The best method I’ve found to be productive is to focus on one thing at a time.
Nikki Sacks is the Co-Founder of PodKeeper and a mother of two, with more than 20 years of experience in strategy, financial analysis and marketing.
Nikki has worked as a senior executive in Investor Relations, advising clients on all aspects of financial communications and capital markets strategy, including IPOs, quarterly reporting, large transactions, strategy shifts and management transitions. Earlier, she served as an Equity Research Associate Analyst at Citibank. Prior, she worked in Corporate Strategy at MetLife in New York City where she helped prepare the company’s strategic plan, and analyzed and implemented special projects, including the launch of MetLife Bank. Earlier in her career, she worked in marketing helping brands reach targeted audiences.
Nikki has extensive experience in strategic assessment of companies and industries, as well as creating and implementing successful strategic and communication plans.
She is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and has an MBA in Finance from Duke University in Durham, NC.
When Nikki isn’t being a room mom in her children’s classes, her kids are testing her on the names of the second string offensive lineman of NFL teams (her accuracy rate is two percent) and are negotiating ways to get more baseball cards (her favorite exchange is cards for hugs).
Steven Sacks is the Co-Founder of PodKeeper and a father of two. He is a seasoned online marketing and product expert with 25 years’ experience leading the build, launch, and management of online products for consumers, which generate revenue for companies from start-ups to Fortune 100 companies. Prior to Co-Founding PodKeeper, Steven served as SVP of Product Management at Bank of America, where he led the product strategy, development and management of online and mobile products while on the Innovation Team. In that role, Steven created the product construct for a new type of payment card, using inputs such as customer data analysis, competitor analysis, customer research, pricing scenarios and business case financials. He also managed cross-functional teams, including technology development, legal, and project management. Earlier, Steven served as Senior Director of Product Management at Lending Tree, Digital Products Manager at CNBC, and Senior Marketing Manager at American Express. Past roles in startups include VP of Product Management & Marketing at Juice Wireless and VP of Digital Marketing at Promotions.com. Steven’s specific areas of expertise include product roadmapping, user experience ideation, and reporting and data analysis.
Steven is a graduate of the University of Buffalo and has an MBA in Marketing from Fordham University in New York City.
When Steven isn’t being a youth soccer coach, his kids run him ragged by making him attempt half court shots, playing street tennis with multiple balls at once and challenging him to races (which he is getting very close to losing).
Where did the idea for PodKeeper come from?
The a-ha moment for PodKeeper came when my oldest child, who is now 8, was in preschool, and I was faced with a flurry of emails as the room parents were trying to coordinate a class party. With all the back and forth it was getting so confusing as to what was needed, who was brining what, who was volunteering, etc. I quickly realized how annoying this was managing for just one child who wasn’t even in sports and activities yet. I couldn’t imagine how bad it would be with more than one kid and multiple activities. So my husband and I started doing research to see if others really found this to be an issue. We saw it clearly was, and that there wasn’t a good solution available to help parents organize and manage their responsibilities related to their children’s school and extra-curricular activities.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
As I’m sure many entrepreneurs can attest to, I don’t have what I could call a typical day. Being the founder of a startup means wearing many hats in the company, so every day is different. This ranges from developing marketing campaigns, to business development, responding to customer inquiries, to data analysis.
The best method I’ve found to be productive is to focus on one thing at a time. It’s really easy to keep jumping back to email or to check site analytics, but those transitions waste time with every back and forth. Choosing one item to accomplish, and not allowing myself to turn to something else until I’m done is really the key (although it’s easier said than done).
How do you bring ideas to life?
