How Aytekin Tank Built a Software Company with Over 2 Million Users & Achieved a Work-Life Balance That Enables Him to Work On His Business Instead of in it!

Is achieving and maintaining a healthy work-life balance a priority for you?

In this interview, Aytekin Tank CEO and Founder  of JotForm reveals how he got to the point where he could work on his business instead of in it, and how that has restored his work-life balance.

You will also learn how he built his software platform to over 2 million users, how he was able to systematize and delegate customer support, what he did to solve communication challenges between different departments, and more!

Aytekin Tank CEO and Founder of JotForm

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In this Episode You will Discover:

  • Why Aytekin initially spent his whole day doing customer support, unable to work on his business.
  • How Aytekin came to recognize that he needed to hire people and delegate tasks to them.
  • How Aytekin created a process for hiring employees and putting them through a trial period.
  • How Aytekin built a support team and documented processes for them.
  • Why Aytekin started having issues with his engineering team when it grew to be over 10 people, and how he solved that problem.
  • Why Aytekin’s biggest challenge was finding good people.
  • How Aytekin solved internal communication issues that existed between different departments.
  • Why Aytekin believes that once you start systematizing, there’s no going back.

Episode Transcript:

OWEN: My guest today is Aytekin Tank and he’s the CEO and founder of JotForm. Aytekin, welcome to the show.

AYTEKIN: It’s great to be on your show.

OWEN: Awesome. So the whole purpose of this show is to get entrepreneurs like you who have been able to successfully, in your case, systematize your entire business and now it runs successfully without you. So I want to learn how you’ve been able to do that. Starting out the gate so that our listeners are excited to listen to the interview all the way to the end, what will you say are some mind-blowing results that you now experience as a result of going through that process of systematizing and automating your business?

AYTEKIN: So let’s be honest. We entrepreneurs we are colleagues. We love spending time with our business. We spend days, and nights, and weekends in our business, but this is not healthy, this is not sustainable. This is fun and good when you’re just starting out but you can’t go on like that forever. It’s not healthy for you and it’s not health for your business. So to answer your question the most mind blowing result of systemizing my business was that I was able to work on my business as oppose to working in my business. To give you some examples instead of spending my time putting out fires, dealing with customers and all the busy work I was able to actually improve my product, my service, and my company in general. Another result of systemizing my business was that I was able to better work-life balance.

OWEN: How so?

AYTEKIN: A couple of years ago my wife and I actually travelled Europe. We actually took a road trip through Europe for 3 months. I don’t have to work. I just checked on the work once a day but I spent great time with my wife. And recently I have a baby boy. He’s 9 months old and I was able to spend 1 month vacation with him. That was the best time of my life.

OWEN: That is awesome. How would you say your company itself has been transformed as a result of systematizing your business?

AYTEKIN: I’ll say the great thing about systemizing your business is that you delegate to your employees and you empower your employees. You stop micromanaging them. This results in… You can do things yourself, you can do everything yourself but you’re going too to do a half ass job at it. But if you actually delegate the work to your employees. And if you create the processes and if you give them freedom to get the job done you will find that they’re going to actually do the job much better than you would ever do. So systemizing your business has just transformed my company. It resulted in happier employees, happier customers, and a healthier company.

OWEN: That is awesome. Since we already know that now you travel a lot, so we kind of understand systemizing your business help you get a better work-life balance, but I want to give the listeners some context as to what exactly your company is all about. What does your company do and what big pain do you solve for your customers?

AYTEKIN: Our product is called JotForm. It’s an online form builder and we have 2 million users. It’s a free tool. You can create any kind of forms for your website or just for your customers or for your organization. You can create a contact form and you can put it up on your website. You can create a survey for your customers and you can email it to your customers. You can create event registrations, order forms if you want to get paid, or even donation forms if you have an organization, all kinds of things like employer review forms, or questionnaires for your employees or for your customers. Forms are actually really helpful when you need to systemize your business. We use forms to systemize our business in a way that helps us track things. For example, our marketing team, they’re trying to get the name of JotForm, get dimension of JotForm in different publications. So when they get a hit we have a form and they can’t fill it up, and they mention how they did it. And this actually have the whole marketing team know that the secret behind getting a mention or getting JotForm pictured on a publication.

