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Why I’m excited for 2024

Pierce Ujjainwalla

By Pierce Ujjainwalla

·

Updated Jan 31, 2024

Published Dec 20, 2023

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Summary - Team growth, customer engagement, AI integrations, and financial resilience set the stage for a promising year ahead! Dive into why we're so excited.

As 2023 winds down, it’s natural to review what happened during the year that’s ending, and look ahead to the one about to begin.

This review is a useful and even necessary exercise. A company that does any amount of planning needs to analyze its most recent numbers and use them to set benchmarks and goals for the year to come.

As we have worked on our plans for 2024, I have become increasingly excited. That’s because what I’m seeing demonstrates to me that Knak is on track to thrive.

Our team has really come together

With 90 people, we are as big as we have ever been. That means we have built up our capacity to take on and develop more projects and more customers.

It’s a shock to think back to when Knak was just me! Back then I could only do what a single individual could do; now we have 90 people pushing our mission forward. I’m excited to think about what such a large team can accomplish!

And it’s not just about the numbers, it’s about having the right people in the right jobs.

We struggled with hiring in 2022, and we made a few mistakes. As a result, we parted ways with several new hires. I want to stress that there was nothing wrong with the people who left, and nothing was their fault; it’s just that we (and they) realized after they were on board that they weren’t the right fit for our needs (or we didn’t mesh with theirs).

It was a learning experience for us, and the end result has been positive.

Not only do we now have employees who meet our needs and who work well together, but the whole mood of the workplace has improved.

Our eNPS score, the measure of how happy and engaged employees are, has gone way up in recent weeks. We were named a great place to work by Toronto’s Globe and Mail. And we now find that our existing employees are recommending us to their family and friends as a good place to work.

That to me is an indication that we have a strong and positive workplace culture.

It’s one thing to ask people how likely they would be to recommend their current workplace to family and friends. But it’s something else – something quite powerful – to find our employees actually encouraging their network to work at Knak.

When things weren’t so great a few months ago, we weren’t getting those recommendations. Now we are. I am truly thankful for that, and it contributes to my excitement.

We’re engaging with our customers in new and exciting ways

We don’t just sell to our customers; increasingly, we work with them to improve our product in ways that make their lives easier.

To that end, we are creating a new customer advisory board. Through the board, we get some of our biggest customers together, and have meaningful discussions with them on their needs so that they can have a direct influence on our development roadmap.

We have always sought customer feedback; in our app we have a section where one customer can request a feature and others can vote on whether they think it would be useful. We have built a ton of features in our product through crowdsourcing our customers' ideas.

But the app doesn’t capture context; in other words it doesn’t give us quite enough information about why people are making requests.

That’s why we want to build a deeper relationship with our customers.

I’m really excited about the increased value our customers will get when Knak is dialed into their wants, needs and unique challenges.

We’ve acquired a level of maturity that allows us to work and plan better

When we first started out, we would look at each other at the start of a new year and tell ourselves that we should think about putting together a game plan for the coming year. An actual plan would emerge weeks or months after the year had started.

We’re not playing catchup anymore. We are much better organized than we used to be, so much so that our plan for 2024 was all but finalized by the beginning of December 2023!

What’s more, our plan is informed by data and learnings that we have built up and refined over time. We have been around long enough to know what works and what doesn’t. In other words, we have enough history to be able to learn from our past in order to be able to better chart our future.

We also have a lot of bench strength to help in the planning process.

Our leadership team is involved in planning for their particular areas of responsibility and for the business as a whole; it’s no longer up to me to figure everything out.

At a personal level, that’s a great feeling.

At a company level, it means that our planning is better than it used to be.

Beyond planning, other things that used to be a headache have become routine as we have acquired experience. For example, we used to stress about where and when to hold our quarterly leadership meetings.

Because we now know what they involve, it’s been easier to organize them. We don’t have to spend time figuring out every small detail, and that’s a nice feeling.

At a personal level, it’s a shock to me to realize that I’m OK with some things being routine; because I get bored easily, I’ve always disliked anything routine. I guess I’m changing!

Or maybe I’m just getting to know myself better. People often ask me how I avoid burnout; the answer is that I know myself well enough to know to balance things. I know when I need to recharge, and I know how much effort I need to bring to my job to be successful. That knowledge comes from experience.

I’ve also been fortunate to have found a peer group of entrepreneurs. They are people I can turn to for help, and they reinforce our growing maturity as a company.

We’re better at internal communications

At some point in a company’s growth trajectory, the way it communicates internally has to change.

When a company is small and everyone knows everyone else, internal communications happen organically. Everyone will find out quickly if there’s a new hire, or if the boss is planning a new policy, simply because people talk to one another.

But once it becomes impossible for everyone to interact with everyone else, a company has to become more deliberate about internal communications.

We passed that threshold without realizing it.

You’d think that a company that is all about email creation would find it easy to send out emails to its own employees. But the fact was, we weren’t doing that.

And until we twigged to our new reality and started being deliberate about internal communications, our employees were telling us they felt out of the loop.

We’ve corrected the situation; in fact if anything we’ve gone from under-communicating to over-communicating. Employees are now starting to say they get too many internal newsletters!

We’ll find the right balance eventually.

One final comment about internal communications: Creating those newsletters and internal communications supports always seemed like a huge task. It wasn’t. In fact it was easier than I expected, so in retrospect there really was no excuse for delay.

We’re beginning to embrace AI

While there are many reasons to be wary of artificial intelligence and its potential for disruption, there are also many reasons to be excited about the opportunities it offers. (I’ll be expanding on that in a new post coming shortly.)

But like it or not, AI is here, so we have to embrace the change it brings.

We have done just that by launching a product that uses AI to translate emails and landing pages.

I’m looking forward to working with our customers to build more AI into our platform. This could really change the roadmap for our company.

The job market is more balanced

In 2021 and 2022 it was next to impossible to hire people. It always seemed that there were more jobs than potential employees.

The market seems more balanced now, and it’s becoming easier to find great talent. From our perspective as an employer trying to bring top talent onboard, this is a good thing.

We are capital-efficient

Knak was capital-efficient before being capital-efficient was cool. We’ve always spent carefully and have taken care not to blow through our money, whether it was our own (when we were bootstrapped) or our investors’ (after we got VC funding).

Because we didn’t over-hire or get in over our heads when money was cheap, we’re in a good place now. We have cash in reserve, and we aren’t actively looking for additional investment at this point. That means I don’t have any big stresses about money, all the more so since we are on track to hit our revenue numbers for the year. I feel no special pressure beyond the pressure I put on myself to succeed – which by the way is quite a lot.

So though we faced some challenges along the way, overall 2023 has been a good year for us. And we are ending it on a high note. As a result, I’m very optimistic about 2024. Bring it on!


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Pierce Ujjainwalla

Author

Pierce Ujjainwalla

Co-Founder & CEO, Knak

Pierce is a career marketer who has lived in the marketing trenches at companies like IBM, SAP, NVIDIA, and Marketo. He launched Knak in 2015 as a platform designed to help Marketers simplify email creation. He is also the founder of Revenue Pulse, a marketing operations consultancy.

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