Running a creative business

Super-charging a company culture that puts people first

Streamtime | Project Management tips | Super charging culture
Young at heart.

In April 2016 the Streamtime team gathered in Sydney to celebrate something new. We designed a completely new product to replace a product falling into decline, financially and technologically. Streamtime as creative project management software was loved by many, but getting harder and harder to sell – let alone keep up with more and more competition.

Fast forward to February 2019 and Streamtime is growing again. We have a product and strong team that is proving we can compete with the best in the world. Change isn’t easy, and it isn’t fast.

Turnaround

Few success stories exist of companies (let alone tech companies) that can affect a change in their fortunes like we have (and consequently can draw graphs like this).

(Blue is our total Annual Recurring Revenue, or ARR, green is our Classic product ARR, and charcoal is our newly designed post-2016 product ARR)

Streamtime | Project Management tips | Super charging culture

How have we done it? By hiring smart people, making difficult decisions and building a rapport with the industry we work with. 2018 set the tone for these principles and 2019 will see us take them and run faster than ever before.

There are however, many different ways to grow a business and company.

  • Get significant investment to fuel growth by building capacity and / or customer acquisition.
  • Aggressively cut costs and channel resources into growth only strategies.
  • Acquire the competition.
  • Poach talent from the competition.

For many it’s a dog-eat-dog world. But the thing is, eating dog, sucks (I think). While there are lessons to learn and rules to follow, there are also rules to be bent and people to be looked after. If you’re a privately owned company with no VC / private equity backing, you also have to make a profit each month. And, despite the ups and downs, that’s exactly what we’ve done.

The horror stories of software culture are there for all to see. Last year we discovered this in the creative industry – where many of our customers live.

So, we’ve set ourselves a challenge. Build an organisational culture that puts people (not work or money) first, double our Annual Recurring Revenue, and help make the creative industry a better place. For me, this is the formula that we’ll use for sustainable growth.

Smart, valued, people:
Principles for running a smart, empowered team

Too often, companies rarely deliver on the expectations that they create. They lure people in with status, reputation and flattery, only to desperately fail in delivering an everyday role and work environment that comes even halfway to fulfilling those promises. To be honest, I’ve worked in and even led businesses like these in the past. Maybe not as bad as some, but it’s taken many lessons to learn a better way of doing things.

Here’s our promise at Streamtime:

  1. Life first. Buying a house, having a baby, getting to the Post Office, seeing a doctor, just not feeling the best? Work comes second to all of these. Sounds common sense – right?! Get some of the basics set-up. Feel free to take our Parental leave policy and adapt if for your business.
  2. Your way – or the highway. While there are definitely some standard processes and procedures that we need everyone to follow (for business / efficiency reasons) we try and encourage as much autonomy as possible. If we want to improve something it’s often up to the team to investigate, evaluate and suggest a new and better way. We hired you because you’re smart, so we should let you be … smart.
  3. Actively engage with customers to design the future. In any given month, we have a clear focus for research. This is both observational and proactive enquiry. Its not 1 person’s job, it’s everyone’s job. Just last week I walked upstairs to see Pius (one of our developers) with Christian (our Head of Design,) Poli (one of our customer success team) on a video call with a long-time customer for vital research. In the last month, the design team have been taking agency owners out for lunch to better understand the big and changing dynamics that they’re facing in running their own business. It’s simple. If we don’t have these ‘out of everyday usage’ chats with our customers, we don’t know what’s going to happen next – in our business or theirs.
  4. Evidence wins. Coming from the creative industry, it’s often difficult to resist that creative whim when it comes to decision making. Not that gut and intuition don’t play a major role in driving Streamtime forward, but they’re always supported by sound evidence – build a strong case. In the last year alone, we’ve made some major improvements in collecting and managing our data for reporting and problem solving. We’ve consolidated systems and now pretty much wholly rely on Baremetrics, Intercom, Asknicely and Fullstory to understand what is happening with our customers – and in our product – better.
  5. Reward great performance when it happens. I have a secret-ish mission to try and offer a pay-rise before it gets asked for. I’d like to think that we can recognise when people are progressing and making a greater contribution to our business before they do. I don’t always achieve it of course, but there are certainly some good examples where we have, and it means we’re constantly looking at how self-aware we are of matching expectations and job satisfaction of the team.
  6. Celebrate and socialise frequently. Streamtime isn’t party time. But it is important that we recognise our wins. Whether that’s passing ARR milestones or getting a 10/10 score on our NPS survey, every day can deliver a win. And when we don’t get one? It only serves to pick everyone up and deliver the goods for next time.

Soultime 2019

With these principles in mind, events like Soultime are essential. Soultime is a week where we bond, debate, share, learn and pretty much live with each other for a full week. This year we …

  • Created and clarified processes for the whole team — especially those distributed in different cities
  • Heard from people like Mahesh at AirTasker about how they accelerate growth in a software company
  • Brought in Kathryn from KMint to discuss how well Streamtime aligns with the way the perfect creative business should run
  • Put the whole team through sales training (devs, designers, everyone!)
  • Had an awesome photo shoot (meaning Danielle, her hubby, and her daughter Penny could also get some shots in for the family album)
  • Blended gin (thanks Archie Rose)
  • Scaled new heights (indoor rock climbing)
  • Sweated our proverbial arses off in the park
  • Came together with the creative community to talk about “Value and what we’re worth” at a Never Not Creative event
  • Ate too much
  • Drank too much (mainly rum it seems).
Streamtime | Project Management tips | Super charging culture

Since Soultime, communication has improved. Team morale seems at an all-time high (no doubt helped by the fact that we now know how much we all like rum, karaoke and actually going out and socialising vs having a couple of drinks at work on a Friday).

Barring the two cases of Campylobacter (which is some seriously bad food poisoning – great for weight loss, but not health) it was a hugely successful week.

You can’t underestimate the value of taking time out together. If ever you think you’re too busy to do something like this, just remember… you’re always busy. You’ll be busy next week and the week after. Your business won’t collapse after 1 week of stopping the daily fire fighting (don’t worry they’ll still be raging next week).

You will instead, be grateful for the clarity, improved relationships and invigoration that you’ve built from some time out to focus on the bigger picture.

Saying goodbye was bittersweet.

Andy Wright

Andy is the Managing Director at Streamtime. Previously a co-founder of For The People who designed the new Streamtime, Andy is charged with making sure we're making the best possible product to help creatives and the creative industry to be as successful as possible.

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