OWEN: Awesome. And so just so that we can understand, first of all how many full-time employees do you have in the company?

AYTEKIN: We have 50 full-time employees. Half of that are engineering tea is located in Turkey. And we have marketing team members in San Francisco, mostly marketing. But the rest is removed and our remote employees mainly do support and maintenance for our customers.

OWEN: Is the company profitable. Do you feel like sharing what was last year’s revenue and what do you expect to do this year, and whether you’re comfortable sharing it?

AYTEKIN: Our company is bootstrapped and profitable. I don’t actually share the current numbers but what I just say is we’re a multi-million dollar business and our revenues grow 30% a year.

OWEN: That’s awesome. The other thing is we’ve talked about what you’re currently experiencing and enjoying now because you’re systematizing the business but I’m sure it wasn’t always like this. So take us back to when the business was not systematized and automated like it is now. What was wrong with it?

AYTEKIN: Oh yeah, it was terrible.

OWEN: How so?

AYTEKIN: I spend the whole day. In the morning I come to the office and spent whole day doing customer support and helping customers, and just not able to work on my business. I would spend weekends because we have a sort of problem, because one of the database service, or something like that. I would be really spending my whole time in treadmill. I will be, all the busy work and that was just a terrible time.

OWEN: And you mentioned that you’re spending time doing the support because you had quite a lot of customers and when there’s maybe something wrong with the service you’re fixing those. But then that was taking away from improving your products and hiring people. Talk about that.

AYTEKIN: Yeah. Because I was spending all my time dealing with all these issues, all these busy work it was just really hard for me to focus on improving my product, my service, and my company as a whole. But this is negative feedback loop. If you can’t improve your product you get more customer support problems, you get more server problems, it’s a continuous account and it keeps on going. But once I hired good people for operations I was able to actually let them handle those things and I was able to spend my time improving our product.

OWEN: And before we even talk about what you did, the first series of steps you did in terms of hiring some probably for support and some for product. I always try to get the guest to go back to a specific breaking point where something happened and you’re like, “Enough is enough. I have to systematized and automate this business. I cannot do it anymore.” What happened?

AYTEKIN: That breaking point… I’m an engineer. I study computer science in school. I love working on products. I love creating products. I love improving our products. The breaking point I was spending my whole day actually putting out fires or dealing with customers. So that was for me the breaking point that I recognize that I had to do something about this and I had to appoint good people and delegate them so that I can actually go back to do what I do best which is working out the product.

OWEN: What stood out to me during the pre-interview and just see what you say was knowing what you love being the fact that you started computer science in school, so you were an engineer by trade and you love to create the product, but they don’t realize that that’s not what you do every day in your business, the business that you created to support your livelihood and to build it to something big. Now you’re not doing what you love about it. So to the listener listening, you can literally say when your business is taking you away from doing something that you love about your business, that literally is a sign that it’s the breaking point where you should say, “Hey, you should change.” Let’s talk about the very first step you took to systematize your business. What was it?

AYTEKIN: The first thing I did was I hired remote support team members on oDesk.

OWEN: Why did you go to the remote route instead of in-office, I’m just curious.

AYTEKIN: That’s a great question. I guess I had to do it remotely because at the beginning I couldn’t find good support people. I wasn’t able to just find the right people. And the oDesk ecosystem actually has all these people who are really experienced in support.

OWEN: And they also have rate, feedback, and stuff too, right?

AYTEKIN: Five years of technical support… They might be from the Philippines or El Salvador but they worked on other companies’ technical support and they have all the technical skills and they all say the support [Unintelligible 00:11:42] so I was able to find the right people remotely.

OWEN: One thing I also just realized by you saying that they already have some kind of social proofing in terms of their work because they have ratings and feedback left by other people who use them on that same service.

AYTEKIN: Yeah. When you hire remote support people what we do is we will just give them a trial. “Answer 5 support questions.” And then they’ll go and answer them. And we have a support forum where they can actually find questions and just ask for them. And then after that we give them like a one month trial. You can actually do it. You can actually hire 10 people because you have nothing to lose. You still pay them but you don’t have to hire a full-timer person and do all those stuff you have to do for full-time people. But with the remote people you can actually give them a trial and you can pick from the best. It’s really worthwhile if you have a technical kind of… But it will also work… Whatever kind of online business you have, it’s just works well.

