Building a Team While Building a Product

Angela opens up about how it feels to be adding team members while being in the midst of building the product.

Show Notes

Building a team while building a product can be a wild ride. Angela doubles her team in the last couple months, she discusses how that feels at a time that the product is being built out. Jonathan gets into how and why he has added to his company, and the outcomes of different hires.

Jonathan talks about taking his son trail running in a stroller, the Thule Chariot Sport.

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Credits

Produced by Jonathan Bowers and Angela Hapke
Music by Andrew Codeman (CC BY 3.0)

Transcript

Angela: [00:00:00] september is a very, very, very hard
Jonathan: [00:00:02] Yeah.
Angela: [00:00:04] in many different ways. Oh, my God, are we both burping? This is going to be amazing podcast.

Introduction [00:00:11]

You're listening to Fixing Faxes a podcast on the journey of building a digital health startup with your hosts, myself, Angela Hapke.
Jonathan: [00:00:22] And I'm Jonathan Bowers and I took Zack for a trail run for the first time this weekend.
Angela: [00:00:27] Wait in a stroller or was he running?
Jonathan: [00:00:33] he, he could run actually, cause we go on our walk. Uh, he's pretty fast.
Angela: [00:00:41] fast for his age.
Jonathan: [00:00:42] yeah. I mean, it's a walk at my pace,
Angela: [00:00:44] Ah, so you went trail running with Zach in a stroller. What kind of stroller do you have that you can take trail running?
Jonathan: [00:00:53] Well, let me tell you about the stroller I have. It's a, uh, it's a Thule Chariot Sport. it's spectacular. It's a little wide to be taking down trail, but it was fun.
Angela: [00:01:07] Does it have suspension in it
Jonathan: [00:01:09] Yeah,
Angela: [00:01:09] Zack? Yeah,
Jonathan: [00:01:10] it has, it has not full system essential, but it's got suspension on the back and then, disc brakes, which is really nice.
Angela: [00:01:18] Did he like it?
Jonathan: [00:01:19] He, he really enjoys being in the, in the chariot. It's like, yeah, he loves it. We go for runs, weekly, at least. But I was getting sick of the same kind of getting bored of the same route and decided that trail running is something that I should start doing to mix it up a little
Angela: [00:01:36] Okay. Yeah.
Jonathan: [00:01:37] boy, is it hard pushing a stroller with a child up a pretty steep hill?
Angela: [00:01:43] Do you do much trail running anyway?
Jonathan: [00:01:45] Nope, I do one or two trail runs a year.
Angela: [00:01:48] Oh, see, we're like, not only am I going to try trail running, I'm going to try trail running with a stroller and my child,
Jonathan: [00:01:55] Yeah. Yeah.
Angela: [00:01:57] I love it. Well, good for you. That's amazing. Are you training at all for? I know there's no races right now, but
Jonathan: [00:02:07] Ironman Canada has, sent off their email saying that Ironman Canada, 2021 is a go as best they know. So they canceled 2020, and we got a deferral to the next year. So I've signed up cause it's the. Who knows. So I'm be training for something that might get canceled again,
Angela: [00:02:26] Oh, right. It would be frustrating. Full iron man or half. Oh, good for you. That's exciting. Where is it?
Jonathan: [00:02:37] Penticton BC?
Angela: [00:02:40] Okay, we'll get updates on that as you go.
Jonathan: [00:02:44] Yes. That is going to be a new focus of my life again.
Angela: [00:02:48] Oh, God, we're going to have to talk about all those things, all the things I don't do, running biking or swimming. Okay. It'll be great.
Ah, okay. Let's jump in.

Growing a Team [00:03:02]

