About the Biz

Retention starts with Why

Create and Keep

We now have a couple of groups that have passed the one month period of using their scorecards.  With our current sample size, 86% of our participants have stuck with the experiment after five weeks.  This data is certainly skewed because some of the retention is clearly because of personal relationships with the participants.  This data will become much more relevant when we move to our open beta and those relationships are not as close.  Looking at how people are using our framework, it is critical to think through why some people are sticking with it and some aren’t.

How do we understand more about retention?  When you are trying to start a movement or launch a product there are always two sides of the movement momentum coin.  The first is generating excitement to get people to join up.  When launching product this excitement generation can be economically quantified into the metric customer acquisition cost or CAC.  CFOs spend a large majority of their time calculating this metric and even more time talking about it to anyone who will listen.  And it is important.  If your CAC is not a small fraction of your customer lifetime value, your long term biz prospects are going to be grim.  This is one of the reasons why business execs won’t shut up about their CACs.

The other side of the coin is customer retention.  In my experience, far too little time is spent on retention.  Peter Drucker once said, “The purpose of business is to create and keep a customer.”  We spend a ton of time on the first part but rarely do we spend enough on the second.  When we talk about retention, product quality and customer service are the first two obvious factors.  If either of these suck, the good news is that you will have plenty of time on your hands to watch your customers floating over to a better option.  Quality product and customer service are a bare minimum, you’re not even in the conversation without them.  Those two factors alone don’t start a movement.

The power of why

Movements are started by taking a stand.  Wanting to help people is not enough.  No matter how well intentioned that goal is, almost all products and movements claim they want to help people.  You gotta know why.  Let’s look at a couple of fairly recent examples.  The first is the open source movement.  The stance behind the open source movement is that fundamental knowledge and technology should be free to the world.  A group of engineers and academics got together and built huge libraries of work on their own time because they felt that proprietary software was unethical and unjust.  Another example is net neutrality.  Net neutrality believes that all data on the Internet must be treated the same.  Internet service providers cannot discriminate or charge different types of data differently.  Both of these movements have completely changed how technology is developed and consumed by our world.

There are tons of examples of movements started by companies as well.  None of that happens without the why.  The why is what allows people to connect emotionally with the movement.  If you think about Apple, they have always been the computing company that is bringing the power back to the masses.  This is obvious in looking at their original Super Bowl ad that mimicked ‘1984’.  Apple users are the righteous outsiders, the creative, the free spirits, the cool ones.  People love to identify with that.  Nike is another good example.  ‘Just do it’ has been inspiring athletes for years.  A huge part of that identity is aspirational, when we think of these brands we think of a better version of ourselves.  This keeps people coming back.

What is our why?

What is our why?  Let’s start with a theory.  Our capitalist society has created a culture of victimhood.  Why?  Because victims are susceptible to marketing.  Being susceptible to marketing means that you are going to buy more.  We’ve trained folks that all the answers to your problems can be found by spending money.  Not by doing.  By buying.  It is insanely unethical that we allow pharmaceutical companies to advertise their drugs directly to consumers.  The drug pushers list a host of generic symptoms that 80% of the populace can identify with, then convince themselves they have.  This creates more victims.  The drug companies then tell them to ‘ask their doctor’ which creates a crazy burden on healthcare professionals who should be prescribing based on their diagnoses not by some unethical outside marketing effort.  That’s madness.

As another example, take academia.  Political correctness, while a noble idea at first, has gone completely off the rails.  Academia has created ‘safe spaces’ where students will never be exposed to ideas that threaten their delicate sensibilities.  They’re treating our students like victims.  You don’t grow as a person when you’re not allowed to leave the echo chamber.  The right has Fox News, the left has liberal academia.  The only way we are ever going to get back to a world of civil discourse is if both sides listen to what each has to say with some iota of empathy and humility.  These academic crooks that are creating victims by creating ‘safe spaces’ are also creating victims by continuing to raise tuitions to astronomical levels while hiding their money in off-shore accounts.  These scumbags are not too far from Trump University when it comes to contempt for their students.  Yet 90% of our children grin and bear it because of the nature of victims to accept the status quo.

Finally, let’s talk about Facebook.  Facebook is the echo chamber.  They make almost all of their money on marketing, so they want you as defenseless as possible.  Look how easy it was for Russia to manipulate the US election.  That doesn’t happen when people’s guards are up.  Facebook has lowered our discourse to the lowest common denominator.  There’s plenty of humor on Facebook but very little substance.  Very rarely do you see big ideas on social media.  Your status on Facebook is directly proportional to how curated your conversational style is.  If you see someone saying something that you don’t agree with, do you engage them and try to understand?  No, you either violently spit out your counter talking points or you unfriend them.  Almost all major innovation and breakthroughs come from passionate disagreement, not from apathetic echo chambers.  To grow we need to challenge and be challenged.  We need to feel uncomfortable.  Facebook is the opposite of that.

Here’s our why: we want to destroy the victimhood of America and the Western world.  This is not an easy message.  Being a victim means that you can give up responsibility for your current situation.  That’s a hard safety net to get rid of.  Dropping the victim mindset starts with acknowledging that you are where you are today because of the choices that you made and for no other reason.

