March 29, 2023

Growing Within Constraints w/ Ian Yung of Tonal, Parachute Home

Ian Yung has been around the startup block scaling numerous e-commerce brands and marketplaces now the SVP of Revenue at Tonal in their Series E with $450M in total funding. Learn how he solved his biggest growth challenges while working under wildly different constraints.

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The host

Nima Gardideh

President of Pearmill, ex-Head of Product at Taplytics, ex-Head of Mobile at Frank & Oak. YC fellow.

Our guest(s)

Ian Yung

SVP of Revenue, Tonal

About this episode

Ian strings together the connective thread of challenges that he’s had throughout his career scaling companies from Parachute Home, Touch Of Modern, Simple Habit including the different growth challenges with capital, time, and creative constraints, instituting team collaboration to problem solve, plus he breaks down the growth framework that he built at Tonal.

More highlights include:

  • How to know if you've hit channel saturation, linear tv experiments, incrementally tests, and growth tracking
  • Designing an org to maximize growth and reporting structure with cross-functional growth partnerships
  • Internal versus external brand alignment and experiments
  • Balancing the need for synchronous versus asynchronous communication
  • Unifying brand and performance marketing teams
  • Approach for multi-attribution and media mix modeling

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[00:00:00] Ian Yung: in a land of no constraints, you can afford to just be kind of fuzzy about it and pursue a lot of different directions because if the marginal cost is irrelevant, do more, right?

[00:00:11] Doing more is always gonna be better.  but when there is opportunity, cost and trade-offs that need to be to happen, you have to be very articulate. You have to be very succinct with what is your thesis around what, the brand is doing, where is their value creation and all that. And that's where you get everyone, like actually collaborating and like making their case.

[00:00:33] And in an environment of healthy debate, you, learn a lot from those conversations.  and I feel like I've learned. Like two PhDs worth of of personal development in the past six months.  just having those conversations with with my amazing colleagues. 


Transcript of the episode

Welcome to another episode of the Hypergrowth Experience. I am your host, Nima Gardideh. Today we're gonna have Ian Young, the SVP of Revenue of Tonal. On the episode I've been following tonal and a lot of the different companies that Ian's been the head of growth of for the past few years. And they've all done exceptionally when it comes to both just the approach they've taken to growing these companies  obviously Ian's sort of muscle of think.

[00:01:25] Nima Gardideh: About each of these wildly different products and services that he's been behind and applying more of like a process as opposed to tactics and figuring out what is the right solution to the growth problem of, of the time that or of the product that he's working on. And so I was quite Grateful for Ian to spend this time with me.

[00:01:50] He's quite well known in the industry if you heard of him and his work.  and he advises some, some companies on growth. And the main really question I had for him, and this is sort of where we start in the episode, is, What is the sort of thread, the connective tissue underlying everything that has kept them going in his career since he's been in products and services and now healthcare and fitness and even SaaS.

[00:02:20] So he's kind of been around the block when it comes to helping tech companies grow.  so we're gonna start there. Here's Ian sharing.  the thread that he's carried across his career and experiences growing companies.


[00:02:36] Ian Yung: so for listeners who don't know, I mean, my, my career's been in industries from sort of e-commerce to meditation apps to bedding to, to now fitness equipment.  and the first half of my career was automotive manufacturing, which is a complete different world.  but I think the connective thread through all of those different experiences is growing a company with constraints.

[00:03:01] So if you think about that phrase necessity, a mother of all invention, Constraints, sort of gives is a challenge that if manage properly generates amazing invention and creative thinking. And so constraints could be capital cash, it could be time it could be team size and bandwidth.

[00:03:25] , but whatever all my experiences has basically tackled that challenge of, of you have constraints that you have to manage and that's the exciting part of the job.

[00:03:36] Nima Gardideh: And so this is like the sort of maybe quite well understood concept of if you box and constraint your creativity, you're going to be much more. Much, much more sort of creative within that, those constraints.  can you walk me through, so let's take that in a, in a more like abs, like less abstracted way.

[00:03:59] Like give me an example of, because you had less time or less capital, your sort of like, universe of options were limited to X, y, and Z. Like, how does that actually work in practice in some of these examples or companies that you've, you've been a part of?

[00:04:16] Ian Yung: Yeah.  I'll go back to my experience at Touch Of Modern.  so for context, Touch Of Modern was a flash sales site and app that was launched right around the same time as, as Gil in the rule laws of the, of the world.  and  interesting story there is that  founders actually landed on that concept as their third pivot.

[00:04:39] They raised money in an incubator for an idea that that flamed out. They pivoted to another idea, also flamed out.  and Touch Of Modern was sort of the last gasp.  let's take whatever runway we have to try and see if this thing sticks.  and, and it did  it, and it grew to sort of over a hundred million in in gmv.

[00:05:01] , the challenge there though is because a lot of the capital was burned through two previous failure failed ventures and there was raised a fall long round was raised cash was very, very constrained. So it was VC backed, but it didn't have that same kind of grow at all cost mentality or, or it just wasn't possible to.

[00:05:23] And so all the spend had to be incredibly profitable in order to self-fund itself.  and when I joined, it was sort of, Starting that inflection point of diminishing returns on spend in Facebook and the digital channels. And we were left with a conundrum of, well, we reached a point of diminishing returns where we had to find more efficiencies.

[00:05:48] , and we couldn't just continue to spend into  channels that were working or, or were starting to work less efficiently at the time.  and so we started to think outside the box and, and see if there were arbitrage opportunities in other channels. And where we landed on was linear tv and very, very scrappily like linear tv.