so I, well, can we get Kristy on, but we'll get her on next week. And so then I didn't really have a topic. So then I asked my husband, I said, since he's an avid.
Jonathan: [00:03:17] Listener.
Angela: [00:03:19] Of Fixing Faxes. Is there something that you wanted to like, is there a topic we haven't hit on that's obvious or blah, blah, blah.
And he said, he goes, you know, I think you should start, start talking about building your team, like how you've built a team and things like that. And I was like, Ooh, that might be a good one. So. I was thinking today, it might be kind of fun to talk about. the way that Two Story Robot has built their team and the way that we've built our team, while we've built a product at the same time and how that all kind of goes. And in the spirit of Fixing Faxes, we're going to talk about things as they happen. So as we build our team, we talk about that.
Jonathan: [00:04:02] not about the, not about the job application process that requires people to submit faxed resumes to you.
Angela: [00:04:11] Could you imagine if I asked for faxed resumes? Oh my God. It's should just shut up shop now if that was the case. yeah, no, no. I was thinking no in the spirit of talking about things as they happen instead of
Jonathan: [00:04:25] Yeah. So you've, you've just hired a couple of folks.
Angela: [00:04:32] we have just added a full time visual designer and we added a part time intern,
Jonathan: [00:04:41] We've talked about one of these people in the past.
Angela: [00:04:45] You talked about, Megan as the intern in the past, but I don't think we've talked about, Ammara is, now our new visual designer and she's working remotely out of Mississauga, Ontario. So not only did I add a new person, but I also added a fully remote, different time zone person. Uh, So before it's Jackie and myself, are the full, are the full time people on Central Referral Solutions.

Doubling from two to four [00:05:16]