There are a ton of other factors that contribute to retention.  We may cover more of these in a future post.  But if you’re trying to start a movement, it has to start with why.


Building the personal development plan 4

Building the Scorecard

This should be our last installment of building out the personal development plan.  In our last blog we ended up with the outline of a scorecard that looked like this:


To finish out our plan we have to fall back on the idea of SMART goals.  SMART goals have been brought up quite a bit in these blogs but, as a reminder, SMART is an acronym for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time sensitive.  When building out our CFOs and big rocks we spent a lot of time talking about specificity and relevance.  In this final section we will dive into attainability, time sensitivity and measurability.

Time Sensitivity and Attainability

Nothing spurs urgency like a deadline.  Think about those papers you had to write in school or those times you had to get something done by end of day for a client.  Something magical happens when the urgency lever is pulled.  There is typically a little fear involved but it is productive fear.  That productive fear forces us to focus.  It’s amazing what you can accomplish with purpose and focus.

It’s difficult to hold ourselves accountable for personal growth so we have to employ some tricks to convince our lizard brain that these goals are fight or flight worthy.  This starts with building out deadlines that we have to commit to.  These are goals that we have determined to be big rocks, some of the most important things we want to change in our lives.  That should be worth building some urgency around.

The first thing we need to remember about big rocks is that we are working at the one month goal level.  All big rocks should be accomplished within 30 days.  When we set the deadlines for our big rocks, our end date has to be less than 30 days away.  We also want to have a start date for our big rocks so that we draw out any dependencies between rocks.  If one of our rocks is dependent on another being completed, we need to know how and when those dependencies will work out.


In the example above, all start and end dates have been filled in.  The size column is a t-shirt size estimate of how big we think the big rock is going to be to accomplish.  This is a very loose estimate.  The reason we ask ourselves to estimate is to take a first stab at quantifying how much work this actually is.  This is where we need to pull out the realism glasses and really look if these rocks are attainable within the next 30 days.

If you have a bunch of XLs and larges, your chance of completing these rocks is probably pretty small.  The rule of thumb here is that if you have more than one or two larges, you should probably attempt to slice your rocks into smaller, attainable chunks.  Remember that you will have two more months to complete your three month critical few objectives (CFOs) so you do not need to get all of this done in the first month.

While setting goals, it is always good to reach but they have to be attainable.  If you reach too far, if you get to the finish date and have none of your goals completed, what do you think is going to happen?  Exactly.  You’re going to throw the whole scorecard away as another failed tool.  We want this process to be aspirational but not a pipe dream.  If you pick the right rocks, the results will inspire.  If you chase something that’s not attainable, you’re gonna have a bad time.


“What gets measured gets improved.” – Peter Drucker

Measurement is the secret sauce to the whole system.  To explain why, let’s first talk about a subject near and dear to my heart, quantum physics.  One of the foundations of quantum mechanics is the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle.  The principle states that there is a fundamental limit to what one can know about a quantum system.  That’s not the interesting part though.  The interesting part is the thought experiment that goes with the Uncertainty Principle.  Ignoring the wave/particle duality of light for a moment, Heisenberg asked us to think about photographing an electron to determine its position.  If we try to photograph an electron, we have to hit it with at least one photon, or light particle.  When we hit it with the photon, we will be imparting energy to that electron causing it to move.  So the very act of measuring the particle’s position changes its position.  Hence the uncertainty.  Another way of saying this:  the act of measurement drives change.  This isn’t some old wives tale or management principle, it’s physics baby.

On a fundamental level, we know measurement drives change.  If you want to lose weight, what do you think would work better?  You do your best to eat better and get exercise when you can, then get on the scale every day and see the results, OR you sign up for Lose It! and measure every calorie you eat and calculate every calorie you burn, then get on the scale?  You got it.  The very act of measuring every calorie you take in changes your interaction with food!  You know, if you’re being honest with yourself, that you will have to enter that 750 calorie bowl of ice cream in to your food log for the day.  Is that really worth it?  You may decide that it is, but now it is a conscious choice that has a discrete cost rather than something that you kind of know is a bad idea.  That changes the whole system.

So that’s what you’re looking for when you are building metrics.  You are looking for measurements that will change your interaction with the system.  This is not always easy and will probably require a little iteration to get right.  One of the questions that is always worth asking when building your metrics is: will this measurement change our behavior in the direction we want to change?


Now it will also turn out that a lot of your big rocks may just end up being tasks, simple to dos.  That’s fine.  To dos are a big part of this but the big rocks that require measurement are typically the ones that will drive the most change.  You need a strong combination of both types of rocks when you are building out the scorecard to make progress on your three month critical few objectives.

Once we set our metric, we need to set our goal for that metric for the week.  If our goal is to lose five pounds in a month we know that we need to lose a little over a pound a week to hit that, not plan on losing all five in the last week.  That is what the OBJ column is for, weekly objective.

We now have our scorecard!  In our next process blog we will discuss how we manage the scorecard on a weekly basis.