Focus on the right things

Yup, Goals = Focus

I’ve worked for large companies and not so large ones. Each one had goals set out as reminders of what we were all striving for. We hear about goals all the time and it makes sense to put some focus around what everyone’s working toward. To give it more meaning. To give us something to rally around and use as a guide post.

However, when, after a little over a year of being our own company, we were asked to put together some specific goals here at Highrise, we grumbled a bit at the task. We know what our goal is. It’s to grow the company. To get more users and fewer cancellations. We were already looking at metrics, growth, revenue, traffic, and on and on.

And there’s so much to do. Literally hundreds of different choices of features or marketing or upgrades we could do that may or may not impact those numbers in a way that means something. Does it really make sense to take time away from all of that?

But, then maybe that’s just the time to take a step back and make sure we’re focusing on the right things.

So we set out on the task. It was a bit daunting. There are oodles of metrics we could be tracking and improving. But after combing through dozens and dozens of options, and more importantly looking at benchmarks from other apps and our past performance, we picked 4 metrics we wanted to improve and monitor. And we established some goals where we want those metrics to be by the end of the year. We also created some specific monthly goals on how we would achieve that performance: X number of marketing creations, Y number of experiments, Z number of new features or improvements.

Then after tracking and reporting our performance for a couple months, we were asked: Does it feel like these goals are helpful? Are they worth it?

Remember that grumbling we did? Well, once these goals and metrics were in place our CEO, Nathan Kontny realized the following:

These things are very much helpful. Every decision is now filtered with these things in mind. And getting the whole team thinking along these terms.

For example: we were having a meeting with the team about a month ago talking over that we were behind in some of our quantity metrics (marketing things posted, etc.) and one of our developers was the one who mentioned why aren’t we sending out 2 email campaigns a month vs. just one. Which got us thinking along those lines: why aren’t we doing some more email marketing. Right now our emails are just feature announcements, but it doesn’t have to just be about that.

So now we’ve upped the frequency of our newsletters, and started spending more time writing up Case Studies, How-tos, and interesting customer stories in our newsletters.

That’s had a nice impact! For example a recent post from Lynette was a top traffic referrer. She wouldn’t have even written it had we not had some specific goals laid out to see where we were behind and needed her action on.

Also our users have been very receptive in their feedback to us of now getting email about how to use Highrise, not just news about features.

And it’s got everyone focused on projects to raise our stature.

It’s pushed me to get more writing/content projects done like my contributor position now with Forbes. Chris, on customer support, is writing more articles. Even our contractor is open sourcing stuff for us which is having some nice uptake.

When we do planning, we know to be more careful going too deep with certain features and rabbit holes, if it means we’re sacrificing time we could be putting towards these marketing and traffic goals.

And as for quantifiable effect, it’s still early, but that slow decline in traffic that’s been going on for years now seems to finally be halting. And that’s in large part because we talk about these marketing goals constantly.

So yeah, it’s worth it.

P.S. If you need help keeping track of your goals or who you talk to and what you talk to them about, please take a look at Highrise. It’s a simple tool to manage your communication with others.

The difference between a statistic and a success

Business and Life Lessons with Teen Whisperer Josh Shipp

I mastered the art of getting kicked out of foster homes. I would literally keep a notebook with how quickly I could get kicked out. It was like a game to me.

And as he was heading into what would be his last foster home:

My previous high score is 7 days. I’m going to get kicked out of here in 3.

I’m setting things on fire. I’m stealing the family vehicle. I’m getting suspended from school. And 3 years later I can’t shake this guy. I’m 6 months away from graduation. I get pulled over. And sent to jail.

Josh Shipp 2015 Impact Report (

and his own personal success.

As a business owner, Josh also had some important lessons to share with us. He had two powerful epiphanies over the past year.

As the owner, my personal strengths and weaknesses are the businesses strengths and weakness. Though it’s easier for me to find a weakness in the business, it ultimately comes back to a weakness in me. If I want to make the business better if have to make myself better.

Josh meticulously organizes his week to ensure he, and the business as a whole, focus on the right things:

Monday: CEO day. Left brain stuff like finances, taxes, sales reporting and forecasts. Big picture stuff.

Tuesday: Lead generation. How sites and different ad campaigns are performing.

Wednesday: Communication and human interaction. Phone calls with his team, interviews, etc (that’s the only option I was given when scheduling a call with him).

Thursday: More lead generation

Friday: Content creation

He goes on to describe:

My ocd’ness with my schedule is not because I’m disciplined, it’s because I’m not. This is a hedging against my weakness. The thinking behind this is it takes me a bit of time to get into a particular mindset. The mindset for financials is different than writing a chapter of a book. It takes awhile to warm up and loosen up to any one of those things and then once I get going I’m ok.

If Josh is organized, the business is organized too.

Another of Josh’s biggest challenges lately has been learning to have a team. Going from doing everything himself. To now delegating tasks, trusting employees, and empowering team members to make decisions.

My inability to trust and empower a team, had everything to do with me. I’ve come to learn that if you delegate tasks you build followers, but if you delegate authority, then you build leaders.

In regards to his schedule, I asked, what if your team needs to get in touch with you on a Tuesday?

They can either schedule time on Wednesday or if something is 911 urgent, they can call. But they almost never do.

The other option is they can send an email since it’s not a disruptive form of communication. Josh may or may not reply to it, so he asks them to include ‘UIHD’, Unless I hear differently… They describe the problem. And the proposed solution ‘here’s how I plan on handling it unless I hear from you by x o’clock’.

Win. Win. 🙂

The second business lesson Josh shared with us is:

Intentionally cutting boundaries on my work hours. As a business owner, as an entrepreneur, I could work every hour of every day and no one can tell me not to do such. The great thing about having your own business is you’re your own boss. And the bad thing is that you’re your own boss.

