Experimentation informs decision making

Greg

A Conversion Conversation with Opencare’s Greg Leach

A lot of people say they are into growth, fewer people actually work in it, and even fewer still actually host a Podcast. I recently had the pleasure to chat with Greg about Growth, the value of Experimentation, how he decided to co-found his Growth Podcast, and why he’d marry Brian Balfour.


Rommil: Hey Greg — thanks for joining me today! How have you been?

Greg: Doing great Rommil! Super excited to come on Experiment Nation, something like this is so needed in the industry to establish best practices.

Right? I like to think so. Happy to have you here. So let’s start with a bit about you and your story and how you ended up at Opencare.

So I have spent most of my career working in the tech industry at some more established brands such as Microsoft & Intuit, which really were amazing experiences where I did a bunch of different roles across multiple business lines. My passion has always been start-ups and scale-ups and building sustainable businesses so a few months ago Opencare reached out and felt it was time to join a fasting growing scale-up and take a leap to be part of the ride.

“Experimentation is about learning to inform your decision making…”

Very cool. So I’m curious, what is the growth process is like at Opencare and what role does Experimentation in it?

Well with any growth process you need to understand that growth is a system and how it works. From there, growth teams are established and need to understand the customer & business problem you are solving for. It always starts with a problem the business is facing and the team needs to have the time to go deep and try and solve it by learning through testing. Experimentation is about learning to inform your decision making so once you understand the problem you now need to come up with hypotheses of solutions and start testing since you will fail before you are successful.

“Quantitative data only tells you the ‘what’ but Qualitative data tells you the ‘why’…”

How do you guys ensure that you don’t forget the customer in all of this? Are there customer-centric KPIs that you focus on?

Organization’s need to try and balance with a set of customer driven principles and make sure you understand the tradeoffs both short & long-term as part of the decision making process. The biggest thing with “data” is that it comes in different forms. Quantitative data only tells you the “what” but Qualitative data tells you the “why” so it is imperative you are always talking to your customers to make sense of all of the aggregated data you might have in front of you.

Totally. It’s amazing how often growth teams don’t speak to customers.

So whenever a bunch of data collection is going on, it’s very common for knowledge sharing and documentation of Experimentation results to fall by the wayside. How does Opencare avoid this?

The way you avoid this is having the right operating mechanisms & processes in place. The reason why knowledge sharing doesn’t usually succeed is because it takes more time to do it since everyone is trying to move fast.

What I find works well is at the end of each week review your current experiments as a team to diagnosis what did you learn so you can focus on the key takeaways. Another tool that comes in really handy is having a way for people to understand the hypothesis, the experience of your test and your learnings in an easy, digestible format such as a slide deck.

“Another tool that comes in really handy is having a way for people to understand the hypothesis, the experience of your test and your learnings in an easy, digestible format such as a slide deck.”

Definitely. You have to make a part of the process. You have to build a routine. People may hate it at first, but eventually, they’ll start to come around because of the value it delivers. It takes time.

“I think as you think about growth, nothing matters unless you can create value for people and this is why retention & engagement are the most important metrics of that indicator of value.”

Let’s go back to Growth. Many organizations split up growth into Marketing Growth and Product Growth. What are your thoughts on this and do you feel this is the right approach?

I get this question all the time being someone who has been on both the marketing and product side of organizations. Like anything, I think it really depends on your business (the type — B2C, B2B, the size of the organization, culture, etc.). I think as you think about growth, nothing matters unless you can create value for people and this is why retention & engagement are the most important metrics of that indicator of value. As the industry sees CAC continuing to rise and people’s willingness to pay for value decline, it is becoming more and more important that you focus on optimizing your product for growth as much as you can. So there isn’t a right or wrong answer on who owns growth it really just depends based on the type of company you are.

I’ve always said if you aren’t focused on retention, you’re simply marketing. Don’t @ me.

Now, when it comes to Experimentation, do you see it being done differently between product and marketing?

I think the foundational elements of experimentation need to be the same (focus on the problem, hypothesis driven, etc.) but the tactics on how each team executes may be different. As an example, marketing teams may put out scrappy tests through email, a referral campaign or a Google/Facebook ad to test creative or messaging while a product experiment will do an AB or multivariable test and it needs to make sure we get proper statistical significance. The reason for this is, it a lot easier to make changes via marketing channels if we implement an experiment as part of our marketing plan but that doesn’t work out compared to product changes from tests that could fundamentally cause massive tech debt where your product is everything to what your business does.

