Ep34: How To Grow A SaaS Business In A Ultra Competitive Market

Thomas Schranz - BlossomToday we’re talking with Blossom Co-founder and CEO Thomas Schranz. With an unfinished computer science degree under his belt, Thomas started building web applications and high-traffic Facebook apps for the European market. Thomas saw a need for a better software project management platform and launched Blossom, attracting clients like Twitter and Doodle in the span of about 3 years. To date, Blossom serves 346 clients with no signs of slowing down.


Takeaways: Standing out in a Crowded Market

Hear how Blossom stands-out in a crowded market with big players like Basecamp by focusing on tight integration with existing tools customers are already using. For example, Blossom works with Kanban boards and can help revolutionize visual workflows for entire groups to stay on track.

Thomas also recognized software teams have difficulty figuring out what to focus on and how to manage their time. He looked at how old-school ticketing systems managed software developers and engineers as an impetus for change. Managers submitted a ticket and the team worked on individual tasks instead of focusing on what a team could actually get done. Blossom answered the need to help with time and task prioritization and imposes work in process limits to keep teams focused on the big picture instead of getting sucked into one task.

Long-term growth hacking strategies

Blossom decided early on to focus on a few paying clients and develop great content marketing around them and their needs. They also drew inspiration from Google’s infamous OKR video and continually focused on just 5 objectives that act as a destination instead of an end goal. Thomas was hopeful, but surprised, by attracting big-name clients like Twitter and Riot Games among his 340 paying organizations that are billed monthly.

Nailing client speak

Thomas realized clients needed to hear solutions in their own language to understand how Blossom’s agile project management system could truly help them. He used case studies from similar clients to explain how Blossom worked and how it could benefit them. But it still took time to refine the difference between features and benefits; something Thomas admits took years to truly internalize.

Blossom’s first 100 customers

Blossom’s first 100 customers came by accident when Thomas was searching through Quora. He wanted to get some insights on the pain points of potential customers dealing with agile project management systems. He was astounded by some of the poor advice from so-called experts and took the time to give detailed feedback on their issues. Soon highly qualified leads and big revenue sources were coming direct from Quora, despite the low traffic back to Blossom it actually yielded.

Beating out category leaders

To keep growing Blossom, Thomas considered when and how customers switched project management systems. He knew customers didn’t simply wake up ready to make pull the trigger and buy a new product, but rather a series of unpredictable circumstances needed to happen.

Thomas doesn’t try to predict when a client will make the change and look for a new system. Instead, Blossom works to stay on the forefront of their minds at all times through Quora, content marketing, thought leadership campaigns and email nurturing campaigns. Being ever-present and diligent about being in the right place at the right time with the right messaging gives Blossom an edge to beat out category leaders.

Recommended resources:


Eric: Hi everyone and welcome to this week’s edition of Growth Everywhere where we interview entrepreneurs and bring you business and personal growth tips. Today we have Thomas Schranz from Blossom.io. Did I pronounce your name right?

Thomas: Yeah, that’s perfectly fine.

Eric: Perfect. So Thomas, thanks for being on the show. How are you doing today?

Thomas: Thanks a lot for having me.

Eric: Yeah. Great to have you. You know, the way I usually like to start these off is to hear a little more about your background and then, you know, we’ll continue on.

Thomas: Yeah, sure. Back in the day I used to be a software engineer. I started to study computer sciences at the Technical University in Vienna, never finished a degree and just basically started to build web applications, high traffic Facebook applications for the European market and then eventually founded a company called Blossom.io. We offer project management tool software for developers.

Eric: Cool. So, do you, I mean, do you want to go into what Blossom.io is about in more detail so our audience knows?

Thomas: Yeah, sure. So, basically the project management tool for our software development companies, so for example, one of our customers is a company called Twitter. We also have European customers like; Doodle, which is offering an appointment scheduling, a very simple scheduling thing, and they basically manage their software development processes, they visualize whose working on what, how far along a feature is in the development process. It’s actually a fairly simple agile project management tool.

Eric: Got it. Okay. I think the question that you’re probably going to hear all the time, you know, I’ve heard this on other interviews you’ve been on; It’s such a saturated market, how does Blossom differ from Trello, Base Camp, and Asana?

