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I'm David Subar,
Managing Partner of Interna.

 

We enable technology companies to ship better products faster, to achieve product-market fit more quickly, and to deploy capital more efficiently.

 

You might recognize some of our clients. They range in size from small, six-member startups to the Walt Disney Company. We've helped companies such as Pluto on their way to a $340MM sale to Viacom, and Lynda.com on their path to a $1.5B sale to Linkedin.

Beating Roadmapping Culture: Improving the Decision-Making Process




David's Notes:


Today I had a great chat with my friends Jared Ranere and Jay Haynes from the Jobs to be Done Podcast. We talked about how to beat roadmap culture and what it means for a business to do so. So today we're going to discuss how to beat your roadmapping culture. But, What does that mean? Every company has a roadmap of how they make decisions, which features get prioritized, which strategies to pursue, etc. And sometimes those cultures are explicit, and sometimes they're not. Every company has one, so what can be done to improve them?


Key moments from today's topic on how you would beat your roadmapping culture:


00:00 - Introductions and how Product Teams get pulled looking at only two different perspectives: Taking every idea from their CEO or just only being data driven


07:26 - Using Jobs-to-be-Done to bring market and customer data into roadmapping decisions


10:20 - What are signs that a company has a broken roadmap culture?


16:37 - Creating customer value


22:52 - Building a product for market needs


28:45 - Validating a feature by emotion can be dangerous


34:47 - David talks about his experience with Lynda.com and the CEO being customer focused


Transcript:


Jay Haynes:

Welcome back to How would you beat, where we discuss how you can use jobs to be done innovation methods to beat your competition. Remember to subscribe and like this podcast. Today we have a special guest, David Subar. David is the Founder and Managing Partner of Interna. A firm that helps technology companies make better products faster. And David has worked with organizations of various sizes from small six member startups to large companies such as Pluto, which was sold to Viacom lynda.com, which was sold to LinkedIn and the Walt Disney Company. So today, we're going to discuss how to beat your roadmapping culture. What does that mean? Well, every company has a culture around roadmapping and how they make decisions about roadmaps, which features get prioritized, which strategies to pursue, etc. And sometimes those cultures are explicit, and sometimes they're not. But every company has one. So what could you do to improve your roadmapping culture at your company? So David, thanks for being here. And why don't you start us off giving us some of your thoughts about what you see with different teams and different roadmapping cultures.


David Subar:

Great, welcome. And thanks for having me. Thanks for having me. Excited to be on the podcast. You know, particularly startups are founded by somebody has a vision, some founder has a vision. And typically with, with maybe some data, oftentimes with no data, and they're executing things. And so the long shadow of the founder, long shadow, the CEO, directs the company and that typically on the product vision, and that becomes a habit of, Oh, I thought about this thing, we put it in the marketplace, we've had some success, and I'm going to then give you my next thought and my next thought, and my next thought, and sometimes that can be successful, there are some number of boundaries that exist in the world, that always make great bets, by the way, that percentage is close is, is approximately zero, yeah. But I want to, I want to leave the possibility that there is somebody. So that is a very typical pattern. And people usually follow patterns that they believe are successful, they don't change patterns, until they have pain. And the things that happen with that pattern that are problematic is I have another great idea, another great idea, another good a shiny object thing and then that creates a product management culture that says, We just do that what we're told, we're actually not enabled, we're not enabled product managers, we can't, we can't actually learn from data, or follow our roadmap, or create a roadmap that will actually get us there and so that is a very typical culture that happens. There are other cultures that are arguably better, that actually I would argue strongly that are better, which are data driven cultures, empowered cultures, that you actually learn what a market or a customer wants. And you start building against those. Now, I am all for recognizing that not everything on the roadmap will ever be correct. Isn't that you don't want everything on the roadmap to be correct. Right? Because a collection of that much data is too expensive. But you want to be directionally correct. And that is a second kind of culture of how are we thoughtful about what gets placed on the roadmap, not just a bright person has a bright idea. But we're thoughtful about it. And then how do you collect those ideas in that data from a variety of people on the team? Yeah. Sorry. Go ahead. Go ahead. Oh, there are these cultures that are founder only driven product roadmap cultures. I typically tell people, I know the number of Steve Jobs that currently exist in the universe. There was one, yeah, not anymore.


