The Importance of 1-on-1 Meetings with Your Team Members

When’s the last time you really sat down and had a one-on-one with your team members? Answer honestly, because I know that I probably should be having more of these myself. Meeting individually with your team members is incredibly powerful, motivating and impactful—but most business owners just aren’t doing it.

It’s Not Enough to Hire Talent

Some of these HR topics might seem dry and boring to people, but they are critically important if you’re trying to grow a business, whether it’s a remote business or a standard office setup.

I’ve been in both situations, and I’ll say that remote work cultures are even harder to manage because there’s less incidental face-to-face time. It’s really easy for people to become disengaged in remote environments and some people just aren’t a fit for working remotely. People who feel like they’re stuck in a cave by themselves are going to end up quitting because they’re social creatures.

That being said, developers and designers tend to work really well remotely. Generally speaking, creatives who tend to do their best work alone are fine working remotely (for the most part). But for other aspects of marketing and strategy where you need to collaborate with people, talk about ideas, and meet more in person, face-to-face time is crucial.

Learn More: The Definitive Guide to Building a Remote Team

The Purpose of a One-on-One Meeting

Let’s say I block out time on Mondays for one-on-ones. Everybody gets 30 minutes or so. If we need to talk about something else we can just set up another meeting. I actually used to hate meetings, but as a business owner I couldn’t help but slowly realize the importance of one-on-ones. In a way, they’re every business owner’s responsibility.

Okay, now I have time blocked out—but what am I talking about with my team member? First and foremost: make sure these meetings are always about the employee, not about you. Too many companies turn one-on-ones into performance reviews or other anxiety-inducing experiences where an employee feels on edge. That’s not how you should do these things.

Typically, what I like to do is start things off with regular conversation about personal life and goals. The person I’m chatting with can segue into talking about work, and often they’ll even give an update without you asking. They’ll also talk about a problem that they’re facing, something that’s frustrating them or bothering them. From there, you can decide how you want to take the conversation. But the point is you have to start by listening.

This isn’t necessarily easy to do. As the business owner and team leader, your natural inclination is most likely to make the meeting about yourself. You probably have a dozen other things competing for your attention that day. But you have to resist the temptation to check your phone constantly and realize that the meeting is for the employee.

Don’t Do Performance Reviews—Do Check Ins

The problem with turning the meeting into a performance review that’s only about the company or only about someone’s job description is that it’s no longer a conversation—it’s just a report. And you don’t need to do that in a face-to-face, one-on-one meeting. You’re sort of missing the point entirely and wasting everyone’s time.

And whenever that happens, people are disengaged during these meetings. They’ll come with answers to what they expect you to ask, but nothing else. Then it’s your job to refocus the conversation on them and make sure they have an agenda when they come back next time. The point of the meeting is for them to have a sounding board.

“I’m sensing that you might be a little disengaged or I’m sensing that there might be something wrong based on A, B and C. I’ve seen this, this and this and that leads me to think this.” Then stop talking. Let them elaborate on what they’re feeling or going through. Let them explain what’s going on. Then say, “Hey, honestly these meetings are for you at the end of the day and they’re to serve you. If you don’t come with some kind of agenda or something on your mind then I’m just going to go into my agenda and then it becomes my meeting.”

Make Sure You Meet Often with New Hires

These meetings are stepping stones for making sure, in the following order, that:

A) employees are happy with where they’re at

B) they’re performing well

C) they feel comfortable voicing their opinion or discussing new and exciting ideas they have

If I don’t get a good sense of where they’re at on a weekly basis, then I’ll do it every single day until I feel like they’re comfortable with things. This is especially important for new employees who are in the onboarding process. I’ll ask them, “Hey, how are things going? How can I help you?”

Ultimately, even if you’re the owner of the company or some type of director or manager, it’s your job to serve the people who report to you. You want to be a servant-leader. But it’s also your job to hold them accountable. The trick is learning how to do that in the right way.

If you’re the business owner and your business has 100 employees, then obviously you may not have time to meet with every single one of them. At that point, you should only be having one-on-ones with your direct reports. But your managers should be having one-on-ones with all their direct reports, too.

Learn More: How to Onboard New Hires

The Power of One-on-Ones

I really enjoyed having these one-on-ones when I was at Treehouse and other startups before that. Every week I’d get to talk to the CEO and I’d just say things like, “Hey, here’s what’s going on? By the way, I need support here.”

