Janson Seah: Time Theft & Blue-Collar Workforce Management, Market Selection & Entry and Product-Led Growth vs. Go-To-Market Motion - E355

· Start-up,Founder,Podcast Episodes,Singapore

“We first look at it from a systems perspective, compare it with office workers or white-collar workers where a lot of the management is outcome-based. Unfortunately for a lot of the frontliners, the key bulk of their remuneration is time-based or what we call output-based remuneration. What happens is that every additional hour, every additional minute is paid hours in that sense. Because of that, there is going to be some incentivization, to lean on the side of gray. I wouldn't say it's stealing intentionally unless there's a bad actor involved, but it's maximizing the economics of personal self-interest on what you get paid more for. We feel very strongly that in our journey, and in the last five years, is that we are trying to encourage the industry to move away from purely timesheet, time-based compensation to reward people for performance-based outcomes.” - Janson Seah 

“We talk about the personas in terms of customer base first. And then secondly, we talk about the individual actors and people in the organization. What we also realized is that different levels of personas are looking for different product values when using a product. Some people are looking for immediate productivity gains. That is what we consider the productivity gains in terms of the jobs to be done on the side of things. The second layer that we see is more of the business outcome goals which would include productivity gains in terms of cost of labor and ratio of revenue. That's also one of the metrics that a business would like to track.” - Janson Seah

“In terms of product, I don't think there is a huge difference for our larger customers or smaller customers. We have one main product. We are a SaaS company. We do not do specific, customized implementation projects. But on design perspective, because we are working with a lot more frontliners, a lot more elderlys for example of in F&Bs, you look Singapore, you see elderlys bearing the brunt of that responsibility. Also when we serve Southeast Asia customers in Malaysia and Indonesia, we need to also take into account specifications of mobile phones or like, internet speed. So a lot of times our design has to be lighter a lot more easier to implement, download. And that's some of the things that we need to ensure in our design processes if you are referring to how is our SMB product different from enterprise product.”- Janson Seah

Janson Seah, Cofounder of StaffAny, and Jeremy Au talked about three main topics:

1. Time Theft & Blue-Collar Workforce Management: Janson shared the dynamics of managing blue-collar workers and introduced the concept of "time theft” and its implications on productivity, accountability and incentive structures in organizations. He emphasized the need for a restructured approach to workforce management, focusing on performance-based rewards and outcomes rather than solely on time-based metrics. He believes this approach will motivate employees to take ownership of their work and lead to better outcomes for both employees and the organization.

2. Market Selection & Entry: Janson highlighted the challenges involved in expanding across various countries in Southeast Asia. He emphasized the importance of understanding the distinct characteristics of different customer segments, especially small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). He pointed out that many small businesses in developing markets may not have the technological infrastructure to handle large, complex software solutions that would be prevalent in the US.

3. Product-Led Growth vs. Go-To-Market Motion: Janson explained the complexities of implementing go-to-market strategies in the region. He stressed that the product-led growth strategies in the U.S. don't translate effectively across various industries and geographies in Southeast Asia, unlike what you may read on Substack from an American founder or VC. He also stressed the importance to understanding local market conditions, customer preferences, and business practices, which often require a more hands-on, relationship-based approach than what might be typical in the US.

They also talked about how cultural and operational norms influence business strategies, the necessity for digitalization and efficient management tools in SMEs, the relationship between technology and human labor, and the critical role of leadership in scaling a business.

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(02:13) Jeremy Au:

Hello, Janson, happy to have you on the show. We had a wonderful lunch, and as I said, we got to have to do a podcast and share some of the insights that we talked about. So Janson, could you just introduce yourself real quick?

(02:24) Janson Seah:

Hey, Jeremy. Nice meeting you again after so long.

(02:27) Janson Seah:

I'm Janson, one of the cofounders of StaffAny, and I started my journey in tech because I had an opportunity to be in the US under the NUS Overseas College Program. And I had the chance to stumble upon the tech startup scene working under the tutelage of my mentors from Scrum Ventures Takmiyada, Austin, Orensberg and all, and that was where I got bitten into how tech could be such a key enabler to solve big problems in the world.

I started StaffAny because before venturing into tech between the time where all Singaporean guys served the military national service to university there's a period of gap in between. And what happened during that period of gap was that I used to work in a restaurant food and beverage. And I used to do everything from choosing the point of sale system, choosing to be on tap, serving customers, cleaning the toilets.

