Tyler from Less Annoying Business here. Here's what's new:
Why we aren't a remote company [Blog post]
The world is finally starting to appreciate remote work. That's great, and long overdue. And yet we've decided to keep LACRM in-person-first. It's not an obvious decision, but it's one we've thought a lot about, so I figured I'd share our reasoning.
Innovation Tokens - When to break from the status quo [Blog post]
Innovation is how we make progress and differentiate our businesses, but it's hard. Because of that, you should only try to be innovative in areas that really matter. The innovation tokens framework helps decide when to innovate, and when to stick with the status quo.
The new podcast experiment has come to an end [Podcast]
I have three new episodes of the podcast to share, but more importantly, these will be the last episodes for this particular podcast. Listen to the last one for all the reasons why:
What I'm working on
First off, happy holidays! As is common this time of year, I'm doing a lot of once-per-year planning and maintenance. Here are a few things I've been up to:
Updating the financial model for next year
Despite having been a CEO for over 12 years now, I'm still pretty unsophisticated in terms of how I handle the financial aspects of the business. I don't mean this as an insult to myself, I just don't think LACRM needs anything too complex. 99% of our revenue is monthly and we've never raised money, so managing the finances is really as simple as "spend less than our MRR each month". But the one area I do invest some energy is figuring out what the future might look like so we know how much we can spend.
I have a spreadsheet to help me with this. Each column represents a month starting with January of next year, and it goes three years into the future (any further than that and the numbers become hilariously wrong and unhelpful). Each row is an expense, plus there's some extra info such as our projected revenue, etc. With that info, the spreadsheet can spit out how much money we'll make (or lose). So if we're thinking about hiring someone, I can just go in and tweak the numbers to see if we can afford it.
Each December, I spend some time updating this financial model for the next year. That involves updating all the dates, plus reviewing all the expenses to make sure they're still roughly correct (I do have a "random other expenses" line to reflect the fact that many expenses aren't entered into the model).
Additionally, I try to improve how the spreadsheet works each year. This is the same spreadsheet I've used since founding the business, but every year it becomes a bit more sophisticated, so it's managed to keep up with the increasingly complex needs of the business. My goal for this year is to have a better way to handle variable employee raises. Most employees get a $10k raise each year on their anniversary, but some people get additional raises beyond that, and the current model makes it hard to account for that.
Figuring out what to do with profit
Related to the financial model, I had the pleasure this year of figuring out what to do with a bit of extra profit. Do we distribute it to shareholders (me and my brother)? Give it to employees? Stash it in the bank for a rainy day? Hire another employee?
In this case we decided to use the money to improve employee benefits a bit. We've had a 401(k) for a while, but the company didn't previously match employee contributions. Starting in January, the company will be "matching" 3% of an employee's salary. I put matching in quotes because it's not a true match. We put the money in regardless of what the employee does. The US allows for three types of matches, and this one is called a "non-elective contribution". It seemed best because the employees who can't afford to contribute (e.g. if they're paying off student loans) are the ones who need the match the most.
Why'd we decide to improve benefits rather than other things we could have done with the money? A few reasons. For starters, the US has this weird thing called "safe harbor" which means that if you don't have one of the three acceptable matches, highly-compensated employees (anyone making > $130k/year) have weird rules about what they can contribute which complicates things. Additionally, the tax savings from this are significant because the company contributions don't count towards the employee contribution limit. Third, even though this will mostly go to employees, my brother and I get this match as well, so it's a nice equitable way for everyone to share in the profits. Finally, we're about to start hiring for a couple positions, and good benefits make hiring a lot easier (even more than higher salaries from what I can tell).
I'm constantly tinkering with the product roadmap throughout the year, but the end of the year is a great time to zoom out and set priorities for the next 12 months. I feel really good about what I think we'll be able to accomplish in 2022.
I've been thinking a bit about what one thing I'm most excited about next year. I think it's a redesign we're planning of LACRM. If you're a customer, don't worry, the layout isn't going to change. But LACRM has always seemed a bit...unpolished. It works great and is easy to use, but for more tech-savvy people who use design as a proxy for product quality, it doesn't give off a super-professional first impression.
We've been working on some design tweaks, and I'm optimistic that 2022 will be the year that LACRM will finally look like a fully polished and professional app, even for people with high design standards.
This is also the time of year when I take some time to plan what's happening with my personal money. Even though I'm a 50% owner in LACRM, I'm still paid entirely in salary, and I get a raise at the beginning of each year, so it's a natural time to plan.
You probably don't care too much about this so I won't go into great detail, but something I started doing a few years ago is that I now have a spreadsheet that automatically calculates how much of my new money goes towards what. I just enter what my new salary will be and my effective tax rate, and it tells me $x goes towards long-term saving, $y goes to charity, and I can spend $z on whatever I want. It makes things so much easier not having to agonize over finding the right balance each year.
Good stuff on the internet
Advent of code
If you're a programmer and don't know about this already, you should check it out. Every December, they post one coding challenge per day leading up to Christmas (you can go back and do old ones anytime). They start out really easy but they get hard fast. I've never finished all of them, but it's a really fun way to brush up on my coding skills since I don't code at work as much these days. You can also start a private group with friends/co-workers so you can compete with each other.
Too often, I think of delegation as something that helps me. Like, if I'd delegated that thing, I would have had time to work on something else. But it always seems like an imposition on the person I'm delegating to.
This tweet is a great reminder that, when done properly, delegating is good for the other person too. It's how you give them new opportunities to learn and grow. Most high-potential employees are thrilled to take on work that was previously done by someone higher up the chain of command.
In your first 90 days in a new PM job, it’s important to get in some quick wins early. Here are some ideas for how. A thread:
December 7th 2021
I don't expect to ever be a PM in a new job, but even still, I found this thread to be really helpful. As I get older, I find it harder and harder to learn new things. I think it's because I'm used to being experienced, so when I take on something new, the feeling of being inexperienced is so foreign and uncomfortable that I don't want to keep going.
This thread gives some great ideas on how to get involved and actually provide value even during the "I don't know what I'm doing" phase of something new. It's probably something we should all keep in mind in 2022.
That's it for now. I love hearing from readers, so if you'd like to discuss any of these topics more, just hit that reply button!