Episode 007: Show Notes
In today’s episode of The Strategy Hour Podcast, you’ll hear from the founder of one of our favorite platforms. Today’s guest, Ankur Nagpal, is open, transparent, and honest about his company, Teachable, and their growth. Ankur quickly scaled Teachable to help educators from around the world build and sell online courses. Now don’t you worry, this isn’t just for the course creators out there, we are taking you all the way back to the beginning and showing you what happened in the early stages of his business. Ankur shares his biggest mistake in naming his business, tips on hiring, what the heck to do with rapid growth, and how to take advantage of your traction.
Are you ready to get some traction & uplevel your business?
Is Your Business Name NOT Working?
When Ankur first started out, his business was originally incorporated as Use Fedora. For Ankur, he just did not see the point of spending time trying to come up with a name for a business that may or may not exist a few months down the road. So often new business owners get into “decision making paralysis”, and instead of building the business they get stuck on what to name it in the first place. Once UseFedora.com became a real, established company, Ankur knew something had to change. The name was causing more headaches than expected. Even from a business perspective, they were not ranking well on Google searches. The final push came when “the Fedora Project” wanted to sue them, and it became a no brainer decision to make the change.
Mistakes to Avoid When Naming Your Company
When coming up with the new company name, Ankur and his team made several crucial mistakes. The first was asking everyone in the company for their input on a new name. He even went as far as to have a meeting with every single person in the company, which he now claims is the “single most stupid thing" he has ever done. It’s nearly impossible to find a name that everyone agrees on, which also has an available corresponding domain name. According to Ankur, there are still people in the company who did not agree with the name “Teachable”, which is what the company is named today.
Capitalizing on Momentum for Business Growth
One of the best ways to continue to see business growth is to keep momentum going after a successful event or launch. For Ankur and the team at Teachable, after their rebrand, they put together a successful summit for their audience. According to Ankur, as a business you can do all of the summits in the world, have affiliates, do multiple joint ventures and countless webinars, but in the end, it is really the word of mouth that ultimately drives most of your company’s growth.
He couldn’t rely on the single success of one launch. He had to look at long term strategies like building an excellent marketing and growth team, establishing partnerships, and creating LOTS of good content (couldn’t agree more with Ankur on this bit). It definitely comes down to consistently doing a lot of things right, and capitalizing on the growth of the industry as a whole.
Foolproof Strategies to Hire For Growth
Doing three more partnerships or deals isn't going to grow the business over the long-term the way hiring a new head of content might. One thing to keep in mind is that at every stage of growth, you are running a different company altogether. Creating and establishing a strong team is an incredibly powerful strategy for building a successful company that can handle fast-paced growth. When it comes to hiring, your overall strategy has to change with each role, and sometimes you have to think outside the box in terms of your hiring approach. Instead of making one really great hire, people often look for those quick fixes. However, to be successful, business owners need to be looking at that long-term growth strategy instead.
Shifts in The Role of the Founder
When you are a team of one, you are the one fulfilling all the roles in your company. But as the company grows, it is often best to take on the roles where you want to see the most growth. This way you can be right in the action, focusing on exactly what will make the company move forward. After this, the ultimate goal is to get to the point where you as the founder have become obsolete — even if it usually never works out that way! Your role may switch at times, and you might find yourself filling in the holes, stepping in where necessary, or investing extra time in areas that are growing and moving the company forward.
Hiring Tips for Creating An In-Person Team
First and foremost, hiring requires a different strategy for each role. For Teachable, almost their entire team works from their main office, and their goal is to continue to grow as an in-person team. This can be a major challenge, especially in a crowded and competitive market such as New York. They are literally battling other companies to hire the best engineers, which includes taking them out to dinner and trying to convince them to join the team in the first place. Creating an in-person team requires out of the box thinking, and using the incredible team atmosphere as competitive advantage to make the company more appealing to top talent.
Finding the Balance Between Boss and Friend
When it comes to finding a balance, it truly becomes most important when dealing with feedback or when there comes a time to let an employee go. If you have gone too far down the path of friends, this can be somewhat tricky to navigate. However, Ankur believes that one of the hallmarks of hiring intelligent people is that they are highly self-aware. There is a maturity that comes with that awareness, which creates a better space for these types of issues to be easily solved without causing a fall out.
Side Project Turned Entrepreneur Vision
Oftentimes, people believe that you have to start a business with this incredible vision with every detail laid out, and only then is it bound to be a success. However, for Ankur and the team at Teachable, this was not the case. Teachable started out as a side project, which then eventually gained momentum. The company kept progressing and eventually the vision was formed. The truth about what keeps a company going early on, is traction. Vision and passion alone will not get you to the top. You need to look for early indicators of traction and double down on that, which is the reality of the founding story of Teachable.
Business Mistakes That Can Lead You Astray
One of the first major product mistakes that Ankur made was building too many products early on without considering whether they would be supported over the long term. When adding new products, you HAVE to consider the back end and how your company can support the product to make it a valuable investment. Any time you build anything, especially for software companies, you have to be able to support it forever. When it comes to hiring, another mistake is not setting your “hiring bar” high enough, or setting it too high. There is never going to be that one person or that one feature that is going to solve all your problems. Take a realistic look at each candidate, and make sure that they will be a good fit and an intelligent hire.
"No matter how great the talents or efforts, some things just take time. You can't produce a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant."
- Warren Buffett
- Learn all about the signs that your business name is NOT working, and how to make the change. [00:03:15]
- Find out which mistakes to avoid when naming your company, and how too much input is not always a good thing. [00:05:12]
- Understand the power of momentum for a business when you are first starting out, and why it is crucial for growth. [00:10:12]
- Growing an in-person team can give you a competitive edge. What are the strategies to implement to hire for growth? [00:11:55]
- The roles of a founder shifts continuously. Find out what the ultimate goal is, and why founders often do not reach it. [00:14:15]
- What are the pros and cons for growing an in-person team? [00:15:39]
- Learn what it takes to find the balance between being a boss and being a friend and how going too far down the spectrum could be detrimental. [00:19:19]
- Do you always need a vision to start a business? Discover what the true founder story is for Teachable. [00:22:14]
- There are many business mistakes that can lead you astray. Learn how to avoid them when growing your own business. [00:25:34]
- What does the future hold for Teachable as a company, and what are their strategic moves for the new year? [00:29:39]
Decision paralysis, get your biz going, pick a date, launch.
What's your MVP that you can get out the door now, put it out into the world and get traction?
Don't take too long from initial traction to investing in your business.