(03:16) Janson Seah:

And I started StaffAny because I face a personal problem of managing hourly workers. And at that point of time, even though we have really good technology dealing with other parts of business processes there wasn't anything that was specifically designed for hourly workers, blue collar workers, front line workers.

Many tools out there will focus for white collar, for the office workers, for the larger companies. But what we see is that there's a huge gap in terms of tailor made product for hourly workers. And it's a bit ironic because hourly workers, front line workers, actually are the bulk of our workforce where, if today you were commuting between picking your kids or whatsoever, I bet with you that you are actually interacting with a lot more frontline workers in the cafes, in the petrol stations, in the retail outlets, in the child care centers and whatnot. So I think this is a really meaningful problem for our team to solve and hence, when I was in this NUS Overseas College with my co founders Kaiyi, Jeremy and Eugene, we formed a team together to start tinkering about this problem while in the US and brought a little bit back of that Bay Area inspired tech culture to start our own little startup called StaffAny about four, five years ago.

(04:25) Jeremy Au:

How did you come across this problem personally?

(04:28) Janson Seah: So, when I was managing the bar, I had to deal with a lot of Audi workers, part timers especially. And at that point of time, the tools of the trade were really basic. Most of the things are still spreadsheet. Some of the places are still using punch cards or fingerprint sensors and whatnot. And personally, I was, unfortunately given a privilege to catch one of my staff trying to cheat on time.

(04:50) Janson Seah:

We call it time theft in the industry. So basically what happened was that we're supposed to open the restaurant at 4 or 5 p. m. to set up the area, do some prep work, preparing the bar and whatnot. But what happened was that the staff that was in charge of opening the shop wasn't there, but he claimed that he was there, and he sent on WhatsApp group, and it's like, hey things are on that day itself, actually, I was around the bar. So I went down to the bar, I looked through the window, and it was closed. Nobody was inside.

You know, I opened the bar, I went in, sat down, and then I grabbed myself a pint and I waited for that staff to actually walk in slowly for work. So, what I realized quickly was that managing hourly workers, because of the tools of the past that we use result in a lot of what we call either you physically have to be there, look at CCTVs and that kind of very micromanagement workflows and we think that the future of work shouldn't be such a case where there's such a problem.

(05:37) Janson Seah:

Amazing ability to digitalize, cloud enable such processes and to have a better workforce management that's not just on managing the staff, but also improving other business outputs like productivity, labor costs, and whatnot.

(05:50) Jeremy Au:

I like the phrase time taft. What is time taft and how does it play out from your perspective? It's like a sci-fi novel

(05:55) Janson Seah:

Time theft basically means, it's not really that complicated. It's basically when you are paid hourly you either clock in earlier or clock out later, despite you not being in the shift, or contributing for work. And sometimes it's ambiguous. Sometimes it's not time theft. Sometimes, the staff is actually there doing that extra hour. And we should reward the staff for their hours as well. So in StaffAny, we protect both sides of the both the business owners as well as the employees. If the employees came in early we can actually request that this is an early shift or this is additional hours that they are working for with the reasons for the business owners to approve. And in this case, time theft hopefully would be minimized in the industry that we serve today.

(06:33) Jeremy Au:

How do you think about why this is happening from your perspective?

(06:36) Janson Seah:

We first look at it at a systems perspective, compare it with office workers or white collar workers where a lot of the management is outcome based. Unfortunately for a lot of the frontliners, key bulk of their remuneration is time based or what we call output based remuneration. So what that happens is that every additional hour, every additional minute is paid hours in that sense. And because of that, there is going to be some incentivization to lean on the side of gray. And I wouldn't say it's stealing intentionally, unless there's a bad actor involved, but it's maximizing economics of a personal self interest on what you get paid more for.

(07:14) Janson Seah:

And what we feel very strongly that in our journey and stuff, and in the last five years, is that we are trying to encourage the industry to move away from purely time sheet, time-based compensation to reward people for performance-based outcomes.

And that's why, you know, one of the things that we have been working a lot on is how can we gamify work? How can we reward workers for achieving goals like hitting their sales target for the day? How can we you know, reward workers for getting that five star review on Google for your restaurant that, you know, we dine in on, on Wednesday.