And then we have Rosemary. Now Rosemary kind of sometimes gets forgotten about, cause she doesn't work on Clinnect, the product she works, for the general surgeons in town. And I always call her my, my research and development department, um, and she's and she's part time. So we kind of like. Almost, I feel like almost doubled our team with the addition of, of, two, two people to, to only three.
Jonathan: [00:05:40] That's a big, that's a big jump.
Angela: [00:05:42] Yeah. Can we talk about that?
Jonathan: [00:05:44] Well, I mean, it's, it's when it's two, it's you and Jackie like back and forth, and
Angela: [00:05:49] re and Rosemary has always been like this fully functioning, amazing person that like just does her thing. She knows exactly what she's doing. We do some check-ins and she is like, she is. Awesome runs her own show. So now I've added two people that rely on me to give direction a lot. And rightfully so, like this is the new product that they're working.
They're both Clinnect focused. Oh. And that has been so Jackie and I just got kind of back to working in an office and now we're adding people and, I'm going to be honest, like September, as we were just talking about before the, the, the podcast started September is hard enough. And then I added two new people and I think they're both incredible, amazing people.
Thank goodness. But I don't know what the heck I was thinking. Adding two new people in September. Holy moly. I started the same darn day. Like, like, yeah, because I did that to myself, like a total Dodo brain.
Jonathan: [00:07:03] that does seem like something you should have controlled for.
Angela: [00:07:05] I, yeah, I had full control over it and I just, I, I, I, through many circumstances it just ended up, they both started the same day and it finally got to the point where I'm like, you know what, if I'm going to start one, I'm going to start them both that day.
And I just going to take the, like, just the stress will hit that day and I'll deal with both of it. I don't know. So. I don't even know how we wanted to talk about this. I feel like now I'm exhausted.
Jonathan: [00:07:36] drained yourself describing it. so the, this person Ammara from, uh, Ontario that's three hours difference.
Angela: [00:07:44] It's three hours difference. She is very experienced with it working with remote teams and different time zones. And it's part of the reason that, I would, uh, I hired her in particular is because, she just gets that kind of work and understands that kind of work and understands the tools that are needed for that kind of work.
So, and she's, Totally a self starter. She gets what she wants. Like she knows what she needs to get done and she just works on it and does touch bases with me. She's awesome. She, it's almost a little bit more like a contractor than a, than an employee. She, she has that sense, um, about her, which works really, really well with this position.
And then Megan is a totally like, not opposite, but she's an intern in university. There to learn. So she is very, you know, sitting with me a lot, asking a ton of, of questions, really great questions. This young woman is brilliant. and ask like really like the really good questions. Oh yeah. but it's.
That mentoring piece is taking a lot of my time at a time that we are building this product. We're building out these incredible features to like, like, I don't know if we wanted to talk about that at all, but the features that Clinnect has right now, I finally feel like this is so exciting. The features are just so cool.
And, um, so that's all happening. We have more interest and then this intern comes on and it's like, Holy Crow. It was what, and we don't even have our own office right now. Still we have, we are still sharing an office with, two of the general
surgeons in town.
Jonathan: [00:09:29] That counts. I mean, how
Angela: [00:09:31] Oh, no, it does. well, I feel like we're quite crowded right now
Jonathan: [00:09:35] Well, I mean, if you double, you know, you double again, you got to hire eight people or four people grow to eight and then
Angela: [00:09:41] So how did, okay, so how did you do this?
Jonathan: [00:09:44] Well, I don't, I typically don't hire people on the same day.
Angela: [00:09:49] Where were you? Two weeks ago?
Jonathan: [00:09:51] I don't know. I mean, it's, that's, that's kind of a question I was going to ask you, like you said, you did this to yourself in a way by hiring in September. Was it a case of need or was it a case of opportunistically hiring.
Angela: [00:10:04] bit of both. Megan had to start in September because she's on a grant that is a intern grant for full time students. So it was semester based. Had to start in September. So that made a lot of sense. Ammara is also another grant, uh, the digital skills for youth grant and that one I could have started her earlier.
but as a full time designer, I don't know, would we have needed a full time designer? We wouldn't have needed a full time designer in June, but I feel like now we
Jonathan: [00:10:42] in June? Yeah, probably not in
Angela: [00:10:43] Exactly. some, yeah. Could I probably have got her on in August and got her a little bit more or up to speed before I slammed her with work?
Yeah, probably
Jonathan: [00:10:53] So that was, but that was more of a reaction to the need
Angela: [00:10:57] that was a reaction to the need.
Jonathan: [00:10:58] than an anticipation of upcoming need.
Angela: [00:11:00] Yeah, because as we we've been talking about in our weekly meetings, clinic is getting very feature full right now. And with that, a redesign is going to become necessary. just because of all the features that we're adding plus, um, the payment system is needing to be added early next year, which involves a design. And then quite quickly after that, as soon as we have all those, the design pipeline is going to gonna need to be focused on a premium product. And so that's just that screamed, to us that at this was a full time job. So.
Jonathan: [00:11:37] there is a lot of design tasks to do and a lot of design uncertainty, and it's, it's the one, the one place that we can't scale up very well in at the moment.
Um, cause we. It's just Lindsay and I do a little bit, but I'm stretched so thin. I can't, I can't actually do any design.
I don't want to be a bottleneck to that. So I think, I think that made a lot of sense.
Angela: [00:11:58] I think so, too. But like, even just that decision, like even that decision around that, like it was honestly, we knew we needed a designer soon. Well, actually, I'm I'm this is almost retrospective. I know we need a designer now in July. Did Angela know we need a full time designer? I had an inkling, but I wasn't even sure.
So it's only been two months where that solidified in my head. and then we were like, the biggest reason we were able to hire is because of the grant that we got and which we've done talked about in previous episodes is the only reason that sometimes startups like ourselves are able to actually continue to push forward.
so yeah, so I think now, I probably, I maybe waited a few weeks too long too, hire this designer, but now I'm absolutely sure that I needed her. and so I guess that that was good intern was more like, it'd be really nice to have an extra pair of hands around to help out with a few things. And the intern in particular that we, that we chose, Megan has an excellent socially as young as she is a social connection to a lot of the physicians in town, which is a lot of the work that she's going to be doing too, is going around to, and talking to, offices and just getting the awareness of Clinnect up. So that just once again, fit made a really, uh, just made the decision a whole lot easier

Hiring within the network [00:13:27] 