As an aside, at the time, even though our marketing team had eight people, we didn’t have a developer who was dedicated to marketing. My recommendation is that you should always have at least one developer and one designer on the marketing team so you can get things done faster.

There were so many things we wanted to do that required a developer to jump on experiments or new initiatives so we could hit our numbers. And I emphasized this over and over every single week at my meeting. I’d alway say, “Hey, I know we didn’t hit numbers and I know we need to hit numbers. But if I can’t get a developer on my team we’re going to set ourselves up for failure.”

I basically told the CEO that we were going to lose the company if we didn’t get some help on the marketing side. The problem with Treehouse back then was that we had a great product, but none of the developers wanted to work on marketing, which was the only way to scale our way out of near bankruptcy. So I had to make it very clear from day one.

I also had lots of one-on-one meetings with the VP of engineering. I just kept voicing my frustrations over and over and over until they got it. When they finally got it and agreed—that’s when we got things done. I’m fairly certain that if we didn’t have these one-on-ones in the first place, the company would have gone under.

What’s the Worst that Could Happen?

My experience at Treehouse and later at Single Grain taught me that one-on-ones are really important, especially in the nascent stages of a company when you’re trying to grow. We had 54 employees at the time I joined Treehouse, and we were getting bigger and bigger. Today they have almost 200 employees, but they’re still doing those one-on-one meetings.

I would strongly suggest going to Google and searching for how to do a one-on-one. There are some great posts on this topic by Sam Altman. You’ll see that the companies that don’t do one-on-ones typically have disengaged team members who don’t really know what’s going on.

But if you keep people updated and get a sense of where they’re at and how they’re doing, that’s going to help you figure out what the next move is for the company as a whole. Listen to your people, respect what they have to say, keep them accountable, and do your best to support them. Be the leader they deserve.

This post was adapted from Eric’s Facebook Live videos: Growth 90 – DAILY live broadcasts with Eric Siu on marketing and entrepreneurship. Watch the video version of this post:

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Chris Coyier

Hey everyone, in today’s episode, I share the mic with Chris Coyier, the founder of CSS-Tricks, CodePen and Shop Talk Show.

Listen as Chris shares the numbers (revenue, page views and listeners) for all his businesses, the most important thing he’s learned when it comes to building a community, why sponsored posts are the best revenue generators for him, and the difference between failing and giving up too soon.

Download podcast transcript [PDF] here: How Chris Coyier Grew CSS-Tricks to 7M Page Views:Month, 300K Followers and 24K Email Subscribers TRANSCRIPT

Time-Stamped Show Notes:

3 Key Points:

  1. Being nice to others goes a long way when it comes to building a community.
  2. Creating unique content that is of great value will result in page views for your website.
  3. Being consistent is key when it comes to growing your business and community.

Resources From This Interview:

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10 Marketing Lessons I Learned by Building a Top 100 App

This is a guest post from Nelson Wang, VP of Partnerships at Toptal, which provides vetted freelance tech talent on demand.

I shut down my startup this year.

It really sucked.

I had poured a lot of sweat and tears into my app company, but it didn’t matter. It wasn’t meant to be.

But just because it didn’t work out for me, doesn’t mean it can’t work out for you. In fact, it made me more motivated than ever to write this blog post because I’d like to share the lessons I learned along the way. I wish I had gotten this insight early on when I first started out—it would have saved me a ton of heartache.

Over the last 5 years, I’ve started two companies, built fourteen iPhone apps and had four of them hit the top 100 in Business, Lifestyle and Entertainment.

It had been an incredible run but my struggle to recruit top technical talent made it ridiculously hard. Basically I was a business guy trying to hire developers and I had no idea how to effectively screen for top talent.

My screening process consisted of:

At the end of the day, despite having solid app ideas, my apps failed over the long term because the quality of the development work wasn’t good enough.

One of my best apps was called Hair Booth HD. When I first released it, it quickly shot up to over 75,000 downloads—in a single day.

10 Marketing Lessons I Learned by Building a Top 100 App

But within a few days it came crashing down to 50 downloads a day. Why? The app was constantly crashing on people.