Jay Haynes:

Yeah. Yeah. It's interesting, because even if you start with startups, you know, very, very big companies like Apple, obviously, were started by Steve Jobs. And, you know, Amazon was started by Jeff Bezos. You know, and we've heard this referred to, and we use the term as well as the hippo, the highest paid person's opinion. So even if you're a not a startup, even if you're a big company, you know, some top executive or the founder CEO like Bezos, or jobs, you know, clearly their opinion matters more than anybody else's, and matters even more than data. And the example I always love is the Amazon Fire Phone, which we've talked about before, you know, there was a postmortem on it and some articles written about the Fire Phone, which of course it was a, you know, An enormous failure. In the market, no one's currently using an Amazon Fire Phone that I know of. And the reason was it was driven by Jeff Bezos had this vision. And of course, he has driven Amazon to tremendous market success. But this vision for the phone that he had clearly wasn't based on anything that customers wanted, you know, by definition, because no one bought the thing. And even his executives, you know, very senior executives at Amazon, were saying, Why are we building this? We don't even we can't even see the vision, there's no justification, there's no market data. So maybe it's going to be a success? And of course, it wasn't because it wasn't driven by market data. So I think you're right, that that analysis of these kinds of founder driven cultures can even be executive driven cultures, you know, in larger companies, where you just have someone who is, you know, got a higher salary and no more authority. The other thing that makes me so curious about your observation, there, is the idea of using data to change your culture. And one of the things that we've mentioned before, but I think is really fascinating, is if you look at startup investors, there's obviously a huge difference between venture firms and Sequoia, which people may or may not know pretty well, but they have been at the top of the venture game for decades, they've been around for a long time, they've, you know, had enormous successes in venture investing. And they are a very market driven firm. You know, venture firms like to say that, you know, almost all of them put some big homepage message that is we're entrepreneur friendly, we support the best entrepreneurs, and you know, Sequoia as their version of that. But if you go back and listen to Don Valentine talk about even their investment back in apple in the day, they were like, this is going to be a huge market, Steve Jobs was some kind of crazy hippie that walked in here. But what they recognized was in the world, where computers cost $250,000, he was going to build a $2,500 computer, they were like, that is a huge market. It wasn't the entrepreneur that drove the decision, it was the size of the market. And that's what I think is, you know, where David, what you're saying makes sense with jobs to be done is it's bringing that market and customer data into the roadmapping decisions, not just the ideas.


David Subar:

Right? And you look, you have to start with a thesis somewhere. Right? Like, here's the thing, we're going to explore, here's where we think, here's who we think we are. So you can, you know, get that data. But then you have to have the data and just an opinion based, like, here's the stuff on the roadmap, because I think it's going to be better if you have a lot of money if you can spray and pray. Right? Maybe not the worst thing you can do, but certainly not an effective use of capital. Right? At the end of the day. What do we want to do? We want to apply capital, to building products that create products of value to a market. So we generate revenue and profitability. But the key thing is, is where no one has unlimited capital? Where am I going to spend capital, so I can create something that produces value for a market?


Jay Haynes:

Yeah, I think that's a great way to frame it. And which is why we always start, when we work with companies and figuring out what the job to be done is, the first thing is to find who the customer is. And that's what's interesting. I mean, you might not be surprised, but other people listening might be surprised how many times we work with companies. And internal the companies, they don't even agree on who their customer is. So let alone like what the customer's job is what problem they're trying to solve what the customers' goal is, you know, all that other stuff. Because all these downstream activities come from selling to a real human. At the end of the day, they're human, even if you're in a b2b market or medical market, you're selling to some human who has to do something, to achieve a goal, get a job done, you know, whatever vernacular you want to use, solve a problem, that that human is the most important thing in the world, to your company. And Peter Drucker even says he said this way back in I think the 50s, which is the mission of a company is to create a customer and that means, you know, some real human and the number of times that we see disagreements about who even the customer is is is startling, to say the least,


David Subar:

if you can't by the way, so you need to know who the customer is. You need to know what the market is, which are slightly different. And anything on the roadmap, you need to be able to say this about we believe by doing this feature for this customer. We will produce this kind of value for them. And we will know we've done it when we've seen this metric move. If you can't say all four of those things, you should not start doing it. You need to have clarity on what you're going to build for whom? What value they're gonna get, and how will you know if they've achieved that value?


