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The First 10

It was an intense but a healthy discussion I was having with my co-founders. We were debating about our strategy, our positioning, how we are different than our competitors, what story we should tell to VCs so they would fund us, how can we define a new category and be a leader of that category, how can we build a big independent business instead of entertaining early acquisition interests, etc.

All were important topics. But after a while, I realized they were just not timely. We were talking about the end state after 18 months, 3 years, and 5 years.

I was worried about this month and this quarter. All I wanted to do was – onboard first 10 customers for Avoma.

Somehow we agreed on key points and wrapped up the discussion. But the first 10 customers concept stuck in mind.

Since then, while I continue to think about longer term vision, strategies, etc., but in the end, I always bring the conversation back to getting the first 10 of whatever that key milestone we wanted to focus on.

Some of the examples are:

  • The first 10 manual prospecting emails before we implement email automation
  • The first 10 trials converting into paying customers
  • The first 10 paying customers that we don’t know
  • The first 10 customers who absolutely love us and can’t live without Avoma
  • The first 10 customers came from one particular channel
  • The first 10 customers that were referred by existing customers
  • The first 10 $10K+ contracts

This mindset always helps me to get tactical and start acting on the next milestones immediately, without getting lost in over planning and delaying the execution.

Obviously, the downside of this mindset is that once you are bogged down in achieving the first 10 of “x”, there is a high chance that you are not thinking about the bigger picture. You need to find a good balance between the both.

As they say, entrepreneurs are a special breed who need to have a great macroscopic vision and at the same time they need to have a great microscopic vision.

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2018 Retrospective and 2019 Goals

My reflections on what worked well and what didn’t in 2018 and what I would continue to do and do something new in 2019.

I’ve started this practice a few years ago — to retrospect on the last year’s achievements, misses, and learnings and define the goals for the next year at the beginning of the new year. I have written about why I started doing this exercise in my previous post, but if I want to summarize it in one sentence — it would be — to be accountable and answerable.

But before I begin, wish you all a very Happy and Prosperous New Year 2019!

Retrospective for 2018

Overall, it wasn’t a great year for me. Primarily on the family front, but also on personal and professional goals front. While I made satisfactory progress across many areas, there isn’t any particular accomplishment that I’m very proud of.

Let’s look into what went wrong along with why it went wrong in certain situations —

Family

The biggest loss

The biggest loss for me and my family was my dad passed away in May 2018 due to a heart attack. On one hand, it felt like it was a sudden death, on the other hand, it happened over 4 months.

He had the first heart attack and stroke at the beginning of Feb, which resulted in semi-paralysis and speech-loss. With his strong will-power, medication and the support of close family members, he recovered pretty well and was getting back to his normal life, but eventually lost the battle to another attack and passed away at the end of May.

Health

On the health front, I failed on most of my goals.

Workout
My key goal was to complete 3 routines of P90X-3 — that is 30 minutes intense exercise for 90 days — and repeating it 3 times in a year. Unfortunately, I didn’t finish the entire routine even once. I started it 3 times but ended up giving up in the middle after 4–5 weeks into it.

So in short, collectively I’ve worked out only for 3 months than the planned 9 months.

Meditation
Overall, I failed to meditate consistently. I did it only on a need basis — more like 1–2 times a week.

Food
Overall, I have been following good food habits like reduction in sugar consumption, eating less junk food,etc., but since I have failed in a consistent workout, I have also slacked in eating a lot healthier food.

Work (Avoma, Inc.)

On the work front, we have made great progress, but again, we failed to achieve our planned goals.

After raising the pre-seed capital in Oct 2107, the biggest focus for Avoma last year was to build the minimum sellable product and technology. We launched the first version of our product in beta in Sep 2018, launched our partnership with Outreach.io, onboarded some paying customers since then, and built a team of an amazing group of 9 full-time employees.

So overall, we made a lot of progress, but I still feel we could have done a lot more on the customer acquisition front. I think if we could have sped up our product execution to address some of the feature gaps and invested more in our Sales and Marketing initiatives early on, we would have won some more deals that got pushed to the next year and some deals that we lost to competitors.

Knowledge

Reading
I did a decent job in reading a book per month. The books I read are (with my ratings) –

Currently still reading:

Blogging
I failed miserably in this. My last year’s goal was to write a blog post per week. I only wrote 1 article about last year’s retrospective for this blog and 4 articles for Avoma blog.

Even though I had many thoughts and point of views to share, I ended up not prioritizing blogging over other important tasks at hand.

Learning new skills

Playing Guitar
This is something I had not planned for 2018, but ended up starting at the tail end of the year. I’m still a beginner (3 months into it), this has been one of the best decisions I have made to invest 2–3 hours every week to learn guitar.

Playing Tennis
This is another thing that I had not planned for 2018, but also ended up starting at the tail end of the year along with Guitar. In Tennis also I’m still a beginner (2 months into it), this is also one of the best decisions I have made to invest 1–2 hours every week to learn tennis.

