Today on the show, I’ll be talking to Eric Jorgenson, who is the director of growth at software startup Zaarly. Eric is also the creator of Evergreen, a curated collection of links to all the best business resources that he and his community members come across.

I first heard of Eric from a great article he wrote on Medium about the challenges that hit a company when they grow past 10 people to that next level of 20 or 30 people. And since I know that many of you are in that tier of growth as you scale your MSP, I wanted to pick Eric’s brain about how you can identify and avoid some of the growing pains his own company has experienced. Though Eric’s background is in software startups, the lessons here are very applicable.

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What’s Going On

[02:04] There was a recent story in the New York Times about researchers who’ve been able to control smart devices like Alexa and Siri with commands that humans can’t hear.

[02:47] As everything moves to voice-controlled commands, we have to be aware of the ways things can be hacked.

[04:54] Doors can be unlocked through IoT connections

[05:18] Imagine people not changing their passwords. This makes it very easy for criminals to get in.

[06:00] Karl remembers a story from about 15 years ago where “hoodlums” in Norway were standing outside people’s windows changing their TV stations.

[06:20] Karl says a code could be embedded like a virus into songs, for example. It could live forever like some viruses do.

[06:56] By 2021, more than half of American households will have at least one smart speaker.

[07:09] The bad guys are already thinking about this stuff and doing it. As MSPs, we need to follow the news to help keep our clients secure.

[08:38] There’s good stuff that’s coming with AI too.

[09:00] New features of Android P: Gesture navigation, AI smart replies to email, task predictions, AI tools to extend battery life and stop phone addiction. The Android P beta has kicked off recently.

[09:37] AI is at the center of most of the new features.

[09:48] Google is using machine learning to predict which app you want next.

[10:36] AI and big data are listening to us all the time. They have a lot of data they can analyze if they choose to. Becoming predictive is the next step.

[11:15] AI is being brought into brightness adjustment and adaptive battery learning.

[12:04] To bring things full loop, we need to figure out how to secure this stuff.

[12:43] Digital well-being features are designed to prevent smartphone addiction. There’s an app dashboard to show you what you’ve been doing and a timer that sets limits.

[14:05] These are consulting opportunities for our clients.

[14:22] Karl is going to be home for several weeks working on his new book.

[14:39] It’s Newcastle Startup Week for Richard and time for the Thinking Digital 2018 conference.

Interview with Eric Jorgenson – How to Avoid the Growing Pains That Can Derail Your MSP Business

Eric Jorgenson, Director of Growth, Zaarly
Eric Jorgenson, Zaarly

[15:49] We’re talking about culture and management challenges that can blindside you during rapid growth. We also talk about tips for steering clear of those challenges drawn from Eric’s hard-learned lessons.

[16:08] When a small business hits around 20 people, a lot of changes happen that business owners are often not prepared for.

[16:33] Zaarly has moved in headcount up to 50 and back around to 10 twice. Eric has also seen a lot of friends go through similar challenges as their companies move into the range of 20 or 30 people.

[17:35] Eric works in the high-growth software startup space but these are human problems, not industry-specific problems.

[18:03] At 10 people, it’s a tight-knit group where everyone knows everyone else and knows what goes on in the company.

[18:30] As you hit 20 or 30 employees, hierarchy needs to be imposed. Middle management is added. Jobs and roles become less unique and get standardized and measured.

[19:33] Different teams form, like sales or development, instead of one company-wide team. Rifts can also appear by age or seniority with the company.

[21:19] You know things will be different, but it still catches people by surprise.

[21:45] To employees, it can feel like the company is growing, but they aren’t being brought along. People react differently.

[22:39] Growth challenges need to be addressed proactively.

[22:57] You’ll have stabilizers and destabilizers. People expressing discontent can become de-stabilizers. This is how your culture starts to fray.

[24:21] It’s important to build up relationships with stabilizers in your company before you need them. Earn employee trust before the rifts are created.

What’s Going On

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