Jared Ranere:

David, what are some signs that you're working in a culture that doesn't do that? Right, that that has a broken roadmap and culture that where the roadmap could be opinion based and veering towards failure?


David Subar:

Good question. So there are several first I say, like, how do you develop? How do you develop? How did you develop the roadmap? How did you think about that? Then I asked, after you released a product? How did you measure whether it was successful or not? And in the first question of how did you develop the roadmap, I will ask, who was in the process? And how was it bedded? Oftentimes, what I'll find is that people will say, Well, we were told to do it, just kind of what we were talking about before. Or it was, you know, this idea or that idea. But by sitting with the product management department, you can feel, very quickly, whether there are order takers, or whether they are helping the company determine how to execute on its strategy. If they say, you know, I had these inputs, people told me what these features I had to build were. So I built a lot of user stories. That's that there's a smell there. Yeah, if people say, we, you know, we had these inputs from people, we got these data's, that's these data, we validated this, we threw these things away, and here are our bets. That's much more interesting. If they say, here are our bets, and here were our bets last quarter. And here's how we did a retro on them. That's even better.


Jay Haynes:

Yeah, we generally find also, if they're using the word bets, that might be an indication of problematic culture. Because it's a bet, is interesting. But its terminology does matter. And I think you're totally right, they really should be investing in creating value for customers. And I think that's a that's a very, you know, generic phrase that everybody agrees with and what we find is probably very similar to what you're talking about there, David, is that, we will often start with companies and ask them, does everybody agree that the goal of the company and certainly the product team is to satisfy customer needs better than your competitors? And everybody, 100% of the time, agrees and nods their head? Of course, because that's very, very logical. So the next follow-up question is very straightforward. What is a customer need? And, and what's very clarifying about that, is if it's usually clear that no, no, no one has an agreed upon definition, there's lots of different ways to define that. And that causes a lot of this confusion in prioritization, because what you're talking about David, we agree with, you know, entirely that you need to have some sort of metric to say this is customer value, basically, that you're satisfying customer needs, you know, better than what exists in the market today. And this explains a lot of historical failures. You know, we talked about this all the time with the Microsoft Zune, which we, you know, we love to talk about, not because the Zune was a bad product, it was actually a really good product, it worked well, but it just didn't satisfy any needs differently than the iPod. So it's not even you can't even prioritize your roadmap, just playing catch up. I mean, you may need to play catch up for some reasons, but you really have to differentiate. You know, this is obviously the famous apple slogan, it's think different. And that rather than just a slogan, in a very good ad campaign, by the way, the programmer by the way, yeah. Yeah, but that's pretty good marketing. Right. It made you think about it. That's absolutely right. Differently doesn't have the same thing. But, but it really was as if you look at it, it was trying to build a culture in apple that add, you know, jobs Steve Jobs talked about it was as much targeted at the internal culture at Apple as it was for their customers. Because he wanted to say, look, the entire computer industry is not just focused on spreadsheets, word processors and PowerPoint presentations. Microsoft at the time, of course, just owned the market with, you know, some crazy 98% Share or something like that. And it seemed like it was so hard to be with them because people were still thinking like, Okay, well, they've just won the computer wars, because what we do with computers is create these documents and word processors and spreadsheets and PowerPoint. So how are you going to beat them, right. And what he wanted to focus everybody on was you have to create value for some other different customer and different goal they're trying to treat, which, you know, in today's vernacular, we'd call it a job to be done. And, you know, you may remember what he said was, we're going to focus on digital media, because consumers, they were going to target consumers. So they picked a customer, they were like, we're not targeting businesses, they just gave up. And they were certainly not targeting IT managers, you know, as Apple called them. Orifices, I think. And what's faster about that today, in today's language, you would say, well, Apple went to target the job beneficiary, the consumer, not the job executor, who was, you know, an IT manager who was just part of the solution to get corporations to use computers. So that drove their differentiation and their product roadmapping decision, I mean, certainly, you know, they made a spreadsheet and a word processor, and, you know, presentation, you know, application, but that wasn't the focus, the focus of the team was on this transformation into digital media, where they were going to help consumers use these, you know, advanced devices to experience digital media. And, and I think those historical examples of those kinds of cultural changes are really important.


