Tag Archives: first 90 days

Week 2

This is the second entry in my journal documenting my first 90 days as a VP of Marketing at Mindspace. You can find the first entry here.

Week 2 — Frameworks and Research

September in Israel has only 13 business days, and my week-2 included only two business days due to Rosh Hashana (the Jewish New Year). However, I spent most of it reading and thinking. My goal for the week was to finalize the framework for how to approach the marketing audit and how to organize my on-boarding process. Following the playbook outlined in the First 90 Days, my goal for the first few weeks is to evaluate and ensure the alignment (or lack thereof) among five components on the marketing team.

Strategy -> Structure -> Systems -> Skills -> Culture.

For the team to operate efficiently, these elements need to be in concert. In case they are not (and that’s usually the case), I will need to define and align them, simultaneously. For the evaluation part, I needed a framework that can help me organize my findings and then communicate them to the team and the rest of the leadership team.

I considered two options: a functional rundown framework, and a strategic overview framework. The functional rundown framework is a fancy name I gave a simple process — I meet, learn and audit each existing marketing function and I summarize my observations, findings and recommendations based on those functions. It’s easier to follow and explain, and it’s much easier to coordinate since you don’t need to bother people multiple times. The downside of this framework is that it’s reliant on what exists and not what should be in place. But it’s faster than the other framework I evaluated.

The strategic overview framework is another fancy name I came up with to describe a framework that takes a more holistic/strategic approach to the audit. It evaluates the marketing functions through the lens of what components should be in place. The challenges with this framework are that it takes longer to complete and it assumes that there are some universal principle to marketing. It’s also more theoretical and pseudo-academic which can cause some people an allergic reaction.

Obviously, I went with the pseudo-academic and much harder one.

Why Framework?

First of all, because I love frameworks. They help, well, frame your work, and when you’re dealing with a lot of information, frameworks help you organize the information and place it where it makes the most sense. Additionally, the right framework helps with “sense making” both for you and for your audience, and creates a common language that increases efficiency and speed. Finally, it helps define not only what is in, but even more importantly, what is not relevant. Since we’re wired to think and look for patterns, we use frameworks all the time. For example, in demand generation we use the funnel as the most acceptable framework to describe movement of customers through stages in their buying process. You can’t have two demand gen marketers meet without the funnel being mentioned at least once.

However, a common mistake is to try to force reality into your framework. Frameworks are designed to help you make sense of the world around you, not to make it fit your framework. So flexibility in choosing the right framework and in how you use it is important.

The Strategic Overview Framework

This framework comes all the way from my marketing professor who taught us this framework in my first marketing class. And when I say taught, I mean brainwashed. This framework simplifies all of marketing theory into these concepts, which makes it both powerful and memorable (the brainwashing also helped). I since have used it in various formats and versions in almost every marketing role I had.

(I apologize in advance for the poor design on this slide. My professor was a great teacher and marketer, but an awful designer.)

On the left side we have the Situation Analysis, also known as the 5 C’s. You start with analyzing the 5 component that will help define your objectives and later the strategy and go to market — Context (that’s the market and market forces), Customers (market size, addressable market, serviceable market, market share and other customer characteristics), Company (your current situation, employees, assets, etc.), Collaborators and Competitors. The output of this analysis can be summarized in the form of SOWT, yet another famous framework, that covers your Strengths, Opportunities, Weakness and Threats.

The middle part of this framework is the audience analysis in which you research and evaluate the Segments in the market, choose (or evaluate) your Target audience, and define your positioning and the value proposition. This work should lead to your Go To Market (GTM) strategy as represented on the right side of the framework by the 4 P’s (feel free to read more about 4 P’s and the new additional P’s here and everywhere else you can Google).

The GTM review should focus on all the P’s, but in my case, it will focus primarily on Promotion and Places — where do we sell our product and how we promote it. This should include the channels, tactics, process, measurement and optimization, and other factors of the tactical work the team is doing in launches and day-to-day.

Finally, and possibly the most important for me in the next few weeks, the framework asserts that the entire marketing strategy and GTM should adhere and be inline with the brand, as the umbrella that covers the entire framework. Auditing the brand and the work on the brand will include answering questions such as what is the current brand recognition and awareness in our market? What are the key brand attributes? What should they be? What are the current brand assets? What should they be? What is the approach to building the brand?

Another terribly designed slide, but it serves its purpose.

From Framework to Activities

Having the framework in place also allows me to outline my on-boarding process better and plan the next few weeks of learning. While it seems very clean and organized, learning is not as linear and my process feels more like osmosis than following a recipe . I like to immerse myself in the information and let it “flow” through me. Having the framework in place will allow me to categorize the information and place it where it makes the most sense and will be easier to recall and find when it’s needed.

I spent the last week reading, I have a lot more reading to do in the coming weeks. Since Yom Kippur is next week, I will have enough time to catch up on a lot of it.

Here’s another picture of one of our beautiful offices.

