Embracing the fact that productivity is not defined by the quantity of work but by its quality, and taking the time to understand the critical ingredients to produce my highest possible contribution — improving my state of mind, removing barriers to success, fully understanding the problem or task in front of me, etc.Mark Sawyier is co-founder and CEO of Bonfyre, an enterprise communications platform that helps companies build culture and engage their employees. Bonfyre’s unique focus on human relationships empowers organizations to better leverage their investments in internal communications, HR, events, and employee engagement, leading to more actionable intelligence, productivity, and revenue. A passionate entrepreneur and an experienced business operator, Sawyier is a creative problem solver with expertise in product, strategy, and new business development.
Sawyier graduated magna cum laude in 2007 from Washington University in St. Louis, where he started his first business, MovingOffCampus.com. At its height, it helped more than 1 million students move off campus annually. After graduating, Sawyier launched Off Campus Media, a college and digital marketing agency with clients ranging from the Fortune 500 to local businesses. Sawyier was named to Alive Magazine’s The Buzz List in 2013 and was recently named by the St. Louis Business Journal as one of St. Louis’ five most innovative people.
Where did the idea for Bonfyre come from?I joined Facebook in 2003, when it was “college only.” After I graduated and the network began to open up to others, I found my news feed becoming rapidly less relevant and my own participation declining. I was experiencing what everyone does — as we go through life, the people we care about do not increase linearly, they change. Connection-based social networks revolve around an inevitable accumulation of hundreds of “friends” or “followers” that, combined with advertising revenue, lead to an increasingly noisy and irrelevant news feed.
We started working on Bonfyre to create a better way to privately communicate with the people who matter. It’s built around three core principles:
(1) Simple and delightful communication that supports social decay (no more “unfriending” binges). (2) Total control over what you are sharing — and with whom — that is easy to understand. (3) Revenue generation by charging for premium features (instead of selling eyeballs)
What does your typical day look like, and how do you make it productive?Typical days are few and far between, but I do have some best practices I employ for driving my own productivity:
Begin each day by defining what success looks like for that day (15 minutes).
Block out regular time to work on the business (for example, forecasting and organization planning), as well as in it (with sales follow-ups, etc.).
I cluster activities, meetings, and so on around key themes where and when possible.
Before attacking a problem, I spend time understanding it.
How do you bring ideas to life?Define the problem I am trying to solve, as well as what success looks like. Be as specific as possible. What big assumptions am I making, and why? How can I defend these assumptions? Based on my assumptions, begin to define the key characteristics and attributes of the solution. Create an MVS (minimum viable solution) based on those first three ideas. The only thing you know for sure about your MVS is that it will be wrong. And that’s OK! Design tests and develop metrics to assess success. Repeat.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?Embracing the fact that productivity is not defined by the quantity of work but by its quality, and taking the time to understand the critical ingredients to produce my highest possible contribution — improving my state of mind, removing barriers to success, fully understanding the problem or task in front of me, etc.
What was the worst job you ever had, and what did you learn from it?I worked as an intern for an investment bank one summer. I learned that I loved to create and that I wouldn’t be happy working at a company where that was not possible or a part of my job.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?Spend a couple of years working for another startup. Experience is the best teacher.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?Leverage an existing marketplace’s built-in demand and easier prospect access to (1) drive new customer volume through an established pain point and (2) introduce your unique value proposition that not only addresses their problem, but also (3) increases the value of the average customer relationship over time.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?I’d say the biggest mistake I’ve made as an entrepreneur is not fully appreciating the value of experience. It’s something I’m still learning about today.
What is the best $100 you recently spent and why?I bought “Blueprints for a SaaS Sales Organization” by Jacco vanderKooij. I’m a visual learner, and this book is a beautifully laid-out series of various sales organization models. It’s hugely helpful to see how others have done it while we are scaling up Bonfyre.
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?Spotify: The huge convenience of no longer having to buy individual songs or albums is awesome.
Uber: It saves so much time and heartache over the alternative.
Gmail with HubSpot: It’s a powerful CRM through an email platform.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read, and why?I’d recommend “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” because it has (so far) been a great help in driving my own productivity, personally and professionally.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?Neil deGrasse Tyson (http://www.haydenplanetarium.
Bumblebee Labs (http://blog.bumblebeelabs.
David Skok (http://www.forentrepreneurs.
Brad Feld (http://www.feld.com/)
Harvard Business Review (https://hbr.org/)
Chris Dornfeld (my Bonfyre co-founder) (https://www.linkedin.com/in/
Paul Graham (http://www.paulgraham.com/)
Josh Bersin (http://joshbersin.com/)
Hacker News (https://news.ycombinator.com/