David Subar:

Within, you know, the there are two points that I'm reminded of, as you say that one is that think different campaign and Job saying, it was really about internal culture. It's really about integrity of internal culture, and what you actually do in the outside world, right, those have to be coherent. And so it was a great marketing campaign. It was about internal culture. And those were the same thing. Right. And so that's why things like that work so much better than just to say, we're putting marketing fluff around our products, it's like, no, there needs to be, there needs to be coherence consistency between both of those, and then you start breaking down some of these issues you have with the product management and roadmap because now it's like, oh, here's what we fundamentally care about. We fundamentally care about creating this kind of product for these kinds of people. And here's who we serve. And here's how we know, and we're going to message it, because by the way, if you're really creating value for someone else, it's pretty easy to message. People want you to create value, people don't want you to be taking value from them without creating more value than you're taking. So that was one thing that made me think of about three days ago, I was sitting for a meal with the CEO of I can't say the name of a company, but a major internet infrastructure firm that the whole audience knows about. And he said, I'm trying to decide what percentage of our, of our budget to put into R&D next year and getting average statistics from other companies. And he gave me a number, I think, was 18%. He said, What do you think should that is that should that be our target? And I said, I think that's completely the wrong way to think about that. I said, you may have a number beyond what you can't spend company to profitability doesn't make sense. The cashflow doesn't make sense. You know, but the number you actually do spend, shouldn't be based on here's what everyone else is spending. It's which of the and he said R&D, but we really met product development. Which initiatives could we build that would produce customer value? And therefore, produce returns for us in excess of what the cost is now you have to amortize cost. There's capitalization, there's a bunch of other things I said. So you should, you just get asked me for with a top-down number. What should we spend without thinking about? What should we do? What value should we create? And I said, if you give them just if you give your team the top-down number, they will spend that number. It may not be mean.


Jay Haynes:

Yep. Yeah. Yeah. You can just look at the historical examples. You know, Kodak was spending a lot of money on R&D and blackberry was spending a lot. They were that's why I was saying it shouldn't be a bet, it should be an investment decision. You've got to have it right around the market, as you say, and in the market should not be determined by your product and the number of products selling in the market today. That is just the wrong way to look at any market because of course we know, you know, people don't want products they want to get jobs done. So yeah, we use the example the iPod market was a $30 billion market at one point. Now at zero, but the market for creating mood music didn't go away, it just transformed. So those are really crucial investment decisions. And I think you're right, the answer might be they want to spend, you know, $0 on R&D and meaning true kind of research and development of scientific breakthroughs, not just product development. And one way that we see that companies do this, which can be improved upon, is trying to figure out the allocation between true product development, when you're building a feature that you're going to get to the market. Because you know, the technology is available, and you can solve the customer problem and create value, you can get the job done faster and more accurately, as we say. And then there are things where, you know, that there are unmet needs in the market. And there are ways to get that data, of course, you know, however you do it, you know, jobs, you don't have some one of the ways, but you have metrics saying people are struggling with this, you might not be able to make significant changes to either the speed or accuracy of solving the problem today. Because you need some sort of new algorithm, you need some sort of new technology, you need a new platform, you know, etc. And that's the real R&D investment. And the allocation to that should still be not, let's just start doing machine learning or AI research, because it would be cool to figure out how, you know, neural networks can be improved and be faster, right? It's almost like if you look at open AI today, they're they're doing really interesting stuff, but they haven't figured out the markets for what they're doing. And the issue with that is, it may or may not end up being a good investment decision. Essentially, it is a bet it's a really risky investment decision, because you haven't tied the fundamental research to some identifiable customer problem you're trying to solve. And that was where I think, you know, having whatever metrics you're using to define the customer, if it's jobs to be done, or something else. Having those metrics front and center enables you to say, Okay, here's short, medium, and long term investment decisions, the short term, and medium term should be known technologies you can use, and you need to productize the long term aren't de investment should still be focused on solving some customer need, faster and more accurately, and that can be much more directed R&D. So the answer to your CEO friend's question, there could be that they want to spend a lot less than the industry because it's more focused, and it's more likely to create a return on their investment in R&D. Yeah,


