This week we sit down and chat with Paul Joyce CEO of Geckoboard, a live TV business dashboard that gives users instant access to the most important data and presents it in a way that’s easy to understand at a glance.
What was your inspiration and motivation to get started in business?
Before starting Geckoboard, I worked in investment banks, designing and building data warehouses.
There were lots of great things about working for these companies, but it was easy to feel lost in such a big organisation. I noticed that, even though company data was there to be shared, it was almost impossible for the average employee to see it.
For me this meant it was hard to see the effects of my work in the wider business which was frustrating and very demoralising. With so much data available in a business, surely it made sense to ensure all staff can make decisions which are informed by the right information? Existing business intelligence and data analysis tools were failing businesses and their teams in terms of communicating data effectively to everyone in the business.
That’s where Geckoboard came in.
I quit my job in the city, and began to look at ways data could be communicated in a quicker and clearer way which was sympathetic to non-data scientists. With the help of a talented team, we developed a live TV dashboard application for businesses that could give teams instant access to the most important metrics presented on TV monitors in a way that’s easy to understand at a glance.
What are the biggest challenges you have faced, and how did you overcome them?
Many businesses don’t realise they have a data communication issue until it’s highlighted. The challenge we face is increasing awareness amongst businesses of the potential pitfalls of depriving their team of company performance data. I think to summarise that challenge, building a new category of software is a lot more difficult than fitting into or disrupting an existing one. We haven’t chosen the path of least resistance.
It involves a lot of education and we work hard to help our users make the most of their data, by providing advice on choosing the right metrics to measure and how to visualise them so that they are as easy as possible for everyone to understand. Most of today’s business leaders buy into the theory of “what gets measured gets done”. However this is where many businesses struggle. There is so much you can measure, that deciding what to measure can be tough.
Once businesses start defining and communicating their most important data, they tend to see the advantages straight off the bat. Seeing and reacting to data live accelerates their ability to exploit opportunities and take corrective action for issues. Also teams focus on moving the metrics which are most important to the business, which has a positive impact on team morale as the team are aligned on the company mission, collaborate more and see the impact of their work on performance.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to start his or her own business?
I think the key to building a great company is getting the right talent onboard who buy into and are passionate about the big problem you are trying to solve. In our case this is to make organisations more transparent and in turn, help drive performance.
We invest a lot of time in finding the right people and are willing to offer flexibility so the job works for them. We have embraced flexible working so our team can work remotely when they need and work hours that fit around other projects and life commitments. This is a big perk and enables us to hire the best talent because they generally value a work life balance.
To make it work we set clear objectives so everyone know what needs to be done in a given timeframe. We also use a lot of communication and collaboration tools so it doesn’t matter if people are in the office or not. For example, we use Slack, Trello, Google Drive and Zoom for better communication, collaboration and project management. We also eat our own dog food and have dashboards with key company metrics available to everyone, so the focus is consistent no matter where you are in the world.
When hiring we aim high, but don’t place a massive emphasis on CVs. Our focus is on testing skills early, so part of the application process for everyone is to complete a practical task. For engineering that’ll be a coding challenge, for Customer Success it’s making them respond to a negative customer email and for marketing it’ll be something like writing a piece of marketing collateral. This way, when we speak to somebody, we know they’re committed because they’ve taken the time to do a task and we’re confident they have a good base level of skills. From there we speak to them and test their skills further, but most importantly make sure they have cultural fit by speaking to a cross-section of the team. Culture is important for high growth companies, and we’d rather have a hole in our org chart than an a-hole.
How do you expect your business to develop in the future?
In the long-term, if all goes to plan, we’ll build a new category of software around communicating data to team members in a way that humans understand, and be the leader in that category. I think our near-term development will be focused on building a product business leaders and team members alike love and want to tell their peers about. We will also continue our mission of learning best practices for communicating data and choosing the right metrics, and in turn educate both our prospects and customers on them. I think finally I also want to build a passionate team who are all motivated around our mission while also having the right balance between their work lives and their personal lives.