My First 90 Days as VP of Marketing  – Week 1

Learn vs Do

One of Mindspace’s gorgeous office spaces

As I was packing my bag the night before my first day at Mindspace, a global provider of boutique, upscale flexible office spaces, it occurred to me that even though it’s my fourth company in 10 years, it’s the first one I join as the VP of Marketing. I’ve been through the “first 90 days” scenario a few times — in new companies and in new roles — but this time is different for a few reasons. First, it’s not a SaaS company, so I will have to learn a new business model. Second, it’s in Israel, a country I grew up in but never worked in, so I will have to build my network from scratch. Lastly, it’s in the flex-office/co-working/office-as-a-service/please-come-up-with-a-better-category-name market which is rapidly growing but completely new to me. As I was having those thoughts, it also occurred to me that my situation is not unique (well, maybe the moving to Israel is…), but with the exception of books on the topic (First 90 Days is my bible for this process as you will notice if you stick around), there are almost no blogs, posts or stories that share the process of starting a new marketing job. So I decided to write and share mine. This will be my attempt to give back to a community of marketers that have given me so much over the past decade in forms of knowledge, content, ideas and inspiration, connections and support. Selfishly, it will also give me the benefit of having a documented journey I can come back to in the future, and will allow me to tap into the collective wisdom of my fellow marketers (and non-marketers) on the topics and challenges I will surely face. For example, should I get a Mac or PC? Just kiddin’, of course I’m getting a Mac.

Week 1

Over the years I learned that the first week should be dedicated to getting to know people and completing all my administrative set up. In the first 90 days two opposing needs compete for my attention — learning and producing. Naturally, I want to be producing value as soon as possible. After all, I was hired to deliver results. However, I learned that resisting the urge to jump in and do “stuff” is important, even if sometimes it feels like you’re not participating. For example, in the first week at Mindspace, I was invited to a meeting about new employee onboarding. The purpose of the meeting was to ask my team to help with writing and designing a welcome email to new employees with marketing information about the company — About Us, market information, value proposition, etc. — and a short welcome video. My immediate instinct was to jump into a brainstorm session, design the flow, and help with the content, but I sat on my hands (as my coach once advised me) to make sure I don’t jump in and take on a task that will only distract me from my real goal in the coming weeks — learn as much as I can.

The first thing I wanted to achieve this week is to get to know the team and reduce their uncertainty as much as I can. Leadership changes are always a source for uncertainty and anxiety, and the faster I can help answer question and let them know I’m accessible, the less anxious they will be. So in the first day I completed introduction meetings with almost everyone and by the end of the week spoke with all the international employees and held our first team meeting. In my introduction meetings I focused on getting to know each of them personally (who you are? what is your background?) and gave them an opportunity to bring up topics that are top of mind for them as well as ask me questions. Then, I reviewed the latest mid-year reviews to make sure I am not missing anything important. In the past, I avoided reading performance reviews or getting feedback on each employee as I was afraid it will create an unfair first impression they cannot control. However, I learned that the more information you can gather, the broader (and more balanced) picture you get. Now I try to collect as much information and feedback on each of my reports as I can. The main purpose is to understand what makes them tick and make sure that I am not missing any red flags. For example, if one of my reports has a tricky family situation that might impact their behavior, it’s important for me to know that so I evaluate and treat them accordingly.

I inherited a strong team, but a 6-month vacancy in the VP of Marketing position is showing its signs on them. They crave representation in the management team and strategic direction, but most of them enjoy the freedom that having no oversight create. One of the key topics I will have to address, is how to start providing my direction and influence without taking away from the independence and ownership they were “forced” into. How do I empower them to continue to take ownership and grow but at the same time create the structure and guardrails that are so necessary for the efficient operation of a marketing team?

This week I also started meeting with key stakeholders in the company to start building relationships and identify where the knowledge and influence are.

Joining Mindspace was not an easy decision for me, since I had a few competing offers to join software companies. When I started the job search, I set two principles that I tried to stick with as I was evaluating my options: I wanted to join a company that has great people I would love working with, and a product and market I believe in. Mindspace is not a software company, but it sells a premium, high quality product in a rapidly growing market. But the main reason I joined, and the one that “sealed” the deal for me was the people. Moving across the globe and starting to work in a new market is going to be hard enough, so having people around me I will get along with, and enjoy meeting every day, was the deciding factor in choosing between a few good offers. Call me vain, but loneliness scares me.

After meeting with all the VPs and several stakeholders I was happy to see the passion and enthusiasm they all have for the company. I was encouraged by the dynamic and the close relationship that I observed in the management team, and by the end of the week, I felt that I made the right decision. It’s too early to really know at this point, but I saw no red flags.

It’s clear that there are many challenges ahead, as I gathered more information throughout the week, some started to emerge. We need to organize and clean the brand, we need to identify the right strategy, build better structure, create the appropriate process and implement solutions. We will need to fill gaps in competencies, hire, reorganize, set roles and responsibilities, and the list goes on. I’m excited about the road ahead, and excited to start this journey with my team and the people around me. In the coming weeks, I will focus on learning the market and audit our marketing functions and performance. But the first step will be to define the framework for my evaluation. I already have a few ideas.