David Subar:

so I'm gonna tell another SEO story like that, which also is a slightly negative one, then we'll talk about a positive one. So I'm consulting to a company right now also wants to name and deal with the short term, medium term, long term, we Kinsey has this three horizons model, which is exactly the same as that. And this company has, you know, the first horizon is the stuff you're selling. Now, the second horizon is what you would call medium term, the products that you're starting to develop, that you've proven the technology. Now, you're productizing. And the third horizon, the furthest one out, is really that R&D. These guys have a very successful third horizon, thought, you know, and they, they actually know where they're going to use value, their first horizon stop to stop their selling now, it's very good. They made a fundamental error. They took some stuff, that was, they knew the technology. So it was really like a second horizon thing. And they overinvested in it. Because they hadn't proved the market. And they built up 90 engineers or 90 people in the product manager engineering department. And they made this huge investment, and they got it, they put it out in the market, and nobody wanted the product, and had they done, and I was literally had this conversation with the CEO yesterday, and he said, this was my mistake. He said, this was a noble mistake that we made. And we got over our skis, we got too excited about what we thought was going to change the world. We didn't actually ask anybody whether they actually wanted it. Yeah. So. So that's a that's,, you know, the story of what happens if you don't use jobs to be done or similar formula to thinking about what's going to be on the roadmap or why and by the way, the effect was that they were having trouble selling it, and therefore the salespeople went to product and say, we just need this new feature, then we'll be able to close the sale. And that would go into the product and engineering group. But the market still didn't want it. So they'd get that feature for that one customer. And then the next salesperson would come and then have some other feature for the one cause. So they built capabilities, one off features, but they were never able to get traction in the market. Because they weren't built, they were essentially a very expensive professional services company, expensive to them not to clients. Because they were focused on this sale that sale, as opposed to, here's what the market wants, here's what the market needs, we can build it. And then we can give large multiples on scale, like, and the CEO said, I made this mistake, it's on me, so they're going to change, and they know what they're gonna do. It's gonna include laying people off. It's not going to be good. But you know, on the other hand...


Jay Haynes:

Well, hang on, let me make a comment on that. Because I think that's interesting on this topic of roadmapping cultures, just listening to that story. I would say what one thing that's missing from that culture, that we see a lot as well, is the customer validation step of even the concepts. And even before prototyping, I mean, certainly did validate with, you know, prototypes, too. But that's how you can do this risk mitigation, because that company obviously invested a lot of money in 90 people is not small, you know, it's a serious capital loss. And, and which is bad for everybody. And so if you do this type of concept validation and prototyping the key, if you're going to do it in your culture, which you should do it, definitely. But yes, the more efficient way to do it is to know what you're prototyping and concept testing against. And I'll tell a quick story. When I was at Microsoft, back in the late 90s, the state of the art of at the time, was to come up with Feature Ideas. And I'm not kidding, this seems almost insane today. But you, you write all your features, ideas on index cards. And so you're just, you're literally writing out Feature Ideas. And then you go, and we did this, we would go and hire a research firm, and do these focus groups where you would sit there with a customer, and you'd say, can you shuffle these index cards around and prioritize them in what you want. Now, there are so many problems with that. But it was an attempt to get feedback, you know, from customers, even all these concept ideas. The problem with doing it that way, if the customers don't really know what the features are trying to do. If you describe, you know, feature x and feature y and feature Z, they look at it and say, Okay, that's interesting, but what how does that relate to what I'm trying to do as a customer. And this is where, you know, Joss Whedon is, you know, very powerful, because all the metrics are independent of those Feature Ideas. So because we know that you know whether or not you're trying to get to a destination on time, restore artery blood flow, achieve comfort of your home, get the baby to sleep at night, whatever the job is, those are stable things that don't change over time. So you can take an idea, and then ask the customer, even at the concept stage, do you think it's going to satisfy this need in the job faster or more accurately? And if they're confused by it, or say no, or they're asking a lot of questions, that's when you go back to the drawing board. And if they say, that seems like the greatest thing since sliced bread, and I'm willing to pay for it, now you can go to the next phase of building the prototype and validate that and then get it into the market, and it is an important part of the culture, that you've not only got to get this feedback from customers, but you're getting feedback on the feature as it relates to the customer need not just do like my shiny widget, because that's where you get a lot of false positives. People say, Yeah, that sounds like a great feature idea, even though they don't end up buying it.