[00:06:12]  perception and common wisdom at the time is that it's super expensive. You need to spend like 50 to a hundred K just to shoot the creative. Then to buy a media plan is another a hundred to 200 K worth of media. So on and so forth, and, and you're, you're never gonna be able to measure the results, so it's, unless you're a big brand aiming for brand awareness, it's a fool's errand.

[00:06:35] , but we put on our scrappy hat and figured out how to be challenged all of those different assptions. We ended up shooting our TV creative with our in-house photography team. The total budget was about three K, and that was the Airbnb that we rented to shoot as a location.  we used our own employees as actors, so creative check 40 k.

[00:06:59] That was easy.  we ended up finding a media agency that was willing to work with us for a 40 k media budget and, and over a month.  so the media plan was fairly tight and. we were able to sort of get analytics tools off the shelf for on a free trial. And, and we built out some, some custom stuff ourselves to, to really sort of get the measurement and attribution piece down.

[00:07:29] , we threw a flyer, we tried it, 50 k total, all in and it worked. And then we started scaling from there.  at some, after about a month, we were, we were spending six more than six figures a month. We scaled as to seven figures soon after that.  and yeah, at one point we were the second largest D two C advertiser behind Peloton.

[00:07:55] On tv. On tv. 

[00:07:56] Nima Gardideh: On tv. This is a Touch Of Modern,

[00:07:58] Ian Yung: As I touch him on.

[00:07:59] Nima Gardideh: that's an interest. Interesting thing. So first of all, there's, there's something you mentioned there that I think I get asked this often and I think people have a, a, a bit of tr trouble understanding how to do this analysis, which is you felt or you knew that the marginal cost of acquisition on the existing channels.

[00:08:22] Was increasing basically that you're saturating these channels, right? So how do you, how do  that, how do you think about that? How do you think through on a per channel basis that you're reaching sort of the limits of the channel?

[00:08:37] Ian Yung: Yeah.  well, so the, it's actually two parts. So, so how do you see that you're hitting a problem? Is, I mean, your, your cats go up, right? So like you're just getting less bang for your buck.  that's obvious.  you mentioned saturation and it could be. So that is one hypothesis that you've, you've your audience is completely saturated.

[00:08:54] , you've reached everyone that there is to reach in that place and, and you've sort of fished the pond overfished the pond.  but, but there's actually another hypothesis, which is comp competition has entered into that space and CPMs go up and, and it's a, it's an economic problem, not a sort of audience targeting

[00:09:12] problem.  and, and I think that was actually our, our problem at Toucher Modern.  and, and we saw that by just looking at CPM trends and, and just competitive audience insights on search and stuff like that.  search console insights. And which is why one of the core thesises for going into linear TV was that we had these tailwinds.

[00:09:38] Everyone was fleeing tv, linear TV because of viewership trends and competitive dynamics. Like there we were sort of like going against the current, if you will which is a core hypothesis that we wanted to validate, which is why we tried it in the first place.  and it, and it turned up to be true.

[00:09:56] So I mean, people have been touting that linear is dead.  this was in 20 16, 17, by the way. So a, a

[00:10:04] while 

[00:10:05] Nima Gardideh: Right where  big shift was happening

[00:10:07] Ian Yung: Exactly. Right. And I, I am convinced that linear is a decaying channel, but the time scale of that is, I, I think people estimated that it would happen quick, more quickly than it did, right?

[00:10:23] There's still massive, or back then there was much larger audiences than there is today.  but there, there was an opportunity, there was an arbitrage opportunity there, and, and we took advantage of that.

[00:10:33] Nima Gardideh: Yeah, that makes sense. And I, I think that what you mentioned there is, is, is quite, there's a lot of wisdom behind it.  I think there's I don't, I'm sure you've read this very old blog post by Andrew Chen around the law laws of shitty clickthroughs.  and I think people probably have read this and sort of like take it to heart in this sometimes counterintuitive way.

[00:10:53] , trusting that the moment the channel is saturated, it's over and you should never look at it.  what you've clearly sort of pointed out at that time was that people were shifting budgets. So there was actually an opportunity to come back to one of these obviously well used channels in the past that competitions had lowered in.

[00:11:15] , yeah, that makes a lot of sense and it's quite interesting. 

[00:11:18] How did you guys, how do you, I mean now it's, wow, it's a long time from now. So the two, 2017, 2016, do you still , coming to your current sort of maybe the last past couple of years do you still track, how do you, how do you, how do you track these things on tv?

[00:11:39] Like, do you run tests on. geographic basis? Like, are you running some sort of like marketing mix model? , give, give me like a quick and we can go back to , connective tissue. But out, out of curiosity, how do you track these things? How do you try to figure out if, if it's valuable to spend the money there?

[00:12:01] And even then I think what a analytics tools we're using what, how are you judging 

[00:12:06] Ian Yung: Mm-hmm.  yeah, no linear tv.  and, and actually I'd, I'd extrapolate to, to any channel every channel has their, has their challenges.  and, and it's you're, you're trying to paint a picture with dots, right? And so every data point is a dot, and you're kind of just like, Put all the dots together to see if you can divine some image from, from all those different dots.

[00:12:29] And at Touch Of Modern what we cared about was sort of acquisition. And so  way that site worked is that there was a hard signup wall where you had to give us our email to see the assortment and to see  products that we're selling on any han day.  that obviously created a lot of friction, which product teams and everyone who joined Touch Aon was like, we should drop the wall.

[00:12:54] , but, but that was actually a very key feature for us because it gave us first party data, like very, very high fidelity first party data, right? again, this is in 2016, 17, so very different from the world today where everyone's talking about first party data. We were, we were way ahead of the curve there.