OWEN: It’s kind of like the movie business where all the stars they have to audition for the role. So that’s what you were doing, you’re having them audition for the role that you want to have them take over long term. And so I think during the pre-interview you mentioned that you started by hiring support people but you also did something which was documenting how to do things. Talk about that.

AYTEKIN: You hire the person but how do you trust transfer the knowledge? What’s the great thing about hiring a remote person, you cannot actually spend time face to face, you have to actually document things, which is actually great because…

OWEN: [Unintelligible 00:13:46]

AYTEKIN: You can share the same document with the other person and the other person. You have to document all the cases that might come up. We use Google Docs mainly. We also ask them to look at the previous answers we provide to customers. So that’s also another way to find how they do support. The documentation step is really important.

OWEN: What will you say was the second step you now took to systematize the business? During the pre-interview you mentioned something about building your teams. Let’s elaborate on that.

AYTEKIN: When you are hiring the first person it’s okay to do things yourself, training the person, help them. But just one person doesn’t scale well because they will go to vacation or they will just find a different position in a different company, or…

OWEN: You’re back to square one, yeah.

AYTEKIN: Yeah. So what we did was we built the support team and we also did a similar thing with the maintenance team which actually deals with more higher level, and more technical problems. The support team now has a manager. She’s also a remote employee. The team actually can work together. They have a mailing list. They just send each other email. They can actually talk to each other on slack, on chat. and they created the documentation. They actually create our user guide. They update it all the time. The support team have each other and they document processes. When we hire a new person everything is ready. We have a checklist of things that needs to be done when we hire the person and the documents that needs to be shared, and the instructions, everything is ready, and it’s always improving. I don’t have to go tell them all the time, they can actually adapt because they are a team. They talk to each other, and they are empowered to do the best for our customers.

OWEN: What I got from that is you started with one of the things that was the biggest bottleneck of your time, you love creating products but support was taking a lot of your time. So you start by figuring that out. So I guess you got a single support person initially that was working remotely, and then because the main foundation was remote you had no choice but document how they would do the work, right? So you started documenting procedures and processes for what they do. Eventually you move to the next stage where you build a team of support staff and then you moved out of the role of being a manager and got somebody else managing that support team, and that person is responsible for continuously improving the procedures and documentation of how is it that you do support. And they also took over because you guys are a software, the support team is responsible for improving your knowledge base articles that your customers list, check out on how to use the software, right?

AYTEKIN: Yes, correct. And one other thing I forgot to mention is you need to provide feedback constantly to your support team because even when you’re not active in managing the team, I try to continuously check and provide feedback to the team so that they can actually see their mistakes from an outside eye.

OWEN: I like that. And that’s really the whole thing of delegation is even when you delegate something you’re still staying in the formation, so that’s an opportunity for them to give you feedback and this is back in for the [Unintelligible 00:18:01] probably as they’re doing the work or seen things that could be done even way better than you suggested and with that feedback they can improve it. I love that. And so going back to the stage in the story where we were previously, doing the support team, the next thing you did, during the pre-interview you mentioned something about having a problem with the engineering team. Talk about that.

AYTEKIN: Systemizing your business is never like a single step. You systemize a part of your business and then you move on to the next step. And the great thing is as you continue, as you systemize your business you have more time in your hands so that you can actually focus on spending more time on a part of your business and then improve that. This is just great.

OWEN: The next bottle neck, right?

AYTEKIN: Yeah. When we started growing our engineering team. The engineering team were over 10 people, we started to have problems especially communication because it’s hard to communicate well. It’s also difficult to do wide tests. It’s very hard to stay focused. So you hit the course. What we found was when we divide engineering into multiple teams…

OWEN: So you divided the engineering into several teams, okay.

AYTEKIN: Several teams, we gave them kind of their mission. We now have five different engineering teams.

OWEN: Can you name the teams so that the listener knows the specifics?