Thomas: It’s a super exciting space because there’s a lot of solutions, but at the same time no one is really happy with the solutions they have because everyone is doing software development a tiny little bit different. So, what we are mainly focusing on is super tight integrations with other tools that you have in the work flow. So, one thing that we’ve just launched, basically yesterday is; integration with Slack, which is a new really cool team chat application by Tiny Speck, one of the founders of Flickr. Another thing that we are very soon going to be releasing is a GitHub integration where you as the engineer, you don’t have to log into a project management tool. You can just work in feature branches and GitHub and the project management tool. Blossom actually is understanding what you’re working on and how the feature branches relate to higher level goals that you have in your software development process. So, for the engineers, it’s basically, they can stay in the code space without the manager’s losing their worldview, which is fairly interesting to pull off, but I think we have an interesting solution and looking forward to announcing that in a couple of weeks.

Eric:  Cool. I’ll have to test that. I like testing out project management tools all the time. I can’t really choose right now. I think it’s, like you said, it’s a really interesting space and a lot of it is up for grabs right now. So, I think, correct me if I’m wrong, but Blossom.io is, you guys have a focus on Kanban, is that correct?

Thomas: That’s correct. It’s always funny to pitch because sometimes I avoid the word Kanban and I basically talk about, “It’s an agile project management tool that helps you deliver continuously” and then how to improve the feature, a person, is like, “So, you’re doing Kanban?”, and I’m like, “Yes, we’re doing Kanban.” And other times I start with, “Hey, we have this Kanban board.”, and people are like, “What are you talking about? I have no idea what you are talking about.” And that’s actually, interestingly in our content marketing strategy, we kind of shifted around from sometimes using Kanban, sometimes avoiding the word, and now building out satellite pages with different keywords basically. So, we’re trying to describe a product we have for different audiences.

Eric: Okay. Can you explain to our audience what kanban is and how it can be very helpful?

Thomas: Yeah, sure. So, it’s…The basics are that you have a visual board and some people have a physical board in their office where you see different stages of your feature pipeline and these stages can be however your process looks like, but in our case it’s; we start with user experience and then we continue to the implementation phase, so it’s basically coding; and then we have a phase for validation and hardening; and then the last phase for our feature life-cycle which is marketing. And then you have cards that represent the feature and you basically see how long, how far along a feature is in your process and whose working on it and you can market card this block. For example; if you’re working on a payment process for integration and find you figure out half way through implementation of the feature that the PPN processor or EPI is not behaving like documented, and then you can basically mark the card as blocked so everyone, like, all the other stakeholders know that we really need to focus on the pin processor and figure out how to work around. So, it’s a very visual way to represent features. Kind of like when you have a stage pipeline and you visualize how far the field is along in the process, if you’re meeting for the first time, or almost ready at closing a deal, the deal will be at a different stage and company called Pipeline is basically doing something like that, using the Kanban for visualizing stage pipeline. It’s an extract concept that you can apply for many things, also personal getting things done.

Eric:  Cool. So, the Kanban…My understanding is for different stages you’re only allowed to have five tasks at one time or something like that. Is that true or is that not true?

Thomas: Yeah, that’s a great point. So, one thing that I think is the most powerful thing of the concepts behind Kanban is it visualizes what you’re working on and that these cards that represent work actually take up physical space, whether it’s on your screen or whether it’s on your wall. It’s hard, like if you do creative work, it’s really hard to manage what to focus on. So, if you work on five different things at the same time you will content switch a lot and I think the most powerful thing in software development is the understanding that you can’t do all these thousands of things that you think are a good idea and you can only focus on a handful of them, and with Kanban you can optionally set work in process limits on a certain stage.