The developers didn’t know how to fix it and by the time we figured out how to, it didn’t matter. All momentum was lost.

I wish I had known about Toptal at the time. (Full disclosure, I work at Toptal now.)

Toptal screens developers and designers extensively with a 4-step screening process and only accepts the top 3%. Using Toptal would have saved me a lot of time and money. It also would have reduced my financial risk because they offer a no-risk trial for 2 weeks, so if you’re not satisfied at the end of the trial period, you can walk away and pay nothing. (If you want to try it out, click here to get started and a sales engineer will set up a call with you.)

Most importantly, using Toptal could have launched my app business to the next level.

I’m emphasizing this because amazing marketing won’t save your product. Your product has to be amazing to begin with. Marketing accelerates your product’s success; it doesn’t create it.

Read More: Drift CEO David Cancel Explains Why Free Products Are The Best Acquisition Method (podcast)

Along the way, I learned that the mobile app business is an incredibly competitive one that requires founders to be on top of their game—and today it’s harder than ever to stand out. Of course, a little bit of luck doesn’t hurt either. 

According to Statista, as of June 2016 there were over 2.2 million apps on the Google Play store and 2 million apps on the Apple store.

Holy moly. That’s a lot of apps to compete against.

So how do you build and promote an app so that you can stand out from the crowd?

I spent the last 5 years learning how to do this based on experience, best practices from other apps, and detailed online research. I’m here to pass on my lessons to you, so that hopefully you won’t be faced with the obstacles that I did.

In addition to my own experience, I’ve included lessons learned from many of the top mobile app companies in Silicon Valley. Over the last year I hosted and attended over 20 events in San Francisco that included customer stories and executive, product and growth panels.

Here are my top 10 tips on how to make your app a huge success:

1. Build an app that delights users

happy mobile app user

(Image source)

All too often I hear people talk about advertising to drive mobile app downloads. Before you dive into advertising, start with building a strong foundation. Ask yourself the hard questions:

Have you built an app that’s so incredible and delightful that your users want to use it every month? Every day? Every hour?

Does your app solve a problem for your users in an incredible way?

For example: One day, I didn’t want to wait in line at the Post Office to ship something, so I used Shyp instead. They picked up my package from my doorstep and delivered it for me. It was such an awesome experience that I told my friends about it whenever we talked about shipping things in San Francisco. Shyp was worth talking about because it made shipping so easy and painless.

Here’s one more example: A long time ago I made an app called “Interview Questions Pro.” People hated doing the research, making their own flashcards, and carrying them around. This app solved that problem by featuring over 500 interview questions and answers and consistently hit the top 50 in Business.

Bottom line: If you build an app that solves a huge problem and delights your users in the experience, they will promote it for you. And those are your best promoters!

2. Create a wait list

One of the best ways to make your app a huge success is to leverage a wait list. The League (a dating app) is such a great example of this: they amassed a waiting list of 75,000 people! Wait lists are incredibly effective because they provide:

3. Run a free promotion

Every once and a while, I would offer my paid apps for free in order to drive downloads. Often times a blog or site would take notice and then notify their users of the change in app pricing and this would usually drive a pretty sizable spike in free downloads. Typically it wasn’t a long-term solution, but it was a nice short-term way to drive awareness and user acquisition.

I also did this with my Kindle e-book The Resume Is Dead which helped drive a massive amount of downloads (over 44,000 Kindle downloads) and launch it to #1. There’s no way I would’ve hit that kind of critical mass without a free promotion.

4. Become a Quora guru

Look for related topics on Quora that your app can solve problems for and then answer the questions people are asking in a thoughtful way and that adds value. Definitely don’t just promote your app! That will be viewed as SPAM and rightly so.

If you’re asking why you should write on Quora, I’m the perfect example of this—I’ve now written over 100 answers, 6.5 million views, 12,000 followers, and have since been published on Forbes, Time, Inc, Business Insider and Fortune. It all started with Quora and it cost absolutely nothing.

10 Marketing Lessons I Learned by Building a Top 100 App5. Host local marketing events

Did you know that a party saved Hinge? Down to their last $32,000, the Hinge team threw a party in D.C. for 3,000 people. The next day, Hinge made more matches than they did since the inception of the app.