AYTEKIN: Yeah, sure. For example the growth team, their main goal is to grow greater number of active users for JotForm. The [Unintelligible 00:20:01] team, their goal is to just keep JotForms stable and keep our up time high. We have other teams…

OWEN: So the platform team, is that one of…

AYTEKIN: Yeah. And the platform team creates partnerships and integrations with other services.

OWEN: Okay.

AYTEKIN: So since they have their own goals they can actually self-manage and they can actually continuously improve our product without me going there and just asking them to do something. What we do is we will just meet once a week and they will just… It’s more far for them as well because they are not getting micro managed. They can actually decide what to work on and how to work on it, and how to get the job done.

OWEN: I think you also mentioned something about how you guys also track, something during the pre-interview about tracking 20 or 30 different pages or functions on your website, what was that?

AYTEKIN: For example, I think the most important thing to work is find good metrics and track down. So find the numbers and track down. For example, just to make sure our site is re-assessed all the time what we do is track 20 or 30 different pages or functions in our website. We get an email every day. That email is actually comparing the speed of a particular page or a function, and it’s comparing it to like yesterday, last week, and the last month. So if something slows down we can actually see it right there on the email and we can actually doing something about that.

OWEN: That’s kind of like, yes, you build this kind of some way where you’re delegating work to somebody else to do, but also building a measure to kind of trust but verify kind of thing.

AYTEKIN: Yeah. Once you track it actually gets better. So if you worry about something in your business or if you want to improve something in your business just find a way to track that with a number and just try to track it every day. If you know the number, if you check the number every day, when it goes better you will actually see it and when it gets worse you can also see that as well and you can do something about that.

OWEN: Going back to the story, you did several steps to kind of systematize the business. You started with support then you moved to engineering, build several teams in engineering and you created kind of like metrics to track what each engineering department is handling and stuff like that. But then I’m wondering how can you even prioritize the order of steps to take. How did you decide the systems, which ones to create first and which ones to create next? Was that some kind of reasoning to the decision?

AYTEKIN: You have to look at the data task you do all the time, like are you doing something all the time again and again. You try to find repetition in your day. If you’re doing something all the time and if you’re not doing it differently, if you are just repeating the task it’s time to just move it away from your best to summarize. There are two ways you can actually move it. You can actually delegate it to someone else in your company, or you can just hire someone and get that person to do it. You can outsource it, or you can automate it with software. How do you find the repetitive task and how do you delegate it to someone else? I think you first have to do it yourself. Of course, if you’re doing it repeatedly you are doing it yourself. But if you do something yourself you know what steps require to get the job done. Now you can actually document that and you can actually give it to someone else. What I do when I give a task to someone else is basically what I call co-piloting. Instead of doing something like showing it to the other person, I’ll just give the other person the document then list all the steps that needs to be taken to get the job done. And I’ll make the person do the task. When you do something actually you can learn it much better than…

OWEN: You learn by doing.

AYTEKIN: Sometimes just workarounds are better approaches. I’ll just do the better approach. When you co-pilot with them you can actually see them making that mistake and you can actually correct them. You can give them feedback. After that, once you give it to other person you can just review it from time to time. You can give them feedback. But once delegated it’s now their own thing and they have the freedom to actually improve the processes as well. But co-piloting works really well.

OWEN: I like that whole strategy of co-piloting, and I’m wondering when you were doing this whole of co-pilot and document procedures and processes I’m wondering how exactly do you document this procedures and processes for your business, what tools do you use? I think earlier you said you use JotForm, but were there other tools you use as well?

AYTEKIN: We mainly use Google Docs, Google Drive. We might just create a Google Docs document, or we might create a spreadsheet. We have a shared folder and just adding that shared folder will actually share with all the people in our company. I also ask, when they create a document just create it on their shared folder. This way we have everything available to everyone in our Google Docs. we also use JotForms. Just as I described it before we will just create a form with check boxes and all the required fields. And then you ask the person when they complete the task they will just fill the form, check the check boxes. But they send it, in JotForm you can actually send an email to multiple people. You can make your own emails and send it to anyone you want. You can complete the task, complete the form, and the email will actually go to the next person or go to your manager who can review the work.

