The Davies Allen Biz Buzz Blog: Chatbooks
D+ A: How long have you been working with Chatbooks?
Dan Jimenez: So I joined Chatbooks about 14 months ago. Chatbooks was started in June 2014, and then I joined about 8 or 10 months after and came on as the CFO and COO and I’ve been playing those roles for the last 14 months.
D+ A: You seem like a really young guy, how did that happen? What’s your secret?
Dan Jimenez: It’s crazy, it wasn’t planned, it just kind of happened. I was finishing the full-time MBA program at BYU and working part-time, one day a week, up at Peterson Partners, which is a private equity firm up in Salt Lake. Peterson Partners and Peterson Ventures is an investor at Chatbooks, so when I was graduating, I got introduced to Nate Quigley who is the founder and CEO of Chatbooks and Nate and I hit it off right off the bat and knew that it was the right fit for both of us, so I hopped on board. Back then we were about 10 full-time employees in the office and about 20-25 employees total, including our full-time customer support group. Now 14 months later, we’re at 76 total employees.
We have a product that people want, and hopefully haven’t changed it too much or screwed it up. So, the secret… I don’t know if there really is a secret other than we just have a great team and we’ve been laser focused on doing one thing, and that’s printing the easiest photo book in the world to make. That’s helped us get more customers and to sell more books and to establish our brand and create an interesting opportunity as well for venture investors. We raised a series A round of financing of 6 million dollars in January of 2015, and so that has helped us to grow the team as well and put more money into sales and marketing.
D+ A: What kind if task-based system do you use to keep track of work here?
Dan Jimenez: That’s a good question. So, Slack is our biggest tool. You probably wouldn’t think of Slack as a system for getting work done and tracking what everybody is doing, but it is such a fantastic communication tool of a lot of functionality. Honestly, we use Slack the most, and then we use Trello, which started with the developer team to do their product management and work, but it’s translated into marketing and finance and operations as well, so Trello uses a simple system with cards and whatnot to get work done and do project management. That’s about it.
D+ A: That’s great. Do all of your teams talk to each other? Is there a lot of communication that goes on?
Dan Jimenez: There is. All the full-timers are in one space, so there is a lot of cross-talk, and we try to get the company together at least once a week at a town lunch, so we can sit together, break bread together, everybody gets to know each other, you know, we’re not siloed between two sides of the office, plus, we’ll have folks stand up and talk about what they’re working on so that somebody in engineering can know what somebody in marketing is working on.
D+ A: How do you stay inspired? What gets you up every single morning?
Dan Jimenez: I guess two-fold; Just a sense of passion for the company, and a passion for the product. Everyone here at Chatbooks is passionate about what we do. We feel like Chatbooks‘ mission is to help people hold on to what matters, and that through making it beyond easy and super affordable for someone to get their memories in the physical world, we’re all rallying around that one mission, and so we feel like there’s a great opportunity to do a lot of good by taking this product to the market. It’s a lot of fun.
D+ A: What advice to do you have for other entrepreneurs? What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned?
Dan Jimenez: Sell things that people want. Which is simple, but I think that sometimes entrepreneurs get really passionate about something that [they] feel like [they] want and it’s easy to extrapolate that on the greater market and think, “Well, if this is a pain that I have, then surely if I make it then people will come.” Find the people that want something and build something they will buy from day one. You’ll avoid a lot of lost time and money by focusing in on something that someone is willing to pay for today versus spending 6 months building something you think they’ll want and need, and then hope that it launches well later on. It’s really based on the lean-startup methodology around just build it bit by bit, have a minimum viable product, and iterate on that, rather than just try to build this big rocket ship and hope that it launches well.
D+ A: So what are you reading? What’s the last book that you read?
Dan Jimenez: It’s called The Advantage. The Advantage is a book that we use here at Chatbooks to help us figure out who we are, what do we do, what’s most important right now, and who’s doing what. So it really just helps us focus in on what is it that Chatbooks does. What our mission is to help people to hold on to what matters, but what we do is we make photo books. Very simple, we make photo books. What’s most important right now is growth. We have to grow. We have big venture money, and you know we’re putting that to use to penetrate a market that needs a better solution and create non existing market for folks that usually wouldn’t buy photo books. So that’s what’s most important is growth. And who’s doing what, it’s how does everyone in the company contribute to that single goal of growth. The Advantage is all about that. It’s how you think about your company in that framework.
D+ A: How do you communicate that to your employees?
Dan Jimenez: We are constantly reiterating those points. We have monthly town halls where we bring everybody together and review all that framework and our answers for all of those questions, and we use data a lot. We have dashboards, we have large, flat-screen TVs all over the office that display metrics, and it shows us how we’e doing versus our goals and so everyone can see live up there how the company is doing and what KPIs can maybe focus on, and know you, product team can work on conversion rates, and marketing team working on acquisition costs, things like that to measure their progress.
D+ A: What program do you use to keep track of them?
Dan Jimenez: We use Grow. Grow is the best. We’ve been using them since the beginning. They are super simple dashboards. They’re super simple, but there’s a lot that can be done with them, and they can plug into a lot of different sources of data, so Grow lives on top of our AWS Redshift database where all of our information is coming in from our production database, coming in from Facebook, Google Analytics, and then we use that to display metrics on the wall for everyone to see.
On how Davies Allen has helped Chatbooks as a business:
“Davies Allen has been key to helping us run our business because as an entrepreneur, your focus is on growth through marketing and your product, and the business management type of process is with accounting and taxes and even payroll and HR benefits like that, Davies Allen has been able to help us in all of those areas so that we can help attract employees, and retain our employees. They’re happy, they have good benefits, and with the accounting, all of our books are in line so that if a review or an audit comes along, it goes squeeky clean. It’s been really helpful for us to be able to focus on the core of what we do, and Davies Allen has been a great partner, scaling from when we were four employees to now 76 employees.”