Those kind of things are a lot more outcome driven rather than time driven. And while we are workforce management and we still have to measure time I think there's a lot of opportunity for us to look at rewarding frontline workers, hourly workers based on output, based on results more so than just based on time.

(08:02) Jeremy Au:

I think it's interesting because, you know, time is like a resource, right? The way that we define it, especially like the phrase time taft. And obviously there's this dynamic where there's a fixed amount of time that's being deployed, obviously 24 hours in a day. You know, generally eight hours a day, for example, into some work.

How do you think about that? Dynamic, how much is it productivity improvement? How much of it is like better accounting for time?

(08:23) Jeremy Au:

Are you back? Oh, do you miss me? Hello. Can you hear me? Can you hear me? Hello. Hi. you hear me? Can you hear me? Testing one, two, three. Testing one, two, three.

Yeah. There's a lot of knowledge that you're sharing about workforce management, especially at the blue collar level.

(08:37) Jeremy Au:

What was some myths or misconceptions that you had? Because, you know, you had that experience and then you started building this over the past six years. So obviously there's a good chunk of time.

What have you learned along the way?

(08:45) Janson Seah:

Actually, what we have learned along the way there's a lot of things that we have learned along the way. I don't think I can cover all of them in this short time I have with you. But one thing that we've learned really and we feel a lot for is that we really believe that hourly workers are in a way that there is not a lot of tools and resources for them.

And I think that there's a lot more that we can do to empower hourly workers moving forward. I also think that it is not the fault of business owners. I think business owners are trying their best to provide inclusive as well as a better work environment for blue collar workers. I just think that at this point of time, a lot more can be done on both sides, right?

On business side of things, how can we do more for hourly workers? At the same time, how can hourly workers also do more for businesses? So that at the end of the day, the business succeeds and then it's win for all parties. The second thing that we learned really quickly is that a lot of the products designed for small, medium businesses are not as I would say at this point of time, at least in Southeast Asia not as intentionally designed as maybe enterprise large solutions.

So we see a lot of opportunity over here to empower small, medium businesses with smaller annual budgets to empower them to be digitalized and to leverage the use of technology. To do a lot more with less.

(09:58) Jeremy Au:

Could you share more about what it means to design differently for a small medium enterprise? Because I think some folks obviously who are more new are going to look at this as like, okay, B2B is B2B. So that's one. Of course, people are more than would obviously look at it more like, okay, there is a difference, but what is that difference you think in the context of Southeast Asia for workforce management?

(10:16) Janson Seah:

Our opinion is that we currently serve a lot of what we call small medium business to mid market customers. The likes of the bubble tea chain like Lee Ho coffee chains like Dimbula Coffee you know, local coffee chains like Ya Kun, and all. In this category of businesses one thing that it is quite apparent is, number one, they do not have huge annual digitalization budget the way large enterprises would have so in that sense a lot of the scope that we can provide for them needs to be adjusted in a way that is both unique economically sound for their budgets as well as implementation.

So if we look at the more enterprise y product where the ACVs are much, much larger it's going to be a little bit more impractical to get across the door. At the same time a lot of this mid market and small medium businesses have the aspiration for that digitalization. And a lot of them are actually forerunners.

For example, I think if you go to Yakun, you'll see that they have their own payment app that they have developed with some other partners that you can see directly from the app. Actually a lot of this Markets, small, medium businesses are looking to digitalize but sometimes the awareness on like what options are available at what stage may not be fully apparent for them.

So, one thing that we quickly adapted and learned is how can we share more about best practices. How can we actually bring in concepts that the larger enterprises are using? For example, the fast food chains they're using concepts like, Hey, can we manage our labor force on a concept called sales per labor hours or sales per man hours?

I need to say every time you have a shift. In respect to the revenue you get what kind of labor costs should you be projecting on a day by day basis? So how can we bring this knowledge share this to the small, medium business and mid market people to tell them that, hey, actually, such concepts is not hard to implement.

It's easy to you know, be empowered and to use such frameworks for your own businesses to increase profitability as well as business outcomes.

(12:05) Jeremy Au:

How does that turn out in terms of product design? You know, is it like different font colors, font sizes? Like how does that show up in terms of product?