[00:13:13] , but what we were able to do is using sort of spike.  time series analysis, which we'd know when a a spot add aired to the minute we'd see a spike in site traffic and therefore email signups. And then, because we had that first party data, we could track that journey all the way through to if they purchased something, what they purchased, and then repeat purchase and so on and so forth.

[00:13:38] So that was the, that was the way we did it at Touch and Modern.  our drop off on that signup wall was very, very, very small. Like, surprisingly small. Like anytime anyone saw that, it was like a majority of our traffic gave us their email which obviously helped with C R M and all that kind of stuff later.

[00:13:57] But that was a very unique business. Not every business has that capability to, to capture first party data, basically on a majority of their traffic like high 90% traffic.  other businesses and, and so I've, I've done TV with, with other businesses with, with parachute we do it with with tonal as well.

[00:14:20] , you have that same time series spike for linear tv. you can't track it to perfect first party data, but you have some pretty good fidelity with, with just anonymous cookies.  and then you try and filter out sort of traffic from other sources and, and you do a little bit of mta segregation to, to get that to work.

[00:14:44] but the 

[00:14:45] real 

[00:14:45] Nima Gardideh: listeners, MTA stands for Multi-touch attribution.  

[00:14:49] sorry. Keep .

[00:14:50] Ian Yung: Yeah. Too, too many acronyms.  but, but , the key thing is to do incrementality testing. And, and that's where you used like geo holdouts.  and that  concept there is you have a test and control. You wanna make sure that any ad that you air has a causal impact on the metrics that you're trying to optimize for sales bookings, whatever.

[00:15:13] , and so you will air ads in a particular Geo or D D M A, but you'll be dark somewhere else.  and then you'll, you'll measure the relative change in bookings assing that the markets are, are matched of comparable size and brand affinity, product affinity, so on and so forth.

[00:15:31] Nima Gardideh: Yeah, I, I'm actually quite happy marketers have started doing a lot of more incremental incrementality testing. it's quite interestingly, obviously from like the old world of marketing and it's now coming back, it's making its way back to modern marketing.  just to go back to this connective tissue part so there are constraints. There's capital time constraints. 

[00:15:53] Do you. Like more a cla, a classical sort of like growth experimentational process within the orgs that you run. Like how do you, what is the underlying process around these things? Are you sort of like using conviction that you personally have, using conviction that a team has to, to in this case allocate like 50 K to this test?

[00:16:13] Like what is the either tooling or or process that you use to prioritize some of these ideas that you guys have?

[00:16:21] Ian Yung: Yeah. So that goes back to the whole constraint. Like if the constraint is not time, then setting up processes and then creating rigorous sort of flows and, and just yeah, organizations to handle growth experimentation, I think is, is the right call that that optimizes for quality.

[00:16:44] But the, if time is a co. then typically it's because of some turnaround type scenario where, where there there's like, you have to get a particular objective done in a very short period of time. And you don't have the luxury to, to like create these all inclusive sort of democratically informed growth experimentation frameworks.

[00:17:08] , you do have to start working a little bit more from conviction experience and  like bias for action types of scenarios.  and so I, I guess what I'll say is I'll, I'll use an example from from from toll. So when I joined we had sort of transitioned from a period where there was sort of  old.

[00:17:38] set Silicon Valley Paradigm. Money Capital is, is free and ever flowing. And you just want to kind of grow at all costs.  constraint is not time. The constraint is where's infinity and, and how cl how quickly can you reach there to a new world where capital is not free. And you have to achieve profitability and, and be able to control your own destiny.

[00:18:03] And there's a very, very hard limit on that, which is when your cash runs out.  in that world it was a more directive like, okay, these are the things l analyzing your p and l. Where are the opportunities for you to make an impact? Go do that thing, hope and place your bets. Hope. Hope that they pay out.

[00:18:29] Fortunately they did, and now we're, we're moving into a different world. But those turnaround, such scenarios don't have luxury of sort of r. That type of growth and growth experimentation framework.  another example I'll use which is at parachute they were already profitable when I joined, and it was more how can we start to inflect that and, and incorporate ideas from every part of the business.

[00:18:59] , that challenge was an alignment challenge, right? And so different teams had different ideas of what was driving the business. Everyone wants to grow the business, right? So it's kind of a misnomer to say that, oh, the growth team isn't responsible for growing the business, but like the merchandising team would beg to differ.

[00:19:18] It's like they want to sell more stuff too, right? And the brand team as well, everyone wants to grow the business. It's just a matter of what perspective do they bring.  and the process, there was a way to make everyone feel heard, give their inputs, but distill it into a common framework.

[00:19:37] and there was there was a lot of analytics work that we had to do to educate the company the entire org around what are the drivers for the business and what is each individual team's impact on that granular piece of that model, and then move forward.

[00:19:53] And then after that, then it's just sort of table stakes, sort of rice framework and brainstorming, collecting, triaging, implementation, and sprints to, to reflect on what worked and what didn't work.

[00:20:06] Nima Gardideh: yeah. Just right. Run through the ringer at that point of just like, executing on things and prioritizing. Yeah. I mean, I, okay. There's, there's these two areas I think we can spend a bunch of time on. So let's start with I think Parachute was quite interesting around this, how to educate the people within the different parts of the org.

[00:20:26] , and maybe at a more of like a high level, like what do you, what do you think the role of the growth leaders in an organization are? Like, I, I think there's a lot of names people have for these roles. There's VPs of marketing, VPs of growth , chief revenue officers, all these different names people use.

[00:20:46] But , putting the naming aside or, or maybe you have opinions on what they should be called as well.  what do you think their, their role is in these types of organizations? And, and let's use these sizes like a couple hundred people, hopefully on the closer to the profitable side.

