For this episode, we spoke with Marc Biles, Founder and CEO of Ratio. Ratio is a software company dedicated to inventing smart products that help make people’s lives better and easier. They’ve made four customer-facing products: an AI tool, an underwear subscription club, a financial price comparison website, and the software that powers the comparison for other financial websites. A quick company overview:
- Founder experience: 13.5 years
- Team size: 19 team members
- Traction: 18 million consumers matched with a product in one year; inclusive and estimated revenue $11.4M for this fiscal year with approx. 60% growth YoY.
- Company founded: March 2011. Started trading in May 2013 (4 years old)
Ratio certainly has an interesting scaling story with a team spread across such a diverse set of products. In the interview, Marc shares how they stay focused, how their culture has evolved for the better, how he aligns the team around the company’s goals, and more. Listen here:
Help your team automate so they can work on what interests them. Collaboration happens naturally on the Ratio team because of their loose team structure. Even the people with operational roles are constantly working on how to automate their tasks so they can focus on more interesting things. No one person has all the skills needed to tackle any one project alone. Collaboration is critical to move projects forward.
Cascade your OKRs down to the individual level. Marc spends up to two months every year updating Ratio’s annual business plan. During that process, he comes up with OKRs (objectives and key results) for the quarter. These OKRs for the company as a whole cascade down through the team, with each team choosing their own quarterly objectives. Marc oversees this process to ensure they fit into the larger business objectives and vision over the next 12 months.
The key thing is to keep things simple. Ratio’s main objective is to grow and extend the margins across the group. It’s easy to cascade those big, overarching objectives down into teams and individuals because they’re simple to understand. If they had complicated objectives, it’d be difficult to break them down to the individual level.
You can’t repeat your objectives enough. Marc paraphrased Jeff Weiner, the CEO of LinkedIn sharing: if you get bored of saying it, you’re probably just saying it about enough. He does a monthly update, sharing his board report with the team. They also use Geckoboard dashboards to have their metrics literally on the wall at all time.
Invest in being involved in your local tech community. Marc says the most important thing to growing a sustainable business is to hire great people from day one. To find those people, you have to be tapped into the community. You have to build your network if you don’t already have one. Ratio goes to a lot of socials and conferences locally to raise brand awareness. Think of your recruitment campaign as you would building your product: you want it to be exceptional.
Your culture will evolve as you scale up. The Ratio culture has evolved. Marc initially set a bunch of values but soon realized they weren’t effective when no one could remember them. Instead, he created a mantra he semi-stole from Twitter for the company to live by: “if we combine talented people, have fun, and ship awesome shit, good things will follow.” Today, their culture is more relaxed. They work really hard but focus on being good people and being a place they want to work.
Try to be as good as you can possibly be. Work as hard as you would if you were a pro athlete. Marc says, “Great things generally aren’t created by Einstein-level genius. It’s people who give a shit and try really hard who achieve success. If it was only Einsteins who achieved success, we’d never progress as a species.”
Care about product-market fit as much as you did early on. Marc says, “as you scale up, you have to be as fanatical about product-market fit and making your product work as a startup.”
You have to love what you’re doing. There are plenty of easier ways to make a lot of money than starting a business. And scaling a business is a lonely journey. You have to love and truly care about what you’re building and let that drive you.