OWEN: Back then at a time when you were working on creating systems and processes for your business, trying to systematize the business I’m wondering what books or even mentors had the most influence on you and why?

AYTEKIN: My favorite book is called The Goal by Eliyahu Goldratt. Have you read it?

OWEN: I’ve read it. Go ahead, tell the story.

AYTEKIN: It’s actually a business novel, and the book is about something called carry of constraints. Basically the area of constraints is finding bottlenecks and constraints in your process and fixing those constraints. Once you find a bottleneck you can actually improve throughput in your system. You will continue to find other bottlenecks, but usually the first bottleneck is like this. You’ll get like an 8 or 7 increase in your first bottleneck. And you can find more bottlenecks but it gets smaller with time, but it’s a great book. I think everyone should read it. The second book I love is called Ready, Fire, Aim by Michael Masterson. This book is about sometimes you spent planning for months [Unintelligible 00:29:06], but this book is more about how you just try different things. Instead ready, aim, fire, you actually ready, fire, and you don’t hit the right target but you can actually fire again, fire again…

OWEN: And it’s funny how the title just literally gets the concept out there. When I heard the title I’m like I kind of get what the book is about but when I read it it was really good. I love that book to. But sometimes procrastination  can get in our way and we want to make it perfect and that book is saying, “No, just shoot and recalibrate.”

AYTEKIN: The author actually is a very experienced entrepreneur. He has created many hundred million dollar businesses. The third book that really changed my life is the Getting Things Done by David Allen. Anybody who’s listening to this podcast probably already heard of it so I’m not going to…

OWEN: The GTD guy.

AYTEKIN: Yeah.

OWEN: We’ve talked about earlier the results you’re experiencing now as a result of systematizing and automating your business and then we even talked about what you did to kind of make that happen. But if just leave the story there the story’s not complete because obviously there were challenges right? What was the biggest challenge that you experience when you initially tried to systematize your business and how did you solve it?

AYTEKIN: Yeah. People. The biggest challenge is to find good people and it’s really hard to find good people. I think to find good people in an area you actually need to perform the job yourself. Because once you perform the job yourself you actually know what’s required for the job. What kind of personality might work based on that kind of job, and what you need from that person to be like. But still it’s just really hard to find and hire the people and keep them. And you learn it by experience.

OWEN: So was the way you solve the problem was by the role you’re trying to hire, doing it yourself so you know the expectation of what the right person would have to fit in for them to do it. Was that kind of how you solved that problem?

AYTEKIN: Hiring is really risky because when you hire bad match for the position it’s going to be really hard. It’s really hard to fix bad hires. The way you make a good hire is to just be patient and not hire the first person that impresses you. Try to interview as many people as possible, and do a trial. Find a way to do a trial. We can give them a task to do. If it’s an engineering task you can ask them to do an engineering task. Like you can ask them to write a code. If it’s a support job you can actually ask them to answer support queries. And when you see them making sparing mistakes then you know that person might be good to hire because in support you have to really be careful, you have to [Unintelligible 00:33:15] the answer you give to the customer. It’s really something you learn by doing.

OWEN: I get how as the owner of the business you tend to do a lot of the work yourself initially. So really, first of all being able to do the work yourself so you know how the work gets done. And then you were able to hire based on the right fit to do that work that we would take it over from you and then testing them to make sure that they can actually do it before they join full-time or whatever. But what are some instances where the work itself, you have no idea how they’re going to do it. How do you solve that problem in that situation? And if you don’t have an answer for that it’s okay. I’m just posing that out.

AYTEKIN: That’s a great question. I think if you haven’t done the job it’s not a good idea to… You should try to do the job yourself first. The other way you can find a good candidate is you can look at their history. See is they have done a similar job and if they have performed it well.

OWEN: Basically in that case we need to find a way in which to gauge their skill set even though if you don’t know exactly how they would do the work. I get that. What was the second biggest challenge that you experienced when you initially tried to systematize your business? Just to remind you what we talked about during the pre-interview something about keeping your teams moving without communication. Elaborate on that.