So, for example, if you take the user experience stage in the beginning where we try to understand what is the job that the feature is doing for the customer, what are the interactions that culturally be designed, we can set the limit on and say, “We only work on three of those at the same time”, and if we would add more of these, like another card on the Kanban board, in our case Blossom we just highlight the header of the stage and say, “Wait a minute, you are over capacity.” And we still allow you, so we’re not super strict. You’re wanting the wall so you can still edit the card. We’ll just highlight that it might not be a good idea because you set that program working process limit. And either it means you’ve got more resources and you can change the working processing limit or you might be aware that adding even more is a bad idea and…

The funny thing is like focus problem and being really overworked by having thousand things to do was one of the main reasons why we started out to build a product management tool that is built around the concept of resources; and limited resources is the main thing you need to worry about, because the previous tools were more like ticketing systems and we used Redmine. We used a lot of tools where people gave us, as software engineers, only one task after the other task. We felt considering how much we could really get done. And so, all these tools, they are more based on tickets and a lot of tickets and they basically create this environment where people think they can add a lot of things without having any penalty, without making prioritization decisions. There’s a funny story, I don’t know if it’s a real story, it’s a funny anecdote at least, of someone who went into HP and he wanted to improve their process based on LEAN thinking and trying to find bottlenecks.

And he wanted to ask what their inventory capacity is for tickets. And HP basically said, we don’t have a limit on tickets because we have a lot of hard drives and they can store a lot of tickets. And so, the person basically came from a manufacturing background where they tried to understand how many parts can they fit into the storage facility, and that’s the interesting thing for creative work, you can add a lot of tasks to your Evernote or Wunderlist, Trello[?] you can add as many cards as you want. But the interesting thing is; what actually gets worked on are the actual things that you’re focusing on.

Eric:  So, would Blossom automatically limit you and say, “Hey we can’t do this right now.” Is that one of the unique things about it?

Thomas: It’s one of the main philosophical concepts behind it.

Eric: Okay. Got it. Cool. So, let’s talk about, I mean, let’s talk about number of users today. How many users do you guys have right now and what kind of companies do you have?

Thomas:  Yeah, so right now we have a bit over three-hundred paying organizations in the software development space. I think the last time I looked it was like three-hundred and forty something with credit cards on file that get charged every month. Some of them are super interesting companies like Twitter, Riot Games, it’s a bunch of really cool names. We did not expect to actually get brands like this on the board, but I guess like a combination of focusing on just the few paying clients, the people we helping their development process and doing good content marketing around this basically brought us to where we are right now. Because we don’t…Like if you look at the code phase, if you look at the product, it’s not rocket science, it’s not really a complicated product, it’s just a very edited down version of what other products do that are in the space right now.

Eric: Got it. I mean, three-hundred-forty-six users is great, paying users. How long has Blossom been around for?

Thomas: It depends on when you start counting, but we’ve been around for roughly three years. It definitely took some time to get where we are. It was not an overnight success. But it’s an interesting journey. Like, can’t wait to see what’s happening in the next few months.

Eric:  Got it. Okay. Cool. So, I know in another interview you talk about prioritization. At Blossom how do you guys prioritize right now?

Thomas:  And so one thing that we just recently started to adopt is a concept that is used by Google and [ph][Singa] and a lot of similar companies called OKRs; objectives and key results. And it’s similar to the Kanban concept of limiting what you’re actually doing, limiting the working process. Objectives and key results basically, there’s this idea for every quarter you find not more than five objectives and an objective is something like a goal, but it does not necessarily have to be like an ending, like it’s not a destination that you arrive at. It’s more like a direction you go. The objective is rich in purpose and you discuss why you want to achieve it, and every objective has key results. And the key results are like the measureable part of the objectives. So, it can be like milestones. For example, if the objective is: we really want to create a super slick onboarding process then key results for that objective can be a specific improvement in the retention metrics.

The cool things about these objectives and key results is it helped us getting good at strategy and tactical decisions that we were not super good at. So, before the lean startup concepts we would define goals very much around objectives, so it was always be like a purposeful goal, but we would always leave out how to measure and account for a certain goal. And then once we learned more about lean startup concepts we defined our goals very much in the accountability area like with the key results. So, we had a lot of goals that were very specific around PPIs but we left out the purpose and the objectives. It’s really hard to reach goals when you leave out either the objective or the key result out. And when I stumbled upon the OKR concepts I had a little epiphany, and was like, “Okay, now I understand I need both.”