Personally, I’ve always viewed Experimentation with respect to product about reducing uncertainty and maximizing effort. As you suggest, product changes are hard and expensive — but that’s exactly why I think product teams need to embrace experimentation. At the very least, PMs can use Experimentation to demonstrate the value they bring to the table.

“Growth teams are about going deep in a problem area the business faces and not just optimizing friction areas…”

In your opinion, what are things that a company shouldn’t bother to Experiment on?

If you have more of an experienced experimentation program then focusing on very minimal optimizations such as copy changes and testing 3 different shades of blue is not an effective use of time. Growth teams are about going deep in a problem area the business faces and not just optimizing friction areas of your product or trying to move users from one screen to the next since they need to be focused on thinking end to end on the full experience.


Advertisement


Changing gears again. You co-host a cool Podcast called, “The Growth Equation”. Can you share with our readers what it’s about?

Yah The Growth Equation is about hearing all of the untold stories of growth at companies that you don’t get to hear. That could involve hearing a founder of a start-up getting their company off the ground, a more established organization going through digital transformation and disrupting themselves or someone talking about different experimentation frameworks. As an example our latest episode we bought on the head of MLSE digital labs and how they are disrupting themselves to create an amazing fan experience and in another episode we had the growth manager of Wave talk about the framework for experimentation. It is really about the stories you don’t get to hear about growth that we wanted to help tell since there is no one out there doing this.

Very cool — we should see about getting Loblaw Digital on your show! *Nudge nudge wink wink*

How did you decide to start it? What’s the story there?

My Co-host, Rahul Goel, who is a founder at a start-up in Toronto called Pheedloop and I would always find ourselves having discussions around growing and scaling companies and we said it would be great if there was a podcast or content out there to hear how other companies do it. Once we realized there wasn’t one, we started to say to ourselves what happens if we create a podcast about this topic. With a little planning we got it off the ground and really enjoy having really interesting conversations. Podcast in a lot of ways have become the new blog in 2020 and they aren’t as much work as they seem.

So I hear. I often get suggestions to turn Experiment Nation into a Podcast. Maybe…maybe…

Growth is a hot industry right now — do you have any advice for newcomers to the field? Are there any skills that they should seek?

Growth can mean so many things since every function of a company helps it grow. Growth is really about how you build sustainable businesses by understanding how the system works. With that being said this is why it is important to build skills around the core fundamentals of how companies scale. Look to work at organizations that have very complex businesses or problems they are trying to solve. Would also recommend reading as much blog content out there on growth as you can.

Finally, it’s time for the Lightning Round!

Bayesian or Frequentist?

Always Bayesian over frequentist and I think we will see more of that change over the next year moving to this model especially as speed becomes more and more important.

I have to agree. But, as with most things, this change has some firm opposition. It will be interesting to monitor.

Moving on. Corporation or startup?

It really depends, people shouldn’t be focused on corporation or start-up but what type of organization fits as part of someone’s next “tour of duty”. Some corporations act more like a start-up and some start-ups are more scale-ups and have a lot of the same challenges as bigger organizations. I would highly recommend doing both in a career if you can.

This is very true. Not all startups act like startups. And I’ve definitely seen some hustle as some large corporations.

Profitability or user-base growth?

I am about sustainable businesses and not building loss leaders so it is always profitability…. But hey maybe Uber and Lyft will prove me wrong one day.

I’ll withhold comment about the future of those companies — but I think we’re on the same page.

Kiss, Marry, Kill: Brian Balfour, Sean Ellis, Andrew Chen.

  • Kiss — Andrew Chen, his blog and Twitter are the best to get some quick, fast content pieces that talk about some very interesting growth topics
  • Marry — Brain Balfour, What he has built at reforge with the team is simply incredible and everyone should try and take at least one of his courses
  • Kill — Sean Ellis, Growth Hack is the most overused term and his content was useful in 2007 not in 2020… I think everyone is tired of the Dropbox growth hack example that has been used a thousand times

LOL — I hear you about Dropbox. Dropbox. Dropbox. Dropbox. I’m done with that example.

Next. I’m going to say a word or a phrase and you tell me the first thing that comes to mind:

Growth Hacker

Please retire this word, it’s 2020.

Statistics

Should be more of a priority.

Toronto tech-scene

Lacks talent to scale successfully.

Greg

Thought provoking.

Very true. And with that, Greg, thank you.



You may also like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s