A marketing event is a great way to build a grassroots movement with a local group of raving fans. When we launched our top 100 lifestyle dating app (Collide), we hosted multiple events ranging from a picnic to a launch party. We asked people to download the app in order to gain admission to the party.

You can use platforms like Meetup to drive attendance and also invite your local connections through Facebook, LinkedIn and e-mails.

6. Develop partnerships

Find complementary companies that can benefit by forming a partnership with you, and you with them. For example, if you’re making a fitness app, consider teaming up with local sportswear shops. You could offer their shoppers a special upgrade or premium feature by using a code given to them by the sports shop.

7. Do in-app cross promotion

smartphone apps

(Image source)

If you’ve made other apps, consider adding a button or icon in those apps that links to your current app and vice versa. This can help to drive awareness among your existing user base.

8. Remember to ask for reviews

Social proof can be very valuable. If I see an app with 100 one-star reviews, I’m going to expect it to be pretty terrible. On the flip side, if it has 100 5-star reviews, I’ll have much higher expectations.

The other important thing to consider here is how you ask for the review. Some apps have it programmed where they ask the user to review their experience first. In one example, if the user rates the app 1-3 stars, they are then redirected to a feedback form that’s sent to the company. If they rated it 3-5 stars, however, it would then take them to the app store to write a review.

9. Leverage the power of App Store Optimization platforms

Take a guess on this one: After all our marketing efforts with our top 100 Lifestyle dating app, where did most of our downloads came from? The answer might surprise you. It came from people organically searching the app store.

Understanding how to optimize for the app store is critical in driving organic downloads. There are a lot of great ASO platforms that can help you accomplish this, such as Sensor Tower by asking questions like: 

Sensor Tower notes that “74.3% of apps that rank #1 for high traffic keywords have the target keyword in their name.” 

For example, our dating app was focused on Christian dating. I did a quick search in the app store and noticed there were less than 25 apps that showed up when you searched “Christian dating” and most of them were pretty terrible.

I also noticed that the organic search for “Christian dating” on Google was pretty strong, so that showed me that the demand was there and we could optimize it for the app store pretty easily, so we’d likely rank #1 for that search term quickly if we created a quality platform. And that’s exactly what happened.

google seo

(Image source)

10. Build a referral program

Dropbox is a great case study on this. They were primarily using SEM and affiliate marketing prior to their referral program and their CPA was around $288-$388. This presented a challenge since their product was $99/year. So Dropbox ended up rolling out a double-sided referral program where both the referrer and referred user received incentives (extra storage space). The result?

They increased sign-ups by 60% and within 15 months their registered users jumped from 100,000 to 4,000,000.

11. Bonus tip! Build a great team

If I can leave you with one last tip, it’s this: Make sure you have the right team in place because at the end of the day, you can go fast alone or you can go far together.

Read More: Forced Hiring: An Amazingly Effective Way To Find The Best Hires in 2016

If I did it all over again, I would have built this team:

Business leader – Ideally you want someone who is incredibly passionate and inspiring. If that person also possesses strong financial acumen, selling skills, vision and the ability to motivate teams as well, that’s a great fit! Other things I also look for are business leaders who are customer-centric in the way they approach the business and have a deep sense of customer empathy.

Technical leader You’ll want to find a technical leader who has a strong portfolio of previous products or platforms they’ve built. One of the best ways for people to learn is through experiences and their portfolio of work helps to demonstrate that. It would also be good to see if they understand how business and technology merge together to form an ideal user experience. Elite technical talent can be very hard to find.

Another great option you can explore (and I wish I had known about this when I built my apps!) is leveraging a network like Toptal. They have a rigorous 4-step screening process that includes a comprehensive personality, language, communication interview, portfolio review, timed algorithm test, live screenings and simulated test projects. They also expect continued excellence in terms of a track record. At the end of the day, they provide a matching service to make sure the best people are matched to your business and technical needs. It makes the process much easier and the no-risk trial they offer reduces your financial risk as well.

Growth Marketer It’s absolutely critical to have a leader on the team who can execute an effective growth marketing strategy. Having someone to lead the way on content marketing, SEO, affiliate marketing, paid acquisition channels, e-mail marketing, referral marketing, and A/B testing can completely change the growth curve of the company.

I hope these tips help and I wish you the best in your startup journey!

And don’t forget to have fun—because you know what, awesomeness is contagious.

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