It’s a process which involves discipline. Being a startup with a small team, our most limiting factor is resources. We are not at a loss for ideas, and there are many ideas we’d love to bring to life. The first step is prioritizing which will add the most value to our product and to our customers. Many of our ideas actually come from our users who say “I love PodKeeper, but can you add a feature that does . . . ?” Then we determine the cost in terms of time and money to implement the idea to decide which ideas to greenlight.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
I think there’s an underlying trend these days to simplify and minimize. People seem to be trying to streamline their schedules and their lives. From a personal perspective I think that’s a great thing to aspire to, in order to be able to focus more on what really counts. From a business perspective, PodKeeper falls into the sweet-spot of this trend, simplifying people’s organization and communication, bringing it to a streamlined, central location.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Being an entrepreneur and working to scale our growth, I could conceivably work 20 hours a day. I personally am much more fresh and productive in the mornings. Therefore, later at night when I start to feel I’m getting diminishing returns on the effort I’m putting in, I cut off my work day and get up earlier the next morning. Quiet mornings, while the rest of the house is still asleep, with a cup of hot coffee in hand is when I am most fresh and productive.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
I’m lucky in that I’m not sure I’ve ever had a truly bad job. I’ve certainly had difficult bosses and challenging times at different points in my career, but not one job that I would consider the worst. What I’ve learned is to try to look beyond a bad situation (a boss you don’t get along with, an awful project, difficult customers or co-workers) and focus on the bigger picture and what can be gained from the situation (being fortunate to have a job in really bad economy, learning a new skill, learning to deal with challenging people).
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I feel really good with the moves we’ve made so far. Come back to me in a year, and I’m sure there will be something I’ll be kicking myself about.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
The best thing I do is listen to my customers and potential customers. We consistently are asking for feedback on what they like, what they don’t, what features they want incorporated into PodKeeper. We definitely have our own ideas, but we’re building PodKeeper for the tens of millions of parents struggling to keep up with all the details of their many family commitments. There’s no substitute for the direct feedback from this group of people.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
Our key strategy has been centered around our customers. This started before a single line of code was written. Besides being parents ourselves who were struggling with the problem of keeping our groups organized, we wanted to make sure we truly understood the pain points. We conducted extensive research and customer development, in order to have a very deep understanding of the problem and how to solve it. We have an extreme customer focus. The PodKeeper brand is based upon building the product around the needs of our customers. We create many touch points with them to both leverage their ideas and to create customer loyalty, and we are integrating many of their ideas into ongoing product enhancements.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
It’s not so much a failure, as it is learning to hear the answer “no”. Whether it’s asking an organization to use PodKeeper, seeking a partnership, or raising money, the answer “no” is an unavoidable part of building a company. As the founder, it’s hard to understand that not everyone is as passionate about your company as you are, because after all, don’t we each have the best idea ever to solve a true pain point? Even if we do, that doesn’t mean others are as excited about solving it as we are. What I’ve come to learn and accept is that it doesn’t matter. Multiple “no” responses doesn’t mean that your business isn’t going to succeed and grow, it just means those aren’t the people to help get you there, and it’s my job to go out and find the right people.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
A kid’s car service, with vetted, trustworthy drivers. While PodKeeper helps parents coordinate all the details with other parents, we can’t help to actually get the kids where they need to be. Sometimes parents just can’t do it themselves or make a carpool work. So having a trusted car service to do the driving would be really helpful.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
It was a personal item — a running watch. It’s easy to let your personal needs fall behind those of your family and of building a business. I realize how important exercise is, but it often got pushed down in my to-do list. Being an analytical, somewhat competitive person, having a watch that lets me see the details of my run helps motivate me to get active more often.
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
Not surprisingly, my favorite web service is PodKeeper.com. I have a “Pod” (or online group) for each group in my life (one for my family, for each of my kid’s classes, for our neighborhood, for my supper club, etc.) and I easily have all relevant information at my fingertips. I no longer waste precious time digging through my emails to find a piece of necessary information nor am I subjected to endless reply-all email chains.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Reading is not a luxury of mine these days, either pleasure or business-related. I have a long reading list that I’d love to get to, but with so many other things taking a priority, I can’t seem to find the time. The only reading that seems to happen is bed time reading with my young boys, so if you need a recommendation on those types of books, we like Magic Tree House and A to Z Mysteries.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
Seth Godin blog: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/ and on Twitter: @thisissethsblog
Eric Ries website: http://www.startuplessonslearned.com/ and on Twitter: @ericries
Nir Eyal website: http://www.nirandfar.com/ and on Twitter: @nireyal