When you started Two Story Robot.
Jonathan: [00:13:30] Yes.
Angela: [00:13:30] Was it just you or did you have another person?
Jonathan: [00:13:34] as our story is quite long, we don't need to get into the like nitty gritty details. Cause it's not super relevant. The original story, like the original origins of it. But w we, we changed our name. We, we were a product company before, yeah, it was just me. I had hired a student.
Was he a student? He was a student at the time, but I don't think he was doing co-op with me. He just would show up to all the events and with like ask interesting questions, and just, he was just there. So, we happen to have a, share a connection in the past that we didn't, we didn't realize, which, you know, led to, you know, just discussing and, yeah, I hired him.
Uh, he later went on to work at Netflix. He's a pretty smart guy. and then, uh, and then it was kind of, kind of just me for awhile. Uh, and I had hired Chris, and him and I were just sort of working on working on things. And then, we actually, we've been reflecting on our hiring process a little bit, recently as part of our assessment of our values and, and how well, how well we're sort of living up to those values and just kind of looking at our hiring process through that lens, which has been really interesting.
And one of the things that we realized is only one only one person has come through in a more tradition hiring mechanism. Paige. She's the only one who was hired from a job ad
Angela: [00:14:57] Like there was an ad, there was an application and there was an interview. And then an offer like the traditional
Jonathan: [00:15:04] Yeah. Traditional every pretty much everyone else was identified, in the community.
Angela: [00:15:11] Amara is our first traditional hire.
Jonathan: [00:15:14] Yeah.
Angela: [00:15:15] Everyone else has been yeah. Identified through the community, identified through somebody I know.
Jonathan: [00:15:22] It's
Angela: [00:15:23] And fit is so important there.
Jonathan: [00:15:26] That's I mean, that's what, fit is one of the top, top things that we hire for like, are they a good fit with us culturally?
we don't even really care so much if they have the exact skills cause we can, we can teach them that, especially, especially in development where we know we can teach someone how to become a good software developer in the ways that we need them to be a good software developer. We're we're very good at that.
We, we, we can do that till the cows come home.
so. Finding someone that feels like they, they are motivated to learn. Really interested in the, you know, the type of work and that, the way we work with clients, uh that's that's the key part is, and just being a good fit on the team. Right. Do we, we don't want to work with people we don't like working with.
Angela: [00:16:15] Do you take people on your team and match them to client contracts based on skill or based on the fit with the client or a bit of like a bit of a magic of both.
Jonathan: [00:16:27] Um, it's kind of just all over the map. Like we, we don't have a whole, we don't have a huge team. There's there's 11 of us, total. So it kind of, it kind of depends on who's available really, but, but we do, we do match a little bit on skill. I mean, some, some projects need specific skills. Um, everyone has the capability of doing what everyone else does for the most part. We're pretty mobile in that sense.
Um, but, but sometimes, and often the case, we have something, you know, some experience that is kind of unique. So like for example, um, the Avalanche Canada work that we've done, uh Kaileen is a back country, skier, avalanche certified, um, really excited to be able to work on the other side of
Angela: [00:17:10] Right. Like she was, she was probably like, I want to work on that
Jonathan: [00:17:14] Yeah. Yeah. And, and it was, it just made, it made the most sense. Um, and so she's, she's kind of taken that project on. Um, and then we've got, you know, some other, some other things that lean on some of the other non, you know, not like life experiences that people have. So we've got some other projects that people have
leaned on. Um, so we try, if we, can, we try to do that. we do try to pick projects that that have some other benefit to them other than just like another project to work on.
Right? Like it's not
Angela: [00:17:40] Just
another product to,
Jonathan: [00:17:43] Yeah.
We want to, we want to do things that help us, um, uh, step up our knowledge, um, try to try to align with some of our interests.
And so that's, you know, that's why we pick a few, uh, pick the projects that we do sometimes.
Angela: [00:17:56] Cool. Now, what, what, um, at what point did you feel like getting back to the size of your team? At what point were you like? Oh boy. Okay. Now I should probably hire some more people, but it was kind of scary.
Jonathan: [00:18:17] Um, I think every hire has been a little bit has been, has been. Oh, yeah. Every hire is uncertain. know. Right? Like they, you just, and, and, and it's, you know, I'm, I don't want to hire someone and then kind of bail on them because the, because we can't support that position.
Um, if they're not a good fit, then they that, and we try to figure out a way to, to, uh, reverse that decision as quickly as possible.
Um, and that has happened. We've we've made some poor hiring decisions. Uh, and, and that, that that's bad that's very destructive
to the culture. Um, but
Angela: [00:18:59] Yeah.
Jonathan: [00:19:00] so most of our hires, because they're not in, because we don't hire in a traditional sense, they tend to be, um, opportunistic hires.
So we don't really have, like, there's nothing, we're not so overwhelmed with work that we absolutely need to hire. We're we anticipate there's going to be. Uh, some additional work or some additional need. We're always nurturing some relationships so that if we feel that inkling like this, this, this feels like a good fit like this, this person is an awesome fit.
And we think, we think that we're in a place that this makes sense. And so then, then we do a hire, because we do it that way. It's always super stressful. Cause I'm like, I don't know if I should do this or
not like this. Yeah. This is maybe a poor business. Um, but in every case it's always, it's always worked out, uh,
it always seems to unlock some new capabilities on the team where. Yeah. Where, when, when you look back at it, you're like, Oh my goodness, I, what was I thinking? Not to not do this? Like, it would just be, just be silliness to not, you know, to not hire this person. they're such a clear fit and are doing so many great things and are pushing us in these new, interesting,
Angela: [00:20:13] cool. That's exactly. I mean, that's the, that's the Cinderella story of, of, of hires, right? Is that what you just described the fit and then the, not only just the fit, but the amplification for both the employee and the employer. That's so great. I love that. I mean, I experienced that, um, big time with Jackie.
Um, she's been with us for a year and a half now, almost, which is so crazy to think. And, um, and the, the two new people that have just come on have only been, I mean, two a week now. Um, but already are jumping in The deep end, no problem picking up. And, um, so far so good. And I'm, I'm really excited about it, but at the same time, um, Brad said something to me this morning where I was like, Oh, that wasn't a truth bomb.