(12:13) Janson Seah:

In terms of product, I don't think there is a huge difference. For our larger customers or smaller customers, actually it's the same stuff. Any product for us. We have one main product. We are a SaaS company. We do not do specific customized implementation projects, but on design perspective because we are working with a lot more frontliners, a lot more elderlys for example of in F FMBs, you look at, in Singapore, you see elderlys bearing the brunt of that responsibility. Also when we serve Southeast Asia customers in Malaysia and Indonesia we need to also take into account specifications of mobile phones or like, internet speed and whatnot. So a lot of times our design has to be lighter a lot more easier to, what we call, implement, download.And that's some of the things that we need to ensure in our design processes if you are referring to how is our SMB like product different from enterprise product.

(12:57) Jeremy Au:

Yeah. So I guess no one gigabyte for download for the app size, I guess.

(13:01) Janson Seah:

Yeah, that's going to be quite difficult, exactly.

(13:03) Jeremy Au:

Yeah.

(13:03) Jeremy Au:

So I think what's interesting, obviously, is that you're talking about, you know, different obviously personas, right? So you have the front liner, you have the manager, you have the manager of a medium size chain, and then you also started talking about, you know, different geographies as well.

Let's start first with the different roles. What do you think is the, you know, motivations? What's the key attributes that, you know, each of these different customer personas or users have for your app?

(13:26) Janson Seah: So, I'm going to break down the questions into two parts. We talk about the personas in terms of customer base first, and then secondly, we talk about the individual actors and people in the organization. So we look at the personas for us, what we also realize is that there are different levels of personas that are looking for different product value when using a product like stuff any first there are people that are looking for immediate productivity gains where, hey, can I do my scheduling and rostering better, faster?

And more transparent or visible. Can I do my timesheet more accurately and spend less time during payroll season? That is what we call, like, the productivity gains in terms of the jobs to be done side of things. Can we make you more efficient and productive as an organization? The second layer that we see is more business outcome goals that they have.

Business outcome goals would include things like productivity gains in terms of cost of labor and ratio of revenue. So that's one of the things I mentioned just now in terms of, A metric that business would like to track the second area over here that people would like to track, of course, in terms of business outcome, will be things like attrition rate.

Have I been spending more time recruiting and training than making people retain, stay and being happy and performing a lot better? So that's another like business outcome that a different set of persona would be chasing a lot more compared to just the productivity gains and or It's more outcome based metrics such as productivity in terms of labor and sales ratios as well as what we call you know, attrition rates and retention rates and such things like that.

Other things would be added capacity and added competency. Some personas for example, some of the tourist attractions they are looking to do things like creating their own pool of labor, where they can tap on where they can train and ensure quality. So a product like Staffany will be able to allow you to have your own part time pool that you create.

It's a little bit different from third party agencies where they are already using to supplement their casual labor as well as their workforce. Because you know, what we do at Staffany is more of an internal management where your part timers, full timers, and whatnot are being managed in the system.

So each of these layers in terms of business value creation, in terms of productivity, Productivity in terms of you know, time spent on certain actions. Business productivity, business retention, core competencies. These are the things that are you know, different in terms of the different ICPs or personas that are using StaffAnd.

Now, we've talked about the different users on the Staff NE platform. We quickly see that again, the business owner usually leans towards such of this metrics and this kind of, like, business productivity goals. The managers, the one processing HR, payroll timesheet processing and whatnot, the operation manager, they care a lot more on the productivity side of things.

So the product needs to make time for what matters for them. It needs to do the heavy lifting so that they just do the checks of the discrepancies and whatnot. And NLD for the employees the blue collar workers at this point of time. What they require is number one product that is super easy to use, that you don't really need to go through complicated onboarding and whatnot.

Reliability it needs to work. It cannot be like, hey, I can't clock in, for example. And last but not least the information. Of their work data, for example, clock in and out or like some kind of announcements from the businesses or some of the shifts that has been approved and over time needs to be feedback to the employees in real time.

So each of them have like different, you know, JTBD jobs to be done and, you know, key drivers or levers to actually get a lot of product value.

(16:27) Janson Seah:

And hence, you know, it's a bit complicated when we design our product on for each of these different actors.