Shipp has set an intentional start and stop to his day, which not only helps him separate business and personal life, but forces him to prioritize and make the most of the hours both with his business and with his family.

Before, when I allowed the time to bleed together, neither had their sacred time. I was always just sort of half there, half not.

This is a great idea and also a core principle of our parent company, Basecamp: Work can wait.

But Shipp doesn’t stop there:

I give my computer to my wife and she locks it away.

I have an iPhone, but I literally don’t have email, Facebook, Instagram, Safari. All I can do from my phone is text or make a phone call. If I had the option to look at email on my phone, I would. That would rob the time from my friends or family. If an issue came up with work I wouldn’t deal with it on my phone anyway… so I don’t give it the chance.

…That has been one of the best things that i’ve ever done.

Josh also has a plethora of business advice in this interview — here’s a few tidbits:

Overnight success:

I think the main thing is that they were in it for the long term. I think in both business and parenting it takes 10 years to become an overnight success.

If it’s right, make it hard to back out:

So let’s say you’ve got a business opportunity and you know it’s the right thing to do but it’s scary. If you happen to be feeling courageous on a particular day I want to encourage you to begin moving that ball down the court — to commit, say ‘Yes, I’m going to do that,’ because in a couple of days you’re going to wake up and question yourself.

Your humanity is what makes you influential:

Regardless of who you are, regardless of your situation, you are human and I think that can be one of your greatest selling points. Your imperfections are what make you human and it is your humanity that makes you influential.

It’s not all Skittles:

Sometimes people think that once they have their dream job there will be, no frustration, no pain, but everyone’s dream career, at best, contains 10% of stuff that’s terrible and awful.

Earn being good:

In order to do something great, you’re going to have to start by doing a slightly crappy version of it.

You have to earn being good — it’s not just given to you because you’re sitting around thinking ‘One day I’m going to be a great speaker’. To be a great speaker you have to get up and give 100 poor presentations and then 100 bad presentations and then 100 decent ones and then 100 mediocre ones and then, eventually, you become alright.

Get a mentor:

Inspiration doesn’t change your life, it’s week in, week out, fine tuning, honing that changes your life.

Researching and speaking with Josh was a pleasure and there’s no way one article can do him justice — he’s funny, he’s a great speaker and he’s on a wonderful mission, one that any of us can participate in.

If every kid is truly one caring adult from being a success story. The difference between a statistic and a success story is you.

P.S. Sign up for Josh’s email list to get more info on how you can make a difference too.

Josh and his team use Highrise to ‘manage the bazillions of details that come with all of these events’. If it works for 500 events x 12 speakers x 28 elements and steps for each event, it might work for you too. Sign up for a 30 day free trial: here. And be sure to follow us on Twitter.

“Parents aren’t just parents — they’re case workers”

Adam Rosenfeld and his awesome family

Recently we asked users: ‘How do you use Highrise?’

We received a myriad of responses, but one of the themes that stood out wasn’t business related at all:

Many of our users manage personal communication and tasks at home with Highrise.

Adam expanded a bit for us on how he uses Highrise to manage his larger than average family of 10.

“Parents aren’t just parents — they’re case workers. Especially when you have almost three times as many children as your average family. That’s why the most powerful tool for me in Highrise is Cases.

For example, my wife and I used a case in Highrise to move our oldest daughter from public school to homeschooling. This required maintaining communication with teachers, the school principal, and the Ministry of Education. There were to-dos, documents, and contact information that all needed to be accessible to both my wife and I.

With the help of Highrise, our daughter is now happily advancing in her learning at home.

Besides schooling, we use cases for many other things. These include home maintenance, auto care, accounting, and even birthdays and vacations.”

And here’s another story about how Highrise cases made a messy situation much more manageable…

After a day of coworking recently, I came home and proceeded with the daily routine of getting the baby, prepping dinner, and feeding the animals. As I walked down the stairs to the cat’s dish, I stepped in what could only be described as a puddle. On our carpet. I didn’t think much of it immediately, as perhaps my husband had moved the blanket I passed drying at the foot of the stairs because it had been dripping.

I fed the cat and walked back. Couldn’t miss it. My foot soaked into the carpet again. Hmm. Uh oh. Was it wet around the corner too? Yup. All around the laundry room the carpet was very wet. The reality sank in quickly from there.

The hose for the washing machine had emptied into our laundry room instead of the intended location and soaked through the walls into our carpet in the family room. We would need to move quickly to get everything dried out and recovered before mold set in.

But… we’d been through this before with our washing machine. And good thing for us, we also use Highrise cases for important projects at home.

The last time our washing machine caused us trouble, we just bcc’d our Basement case dropbox address to ensure all communication related to vendor quotes and work done, etc ended up in Highrise. Just in case.

The clean up was no fun, but it was so much easier than the previous time. It took just a few seconds to find which contractor to call. In less than a week they had dried everything out, torn out and replaced a foot of drywall and the carpet padding, repainted, and stretched the carpet back in place. Out a bunch of money, and some inconvenience, but very little stress.

Compare that to previous incidents where we’d had service and then needed something again and had to search through our junk drawer and files to find the vendor’s card or the receipt, only to come across nothing and have to start from scratch. You think you’ll remember these details, but when something like this happens across a span of several years, and all you want to do is get everything back up and running, it’s so easy to forget.

We hope Highrise makes life easier for you too.

And thank you to Manuel Kripp, Todd Shearer, and Adam Rosenfeld for sharing what you do, and helping support Highrise. We appreciate it more than we can articulate.

We’d love to keep hearing your stories about how you use Highrise — send them over to or please reach out on Twitter: here.