You need to understand why you’re doing these things and you need to define how to have proxies or whether you are on the right track or not. And like you said in the beginning, you close the arc, you limit these objectives so you only have a handful of them. Google, the whole company has five objectives per quarter for a whole company. Limiting these objectives helps you to get better at each of these objectives because you’re less distracted with other things. So, it just keeps you honest, makes you aware if you’re…for example, if you’re in the software development process and you’re working on features and you look at your Kanban board it should be easy to understand that…or how the feature card you’re working on relate to the high level objectives you have. So, in some sense objectives can actually replace concepts like a backlog where the objectives are like a high level idea of what you should work on, more like focus topics, and what you’re actually doing in the knowledge related to those objectives.

So, that’s one of the things I think changed the log of how we internally work and it helps us to feel less burdened by a like a backlog that has a thousand of things that we could do. And usually if you work with really creative and super smart people that are engineers, designers, marketers, no one has ever a problem with coming up with great ideas. So, if you just put a problem space on the table, like fireworks go off and people have really great ideas on how to improve a product around a certain problem, so I think the main arc is to really edit down what you actually want to focus on. So, it’s not that the challenge is coming up with a thousand ideas, the challenge is deciding which handful of the objectives you’re actually going to pursue and then focusing everyone on these three, four, five, objectives.

Eric: Got it. It’s really interesting because we started doing the OKR thing actually this year as well and it’s proven to get a lot more focus and alignment. We threw all our OKRs into our internal Wiki. I think it’s great and I think more people are going to be adopting it just because…Honestly less is more. This whole concept of… Everyone can have a laundry list of to dos, shit to dos, right? But honestly there’s only a few big things you can really do to move the needle. I think it’s great and I think, perhaps using Blossom would help keep even more focus on these OKRs. We’ll share with the audience the links to this OKR stuff. I know Google has a video, a one hour twenty minute video that’s free.

Thomas: It’s free. Brilliant video.

Eric: I recommend watching it at 1.5 or 2 x speed, speed up. That’s a good place to start. Cool. I know how you prioritize on Blossom. And I know you worked at an agency before type of model before, so, is that the same type of prioritization or is there anything that’s different about prioritizing an agency, because I run an agency too?

Thomas: I would say running agencies is super interesting and some of our customers are running agencies so when I do customer interview you usually feel bad because I think we don’t cover the agency use cases as well as we do product focus companies, who basically work on a long term product. So, I think, looking back at what our agency scenarios were; turn-around time was way faster, so having these hard deadlines and working with external clients really helps you to makes these super hard tradeoffs.

It pushes you out of your comfort zone, where you know, like, this is not super clean code, but it gets the stuff done, and you really need it, and you need to have a work around the problem so you can move on to fix the next problem. And I think that was…I feel, when I talk to founders and entrepreneurs that have technical background, those that have worked in an agency briefly before founding the company, it helped them to lay back a bit.

Like if you’re an executive founder you’re obsessed with getting things right; you want a clean code phase, you really like order and having…like you want to refactor more often, then it might be a good idea from a business point of view. And like having an agency background, where you’re pushed…Like in these extreme cases, where actually no one, after submitting the project and finishing the project…like if one of marketing project that no one needs to maintain afterwards, you can make these extreme decisions that you sometimes need in a startup where you want just to get an experiment out of the door in one or two days and see how it works and only if it works you double down and clean it up.

So, I think the mindset of agencies really helps to, not like get started with or optimizing clean code and having an awesome test shoot, clean design and all of these things, writing, like, at the start. And I think we really care about having a slick product and a good user experience and good design, but in this agency mindset we’re not afraid to push something out for people who opt in and they know they get early success, but it might be really ugly. And we still have something like a standard of performance, so we are very aware of which products in our application are in the product, basically, are not on that standard that we hold up for ourselves. There is a way to be quick and dirty and do hacks and work-a-rounds in, like an agency sometimes does, without creating a product that isn’t up to your standards. And it’s not easy. I don’t say it’s easy, but I think there’s a way to pull it off.

Eric: Got it. Okay. That’s really helpful and hopefully you guys are able to work out the agency model later down the line so I can use it too. So, what’s one big struggle you faced while growing Blossom?

