Deciding not to do any marketing – Building

It has been a long while since I’ve put up a “Building” thanks to an implicit choice we made a couple of months back. When we founded in January this year, we had many plans on the marketing front – an active blog to tell our story, an active Facebook page to engage the community, an active Twitter feed, a great monthly newsletter etc. Over time, these initiatives have fallen off the rails. The central reason for this is the fact that we’ve had our fair share of struggles over the past few months. These struggles have been on 3 fronts –

1. A distributed team that wasn’t getting its act together. Thanks to a variety of reasons, we seemed to be struggling to get our act together. On the one hand, after 6 months of attempting to run a charity in addition to all our jobs and commitments, the honeymoon phase was definitely over. On the other, a bunch of us faced disruption in our schedules with fairly valid reasons such as cross continental re-locations. We were struggling though.  We seemed to have lost our mojo and our momentum and we needed to gain it back.

2. Troubles with partners. We had a couple of partner situations that were just not working out. We needed to step back and take stock.

3. Legal hurdles. Getting a charity fully functional in India is no easy feat. Despite a solid track record, we were unable to get enough movement on the required legal certificates to receive tax exemption. That’s an ongoing struggle. We had also decided we’d apply for a 501c3 registration in the US as nearly half the team is currently based in the states. All in all, there were a few legal hurdles to jump.

These issues led to a complete loss of momentum. We were soon showing up to our calls but not really getting things done. The frustration began to show, people began to drop from calls, and not preparing for calls became the norm for a couple of months in between. And, somehow, our actions aimed to get the momentum back just didn’t seem to be working. That’s when we stumbled onto 2 insights –

1. We needed a real core team that would keep each other accountable. When we started out, we had a team of 14. Over time, this came down to a more manageable group of 7-8 folks who were actually getting things done. We needed to make this official and begin to create accountability within the team again. So, we did just that. We still keep our whole team copied on emails but we have a separate group on Whatsapp for the core group and we’ve begun expecting each other to show up prepared. A culture of accountability goes a long way.

2. Good managers give their team members clarity on what needs to be done. This was entirely my failing. Over time, I’d assumed that we’d just respond to the sheer magnitude of work by just getting things done. That clearly didn’t happen. Why, I wasn’t doing anything myself. We needed someone to break work down and give people clarity on what to do. I had completely neglected this. So, we spent all of last call aligning on the major projects and priorities and broke up these projects down to granular tasks so we had absolute clarity on what needed to be done. Voila – things have begun moving again.

Through all of these changes, there was no movement on marketing and I took it up as my responsibility. We needed to re-think our initial goals. Over this time, we had implicitly decided not to do any marketing and I thought I’d just make that official and continue with inaction. Hopefully, I’ve made our reasons apparent. But, in case I haven’t, it is a combination of two reasons –
– We have very limited bandwidth. This bandwidth needs to be used carefully so we’re delivering value to our partners who, in turn, can impact the lives of the kids we hope to impact
– We want to be authentic about the problems we’re facing. At this point, we just aren’t at the operational level we desire. And, we need to work hard to fix our ship before we share stories of success. The good news is that we’re putting in the work and should have more to share shortly.

Does this mean you’re not going to hear from Absolutely not. We will continue to share stories as and when possible. It will just not be a key priority. We’re going to work hard to fix the leaks in our ship and deliver value to the kids and organizations we aim to serve. More to follow soon – just forgive us for the occasional silences. We’ll just plan to make it worth it when you do hear from us.

And here’s hoping our actions make a difference..

This blog post has also been posted on the blog.