AYTEKIN: The second challenge is when you build your team it’s just really hard to get them to communicate well and focus on the right problems, and just go as fast possible. Those things, they’re not hard to get it right the first try. When our engineering team hit the 10 people ceiling, we started having problems with losing the focus and keeping everyone going in the same direction and to widen the work so that everyone can contribute well. The way we solve this challenge was to divide our team into multiple teams. Currently what we have is 4-5 cross functional teams. When I say cross functional I mean…

OWEN: Also the different departments, right?

AYTEKIN: Yeah, different departments. A team includes a designer from that developer a business person, a [Unintelligible 00:36:17] developer. So the team can actually have all the ingredients and they can actually accomplish this job themselves without actually needing outside help, and they can actually go much faster.

OWEN: Let me dive into this a little bit more. The problem that because of the different teams you had communication between the teams was not flowing through completely. So there were silos of information. You decided that to break those silos was to put people from the different teams, blend them together so there are different members of the different teams together so that that information flows.

AYTEKIN: Yes, correct. Now we have five different engineering teams and they all have different ingredients and they can get the job done without… We don’t have to get the whole team together. We don’t have to meet them. They’re sitting in the same office. The door is closed and they can talk all day long. They can solve problems quickly. They can actually just get together in front of a white board and just discuss an issue, solve it quickly, and then move on. Like when you have 10 people, 15 people, 20 people, when you need to get everyone together and meet them it just becomes impossible. You’re spending so much time in meetings, decisions become hard, people have to wait a week for a decision. You can manage yourself, you can do things, yourself, and you empower them, you give them the tools they need and they can just close the door and get the job done.

OWEN: I like that. Given all these challenges that you mentioned so far I’m wondering why back then did you stay committed to the goal of systematizing your business?

AYTEKIN: It’s a one way street.

OWEN: How so?

AYTEKIN: Systemizing your business? I don’t think it can go away? The productivity increases… When you’re doing things yourself you feel like “I’m doing things really well.” But when you delegate it to other people you’ll see that they can actually do it much better. Because they have the time to actually do it right as oppose to as a business owner you’re doing everything yourself. Once you start systemizing there’s no going back.

OWEN: I want to bring the story much more closer to the present day. At what point in time did you feel like your entire business was systematized and it could actually run without you? Do you remember the specific instance?

AYTEKIN: I would say the time when my wife and I took the road trip in Europe for 3 months. That was the time that I knew that my business runs without me. I can take vacations without worrying about what will happen. That’s the time when I recognized that my business can run without me successfully.

OWEN: I want to get to the state of mind where before that point you have not even taken that long a trip. And then now you’re about to take the trip. Was the intention at that point at that time to take that long of a trip. I want to figure out the state of mind of what you were thinking of when you decided to take that trip. What was it like?

AYTEKIN: When I was able to spend my time improving my business I knew that I actually had time in my hands to read a book, or take a vacation. Not worry about if things will fall apart in my business.

OWEN: Okay, so you were kind of saying like little benefits of the small system improvements you’re making, and then… It wasn’t like you just jumped and go ahead, take 3 months, but you were actually…

AYTEKIN: Yeah.

OWEN: Because I’ll be scared if I just decided to just take 3 months given the story on how you’re telling it, if I just take 3 months and not really seen anything up to that point yet to justify it?

AYTEKIN: Yeah, when I start spending time with… They even put in our files with our servers, with our support, with our customers then I was able to have time in my hands and I was able to actually know that I’m working on my business. I’m not just spending all my day with busy work, then I knew that I can actually take that time off. And that was one of my dreams and I was able to do it.

OWEN: That’s awesome. Now that we’re talking more about currently how the business works today, how the business is, what I want you to do is kind of tell us the different parts of your business and the specific systems you have in each part. To use kind of an analogy to make it more concrete to you to answer the question for the listener. Think of the business like a conveyor belt. On one end is somebody who’s probably looking for some online form to do some specific task in their business. And on the other part is this person is now your customer. He loves you guys. He’s raving about your guys, telling everybody about you. What’s happening to drive that transformation of that customer within your business?