Thomas: One thing that was really hard and still a struggle is; since the market is so crowded, we’re basically in the software dev[elopement]… so it’s a developer tool because it helps software development companies, but at the same time it’s also in the productivity space and the productivity space is super broad. So, depending on who you are as a customer…as a buying persona, you can be like a VPO of engineering and you would compare us to tools like Jira or Bugzilla or Pivotal Traker or Rally, like for age old standards, there’s thousands of age old projuct management tools and if you’re more like a VPO product you would compare us to more light weight products like, probably Trello, Basecamp. If you come more from the management, like program management, like more actually think of us like a different view like; whose doing what, reporting structure, but it’s something similar to Asana again it’s not like Asana.

So, depending on who you are and how you perceive the market and how you perceive us it’s really hard to create good content marketing around that. So, that is one thing we’ve been struggling with. I think something that we slowly get better at and one person that really helped was Kenneth Norton from Google Ventures. Before Google he worked on a weekly software called, I think it was called JotSpot, or the company was called JotSpot. It was like a really, really cool wiki. I remember way back I also used it and it really cool wiki that also had tables and concept of a calendar and stuff like that. And it got acquired by Google and they had a similar problem because different people use wiki’s for different things. So, they started to change their marketing material away from addressing personas to addressing use cases. It’s very similar to the jobs to be done concept, where you actually go away from what the persona is that is buying the product to what is actually the job that people are hiring the product for and once you start, or at least once we started to describe functionality in Blossom according to specific use cases it was easier to get the word across, like when we describe the GitHub integration on how marking a feature is blocked in a GitHub committee message, what that means for the board, that it creates a red stamp on the board and it posts the notification to hit the [chat float], Slack, whatever you’re using, to notify the right people even if they’re not in the same time zone. Creating these narratives where people really can relate to the whole story, suddenly the software engineers know, that they notice the scenario and they know what the product tool does for them and the stake holders know the scenario and they know what it means for them, without us having to worry about who we are actually addressing right now.

Eric: Got it.

Thomas: So, that’s the main struggle I guess; positioning, and wording, and understanding how to tell a story and not…Like it’s these features verses benefits thing. You want to sell benefits and not features, and for me, I read that concept probably like three or four years ago, and it was like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah absolutely spot on. I absolutely agree.” But it takes months or even years to re-internalize it.

Eric: Got it. So, yeah. I definitely think as part of your content management marketing strategy we’ll have to see a blog post on the struggle that you’re facing right now because I think it’s something a lot of people deal with. I think a lot of people don’t realize it. So, I think that’s great. In terms of user acquisition I know that you have three-hundred-forty-six customers right now. How did you get the first hundred?

Thomas: The first people actually came through Quora, which is a question and answer platform and it was more or less by accident. So, we basically browsed Quora because we did some research on what people are…Like we used it kind of like a customer development tool, or customer interview tool to understand what the pain points are when you manage software projects. Like, what are the scenarios where people are actually looking for, solutions, for example; you are a co-located team and then a new member joins, but and the new member’s remote, like that changes how things are managed. Or like people who struggle with huge backlog, we wanted…Quora’s really cool for product and market research because people actually ask questions about problems. And then the interesting thing is, if it’s a really hot topic you will find a lot of subscribers to that question and you will find…

Like you will also get an understanding even if you’re not like an expert in a certain topic, you will find a lot of expert answers and you will get…basically very brief or very compact briefing for you, if you’re not an expert you see expert answers that usually provide a lot of context. You see that there’s not an easy right answer and people see things differently, so you get a nuanced understanding of the problem. It’s like a super quick way to understand …before you build a feature what the actual problems are and how people see the different ways and problems. And then I basically I got sucked in because I have my own opinions about how to manage software projects and how to do continuous delivery and how to set road maps and how to do OKRs and stuff like that. So, I started to just answer questions because I was like, “Okay, this answer is great and this answer is great, but I see it differently. Okay, this answer is…” Like some questions they had only one answer and I thought the answer…Having only one answer and the answer being the polar opposite of what I think is like a really bad thing to have on a public Q & A platform because people will actually take that advice and act on it. So, I was like I need to at least formulate like counterpoint and then people started to upload the answers and they started to look at our product.