[00:21:04] Like what is a good growth leader's job in these orgs,

[00:21:09] Ian Yung: I, I mean I, I've, I've had growth titles, I've had marketing titles. I've had, now, now, now my title is Revenue s a p of Revenue. So it, like, I, I don't know, I, I'm, I'm a little sort of, I guess, cynical with titles. Titles don't really mean much. it's what are you trying to do, right? And, and everyone is trying to grow the business and a key business metric that sort of matters.

[00:21:31] So knowing that it is impossible for any one individual or team to be able to do that.  I would say that the role of a, of a leader, any leader, is to make sure that there's sort of synergies with the team in its place. So, like org design is, is a little outside of my, my scope, right? So orgs, I've come into orgs that have already been existing and there's already been clear boundaries.

[00:21:57] , so I haven't participated or I've. I've been a part of reorgs, but I haven't sort of mandated this is how it's gonna look like.  but there's always gonna be synergies and, and dependencies on other teams and other functions. What those functions and what their strengths and I guess weaknesses or, or opportunities for support, how you fit into that jigsaw puzzle is, is I think, key, right?

[00:22:29] So I'll take, I'll give an example again, going back to parachute.  parachute was a very brand led, like , strength of that business was its br it's very clear this is who we are for, this is who we are, not for, this is our value prop. And, and if I were to go into that business as like a performance leader and say, well, let's just.

[00:22:56] Put out a whole bunch of sort of discount codes all over the place.  it probably would've been detrimental to the overall band of the business. And so getting tight synergies with a VP of brand at the time was crucial for that business. Less so in other businesses that maybe aren't so dependent on the brand or that didn't have such a strong brand leader in its place.

[00:23:21] So, I don't know a little roundabout way of saying that. I, I think making sure that you find the right partners to you identify and work with the right partners to drive  value drivers of that business is, is crucial. And, and it really just depends on the business cuz , you kind of have to work with if, if, if you think, going back to the constraints thread, team as it is existing, that is a constraint.

[00:23:49] Like you have the team, you don't want to go in there and say like, I wanna get rid of and change everybody. Like that's unrealistic and. Kind of be a shitty person if you did that.  but they're generally, if the team is there, they're there for a reason. Outlier, poor performers aside, and, and how do you work with those people is I think a challenge that I, I find fascinating,

[00:24:12] Nima Gardideh: Yeah, what's interesting around what you just said there, it just feels like what your job is, is to figure out what makes that company special and what has got has like made them who they are to that point, and then sort of use. to grow it even further, right? So like you're gonna partner with the brand folks and figure out what can they do with alongside the, all the other parts of the org in order to cohesively help grow the organization.

[00:24:42] , and you, I I, I assume with TA and modern, it was like extremely performance driven just because of  style that business. And then you went to a fully like, brand driven company.  how did that, first of all, how did that feel? Like, that feels like a very different set of 

[00:24:57] Ian Yung: yes 

[00:24:58] there was there was a lot of learnings and knocks not gonna lie, it was not the smoothest of transitions.  if you, if you ask any of my early colleagues at Parachute, they'll, they'll, they'll tell you it was it was a little bpy.  but I'm, I'm happy to say that we're, we're very close now and I, I, I think there's a lot of close friendships that I built over my time at Parachute.

[00:25:22] , but I, I'd say actually Touch Of Modern performance wasn't the driver. Performance was where we spent a lot of our budgets, but the driver of that business was actually the buyers and the merchandisers.  so the products we sold was the driver of that business, right? And so working with our head of sales and, and buying at the time, that was the key relationship in the Touch Of Modern business.

[00:25:44] , if you think about the valley prop, that Touch Of Modern gave was not that selling stuff cheap, it was the discovery aspect of finding products that people didn't even know existed. . And so that was the core driver of that business, allowing ourselves to how, how we set up the process to find those, those unique products, and then amplify and distribute awareness of those products was the key driver there.

[00:26:09] And then the ads, because there was businesses so profitable, that was the fuel with the gasoline we threw onto the fire to make it grow faster. But  fire itself was not performance.  but yeah, parachute the brand was a big focus there. So how do we, challenge with parachute was how do we refine and distill down that brand essence into something that was clearly aligned and articulated.

[00:26:37] So we had a very strong point of view, but it wasn't perfectly articulated to, to everybody in the organization and also externally. And so being able to do that and then. amplify That was was the challenge with parachute.

[00:26:56] Nima Gardideh: Mm-hmm. . And so were you and, and, and that seems like a messaging problem. So were you spending time. Testing different ways of talking about the brand internally and externally, like how were you, how did you approach that problem? , given that there were some, I assume some brand folks within the org that would've disagreed with you a bunch to 

[00:27:17] Ian Yung: Yeah, no, a hundred percent. And, and it was less about external experimentation and it was more about internal workshopping.  because one of the key things about this type of brand work is that you have to be, you have to stay true to your heritage, right? Like, it would be in inauthentic to have some external party or, or new person to this brand say, Hey, we're gonna do all this work, and then here's this brand new spanking v version 2.0 of the brand.

[00:27:44] Right? , especially when the version one was so beloved by, by our core customers. .  and so it was internal workshopping. It was about many months, I'd say three to five months worth of work where we would sort of break down  brand into a framework and then we'd, we'd do stakeholder interviews to say, okay, this is what this part of the our brand ethos is.

[00:28:12] Distill it down and, and do various iterations of this new articulation of the brand. Not that we re, not that we changed the brand, we just articulated it in a CRISPR way. We got alignment on that, and then we started sort of putting that message out in the market and then used typical performance marketing testing tools to say, does this work better than this?

