to one of the bigger radiology trade shows in Europe, with the intention to inspire our dream partner (GE, Philips, Samsung, and Sonosite) to try out our technology and become our partner.

We were talking to a lot of people at one of the biggest vendors in our industry, and one of them introduced us to the right director at this vendor. We very so excited to receive a couple of minutes with the person who had the power to take Trice to the next level. We did our pitch about replacing printing and faxing with sending digital images directly to phone or email and how it could revolutionize his industry.  He looked at us, bent his head to the right, and his placed his hand on my partner’s shoulder and said, “Girls, that’s never, ever going to happen” and smiled. My business partner Åsa bent her head to the left and stared into his eyes and said, “That’s what Sony Music’s CEO said 6 years ago about iTunes and Napster. Two years later, he lost 50% of his revenue.” He just said, “I don’t think so,” and walked away.

Here is the opportunity for you to decide how you want to respond, and how you respond at this moment will decide your company’s future.  Not everyone will believe in you/your product and a meeting could either take you down or fuel you to prove him (them) wrong. We looked at each other and said, “We are going to prove him wrong.” But the lesson is: If you are early in a paradigm shift or if people don’t understand your product innovation or case studies, you will often receive reactions like this one.

People will ignore you, they will laugh at you, they will fight the change you’re bringing. Leading is bleeding, but don’t ever lose your faith in your product, ignore the people that are laughing and throwing stones at you are not everyone.  To build a power team and a support system is key. Put yourself around the people that believe in you, your product, and be sure to create strategies for how you and your team can convince the world, potential customers, and potential partners that this product (your product) is a must-have!

Below you find a list of my tips to survive the baby years in building a global product:

  • The founding team needs to be in 100% aligned

The founding team needs to agree on what the companies higher purpose and dream is. Identify:  Why are you building this company/product? What role do you want your company to play in the world, in your industry and your customers and partners life? Trice Imaging ’s higher purpose is Quality of care for people every at any time.

  • Stay committed to the vision and take aligned actions

Establish your company vision and strategy and stick to it. With Trice, we have always been clear on our vision and strategy. This doesn’t mean we knew the quickest way or the best route to get there but our vision and strategy to build a game change product in the healthcare space have always been the same. With the many bumps, we have adopted, reinvented, and stayed in action to move forward towards our vision and strategy. Everyday.

  • Put the right team in place for the long-term

The journey is defined by people so make sure you have a diversely skilled team with the right core values whom you can trust and run with.

  • Consistency is a pathway to success

Fight through the repetition and boredom – and keeping on with the task – through the thick and thin.

  • Fail forward

Failure is indeed the greatest teacher. So, fail fast, and learn what you need to fix, and fix as fast a possible when it comes to the product, business model, communication, culture, etc.

  • A burning passion and anything is a possible attitude

A burning passion and nothing is impossible attitude can move any mountain and will open new possibilities and roads when you are in deep deep shit.  We have used music to fuel our passion and attitude. We have a “love song” and a “war song” to get us through various times. Our choices: ¨Ain’t No mountain high enough¨ and our victory song ¨The winner takes it all¨

  • Leadership

Show the world how your technology can make a difference in your space and make sure to tell your partners, customers, and segment.  We do a couple projects every year. Our Mobile ultrasound patrol project won the GSM award for best Mobile Health solution in the world. Our Texas Ambulance project won multiple awards including the GSM award

  • Set your framework up for success handling conflicts

Make sure you have a good founders agreement in place before you marry your co-founder.  Have a framework/playbook and clear communication/resolution for how to handle conflicts and trust issues and how you should divorce. The number one reason why startups fail today is the team. My personal tip when the conflicts arise because they will is to take a big deep breath, calm yourself down, then lead with compassion, love, and, forgiveness, and openness when you act.  

 

 

 

Having poor customer onboarding can pretty much kill your growth

Having poor customer onboarding can pretty much kill your growth

During the last months, I have been interviewing entrepreneurs and directors at global startups like Spotify, Klarna, Zound Industries and Google.  We discussed crucial questions for every startup that wants to build a global product and at the same time stay unique and innovative.

The topics: How do you scale and keep operational excellence when it comes to product quality, customer service, onboarding, compliance and organization in new countries?  How do you adapt and stay innovative and unique?  How do we create a seamless customer journey with happy customers and at the same time lower customer acquisition, customer support and installation costs?

So in this blog, I explain the challenges startups face to grow and scale a global product. I share about what we at Trice Imaging have learned and what I have learned from other great entrepreneurs and companies on the same journey.

My first topic is customer onboarding.  Having a poor customer onboarding experience for your customers can pretty much kill your growth. The first impression is often last.  If the customer’s first experience with your product is confusing, overwhelming, or puts up barriers to achieving success, it will set the tone and voice in your relationship.

Onboarding

3 tips on how to create a successful customer onboarding process:

Tip #1: Find out what success looks like for your customers 

One of the lessons we have learned and have also heard from other companies building a SaaS solution with a free trial is: just because they have registered or converted to become a paying customer, doesn’t mean it’s a success.  That is your definition of success and not to be confused with your customer’s definition of success.  The easiest way to figure out what success looks like for your customer is to ask them in the onboarding process: What is their desired outcome? What are they trying to achieve with your product?  A great customer onboarding process is created to ensure the customer achieves their desired outcomes and not to prevent churn.  The most common mistake startups do in their onboarding process is to focus on functional and technical onboarding instead of focusing on values delivered for their customer.

Tip #2: When you know what success looks like, you need to create a customer journey map to achieve success

Since most SaaS solutions customers will onboard and achieve success on their own, it’s crucial to have an easy onboarding process with few steps so you don’t loose them.

Here are my suggestions:

Step 1: “Sign up”- Make it extremely easy for your potential customer to sign up. Minimize the information you collect from the customer.  Choose product, customer name, email and payment information.  The signup process should not have more than 3 steps.

Step 2: Welcome your customers properly.  How would you feel if you walked in the door and every single employee acted as if you didn’t exist?  Welcome and guide them on what to do to get going with the service and while on this tour and ask them, “What are you looking to achieve with your product”?

Step 3: Add value.  After the most crucial steps in the onboarding process are done, promote workflows you know they need to be happy with your service.

Step 4: Monitor and analyze your customer’s behavior the first day of onboarding so your service can customize communication to their onboarding progress or lack of success.

Step 5: Convert quickly.  When your customer has realized the value of your service or they have seen the value potential in the product and are onboarded technically, they are usually ready to convert. Imagine if you asked for the sale right after they achieved success. If that happens on day 3, you could convert a customer on day 3 of a 30-day free trial, instead of waiting until the trial is over.

Tip# 3: When the customer is successfully onboard you are acquaintances and now it’s time to become good friends!

How does a SaaS solution become good friends with her customers?  It is the same ingredients to a good friendship between humans.  They need to feel respected, heard and appreciated.   The actions for a digital solution will then be a little different since the customers usually onboard and solve a lot of the problems on their own.

It is important to know your customers behavior patterns, identify how they use the service and how they would like to use the service.  So your Saas solution can provide excellent customer service and user-friendly features.  My next blog post will be focussed on how to provide an excellent customer service.

Customer Service

Thank you for reading and please share your onboarding experience with me!

 

Johanna Wollert Melin