(16:31) Jeremy Au:

Yeah. And there's an interesting dynamic here where you talked about, you know, productivity, right. And obviously the value of productivity improvements in terms of, you know, the cost of it. So we started talking a little bit about geography as well, right? And we talked about this in the past, which is different geographies have different costs of labor, right?

There's a GDP per capita is obvious one that boils down to obviously the size of your workforce for blue collar and so forth. So how do you think about that? You know, like, you know, the productivity versus, you know, the cost of labor, especially across different geographies and I guess different industries as well.

(17:01) Janson Seah:

Right. So, for certain of this cross geographical expansion and customers to be honest, we are at that learning journey as well in the last year, understanding deeper on some of the core requirements in JTPD that is required in certain geographies and industries. So one thing that we quickly learned for neighboring markets out of Singapore, for example, in Indonesia and Malaysia, where we have larger, you know, customer base is that there's a lot on focus on individual, what we call staff performance.

So instead of productivity in the lens of dollar value, in terms of how much money I'm spending on a per hour basis or a per shift basis it's more about how can we have better reliability and performance of staff. So the reliability and performance of staff. Will be things like, you know, lateness, things like, you know, no show, last minute they didn't turn up for the shift or like, things like, you know, not being retained in the workforce and doing gig work, you know, at the site, you know, and stuff like that.

So, a lot of the focus over our neighboring countries is on individual staff performance and tracking that and for the businesses to empower carrot and stick kind of, incentivization as well as this incentivization for certain behaviors and being performed in the workplace.

(18:06) Jeremy Au:

I think it's interesting, right? Because, you know, it changes that dynamic where you know, you become an all in one, right, in that sense, because you're building out different modules or management and what's with value propositions that's there. From your perspective as well, you mentioned about Indonesia and Malaysia.

Also I think I'm sure that the industry mix is also different, right? I mean, I've lost FMB is the same in many places, but how do you see that mix differ from your perspective?

(18:28) Janson Seah:

For us one of our learnings that we had in the last few years of product building is that we initially wanted to build our product for every frontliner and every hourly worker. That is a little bit more of like first time founder agreed, right? We want to build a product that has extremely large TAM, when we look at the hourly workers estimates and businesses during hourly workers is huge. And then we try to serve all these industries at one go. And then what we quickly learn is that there are certain industries that have better product usage, product engagement, retention, NDR, and whatnot. And we learned that pretty much the hard way in the last two years, where we see that, hey the food and beverage market for a product like StaffAny has like, for example negative churn, you know, positive NDR.

Yet, if we look at the others while it is comparably good enough in terms of S& B tech churn it is still not as good as the F& B sector, for example, across our geography. So, we quickly focused and iterated on terms of, like, our product strategy. And then what we did was that we focus, hey, you know, if we GTM to a new market, a new, like, city, a new geography or whatsoever, let's start with where we know we are best in or strongest in.

Let's go in with the food and beverage first, and then we move to the other verticals. For us, we actually have a broad range of verticals that are using our product. We have people that are from, for example, Natureland, which is like, I think, one of the spa you know, massage chain in Singapore, of the largest, and I think they do really good.

Product and services over there. We have healthcare. So, for example, like Minmet. Minmet is one of the largest operators of you know, both during time of COVID, where they do the vaccination and tests and whatnot to today having a large chain of clinics as well as I'll say outbound health treatments and nursing treatments and whatnot.

We have also construction. We also have certain manufacturing, like, for example, a flower factory in Indonesia and stuff like that. So, actually, we have a pretty diverse pool of users at the end of the day. But we have to do things that again in our opinion it was a brave decision because you had to give up initial short term revenue to say no to certain industries or verticals so that we can focus a little bit deeper on the ideal customer profiles that we serve DLE first.

So what we Evolve in terms of our product direction is instead of let's go for multiple verticals. Let's focus on making a small group of vertical love you, like really deeply first. Before we open up to more verticals and to one by one make more of them like love you deeply rather than a broad vertical of everybody like, yeah, it's not a bad product.

(20:37) Janson Seah:

It's okay, you know that kind of stuff.

(20:38) Jeremy Au:

Yeah. How do you think about that? Because, you know, like you said, you know, every first time founder goes through, like the total addressable market size by McKinsey report is, you know, X billion dollars, right? So that's the total, right? How do you figure out like, you know, which customer segment is going to love you?

Is it more of an iterative process where you kind of like work through it? Or is it more of like, you know, you had to find out yourself?