Goals for 2019

For 2019, I won’t be changing a lot of things from my 2018 goals — just a couple of minor changes.

Family

  • Continue to spend quality time with the kids, wife, mom and rest of the family on a daily basis— these times won’t come back again

Health

  • Complete P90X-3 routine at least 3 times
  • Meditate for 15–20 mins for 3–4 days/week
  • Continue to follow good eating habits — no/less sugar, no/less fried/oily food, more protein, more vegetables and fruits
  • Continue to sleep 7-hours a day

Work (Avoma, Inc.)

  • Achieve planned revenue goals for every quarter
  • Achieve product-market fit by the end of 2019

Knowledge

  • Continue to read 1 book/month
  • Continue to write 1 blog post/week — including both for personal and Avoma blog

Learning new skills

  • Play Guitar and Tennis reasonably well by the end of 2019

If you haven’t already done any retrospective for your 2018, then I would highly encourage you to take a moment and think about it and write down what worked well and what didn’t in 2018 and what are your goals for 2019 — even if you don’t plan to share it publicly, write it for your own benefit.


Once again, wish you all a very happy and prosperous new year to crush your 2019 goals!

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My strategy and plan to conquer 2017 goals

Lesson learned from the 2016 retrospective

One of the things I observed in my 2016 retrospective was — I had achieved the goals that were clearly defined and had a clear action plan to execute them.

For example — I achieved the goal of improving my fitness by doing P90X3 routine, which required exercising 30 mins/day for straight 90 days.

On the contrary, I did not achieve the goals that did not have any clear action plan. For example — reading a book per month or blogging actively.

Strategy and plan for 2017

So for my 2017 goals, I thought why not apply a methodical approach so that I can be sure to achieve those. I know what I want to achieve, but it didn’t have a clear strategy and specific action plan.

For strategy, applying a top-down approach helps me start with a big picture and then break that into smaller milestones.

At the same time, for a specific action plan, using a bottom-up approach helps me define a day-to-day routine.

Examples

Fitness Goal

One of the goals for 2017 is — to exercise for 9–10 months. So from a top-down strategy perspective, I plan to do 3 repetitions of P90X3 routine. So every 3 months, I will complete a P90X3 routine, and in between take a break for a few weeks.

At the same time, from a bottom-up tactical perspective, I plan to allocate 45 mins to exercise on 6 days a week — preferably at a consistent time every single day.

Reading Goal

Similarly, for reading one book per month goal, my strategy is to read ~300 pages book per month.

And my tactical plan is to read ~15 pages per day. So I need to allocate dedicated 15–30 minutes to read ~15 pages every single day.

You got the point. I have done a similar exercise for my other goals about blogging, programming and building a startup venture.

Summary

My hypothesis is – having some kind of system and method in place will be crucial in making consistent progress on the goals I have defined.

The top-down strategy is important as it removes the uncertainties of how I’m going to achieve a bigger goal by breaking it into smaller steps.

The bottom-up plan is important as it creates daily habits by consistently allocating a dedicated time every single day.


Now this is a plan. Certainly, it might work or fail. We will see. I will update in 3 months if it worked or not.

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2016 Retrospective and 2017 Goals

I have never written any retrospective blog posts or shared my new year goals on this blog before. So this is a new tradition I’m starting. There are a few reasons why I thought it would be an interesting exercise to do –

1. Get back to blogging

It’s been a few months that I wrote something on my blog and I have been wanting to start writing for many days. And since we’re at the junction of ending of 2016 and beginning of 2017, I decided to get back to writing by doing some retrospective of my life and planning for the next year.

2. Get effective in my life

As a Product Manager by profession, I have been doing Agile Retrospectives with my scrum teams at the end of every sprint. As a part of the process, the whole scrum team reflects on their execution in the sprint and discusses how to become more effective in their execution and adjusts their behavior accordingly. We typically discuss different topics and categorize them in one of the below buckets –

  • what worked well that the team should continue doing
  • what did not work well that the team should stop doing
  • what’s missing that the team should start doing

So I thought it would be very valuable to do a similar exercise for personal life for 2016 and based on that decide what are the plans for 2017.

3. Be accountable to my new year plans

By sharing my new year goals and plans publicly, I will be accountable to achieve these goals and write a similar retrospective post at the end of the next year.


Below are the key activities that I pursued in 2016 and for each activity, I categorized it if I want to continue doing it in 2017 or stop doing it in 2017 and if there is anything new that I want to start doing in 2017.

Health

My most important goal for 2016 was to become physically fit. And it wasn’t about just doing 10,000 steps/day to achieve a Fitbit badge, but really push my physical limits and get stronger. So I started doing the P90X3 routine. If you’re not aware of it, it’s 30 minutes a day all body workout routine for 90 days.

When I started it for the first time, I could only do it for 30 days, and then something happened and I couldn’t continue. Then I again started it for the second time and I could do it for 60 days. Then again something happened and I couldn’t finish. Then finally, in the second half of 2016, I started it again for the 3rd time, and I could finish all 90 days.