AYTEKIN: As I mentioned, the teams, they widen the company into multiple teams, and giving them the freedom to actually get the job done. It actually resulted in our business working like a conveyor belt as well. If you think of our business is a conveyor belt our marketing comes first because they’re actually trying to get eyeballs for JotForm. They are also creating landing pages or all the marketing materials so that maybe it just arrived a JotForm they can actually become more active and more permanent users. So the marketing is the first step. The second step is the engineering because we have to have a good product. You can have the best marketing team in the world but if your product sucks it’s not going to help you much. You lose them everywhere if you think your business like a… Anyway, engineering makes sure our product is well and they’re actually tracking metrics, they’re tracking the numbers, and make sure that we don’t lose any customers. The third step is our support, because even if your product is well, people will have problems, people will have confusion. And if you don’t have a good support team you will lose all those people when they hit the first problem. All those steps, if you get them right we get happy customers.

OWEN: I think you also mentioned during the pre-interview a fourth team which is the maintenance team. What is that?

AYTEKIN: The maintenance team is basically a team that’s dealing with small bugs and small future request in our product. One problem we had with our engineering team was that once we have so many users the engineering team was spending so much time doing small, minor edits in our product, minor bug fixes, minor features. And this actually, the switch between doing minor fixes on our product and trying to build the next big feature for our product was actually slowing them down. So what we did was I actually hired a remote maintenance team and these engineers actually work on improving our products continuously with small fixes, while the engineering team can work on major features like [Unintelligible 00:45:54] our product.

OWEN: I get it now. What systems would you say you have in place today that enable your employees to know what they need to do?

AYTEKIN: I don’t like micro managing our teams. Instead what we do is we meet once a week. With the marketing team, if I’m in San Francisco we’re going to meet together. If I’m somewhere else We’ll just meet over Skype. We’ll just meet once a day and discuss the issues. With the engineering teams what we do is we meet Friday afternoon and we call this demo days. Basically they show the whole company what they’ve accomplished that week. And we also watch some usable [Unintelligible 00:46:50] from our customers. So we watch our customers using our product and then we see if… We can actually see the new changes the engineering team has made while our customers are using those neat features. And we can see them and we can see if there are any problems with it. We spend the whole afternoon, Friday afternoon watching our customers and getting our team showing us what they have accomplished during that week.

OWEN: I think you mentioned something about the weekly marketing team meetings as well.

AYTEKIN: The weekly meetings, the design team meets together and they just make sure, because we have a designer in each engineering team they meet together and they make sure that they have consistency between different parts of the site. I also meet with the marketing team every week. So each team also meets together every week but the demo days is the time when we all meet together. The other thing we use to make sure that our systems are working well is the numbers we track. We actually send lots of daily emails that actually shows us the different numbers in our system. We can see if something happened in our site or with our customers yesterday so that the numbers change we can actually spot problems. Each team actually has their own daily emails to track.

OWEN: So each team has their own specific metrics that you guys are tracking for that specific…

AYTEKIN: That’s right.

OWEN: Good, I like that. Now that you have more free time which areas of your business do you currently focus on now and why?

AYTEKIN: On my free time I’m currently focusing on, we’re actually rebuilding our form builder. The core of our product is actually the place value create forms. So we are actually rebuilding it by pieces. So one of the teams take one piece of our product and then we redesign it, we work on it, and we release it to 50% of our users. And then we see how the numbers change if the numbers increase. My current goal is improving our form builders. And there’s a large project currently and it’s going to take us probably 6 months to 1 year. But at the end of this time we will have a completely brand new form builder, but we will not do this by just creating a new version and giving it to our users. We will just do it by… part by part.

OWEN: Smart move. What will you say is the next stage of growth for your business and what do you plan to achieve next, and why?

AYTEKIN: The great news is we are about to reach 2 million users. For me the most important thing is to get the number of users and get our user numbers increased and getting our users more active with our product. I focus on making sure that our user growth and the way our users use our product gets better with time.

OWEN: Is it about 2 million users now? That’s a lot of…

AYTEKIN: Yeah.

OWEN: Congratulations.

AYTEKIN: We’re over 1.9 million users and we are about to reach 2 million users.

OWEN: That is great stuff. As we come to the end of the interview I’m wondering, the person who’s listening to this interview obviously is dead set on making sure that they can systematize their business so it runs without them. What will you say is the very next step given what they’ve learned so far that that listener should take to just get started, inching towards that goal of the business running without them?