[00:28:35] And, and it did. So,

[00:28:38] Nima Gardideh: Yeah, it's actually quite refreshing to hear that cuz , we're, and for context, I think this, we help, I help run a performance agency and quite often companies will come to us with the same sort of like one liner of like, Hey, we want to hear that you're going to be truer to our br work within our constraints.

[00:28:57] , and unsurprisingly, I. To you probably often they're not very succinct about what their brand actually stands for and what the constraints really are.  and then, so we spend a quite a lot of time doing some of what sounds like you had done internally of let's actually define what the constraints are like.

[00:29:20] Let's try to figure out what it is that's special about your brand. And it is in itself a skill to be able to not only understand, but also communicate what the constraints of the brand are. And I think this is like the bane of our existence on a week to week basis, like of working with founders who just, they feel. What it is, it is hard to articulate and put into words those, those feelings of what it is about this ad or this approach that's not working. And I think that in itself is, is something we've learned over the years of like giving them tools and words to use to describe what's going on and what they like or not, not like about a an interpretation of their own brand that they've sort of handed to us.

[00:30:10] Right. 

[00:30:10] Ian Yung:

[00:30:10] no, at at at Toucher Modern, we had our, our CEO and co-founder he, he was the ultimate arbiter and, and he spent. More time than I'm sure he wanted to just being yes, no, yes, no, yes, no.  which obviously is not scalable. So that is I think super important once you start to get to scale.

[00:30:34] , but more importantly is that you have a founder that actually does have a point of view early on, right? So from zero to one, having it's okay to have that, just feel it in my gut sort of articulation of a brand as long as they do have that strong feeling in point of view.  but yeah, you get to, I don't know, series B a hundred, a hundred people, a hundred million revenue.

[00:30:57] Yeah, you need to be able to articulate it outside of your brain.

[00:31:01] Nima Gardideh: Yeah. And I think that is, that's a skill and some founders are quite good at it and some have to learn and they the good, really good ones eventually figure out how to articulate it. And then that's kind of how they scale their org up. 

[00:31:13] Ian Yung: I, I'd say actually good, good marketing folks like that. If, if you do that brand exercise, there's a lot of agencies and, and consultants that can help with that work. It's just doing in interviews providing prompts to, to workshop those different where are the red lines, where are  gray areas.

[00:31:34] , so it doesn't have to be the founder by themselves.

[00:31:37] Nima Gardideh: Yeah. That's point there is you can put them in a process to, to help articulate it. 

[00:31:43] Ian Yung: Yes.

[00:31:44] Nima Gardideh: so let, let's go to your, your experience in tonal. You've been there for a few months and I think the world has changed as you've been there in a couple of different ways.  and, and first of all, let's, let's, let's address that.

[00:31:55] And I think I don't know how you feel about it. I, but I feel quite great about it. I think I'd like to be in a world where I'm judged for making money as opposed to just growing a thing on, on top line. But what's quite interesting about what you said earlier is going through the p and l and sort of taking a look and figuring out where the opportunities are, where you can make cuts and where you can change things.

[00:32:20] , and to some extent that I feel is like the job of a founder.  and it's actually quite lovely to hear a growth person have the same mindset.  but is that sort of a mandate that's given at the organizational level of let's find all the different ways we can tighten up and do people get excited about that in your experience?

[00:32:43] Or do people are like, oh, well I, I did, I wanted to be part of this like rocket ship and then this is not the vibe I want it. Like, what happened when this, like, this shift and maybe you arrived afterwards, but I'd love to hear your thoughts on it.

[00:32:55] Ian Yung:  mandate is reality, right? Like , your, your bank account and the cash burn dictates the reality of what you need to do.  so like it  market will force you to do what needs to be done, right? , and I think the excitement depends on how you frame it. So if your positioning is that, oh, exciting work only happens if you're a rocket ship and you get to spend a hundred million dollar budgets.

[00:33:23] When you don't spend a hundred million dollar budgets, of course people are gonna be disappointed because that's how you framed it up as all the exciting work is in spending a hundred million dollar budgets.  the way I've tried to frame it with my team is, spending of budgets is, is a tactic.

[00:33:41] Like that's just one thing that you happen to do. The real exciting work is building a generational company that is like Beloved and has like amazing name recognition that actually delivers value in the world, right? Like, no one, no one cares about sort of whatever hut startup that flamed out I'm not gonna name names, but like you, there's there, there's, there's Netflix , docentaries about these companies that ended up being frauds.

[00:34:07] And, and you don't wanna be associated with those companies. You want to be associated with like the apples and of, of the world. Right.  and how did those companies get to where they did? Well, they have to be profitable. If you don't generate money in the long run, you can't sustain. No business is gonna just be a.

[00:34:25] No, no one's gonna be db enough to just throw money at a problem forever. Eventually, they're gonna expect a return. The sooner you can prove that return, the more successful you're gonna be. Right? , and then I, and I go back to that frame of constraints, right? It's so much cooler to solve a problem when you actually bring some creativity and bring a novel approach to solving that problem, rather than throwing money at a problem.

[00:34:45] Like anybody can throw money at a problem. It's like, oh, we need to do this thing. I'll give McKenzie, I don't know, 10 million and they'll solve it for me. Like that. That's kind of a cop out. I, I, I don't get any personal satisfaction for throwing money at the problem. But so anyway, that framing helps with like internal morale and, and, and whatnot.

[00:35:05] , in terms of like , the cutting and, and un understanding where, where there's value like I said, it's a market exercise. we had to get our opex to a level that was reflective of , the market conditions in our, in our, in our funding environments, in our. Instills sort of priorities as an organization.