It was basically by accident and find out Quora is one of the main revenue sources. It’s not a high traffic source, but it’s sending high quality leads because, people, like as far as I understand it, if you sell B to B software it’s an oversimplification, but at least in our case, it’s B to B, it’s related to project management so people don’t just switch project management tools. They don’t wake up Monday morning and they’re like, “Hell, let’s switch project management tools.” There’s never a good time to switch project management tools because if your project is doing well you don’t have a reason to switch and if your project is not doing well you have other things to worry about, so you’re also not switching. So you need to re-train, like in our case, we need to reach the people at the right point in time where they have motivation to switch and that’s usually around problems that the people themselves have identified.

To certain degree to works, to have content, to make people aware of what problems they have, where they are not aware of the problems yet, but it’s an uphill battle, whereas if people already understand they have a problem, they formulate the problem, they search for a solution to the problem, that’s a good point in time to overcome the friction and the barrier that keeps people…People have motivations, motivations have ended barrier to switch, and that’s exactly the point in time where we want them and that’s how I explain to myself why the Quora…Like if you look at our overall traffic, Quora is a tiny fraction of the traffic, but that’s where the revenue comes from. And similar to the related to Quora is Tweets; that people do a personal recommendation, they’re like, “It’s a good product.” People ask for project management tools and a friend of them publicly recommends to check us out and Quorum, Medium blog posts that are also…so it’s not necessarily Medium as a platform, but the content we put on Medium is very much similar to the Quora Q&A style so the content is around specific project management struggles and how to solve them conceptually. So, Quorum, Medium and Twitter are the channels where we, for some reason, by accidental [word of] mouth figured out when to reach people at the point in time where they’re motivated to switch.

Eric:  Got it. Cool. So, it does definitely sound like you’re doing the things that has been reiterated on this show many times. You’re doing the things that initially don’t scale, but then eventually you’re going to move you to the revenue phase. I agree with you. Quora, to give the audience a little context on Quora too, I once answered a question once when someone reached once and that client ended up being a $10,000 a month client. So, a decent sized client and Quora does help, very qualified, very smart people are using it right now. Great tip on that. Question for you on, I mean, this is usually, and you look very young so I have to change the age on this, so how old are you right now?

Thomas: Twenty-eight.

Eric: Twenty-eight. Cool. So, twenty-eight years old. What kind of advice… What one piece of advice, actually, that you’d give your twenty-one year old self?

Thomas: I would say start with mailing lists. Look into mailing lists. In the customer acquisition thing, if you have a product, especially this size space and you do content marketing we totally underestimated how well mailing lists or nurturing campaigns work, so we had a lot of…and we’re still building that up right now, but we basically had a lot of thought leadership content on Medium and Quora and we did, so it’s like you have thought leadership and branding in one area and then we had support once you’ve already signed up and you hit some problems and between that, like we did good jobs on thought leadership and support, but the thing in between that should actually basically reach from, “I heard about the brand. Brand looks cool. They know what they’re doing” to “I need support.”; there’s a lot of steps in between that and nurturing campaigns help a lot with bridging that gap and qualifying the leads and like increasing the motivation. And sometimes you don’t even have to increase the motivation. You just have to remind people until they’re ready to switch.

Like when we get back to the concept of these project management tools where you use a project management tool, there is never a good time to switch, but sometimes there is and it’s hard for us to predict when that moment is, but if you look over many weeks or many months and you stay on top of their minds, then at one point in time there is a good event where they’re willing to switch and then you’re nurturing email is in their inbox, or it was in the inbox briefly before, and then people can work. So, in B to B Fs, I think a lot of times people have the motivation to check out a new tool, check out a new solution; can be anything, can be a project management, can be a technical solution, can be like an email sending tool, can be anything, can be an analytics tool, but it’s never on top of your mind, or its never on top of the backlog, or it’s never on top of…never as urgent as other things, but sometimes for some circumstances that are hard to predict it suddenly becomes the topic of the day and if you are on top of their minds at that point in time, then you beat everyone else, even if it’s a category leader, if you’re on top of their minds at that point in time then you are basically number one. That’s the power of this nurturing campaigns, and we did not focus on them as much as we should.

