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How I Manage a Team of Five Without …

There are hundreds of tools that are designed to help you manage projects … Asana, Trello, Basecamp, Pivotal, etc.

Too often I see people get caught up with the tool itself instead of how to use the tool effectively.

At Vero, Trello is the only task management we have to run our entire company:

trello-vero-project-management

Simplicity, Honesty, Accountability

I recently watched a video from Vishen. He explained that the key to keeping each of his businesses on track is thinking, on a six-month basis, about the five things that really matter to increase revenue.

An example for Vero would be increase average revenue per user (ARPU) which, specifically, might mean 20% of signups should have subscriber lists over 50,000.

This should then trickle down so that each week, and each day, you are only working on tasks directly supporting those five key goals. If you do this, there is no way you cannot increase revenue or profit, as your goals dictate.

This aligns nicely with how we’ve been working at Vero. Here are our three key takeaways:

Simplicity

We all work from the same Trello board. This ensures everyone can see what everyone else is working on.

Tasks should only be on the board if they support our six-month goals, can be tackled this week and are assigned to a person.

If they do not meet the criteria, there are two options:

  1. If the task is to be addressed later this month, it is stored on a list within the master plan board. This should never be more than 20-30 items long.
  2. If it is on a timeline further out that this, it can be removed from the board. In reference to something I learned from 37Signals is that the major customer pain points and critical product ideas will not die. They will be so ubiquitous, asked for and discussed that, when you move to the next stage, you’ll be able to better prioritise what needs work.

Keep it simple.

Honesty

The key to this single board is being up front.

You cannot change what you cannot confront.

We have a weekly standup meeting where everyone discusses what they’re working on. Tasks are sliced, diced and removed regularly. Most of all we encourage each other to ask “will this really be done or worked on this week” and “is this the most important thing I should be doing right now”.

If we can’t answer those questions with a “yes” then we refine what we’re working on or remove the task.

The key is to be upfront. There is no point pretending you’ll meet a deadline if you know you never can.

Accountability

As CEO, I see my job as clearing roadblocks.

If someone on the team is stuck, needs a contact or can’t move forward as fast as they’d like, it’s my job to solve this.

I consistently ask everyone what they’re working on and, if it deviates from the plan we agreed as a team, challenge why things have altered. Nine times out of ten this automatically helps the person see that they’ve lost focus or have hit a roadblock they need help solving.

This helps keep the wheels turning and everyone focused and happy … there is nothing worse than banging your head against a wall. So by ensuring people are accountable to their goals we can quickly find roadblocks and, hopefully, remove them.

Stick to the plan and, where you can’t, identify why.

So far this method works well for us. Naturally, as the team grows, we’ll have to adapt. It’s my hunch that as the team becomes 10, instead of five, we’ll simply break into core groups and these groups will manage their own Trello boards in the same way, reporting between each other via a ‘Master’ board.

I look forward to seeing how it unfolds!

Image via Financial Times

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