Startups are like jigsaw puzzles: they can be deliciously challenging and full of surprises. With both, the joy lies with the journey, not the...
Jodie's Jigsaw - The Frame
The frame can be the most tedious part of puzzles, but it's always the place to start, setting up the puzzle for a beautiful picture to emerge within.
Building a business starts somewhere.
While you might look at Xakia today with our market leading matter management software and think that it just appeared (haha) or was built over a weekend (bahahaha), it did begin with just a few modest steps.
I’m not talking about the idea or the prototype. Once I had decided to take the plunge, and build a business, there were several ‘starter steps’ that were essential to lay the foundations for a global, scalable business.
Those first few steps are both scary and exciting, but incredibly important for the type of company to be built, and ultimately the success of the (in our case) legal matter management software to be sold to our customers.
When I do a jigsaw puzzle, I always start with the frame. That’s not a dramatic approach for puzzles, but for many entrepreneurs, they want to roll up their sleeves and get started immediately, and the idea of stopping, thinking, writing a business plan (with an articulated exit strategy) feels like a distraction and a waste of time.
I was no different. We had built our prototype, proven the appetite from in-house legal teams and I was itching to build the very best legal matter management software in the market.
And yet, my puzzling instincts told me that building out the framework within which I was to create Xakia was critically important. Why?
For me, the driver was to make legal matter management affordable for in-house legal departments, irrespective of their size. The enterprise legal management software market is full of solutions that are outrageously expensive and out of reach for smaller teams, and yet digital transformation of the in-house legal market was impossible without a software as a service that put it within their reach. So, we had to start with an understanding of our target clientele, and formulate a pricing model that scaled up AND down. This pricing model has proven time and again to be a critical, foundational piece that drives a good deal of our culture – simple, powerful AND affordable.
Unlike the frame of a jigsaw puzzle, there is a fine line between knowing your boundaries and being very careful not to box yourself in. Should you create a business model that doesn’t work with your customers, it will be uncommercial and fail early. Should you create a rigid framework, you won’t be able to learn from your mistakes and pivot when needed. For Xakia, we drew the frame wide and kept our business model for in house legal software very simple: cloud based, flexible pricing, configuration over customization.
Once you have a frame, you start to get a feel for the size and scale of the puzzle in front of you. Sometimes, that is overwhelming. Other times, the moment when you can metaphorically wrap your arms around the problem, you understand where to start and the picture starts to take shape. One of the very early ‘framework’ pieces I did was to write out user journeys:
- General Counsel: How can I get a bird's eye view of my corporate Legal Department?
- Senior lawyer: How can I receive and approve invoices for real-time visibility on legal spend?
- Business client: How can I get a legal request to my in-house legal team faster, and monitor its progress?
- CEO: How can I better understand the value my legal team are adding to our strategic goals?
With these in-house legal problems well-articulated, I was able to quickly prioritize where to start and how to move forward in building a matter management solution, taking all of the perspectives into consideration.
What about that exit strategy?
When writing my business plan back in 2016, I quickly acknowledged that I didn’t want one. I wanted to build for the long term. The exercise of thinking that through at the very beginning has been critical to the type of business we have built at Xakia – long term thinking, relationship building with clients, nurturing the development of team members. Instead of thinking about packing up the puzzle and putting it back in the box to add to my fabulous pile of puzzles, I’m only in this moment, right now, building the puzzle that matters – the one that will last forever.
The frame can be the most tedious part of a puzzle. Not much happens. The sense of accomplishment is low, and really, I’m itching to get into the middle and watch the picture come together. Nonetheless, the frame will always be the place I start, setting up the puzzle for a beautiful picture to emerge within.