Eric: In your nurturing campaign, and walk through this a little bit, so obviously you have your blog post, what exactly are you sharing in your sequence? Like, is it just blog post? How are you spacing this out?

Thomas: It’s basically a selection of the Medium blog post that performed better so that’s one cool thing about Medium, also Quora, that you can create content and sometimes you think a certain content will work really well, but then you get some kind of data from Quora or Medium; with Quora it’s uploads and comments and with Medium it’s number of views and view to ratio and you see also annotations and how many people share the content and what they’re talking about it. So, I think when you build out a nurturing campaign, just going back to your pool of content, so you don’t actually have to create new content, you can take your pool of content that performed fairly well and/or better than other content, and then you, like in our case, maybe we got lucky, but we found five post that are fairly well, like you can actually lead from one post to the other.

But I think often they don’t have to naturally lead from one post to the other, you can just add a paragraph in the end and add a paragraph in the beginning of the next post so the flow is somewhat connected and that usually works. So, take your… re-use content. I also read a really cool email led by Patrick McKenzie, patio11, and he also wrote about how his blog post on negotiating salaries as an engineer, it’s one of the blog posts that performed way, way, way, better than any other blog post that he’d ever written. So, it’s cool to just be able to go back to content you’ve created and see what kind of content performs better, because it’s hard to predict from your own mind what works and what doesn’t.

Eric: Got it. Totally agree with that. Go with the numbers. Obviously there’s some gut in there, but definitely use the numbers to kind of optimize. So, what’s one productivity hack you can share with the audience?

Thomas: It’s definitely saying no to a lot of things and I think it’s like the abstract…there’s a really cool talk by Jack Dorsey on viewing yourself whether you’re a CEO or product manager, or an engineer, viewing yourself as an editor. Like if you’re in the creative space, if you do innovation, if you are focusing on creating good user experiences, you are an editor and that is your main job.

It took me some time to grow into that thinking and it’s a very abstract concept, to be an editor, but once you accept that and embrace that, editing is one of the key value levers for you where you can actually improve value. You will get better at editing and editing what you do yourself, but especially in a team context, you help other people to become editors. Like, it’s on top of your mind if you identify yourself as an editor so you always ask whether the things you are doing right now, how they relate to other things that are your high level objectives. And that’s super simple, but not easy. It’s super hard, but it’s a simple concept and it’s powerful because it’s so simple. And it’s fairly easy to explain to people so it’s also…so basically if you have a team one person starts to perceive themselves as an editor after a few weeks you will have a team of editors that see the power of doing less, but doing fewer things way, way, way, better than they did before.

Eric: I like it. Cool. I think there’s this audio book on this called the… I think it might be called “The Power of One” and it’s basically what you’re talking about exactly.

Thomas: I need to check that out.

Eric: It’s basically focusing, which is exactly what you’re doing already. Final question from my end is what’s one must read book you recommend to the audience?

Thomas: Just recently I read, I think it’s called “The Hard Things about Hard Things” by Ben Horowitz.

Eric: Good book.

Thomas: A really good read. So, right now that’s on top of my mind. I’d recommend that. Easy to read, super entertaining, super great book.

Eric: To any founder too. Anyone else to start a business that’s the shit you have to go through and it’s a combination of his blog post and like you said, it’s very simple to get through and it’s a very quick read. So, great book. I definitely recommend it. I think you’re the second one to recommend it on the show, or maybe the third one actually.

Thomas: Yeah, great read. All the things that usually no one would talk about, it’s in the book so that’s why it makes it super exciting.

Eric: Great. So yeah. Thomas thanks so much for joining us. A lot of great insight here on productivity and I think everyone should check out Blossom. Perhaps we can work out some kind of deal for the audience or something like that. But we can talk about that later. Thomas thanks for joining us. We hope to have you again soon.

Thomas: Thanks a lot for having me. Thanks.

About Eric Siu

Eric Siu (@ericosiu) is the CEO at Single Grain, a digital marketing agency that focuses on paid advertising and content marketing. He contributes regularly to Entrepreneur Magazine, Fast Company, Forbes and more.

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