AYTEKIN: I will say you should first start by tracking by finding the important metrics in your product or service and tracking them. And tracking them in small periods of time as possible. So you want to track them by day every day if possible, if it’s not possible by week or month. Because when you track something you improve it. When you don’t rank it you might forget about it. When you look it up a year from now you will see that maybe you didn’t improve it. And the second thing I would say is to automate as much as possible. Doing things manually is a waste of time in this day and age so find things you repeat all the time and…

OWEN: So it’s possible to just automate it?

AYTEKIN: Yeah. If something is taking too much time and if you cannot delegate it… Another option is to just outsource it. Because sometimes, let’s say you want to create an animation video for your website, you can try to get it done in-house but…

OWEN: It’s not your core focus.

AYTEKIN: Yeah, skill. So it’s better to get someone who is a professional to handle it for you.

OWEN: I like that. Last question for you. I’m wondering, is there a question that you’re wishing I would’ve asked you during this interview that I didn’t ask? If yes post the question and the answer.

AYTEKIN: What would the future of systemizing would look like?

OWEN: What is the future of systemizing your business look like?

AYTEKIN: Yeah. I would say I think the machine learning is the future of systemizing business.

OWEN: How so?

AYTEKIN: I can give you one example from our end. We have a problem with phishing right? JotForm is very worst start so it can create any kind of forms, but some bad people actually come to JotForm and create these phishing forms to collect passwords…

OWEN: To get people’s information…

AYTEKIN: Yeah. How do we catch these people and how do we suspend them? We were doing this by hand. At the beginning I was doing it manually, so much time on it. So the next step was to give the stuff to someone. So I delegated it. I actually hired people on oDesk and just get them to redo some part of the forms. But that was also slow and difficult. So what we did was we used machine learning to actually train models so that when the models sees the phishing form it can actually suspend it automatically, and it’s working really well. It can actually detect and suspend phishing forms quite well. And what we do is we actually train it continuously so we will still review forms and we will say, “Hey, this is a phishing form and this is not a phishing form.” And this knowledge, this training actually are used by machine learning and it can actually review all of the forms, create a new JotForm, and it can actually find phishing forms and suspend them without a human manually saying this is a phishing form.

OWEN: And just for my non-technical listeners, let me see if I understand what you’re saying. You’re saying that the next stage of systemization is where you now get to use a machine which is a computer code to actually do the thinking, just like how you create a framework for human beings to think. But then because human beings have to do it, even though you squeeze for processes and systems for the human beings to do, human beings might not get as much output. The next stage is getting the computer to now start doing the thinking for you.

AYTEKIN: Yes. exactly.

OWEN: I love that. That’s something I personally would have to think about and see if we can even put it in SweetProcess. That’s awesome. I love that. Now I’m speaking to you the listener. Before I even do that I’ve got to ask you, what is the best way for the listener to connect with you and thank you for doing the interview?

AYTEKIN: Feel free to email me. My email is aytekin@jotform.com.

OWEN: Awesome. Now I’m speaking to you who has been listening to the interview all the way to this point. If you’ve enjoyed this interview what I want you to do is leave us a feedback or your honest review on iTunes. To do that, here’s a quick way to get to the iTunes link. Go to SweetProcess.com/iTunes and leave your honest review on there. If you are at that stage in your business where you are tired of being the bottleneck and having your employees ask you the same questions over and over again, and you want to get everything out of your head so that you know exactly what you know, then sign up for a free 14-day trial of SweetProcess. Aytekin, thanks for doing the interview.

AYTEKIN: Thank you Owen.

OWEN: And we’re done.

Noteworthy items Mentioned in this Episode:

  1. The Goal: A Process for Ongoing Improvement by Eliyahu M. Goldratt
  2. Ready, Fire, Aim: Zero to $100 Million in No Time Flat by Michael Masterson
  3. Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen

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Here are 3 Steps to Take After Listening to the Interview:

  1. Find and track the most important metrics connected to your product or service.
  2. Automate as much as you can.
  3. Delegate or outsource what you can’t automate.

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