The power of the team

Teams can be more effective than an individual.
Over the Summer, I spent an inordinate amount of time cold-emailing and calling people -- typically alumni of the McCormick Engineering School at Northwestern and others. I wanted to reach out to potential clients of the service I was developing, to understand their problems and get feedback on some product ideas. It was a bad experience. I was sure this Fall quarter's efforts would be similarly bad. I was wrong.

On one particular day over the Summer, I recall having scheduled 30 calls - each roughly separately into 30 minute slots during the day. It was a long and exhausting day, calling one person after the next. Half the of the time, I would not even get through to the person. At other times they were a little cold and unwelcoming. I had designed this process myself - emailing people and then suggesting when I would call them, and calling them -- irrespective of whether they had responded to the email or not. This method had worked when I was looking for an internship at a VC firm, before I started business school. In this case, it was was a complete disaster. In fact, it was not until the last call -- at 9:15pm of that day -- that I got even a vaguely positive response. The alum was curious about what we were doing and we were able to quickly arrange a meeting. After so bad outcomes in the earlier calls, that last call was a nirvana moment. Nevertheless, the whole process left me discomforted about the sales and outreach effort need to get the service I was developing to market.

As I previously mentioned, this academic quarter I used my MKTG450 Research Methods in Marketing class to effectively do the same thing. This time I had a proof-of-concept in hand, but essentially still needed to reach out to alumni - this time of Kellogg - to gauge their interest in it. The results can not have been any more different to my experience over the Summer.

With five brains working on this project, we designed a different process. This time, it was more of a funnel -- an initial email to invite interest, a second email to arrange a phone call and then the phone call to discuss the proof-of-concept. In hindsight, this was clearly a far more sensible process that what I was doing over the Summer. On the calls themselves, there would be at least two of us on each call. As we interviewed each person, we could each jump in with different thoughts and angles. On some of the calls, we even dared to ask if they would be willing to trial the service, paying a small amount of money to do so.

So it was on the first call, of the 34 that we ultimately completed, that three of us were sat listening to what seemed like overwhelmingly negative feedback. Nevertheless, towards the end of the call, one of my peers pushed to ask if the interviewee would trail the service. It seemed crazy to me, "have you heard what this guy has been saying?" I did so any, and the response came -- "Absolutely, I'll try it". I was astonished. From the experience of struggling to even get people to talk to me, here was someone willing to try it. Ultimately, some 10 of the 34 that we interviewed expressed interest in trying the service.

Working as a team of five did not mean that the amount of work done increased five-fold. Yet, the productivity and effectiveness has been orders of magnitude more than working as an individual.