How To Streamline Your Start-Up Team Of Two: The Marrow Method
But one thing I’ve found little information about is how to keep a business organized in the beginning, specifically for a founding team of 2 people. In this article I’ll explain the ins and outs of what works for us at Marrow when it comes to processes, systems and workflows.
While this may not be the most exciting blog post you read today, that’s really not my intention. Through this post I’m hoping to share tools and hacks that will help you create intentional space and structure for your start-up business team that will allow you more time to focus on building your business and meeting the needs of your clients.
When Natalie and I first started talking about Marrow it was just a really exciting idea that we both wanted to develop.
Did you catch that?
It was an exciting IDEA. But taking time to step back and think about everything that needs to get done when it comes to business development, financial obligations, creating content, keeping projects on-time and on-budget, maintaining open communication and keeping meetings efficient and effective - it was a bit overwhelming.
Fortunately, Natalie and I had the space to start with a 3 day business sprint (loosely based on the design sprint concept by Google Ventures). Actually, they were three half days. We were each managing our own separate businesses at that time, so three full days would have been a terribly unrealistic commitment.
During this business sprint we discussed and dove deep into quite a few topics that allowed us to start on the right foot from the get-go. It goes without saying that we’re still learning and figuring things out as best we can, but the clarity we gained through that initial sprint gave us the structure to move in the right direction with guidance.
When I designed our sprint, I thought a lot about what was important for us to figure out, googled sprints that others had done for inspiration, and paired that with our own immediate needs. The following sections will give you insight on what I included in our sprint and how it helped us in starting Marrow.
Business Sprint Milestones
We shared our 3 year goals for the agency followed by a break down of what we would achieve in 1 year to support that goal. We then further broke that 1 year goal into a 90 day goal that gave us more tangible deliverables to work toward. Because goals can change, we’ve created a standing monthly meeting where we discuss the direction we’re heading in and readjust our short-term and long-term goals to make sure they’re in alignment.
Who we are
This is where we determined our core values as a business, the things that are important to us and the work culture we strive for. We also touched base on our vision, mission and mandate.
What we do
During this section we made a list of each of our strengths and the work we love to do. From there we highlighted the services that we are best equipped to offer right away, the services we want to offer next by expanding our own knowledge or by growing the team, followed by the services we aspire to offer in the future.
Who we do it for
This part is essential to a business. You need to have “someone” that you’re doing all of this for, and that’s your customer/client/user. We outlined 4 different customer personas that gave us a perspective on who we’re trying to connect with and the best way to meet them where they are. The deeper you go with your customer persona the better you get to know who you’re hoping to serve and how you can give them value.
Mapping out our future processes was instantly valuable because it gave us a great idea of what was entailed in each piece of our workload. These were processes like our customer journey, proposals and digital strategies. More details on the processes we created, as well as templates and guides, can be found at the end of this post!
We created an accountability chart (or organizational chart) before we had people for all the spaces and jobs we wrote down. By laying out our ideal workflow and structure, we were able to see the future needs we’ll have as a company and how communication will flow between different specialties. What this also offered us was the chance to understand which moving pieces and roles our business would require on day 1 and which one of us would be filling that space until another team member was hired to take it on. As many start-up entrepreneurs know, small teams wear many different hats, so Natalie and I used this as an opportunity to figure out who fit into each hat best.
I can’t stress enough how important setting expectations is --in virtually every aspect of your life. Setting and managing expectations among business partners and co-workers as well as clients is no different. During this section we discussed our expectations of each other, ourselves and our future hires. We also made note of what we expect from our clients as well as what we assume our clients expect from us.
Want to know more about our expectations of each other and our clients? Stay tuned for a post coming soon!
A few other smaller items that we discussed during our sprint are below:
AutomationWe discussed which parts of our business (i.e. processes, emails and campaigns) could be automated and how.
Brand DirectionWe brainstormed about our logo, design and messaging.
Launch StrategyThis included creating our content plan, when to launch our services, the timeline of when to complete our action items pre-launch and website design.
SoftwareWe created a list of immediate software that we required and researched the best ones that met our needs. This was in regards to project management, accounting, CRM and email automation.
SponsorshipsIn this section we confirmed the number of in-kind services we want to provide each year and to what types of organizations. We also compiled a sponsorship package containing our logos and team photo to easily be sent for in-kind work.
List of FreelancersSince we’re a team of two, it’s important for us to know of talented freelancers and contractors in our area so we can connect with them on projects. For this reason we took some time to take note of freelancers we know in the area who have a skill we don’t.
This next section touches base on the process maps we created during our business sprint as well as a few other templates and guides.
With our customer personas in mind, we created a map that shows how each customer persona connects with us and how we can provide them with value through different interactions.
We created a map that moved from point A of lead generation all the way to point B, a completed proposal sent to the qualified client. Throughout this map we also took note of 2 intersection points: 1) the point where a lead either qualifies or not, and 2) where a qualified lead is either ready for a proposal or not. If a qualified lead is ready for a proposal, we then put the lead into production.
Once a proposal is put into production, we have a process map that takes the proposal from ideation, through proofing and then to client delivery. After a proposal has been accepted by a client, that initiates our contract process.
With the acceptance of a proposal, we put the client's contract into production from contract updating and proofing, to client delivery and signing. After we receive a signed contract, this initiates strategy development, and the client goes into the next round of production.
With a strategy put into production, we’ve mapped out the process taken by different team members throughout the stages of development, research, proofing, debriefing and client presentations. Of course for the time being, all of these “team members” are just Natalie and I in different roles, but the understanding of where these roles pass from one to the other is extremely helpful.
Templates and guides
For all of these processes we’ve also done our best to create templates and guides as we go. While the meat of our work changes from client to client based on their particular industry and needs, the outline or structure of our work can be replicated, including our consistency with branding and formatting.
A few of the templates and guides we’ve created are:
Blog writing guides
Instagram blog cards
I'm convinced that it's this attention to productivity and mapping that has allowed us to work both in and on our business from day 1. I also happen to love keeping things in my life organized, so this is no exception ;). Our hope is that as we build and grow our team, the learning curve associated with how we do our work at Marrow will be minimized and that our employees can bring meaning and intention into their work right away!
If you’ve found this post helpful or would like extra information on a specific topic --let us know! We’re also just trying to figure all of this out as best we can, so if you have some tips or tricks that have worked in streamlining your business, we’d love to hear about them!