This is the fun part [00:21:11]

Brad says to me in a year from now, you're going to be less focused on building this brand new product and more focused on managing people. And that's going to be a huge shift for you.
And I think that's when I was like, Oh, Right.
And I don't know.
No, if I'm ready, like, I mean, I'm obviously not ready for that. That can happen tomorrow. So thank goodness. But in one year, um, I mean, I really like where we're at right now. and I know it's not going to last. And there's so many people, so many successful people that talk about this exact moment that I am at being the most fun.
And I am not taking that for granted right now because I am thinking, Oh, no, like. This is the most fun, like, just fun, like in the pure sense of fun. This is the most fun right now. And so building a team is so double-edged with. I want to have, like, I want to have fun. I want to keep doing this. I want to keep building to do that.
I have to keep building my team, but in order to keep building my team, that means my time is shifted from like fully product focused to management focused. And I, um, As Nora would say, I'm not prepared for that.
Jonathan: [00:22:43] Yeah. Well, the nice thing is no one's taking you to daycare and saying, here you go. Here's all these new kids in your pond to have to play with.
Angela: [00:22:52] I know I do. Oh yeah. I do control who moves into the pond. It's totally true, but it's such a, it's so paradoxical in the way that, um, you build a product and you have to build the team at the same time. And in order to do that, you have your, your focus has to shift and, um, yeah, it's hard.
Jonathan: [00:23:14] I think though, like, I think you will find, and you know, I suspect Jackie is already doing this for you, in some ways she's a clone of you, right? Like she can
Angela: [00:23:24] No. Yeah,
Jonathan: [00:23:27] right. Yeah. given some more experience in some more practice, she's probably going to out-think you in certain ways.
And, um, that's like how much,
how much better can it
Angela: [00:23:40] That's the best. That is the best. And all I can hope is that that cycle continues
but, Oh man, I guess this is the fun part now Oh, that's so amazing. And. Sad at the same time.
Jonathan: [00:24:04] It's not the end. It's this isn't the end. It's just the beginning.
beginning of a
long, long it is change. Going from two, well, going from one, you, to two is the biggest jump, but you kind of have been two for such a long time that you've gotten really used to
that. Uh, going, going to three and four is a huge job going to five is going to feel not nearly as scary.
Angela: [00:24:32] What if it's like five, six, seven, eight, all at the same time though,
because all of a sudden, like, Oh yeah, what was it?
Jonathan: [00:24:41] just, just space it out a little bit more.
Angela: [00:24:44] Put them all on the same day.

Outro [00:24:48]

Jonathan: [00:24:50] You've been listening to Fixing Faxes, building a digital health startup. I'm Jonathan Bowers and my cohost is Angela Hapke. Music by Andrew Codeman. Follow us on Twitter @FixingFaxes. You can find us wherever you listen to podcasts. We would love for you to do us a favor and tell a friend. Thanks for listening.
how do you want to beep do you want to beep the plot, the last episode? Because you said **** twice. You said the **** a couple of times. Should I beep them out
Angela: [00:25:16] Wait, you said **** also?
No, you didn't. It's in, it's in the script. I heard **** from you. And then I said **** twice.
Um,
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