(20:58) Janson Seah:

There's a mix of both desktop secondary research as well as iterating it and figuring it out yourself. There are certain things that you could do very quick estimates, like how many restaurant businesses are there in Singapore? How many restaurant businesses are there in Southeast Asia? I think one of the misnomers in that initial estimate is being too fixated about that super large temp on your first product iteration. Don't get me wrong. That should be in the vision of every company. That should be the vision of Staff at Any on how we can empower more small medium businesses across All the different industries eventually, you know, at year 7, year 8, you know, where we become a scale up, right, rather than a earlier stage startup. I think what I meant by being laser focused is more about the first few steps, the first two GTM, and then we learn and expand our reach and whatnot from there. Start with the end in mind. Before we scale down to what is that first step that we want to act upon on the technical roadmap. With regards to iteration, do we know that F& B was the sector that we wanted to go first?

Honestly, there was a bit of historical background of the founders feed, right? The founders had experience in this industry a little bit better. We had a few people we could interview, iterate with them a lot more. We could launch our product with certain MVPs and have access to these people first.

So we decided that, hey with the large enough market size for at least the first iteration to get us to the next stage of product building and product growth we should be able to, you know, get certain proof points by getting a dense market share of a certain vertical or industry. So for example, over here, Now serves about 5, 10 percent of the food and beverage market.

And this in our opinion is a proof point that, hey this works in one particular vertical. Can we then prove that we can bring it to multiple geographies of the same vertical? So that's the reason why the last six to nine months I've been spending a lot of time in Indonesia and my co founder Eugene in Malaysia to push this expansion strategy to have that proof point for the next stage of proof.

(22:39) Jeremy Au:

Awesome. Could you share about a person's time that you have been brief? Right.

(22:45) Janson Seah:

In a startup journey, there's a lot of times that we were brave and I think that one of the stories I mentioned to you was about deciding the ideal customer profiles and adjusting that product roadmap at an organizational level. But as founders we should be always making brave decisions even though it might be wrong.

The most important thing is adjusting and pivoting and iterating from it quicker than you know, letting it, like, hey insisting on these wrong decisions and whatnot. So, I think the most recent case for us that we were brave as an organization was that We invested a lot of time and effort on building stuff I need to be what we call self serve PLG freemium based kind of like GTM motion.

And we invested a lot of time and effort. I think a good, you know, six months of like deep work, large engineering resources, marketing resources, and whatnot. And while we launched it, and it is self serve today. It did not bring the results that we desire in terms of the uplift of customer acquisition as well as the reduction in CAD costs, right, customer acquisition costs.

So one of the brave things that we had to do was we had to evaluate deeply as, you know, leadership as well as our board members and our advisors. And we had to make a decision to say, hey do we want to double down on it? Do we have that? Courage to say that, hey Southeast Asia, let's continue this freemium workflow.

We think that B2B freemium PLG workflow works in Southeast Asia. Or are we brave enough to say that, hey maybe it may not. We have done our best, we have gave ourselves X milestones, X timeline, and Y resources and whatnot, right? We tried our best on it, and we're not able to crack it because of maybe the product is just not having the genetics of like a self serve product like Loom where, you know, there's a lot of in built virality effect and whatnot.

So we made a decision as an organization earlier this year for us to focus back on what have work to be more sales assisted and using this whole you know, product led thing as an assist rather than as a main motion. And we had to make that pivot earlier this year rather than you know, letting it continue for the rest of the time.

So, you know, we, it was a very difficult decision because you know, there is you know, we make the decision as founders, right? And then we have to tell our entire company, hey guys we messed up. We probably made a wrong decision, the data tells us this, we tried doing that, we iterated, we tried to fix it, it doesn't work.

And what did we learn, right? Was it too late? Maybe but it's better late than never. And was it brave? In our opinion we had to talk, not just towards ourself, but to answer to the rest of the company on certain decisions that we made.

(24:51) Jeremy Au:

Could you share a little bit more about that product market fit, you know, dynamic, right? Because like you said, you know, you had that point of view, strong point of view. You felt like it was right. You pushed on it and you must've cost you like six months. Right. At least for this kind of and then numbers come in.

So can you walk me through a little bit about what that's like? Yeah.