I think collectively in the entire 2016, I must have exercised 7 months. Ideally, this should have been 9–10 months. But I’m still happy with the strength and fitness I’ve achieved so far. By no means, I’m a very strong person yet, so the ultimate goal is still not achieved.

So I will continue to do P90X3 in 2017 as well and my goal would be to exercise at least 10 months in the entire year.

Reading

When 2016 started, my goal was to read a book a month. It wasn’t a very hard goal, but somehow I still couldn’t achieve it. I barely completed reading only 3 books and 2 books are still in progress. I never prioritized reading books and didn’t allocate any dedicated time every day. Instead, I read a lot of articles shared on the web whenever I used to find some leisure time in between different activities.

Books read:

Books in progress:

Obviously, I will continue to read in 2017 and my goal would be still same — to read a book per month.

Blogging

I didn’t have any specific goal for Blogging when 2016 started, but I knew I wanted blog actively. Unfortunately, I wrote only 7 posts in the entire year. I definitely failed in showing consistent discipline for blogging.

For 2017, I will continue to blog and my goal would be — at least a post per week.

Podcasts

In 2016, I got addicted to podcasts. I probably listened to 200+ episodes from different hosts in the entire year. I learned a lot about different people, various topics, sometimes inspirational stories and sometimes tactical advice.

I have already shared which podcasts I’ve been listening to.

I will continue to listen to podcasts in 2017 as I absolutely love them and my goal for 2017 would be to listen to any podcast for at least 20-30 minutes/day while commuting.

Sleep

In 2016, I wanted to sleep well every day — at least 7 hours a day. Overall I believe I achieved that goal, and it definitely helped me to have fewer health issues and have better focus and energy during work days.

I will continue to have good sleep as a priority in 2017 as well. Even though I’ve more ambitious plans for 2017 in general, I’m making a mental note to not compromise on this activity.

Programming

As I started my professional Product Management career since last 4 years, I pretty much stopped programming. That was a big mistake. I should not have stopped programming altogether. While I don’t need programming skills for day-to-day work, but I’m a builder at heart and enjoy software development. In 2016, I thought I will start coding again and will build some software for fun, but I couldn’t prioritize it. I barely started coding a little bit at the tail end of 2016.

So I will continue to start programming in 2017 and my goal would be to build a meaningful software application by the end of 2017.

Music

I wanted to learn guitar since my college days. I tried learning it a couple of times, but have never been consistent in continuing it. In 2016, I was inspired by my nephews and decided to start learning guitar again using self-learning process. I started watching videos on YouTube, used few iPhone apps and started learning and practicing playing guitar. I did that for a few weeks but very quickly realized that I have other important priorities on my plate and I was running too thin on commitment on different activities. So I decided to stop learning guitar and put it on the backlog.

Unfortunately, in 2017 as well, since I have other important priorities, I will have to stop learning guitar and put it on the backlog.

Outsourcing

One of biggest mistakes in 2016 was outsourcing my old part-time software project. Since this project has paying customers and there were a lot of bugs reported and new feature requests asked, I outsourced the development of this project to an offshore development provider in India. But overall it was a very bad experience.

Partly it was my mistake. Since I did not have a lot of time, I did not give detailed attention to those developers. At the same time, those developers took advantage of that, which ended up in longer development cycles, unethical behavior, and extremely poor quality software. I wasted significant money and was completely dissatisfied with the outcome. The short-term benefit in the cost savings with a cheap labor turned out to be an expensive mistake in the long term.

I will definitely stop outsourcing anything in 2017, especially when I don’t have time to micro-manage them. Either I will learn to do things myself, or hire quality resource locally or just say “no” to any such activity which requires outsourcing.

Startup Venture

In 2016, I did not have any goal to start my own startup. So there is nothing much to retrospect here.

But for 2017, my goal is to start a new venture. The thoughts are still in early stages, so I still need some time to get more clarity. I will be spending some time in early 2017 to learn new technologies, explore few domains, meet few people, and tinker few concepts. I’m personally interested in exploring artificial intelligence domain, but if I’ll find a meaningful problem to solve in that domain is a different question, which I will continue to explore.


While this may sound a lot of goals, if I want to prioritize only top 3 goals or focus areas for 2017, then they would be –

  1. Family
  2. Health (Exercise + Sleep)
  3. Startup (Venture + Programming)

These are the “big rocks” for me. The rest activities like Reading, Blogging, Podcasting, etc. are the “pebbles”. (Learn more about Big Rocks, Pebbles and Sand).


If you’ve read until this point, then I would request if you have any suggestions for me to improve my thinking, or help achieve my goals, then please free to comment or send me an email at aditya dot kothadiya at gmail dot com.

Also, if you haven’t already done any retrospective for your 2016 and planned your 2017, then I would highly encourage you take a moment and think about it and write down what worked well and what didn’t in 2016 and what are your plans for 2017 — if not publicly, but at least for your own benefit.


Wishing you all a very happy and prosperous new year 2017. Hope you all crush your 2017 goals! Fight on!