[00:35:28] And  cool part of that work, I would say is, is actually defining what those priorities are, right? So again, if you think about the whole brand articulation in in a land of no constraints, you can afford to just be kind of fuzzy about it and pursue a lot of different directions because if the marginal cost is irrelevant, do more, right?

[00:35:52] Doing more is always gonna be better.  but when there is opportunity, cost and trade-offs that need to be to happen, you have to be very articulate. You have to be very succinct with what is your thesis around what, the brand is doing, where is their value creation and all that. And that's where you get everyone, like actually collaborating and like making their case.

[00:36:14] And in an environment of healthy debate, you, learn a lot from those conversations.  and I feel like I've learned. Like two PhDs worth of of personal development in the past six months.  just having those conversations with with my amazing colleagues.

[00:36:30] Nima Gardideh: Yeah. That's interesting. So you're, you're putting out this problem and then sort of having people. Come in with potential solutions and, and, and thinking through these things, like with the team quite involved to figure out how to solve this general problem.  is, is the process similar to a growth process where you're trying to like vet ideas to some extent and, and cut here and there?

[00:36:52] Like how is it similar? Is it totally different? Like 

[00:36:55] Ian Yung: Yeah.  I, I wish I could tell you there, there's like this like , book ready process that I could, like start selling and be a New York Times bestseller. But no, I mean, it's much messier than that. it's much more organic. It's I mean  prioritization aspect, I guess would be, would be very similar.

[00:37:17] Just start with your largest line items and start. Poking and digging into those largest line items and then move down the chain until until you're, you're, you get to the bottom of b l and start again.  but e each one of those double clicks it, there was, and again, because of the short timeframe that we've had to operate under, we did have to make some judgment calls where it was just, Hey, I don't think this is a direction that we need to go in because of X, Y, and z.

[00:37:47] I don't have hard data to back this up, but logical, like, thought experiment. Does this seem like the highest ROI place to, to invest our dollars? And then anyone disagree, please debate. Let's click dissenting opinions. Let's, let's, let's hash it out. But otherwise, very quickly, that got put on the chime block and in rinse and repeat.

[00:38:10] Now, if there is sort of very monental, like, oh, this is , a one-way door. So using an, an Amazon I didn't work at Amazon, but a lot of my direct reports and former bosses did. And so a lot of the terminology of one-way door, two-way door, the difference is like two-way doors. You make a decision, you can reverse it, you can go back one-way doors, like you make that decision, you're done for the one-way doors.

[00:38:39] we did spend some more time sort of collecting data, doing some experimentation too, to validate that was the right idea.

[00:38:47] , yeah, so I, I don't know. I, I wish I could be more succinct.

[00:38:52] Nima Gardideh: no, I think that actually is, is quite succinct of like going through this process over and over again and it's just not gonna be as maybe tightened up just because the time constrainted part as, as you mentioned, right, there's like a time constraint. So spending too much time on process is just not gonna help you get there.

[00:39:10] , is there a, how much transparency do you have to sort of give. To the org or to the, to at least your team who's kind of thinking about these things. Like is everyone reading the p and l or are you only reading it? And then sort of like saying, here is like this part of it then that we should discuss like and then I think some of that's probably cultural as well.

[00:39:36] So I'm curious like sort of what you think is happening right now, if that's good or there's a different version of it that you would've preferred. Yeah. Very curious about that.

[00:39:45] Ian Yung: , I think that question of transparency needs to start with the top leadership, right? Like that is a very I think important cultural. Decision that that's made.  like you go to the radical transparency extreme of like I dunno, Ray Dalio, whatever, like, that's too much , I think to, to being completely secretive.

[00:40:08] , and, and obviously somewhere in the middle is ideal.  we are trying to be more transparent with, with our teams, and so we are sharing sort of profitability nbers and, and targets and like being very transparent with, with the reality of the situation.  the thing to keep in mind with that though is, is one e education does everyone in the organization have the sort of financial literacy to interpret the statements in the way that they are actually intended?

[00:40:36] , that's an education piece. So, so we have done a lot of that as well.  but there's also the balance of I is it useful, right? Because there's certain challenges with like balance sheet, for example. Most individual contributors are not going to be able to do anything to that. Right? It's just your capitalization structure, being aware of, Hey, these are our challenges.

[00:41:03] Y yes, that is useful. Everyone should have an idea of what is the current state of affairs for context at the very minim.  but like knowing every nitty gritty detail about that, probably not useful. So that's how we try and balance it.

[00:41:19] Nima Gardideh: Yeah, and I find that quite interesting. I think I fall probably similar in terms of philosophy to what you mentioned, which is kind of like the , array Dalio. But I think in the tech industry, like companies like Buffer or both are that they're extremely transparent and there's formulas for everyone's salaries and you can go into their docks and literally look at every single line item and where the money spent.

[00:41:42] And I think those are actually like radical in some ways in that they're taking away privacy. From the employees to some extent.  and I find that to be like, I guess you are opting in if you're joining that to, to, to be in that, in that culture. I find that you're limiting basically your talent pool to some extent by, by doing that.

[00:42:06] And those things are good things.  I just don't want to run that type of company, but I also don't like to sort of like , I think Apple is notorious at this, where it's extremely secretive and you have to have, you have to sign NDAs to talk to teams within the org and that type of stuff where they, they're pretty, pretty serious about their secrecy.

[00:42:26] , and I think that also in itself similarly is like a function of we're gonna attract talent that cares about this and that that's, they, they vibe with that.  where I think some, somewhere closer to let's say radio esque stuff I like, but not all the way there. And , but I've also found this exact problem that you're talking about, which is people just don't understand this stuff.