David Subar:

You're one of the things you're good you're.


Jared Ranere:

I was just say one of the things about your story that's interesting is that there's the culture in terms of the activities that you pursue, you know, do you validate a feature? How do you do so and you're in your kind of process. And then there's the tone of your culture and the behavior and the emotions of your culture. In your story, you said, everybody got really excited about this idea. And so they overinvested in it. And it's almost like you have to temper that excitement, you have to say, and that's where the bet language is kind of interesting, if you're aware that you're always making an educated investment decision, or a bet that that could go south, if you're not fully validated, and if you're not measuring it all the way, then you tend to temper that kind of excitement and not get over your skis. You know, it's like every release is a small win until you've actually got the metrics that show you that it's doing what you expected.


David Subar:

Right. And that's, that's like, the kind of stuff we do when we go into companies is it's, we look at the whole process, the whole systems that are in place for how do you think about it? How do you make bets, and you're exactly right. Right. It's not just what goes on the roadmap, but like, MVP, which is, you know, how you know, the Lean Startup model? Is that appropriate here? What kind of techniques do we use to test this? How do we test the least investment? How do we validate? How do we validate this? And then after we get something out there that, that seems to have some traction? How do we iterate on that? And Jay, to your point is the customer reading, you know, a card, can't even actually really imagine what it is until they see something? So, and, you know, I said something wrong about that situation. I said, everybody got excited. It wasn't actually everybody. It was the CEO, and a few execs. And there are people in the company who thought it was wrong now, just because they thought it was wrong, didn't mean they were going to be right. But the CEO described this as hubris. That was his word. Yep. And, and I think you, he, you know, he was right. And that's what happened. And now they have, now they have a pivot to me, they know how they're going to make their pivot. They've thought about it in three horizons model. They understand. I think they're gonna be successful. But they've wasted their wasted capital, worse, they wasted time. Capital, you can get replaced and may be expensive your time you can never get back.


Jared Ranere:

That I think that's a really interesting insight. Because, you know, you hear a lot about speed of development, ship fast, fail fast. And it's, it's almost like you're saying, well, because they move so fast, they skipped some steps. And they didn't win fast, right. So there's a big difference between shipping fast and winning fast. And if you cut corners, on your problem, identification, your design and your validation, and you move to building because you want to get in the market and get live feedback, then you might have to iterate so many times and pivot so many times without a stable target that it takes you forever to win, and you never do.


David Subar:

Right? And what and here's another way to think about let's say you have I keep talking about starts talking about stuff we did at the Walt Disney Company, we had this Lind example, it turned out really well. I want to I want to talk about if we get a minute, but is let's say you're a startup you have 18 months and burn. That means you have 12 months before you have to raise because if it takes too long, you lose leverage with the capital riders all their content in 12 months. If you release product, if you let's just let's just talk about the product release cycle for a minute, we can pay about being smart about it. But if you release product, once a month, you get 12, you get 12 chances to figure out how I get forward momentum, what is the market one? Right? If one of those 12 is bad, now you have 11. Now, if you can really smaller things quicker, let's say release every week. Now you have 48 at bats, right? But you want those you want every those 48 at bats are precious he releases every day, let's say work five days a week, but do this math in my head, you have 240. Right? But that's what precious is, is how many times do I get to learn from the market? Before I have to raise again, if I have to raise again, I'm only going to have an up round. If I have forward market momentum. If I want to ensure forward market momentum, it'd be sure nice if I had been thoughtful about understanding what the market wanted.


