Startup Stories: Workboard App

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Workboard is an app that helps front line managers to achieve goals faster, meaning both manager and team members are free to do the work that really matters to get the recognition they deserve. With this in mind, we spoke to Workboard CEO Deidre Paknad to find out more.

“Workboard helps front line managers set and achieve their goals” Deidre explained, “to highlight why this is so important, there are over 3 billion workers and 76% of people say they use a To Do list but just 7% of people understand their organization's goals and what they need to do to achieve them!” When you take these figures into consideration, you can understand the difficulties managers face in order to get the right work done.

Deidre also described one of the key contributors to this state of affairs, “A big part of the problem lies with the lack of capacity, tools and training front line managers have; most have a full roster of work of their own in addition to the job of aligning the team on goal achievement.” Understandably, we can see that for many managers their workload could be increased exponentially, simply by the nature of managing others. With this, Deidre clarified that “Workboard is like manager best practices and processes in a simple Web and mobile app.” Considering the strain of aligning a team on top of a unique workload, Workboard sounds like the ideal management companion.

The Biggest Challenges for Workboard?

Founded in early 2013, the business was funded later the same year and launched in July 2014. However, early seed investors began work at the start of 2013, almost immediately after the idea was conceived.

We asked Deidre about the biggest challenges faced since starting Workboard. “I think most entrepreneurs would say the year one challenges are unique: figuring out what you won’t build or do, learning to ignore people who don’t see the vision, and learning how to communicate the vision and idea in simple ways when there is no evidence or proof for others to compare it to.”

Luckily for Workboard, this isn’t the first company that Deidre has started, meaning Deidre was able to avoid some of the typical difficulties as a result of previous experiences. However, as Deidre stated, “it takes thick skin and determination to move these [challenges] and stay focused on your mission.

Having already asked about the origin of this business, we wanted to find out where the idea for Workboard came from. “We had the idea while I was an executive running a large global business at IBM after they acquired my last company”. Clearly the inception of Workboard came from a genuine personal need, “aligning the team and working on aggressive growth goals and getting progress transparency across distance and time zones in a noisy, complex, matrixed organization was very challenging.”

“While alignment is always a manager and a leader’s job, it’s far harder and much different in large enterprise than in smaller companies and startups.” Deidre explained that a great amount of her own time was taken up with this task, time which could have been spent with customers, or training team members. “I couldn’t find the tools that aligned work to goals and provided execution transparency but heard the same challenge echoed by managers and leaders everywhere, so we started Workboard.”

Learning From Mistakes

With such a clear need for the product and with previous experience starting a company, we asked Deidre if there had been any mistakes which could be learned from. “They could fill a book” Deidre replied. “The real lesson is this: make the mistake, extract its benefit and move on. I think a lot of times the real mistake is wasting time gnashing over the mistake rather than getting smarter and going forward.”

With this in mind, we wanted to find out if anything would be done differently if Deidre could go back in time. “I’m pretty comfortable with our choices over the last year, but there are several things I wish we’d done much faster including finding the optimal marketing and releasing our android app.”

Having mentioned the fact that not everyone always shares the same vision and enthusiasm, we asked Deidre whether she follows her instincts or the advice of others. “I’m fortunate that this isn’t my first rodeo and that I’ve worked with my current investors and board before. The first time around, it’s hard to know what you know so you end up buffeted around a bit more by advice – particularly vehement advice! This time around I am also more inclined to use instincts as triggers and facts to check the instincts a well as calibrate what advice I get.”

Love Your Industry

We asked Deidre to describe the best thing about working within this industry. Deidre’s explanation was clear, “The best thing for me is the customers – that’s always my center of gravity. Working with them, hearing what’s hard and what could be better in their work lives and getting their input on what we can do better for them is what I’d prefer to do all day long.” Clearly for Deidre, customer feedback is invaluable, “When I am having a bad day, there really is no better thing to do than talk to customers. They will tell you what you have right and what they value and they’ll tell you what deserves your focus.” With an outlook like this, it’s no surprise that Workboard is constantly changing and improving.

Finally, we wanted to hear from Deidre what the future holds for Workboard. “We’d settle for half a billion happy people more easily doing work they care about.” Not only this, but Deidre wants to see people doing the work which really matters to their organizations and on top, getting faster feedback and ultimately the recognition they truly deserve. With such an ambitious, yet admirable vision for the future, we wish Workboard the best of luck and thank them for bringing a product which could save so much of our precious time.

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