(25:11) Janson Seah:

So, we went in full of, like, confidence, right? Hey, North America, SaaS products, self serve. Lots of products, achieving that whole PLG motion out of COVID, Zoom and whatnot. And we were like, Hey let's do it. And what happened over here was we spent a lot of time iterating on that.

Workflow self serving ensuring that people could work on, use on stuff any, experience the product value without even speaking to anybody, alright? And that journey was pretty, it takes a lot of time, right? It takes a lot of time because it's not like you design and you build and then you let it go, right?

You know, you design, you build. And then you go back to, like, your data, you know, to check out, like, hey, based on the number of people that come into the funnel, where did they drop off? Did they hit certain activation points? Did they schedule a staff? Did they publish a shift? Did they clock in a staff?

Did they add, like, ten people? You know, and then we were always trying to iterate on that North Star, right? Like, what exactly is that tipping point where product value is created and people retain and stay. On that side of things, it is extremely time consuming and effort consuming. Because every product is also very different in terms of value creation drivers.

And we had to figure out which part of our product line we would like to push our you know, freemium users or PLG users to, to come aboard. So, so that process took us a lot of effort and time. Change this workflow, change that workflow. Mobile first, mobile push to web move to mobile.

When do we put a human to come in? How does the human intervention comes in? How does the email multi channel approach come into that whole journey? And what not. At the same time for any Product led company the top of the funnel is actually very important, you know, how can we ensure a large people signing up at the get go, right?

How many signups impressions organically through referrals, through other channels, other partners and whatnot, right? How can we improve that? You know, like we tried strategies like you know, growth hacks and whatnot, you know, sidecar products. You know, if you look at those HubSpot literature on like building community and product led growth and whatnot, we try a lot of that.

But we were not able to artificially push that what we call search intent and that in that product led intent, right? And hence, at the end of the day, when we look at the ROI when we are not able to increase volume. And we're not able to increase conversion, then you're not able to get the outcome that you projected or you anticipated at the start.

So it was a pretty mathematical like, thought exercise, right, on like, we should have this volume, we should have this conversion, and we should have this outcome. Both were very difficult to push up to a level that we were confident in gave ourselves time and then we were like, okay, we tried our best on this.

Is this, can we five exits? Can we ten exits? No, we can't. We can probably two exit over the next six months. Top of funnel. Can we two exit? Can we five exit? Can we ten exit? Let's try multiple things. No. Alright, I think it's not gonna work out, guys. That's move back to what worked out for the business in terms of unit economics that we have done in the past.

So right now our PLG motion is still there, but not our main investment. We are using it as a way to assist our sales motion. As a way to leverage the productivity as well as the effectiveness of our I'll say GTM team. It is a supplement not main push as a a direct GTM strategy at this point in time.

(27:53) Jeremy Au:

Awesome. Thank you so much for sharing. I'd love to summarize the three big takeaways I got from this conversation. First of all, thank you so much for sharing about the dynamics of the workforce management, especially for blue collar, as well as for FMB. I was amused by the concept of time theft, but I think it makes a lot of sense even though I still think it's a great novel or sci fi movie title.

But I think the fundamental structure is about what you said, right, which is about what's accountability, what's productivity, what are the incentives structure. And so time theft is just a symptom of how the overall structure is organized and what you're trying to organize there. Secondly, thank you so much for sharing about adding geographic expansion as well as customer segments across, you know, small enterprise, medium enterprise especially across, you know, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia.

That was a lot of dimensions about how you have to target and be thoughtful about, you know, the customer persona as well as, you know, what are the exact, you know, product design principles that you're going after, including not making sure you don't have a, you know, one gigabyte file download size. Lastly, thank you so much for being brave and sharing about how you were brave in terms of figuring out your go to market motion.

It's not easy to kind of have a thesis, and I think everybody has read the American Substacks about how Americancess really goes for, you know, product led growth and how it's amazing, and the truth is it doesn't work for, you know, many industries and many geographies, right? And so I thought it was amazing to hear about how you went about approaching it and solving for it and acknowledging that, you know, it was an experiment that didn't have the results that you wanted. And so you pivoted from there. So thank you so much Janson for sharing your point of view and story.

(29:22) Janson Seah:

Thank you, Jeremy. Really appreciate the time with you.

(29:23) Jeremy Au:

Okay. That's good.