[00:42:53] Like they're either not intellectually interested in it, so even if you throw it at them, they're just gonna go through these nbers and understand, or not care enough, or they care about it. They think they're conceptually because they're like, oh, I'm working at this transparent company. That's great.

[00:43:08] , but they just are like so far away from having done the work of understanding how to look at finance data and, and information like that that you have to spend a good amount of time educate, educating them. So but I do think that's good work. Like I think you should be doing that work and, and educating the team

[00:43:27] When it comes to communication, like what, do you have like a system that you follow or, or have followed over the years where there was a cadence to it where you're trying to give information to the team that you're working with, at least your direct reports, if not the rest of the company on growth.

[00:43:41] Like how do you. Handle that. Is there like one that has been your favorite or like one that you carry with you or like, Hey, I want to email the team once a week, or like every day or once a month? Like what? What's been going on there?

[00:43:54] Ian Yung: so I mean, all hands, company, all hands. I think all senior leadership like that's just a, a, a cadence.  everyone should just be sort of level set at the same time and, and have the opportunity for anyone from any part of the organization to ask questions. I think that's important.  functional team, staff meetings.

[00:44:13] So just a little tighter.  , especially for orgs that have multiple layers, it becomes important to, to have a, a translation layer in between. So, so that you can get the appropriate level of granularity to, to where it needs to be. But it's not appropriate to do it all, all over the place cuz functional teams have different needs.

[00:44:36] , We use Slack. So slack channels with very specific requirements or, or, or audiences.  we'll do asynchronous communication there.  I mean, we could spend a whole couple days on, on this topic, but yeah, I mean you're, you're trying to balance sort of like the need for synchronous versus synchronous, the need for specific versus just like overarching context.

[00:45:03] Is it, is it something, is a communication that should be discussed or it's just like one way informational? it kind of depends.

[00:45:13] Nima Gardideh: And so when you're working on something like in the context of parachute ,you mentioned that you had to go in and sort of make sure that everyone had analytics that they were looking at in the context of the business.  are you giving them sort of access to their own dashboards? Are you reporting with them?

[00:45:32] Yeah, so like everyone sort of is looking at their own slice of the business. 

[00:45:35] Ian Yung: what's not measured, doesn't get done right.  or improved.  probably butchered that anyway.  yeah, I mean, everyone should be looking at what they need to do their job as, as part of the business.  but that should be collectively bubbled up so that other people and everyone is looking at that at the very minim for context, but also to drive accountability, right?

[00:46:02] , you don't want to be in a situation where people are kind of like doing their thing, but then they're not held accountable to that. And then other people that might depend, or the functions that might depend on those outputs as inputs to their function end up getting sort of shafted.

[00:46:22] And then it just becomes this vicious cycle of. Finger pointing and, and whatnot. So that is a place where I think transparency is super important. Everyone should know everyone's business.  not because you want a finger point, but like, that's very important context.  and also that's also a great rallying cry for, Hey, I'm having this problem here in this part of my function.

[00:46:46] Oh, other people can come in and help, right? Because again you're, you're one organism, one function doesn't, never operates in a silo or shouldn't operate in a silo. So if you have that transparency, you enable the opportunity for people to collaborate and work together to solve collective problems.

[00:47:07] If those metrics are actually important to the business, everyone should be looking at them and striving to help. If they're not important and they don't drive the business, then well, you shouldn't have been looking at that in the first place.

[00:47:19] Nima Gardideh: Yeah. And I think what you're describing is kind of what I would, I've been in other organizations, I, I, I must admit I haven't been in one in a very long time that isn't mine. But when I have worked at worked for other people or with other folks that have created organizations that I've been in I, it's kind of what I would've wanted.

[00:47:40] I would've wanted to understand what other teams are doing. And quite often I did that work myself. And anything similar maybe to you, I wanted to understand how the businesses are run so that I can sort of help grow them. And so, . It's rare that that's kind of like inherently in the culture of the companies, at least the ones I have been a part of, and maybe that's why they're not the most massive businesses, but , when, when these things come together, it feels like that's how you sort of get people to collaborate at, in a way that kind of grows , the whole pie very 

[00:48:16] Ian Yung: like the end state of having an organization that everyone knows everyone's business and everyone can jp in, collaborate. That that's a obviously a, a, a great sort of utopian end state. The work to get there, there's a lot of forcing functions that are beneficial otherwise, right?

[00:48:31] So in order to get to that end state, you need to have education across teams, right? So, so that helps actually remove a lot of misalignment. Often what I've seen when sort of teams are, are butting heads is because they're, they're kind of using different vocabulary or just they're, their different perspectives are being weaponized, right?

[00:48:51] So you have an, an apple here, someone's coming in from this way, another person's coming from this way. It's different shapes, and so they perceive it as different problems, and then they propose different solutions that don't make sense in the other person's context. But once you do that work to educate, oh no, this is your perspective, this is your perspective.

[00:49:10]  problem is the same. It's still the apple that needs to be whatever, attacked, but.  is there a way that sort of solves both party's perspective, that educational work unlocks so much collaboration? , so like the, I, I think that utopian state besides just being cool to be there, the work to get there is so beneficial to improving culture morale and it's just funner to work with colleagues where you underst appreciate that different perspective rather than resent and say things like, oh, that person just doesn't understand.

[00:49:45] Well, yeah, that's, that's a shitty place to work.