Jared Ranere:

Yeah, I think that's that's a really excellent breakdown. And one of the things I think is overlooked a lot is that the overnight successes went through those first 240 releases before they raised their first round. In other words, they have that forward momentum entering the raise. And they did it very quietly. You know, they like in slacks case, they pivoted from a video game into a chat thing. And then they had a pilot with that chat with a bunch of companies using money raised for something else. And it was all very quiet until it was a huge success, and then they were an overnight success on something they spent five years on, and you see that over and over again. You know, they took their bets quietly enough. So it looks like an overnight success once they actually hit the market. If you are still trying to figure that out after you raise your first meaningful round, it gets very hard very fast.


David Subar:

Let me talk to lynda.com example. So people may not remember lynda.com, but it got bought up by LinkedIn. I'm going to screw up the number I think was 1.2 billion $1.4 billion. We consulted there. lynda.com started out with a woman named Linda. She's a real person. It's now called LinkedIn learning. And she taught at the Art Center in Pasadena, and then She started writing books for Autodesk or for Adobe, excuse me, on how to use Photoshop. And then she started teaching classes out of her out of her garage, and then she started doing DVD route Dom's, that you can then buy on a website, and then eventually, you could stream classes and not just Photoshop, but all kinds of things. Linda's brilliance was that commitment to market, and she actually recognized she had several markets she needed to commit to, I'll tell you a story that illustrates this in a minute. But it's not just the consumers who are buying subscriptions to lynda.com online, by the way, when I was there, they were doing about $75 million a year 80% profit margins growing 50% year over year. Right. So not, Not bad, not bad. I was getting calls from major PE firms, Texas Pacific Group, company, they're like, Could you introduce us to Linda, and I would go to Linda like these will want to invest in your company. She's like, Yeah, I don't want their money. So it wasn't just the consumer who's buying it. She's like, Oh, there's a corporate market. What is corporate market want? Oh, that's the second market. Here's the third market, the people that were producing content for us. We have a relationship with them. What do they want? How does this become a win win relationship. And that that was the third, the fourth was our employees. She was invested in creating value for each of those four. And finding that sweet spot where she could do all them. And here's how I learned it. I was there about two weeks. And I get a flame mail from Linda that said some customer unsubscribed from our marketing email list. And he's still getting marketing emails from us, WTF. Except, she did not abbreviate. And I was like, lady, I just got here. I got no idea what's going on. Let me go figure it out. And, you know, I'll get back to you. Now I was like, my internal monologue was wow, I have no idea why she's getting so upset about this. And this is like a minor thing. I'll get it figured out. But like, the level of intensity of this email was like way too high. That was my internal monologue. Turns out there are two marketing email lists. If you want to subscribe for one car from another, got it fixed up, blah, blah, it. So I went to Linda and I said, Here's what the problem was. We've now fixed the problem. It's solved. And I said, By the way, how did you know? How did you know that someone's complained about still getting email marketing for you? And she said, Oh, I read every email that comes into this company. Yeah, she was so committed to, to creating value for the customers that she had the pulse on what was going on by reading every email like it was super impressive. I'm a huge fan. Yeah, that's great. I suddenly went, I send them, but you know what? The amount of flame on that email was delta appropriate?


Jay Haynes:

Yeah. Yeah, that's great. And I think that's, that's really a great story to end on. Because that is as customer focused as you can get in a culture where the CEO is reading through customer emails. You know, obviously, when you get to scale, you might have read through all of them. But that really is just important for leaders at the company, whether it's the CEO and founder like Linda or whether it's, you know, product executives just to, to really keep a handle and empathize, as we always say, with what the customers are struggling with. And you know, that's a very simple example, they were struggling with getting off the marketing email list. But I do agree with you, David, like that is an indication of a great culture, because you have leadership focused on the customer, listening to the customer empathizing with the customer, because at the end of the day, that's why all businesses exist because of their customers.


David Subar:

And you know what, because of that, I cared about the customer. And everybody in the company cared about the customer. Because that was the cultural bit that was set. And Linda and Linda and her husband, Bruce, who owned a large percentage of it, I want to say what percentage had a really good exit.


Jay Haynes:

That's great. Yeah, well, great. Well, well, David, thanks so much for being on here. I think a lot to think about for how do you improve your roadmap and culture? And certainly, thanks for listening. Remember to subscribe and like this podcast. If you want to learn more about jobs to be done. Jobs be done innovation methods, you can visit us at thrv.com. And you can visit David and internet@internet.com