Considered founder shares his insight of helping teams learn faster

Thursday, 4 February 2021

Lachy Gray shares his innovation journey as co-founder of uniquely distributed edtech startup at I2N's Startup Stories.

Lachy is a lifelong learner, with a background in psychology and information systems, and an interest in decision making, mindfulness, self-managed teams and fully remote workplaces. He and his team firmly believe that being distributed shouldn’t be a barrier to clear and consistent communication.

At I2N's Startup Stories virtual webinar on Wednesday 3 February, Lachy shared his story solving the problem of unclear and inconsistent communication across large, distributed work forces at companies like Woolworths, TAL Insurance and Super Cheap Auto.

Yarno is a learning company in the business of behaviour change which they achieve through a mobile-based learning platform for the modern worker. They provide full learning consultancy for their customers by developing content and strategy that encourages meaningful change and embeds quality knowledge.

Catch up on Startup Stories with Lachy Gray.

Lachy Gray

Top takeaways

  • Founding a company is an incredibly rewarding and challenging experience. Sharing and receiving experience rather than advice is far more valuable to learn from. How do you know if advice is helpful if you don’t know what you’re doing?
  • When sharing his experience building out his first idea that failed, Lachy highlights the importance of researching the market through customer interviews and not spending valuable resources on an unvalidated assumption. I2N Validator is a great opportunity for teams to validate their solution with real world customers!
  • When describing the onboarding of Yarno’s largest client, Lachy explains that as a founder you’re always doing things for the first time and it’s important to write down your assumptions and desired outcomes along with any alternate outcomes. The Yarno team use a Decision Journal for clarity and to highlight areas of the decision you may need to work on.
  • When reflecting on having to make redundancies in 2019 Lachy explains it as one of the toughest moments, sitting across the table from someone he'd sold the vision to and having to tell them that unfortunately they couldn’t keep them on. Making hard choices is hard and doing it with compassion and kindness is key.
  • Yarno is a distributed team and embrace their fully remote culture. They host asynchronous meetings – where meeting notes are collaborated on and discussed prior – interview remotely and record each session allowing team members to watch the interview in their own time zones.
  • The team acknowledges the value of meeting face-to-face and so host quarterly off-sites and organise regular in-person events.
  • Lachy finds talking with other founders and business owners regularly is really helpful. There are ups and down along the way and talking that out with someone helps normalise what can be a stressful and uncertain journey.
  • B2B sales are hard. The sales cycle can be very long, 18 months to more than two years in some cases, and when you’re self-funded that’s a very long time. For Yarno it’s important to get in at the top level of a company when selling. Lachy invested in a sales coach to help define their sales process and better understand who the buyers are, where do they hang out, what’s important to them, and how they build trust and reputation with those people.
  • Remote onboarding is challenging. Building rapport and getting a sense of who is who virtually is difficult especially in a hybrid environment where most are together in an office and a few people virtually. The people joining virtually can feel distant and removed.
  • Lachy expands on this by explaining, you have to do more planning when onboarding remote team members especially for tangible items like laptops and keyboards. Yarno have a ‘pre-boarding’ campaign for new people to introduce them to their people, values and systems, and give some foundation before day one.
  • When asked about his mindfulness routine, Lachy explains a technique he uses called ‘box breathing’ which is something he does every day. He and the team also start every team meeting with two minutes of mindfulness to give each other time to arrive at the meeting and engage with the same context.

The University of Newcastle's I2N works with individuals and organisations from across the Hunter region and beyond to turn ideas and challenges into opportunity. As a leading driver of economic and business growth, the I2N cultivates an entrepreneurial mindset that is behind many of the region's most innovative businesses and leaders.

Keep up to date with future I2N events, programs and opportunities by subscribing to I2N's monthly newsletter or visit www.newcastle.edu.au/i2n


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