[00:49:48] Nima Gardideh: Yeah, I really liked that perspective cuz I I, I had like flashbacks of in my earlier career, like talking to folks that cared a lot more about brand than I did and finding resentment as opposed to like, appreciating their point of view on things. Can you gimme an example of like this the apple from different perspectives, like just just to like clarify what you're talking about because I think I intellectually understand what you're saying, but I'd love to get an example of like that work

[00:50:19] Ian Yung: yeah.  I mean  age old, like tension between brand marketing, performance marketing, right? It's like, oh, brand marketing thinks that performance marketers are robots and just look at nbers on a spreadsheet. And it's just like we're, we're marketing han beings.  performance marketers think that brand marketers are just in the clouds, un untethered to reality and sort of floating and, and talking about things that doesn't impact the day-to-day business.

[00:50:50] , obviously both are gross stereotypes that are not true in either case.  I, I would say the perspective for, from both  way I anchor both of them is just the time series of what you're talking. So both, both types of marketers want to grow businesses and like get, sell more product of whatever you're doing.

[00:51:10] It's just a matter of like, and what timeframe are you looking at? So performance marketers, because it needs to be measured. It's the attribution window of whatever you're measuring, right? So is it a day, a week, a month, whatever that like, that is performance marketers. Literal blind spot is that they, they have no way of seeing things beyond that time series or that time that timeframe.

[00:51:29] Brand marketers think infinity, like forever, right? It's just the, length of memory. As long as, people remember a brand, that's what's important to them, right? And so bridging that gap is, the way I found to unify, and, get brand marketers and performing marketers to, sort of speak the same language is, it's just a matter for how long you're, looking at brand awareness.

[00:51:56] Like those brand metrics, it's much longer because people's memories are longer. Different than attribution windows, which are, which are very tight typically.

[00:52:05] Nima Gardideh: Yeah, I like, I like that perspective a lot. And, and I think like the way I try to sort of instill the same , mentality in our team is that if there was no brand marketing, you would get screwed at some point anyway as a performance marketer, cuz you need them to sort of warm up audiences for you in some, to a some extent, right?

[00:52:25] Like before you show the performance ad, if they've never heard of your product in the past and you're in part of the demand curve that isn't easily convincible or isn't, isn't really in market immediately, then you're just gonna be in trouble.

[00:52:41] , let, let's touch on this attribution stuff in general.

[00:52:46] So you've been in on the more, on the brand side before you've you obviously have done a lot of performance and you touched on multi-touch attribution earlier no pun intended, do you. and there's incrementality tests now and, and all this sort of marketing mix modeling stuff that's come around the last couple years or come back around the last couple years.

[00:53:10] , do you, do you think everyone should have some multi attribution model? Is there like a time in which you ask, you start thinking about it? , do you stop thinking, looking at that altogether when you're at a certain scale and just look at these sort of marketing mix models to make decisions? Like how does that process work in your mind?

[00:53:29] And I know you advise other startups and companies, so I'm sure you're 

[00:53:32] Ian Yung: Yeah, yeah, no, for sure.  they're all tools, right? They're all, every tool has its time and a place. It's, has its strengths in what it can do and things that it can't do. And I think the biggest , I guess mistake that brands or companies or marketers do is try and use the same tool for every single situation, right?

[00:53:50] So 

[00:53:51] it's like you're trying to hammer a nail with a screwdriver, like it just doesn't work.  and so , like from the evolution of like, okay, well last act, last click attribution easiest, like go to Google Analytics and it'll just be done for you. Yes, obviously it's useful, but it has its limitations.

[00:54:11] You go to the end of the extreme, you mentioned meaning mix modeling, the li , many, many limitations there.  and if the tool and the brand doesn't have scale of spend, for example, so if you're not spending meaningful budgets in a particular channel and, and meaningful is relative cuz you just need to have signal from noise.

[00:54:31] It's useless if you don't have significant changes in your sort of market dynamics, right? It's all just kind of steady state in your spending, spending, spending, spending also gonna be useless.  so like you have to have changes in your impact to, to use to make mark medi mix modeling work. I, I propose that incrementality testing is, I think, the most mon multifunctional tool.

[00:54:57] So if you have rigorous, empirical data on a test and control, is it actually an ab holdout test? Is it a geo lift test? Is it whatever? There's, there's many ways to, to, to, to achieve that result. But I would propose that that's actually the most useful one because that's the one that actually ties directly to a business kpi,

[00:55:20] right?

[00:55:20] , and you have to use your creativity to make those, how do you make that type of approach work for your different channels? that is not an easy task.  more art than science, I'd say.  but again, all these attribution tools, they're just meant to help you make decisions. They don't have to be perfect.

[00:55:42] So a another thing that I advise anyone who will listen actually, is who cares if it's 3.1%? or 3.4%. It's 3%. It's not 50%. Right? or the ROAS is whatever, whatever, like, it, re's a sense of false precision in attribution that is super detrimental to decision making.  because, and, and most oftentimes that false sense of precision is, is for a little bit of c y a and just covering your ass and trying to justify vendor relationships or, or things like that.

[00:56:20] So as long as you're mindful around sort of like, where is their actual precision a need for actual precision versus just trying to Gil Giled Lily and make things up. Really, when you collectively look at all the different outputs of these attribution models it's generally good enough and you can make good decisions.

[00:56:43] And it's basically, should I spend more into this or, or not?

[00:56:46] Nima Gardideh: Yeah. And, and I think it's funny enough that it's somewhat hard to get people to agree with what you just said. Like I, I find it it's part of my job quite often to go and tell people that your attribution model in whatever format it is, is should be used for directional decisions and not for financial accuracy.

[00:57:07] , just because of what you just mentioned, there's just so much fuzziness in there that I wouldn't trust my own business to try to use an attribution model to figure out exactly how to if my unit economics are working well or not.  there was some of that a again, like directionally you have some of that information in that model and, and it can help you.

[00:57:29] , but it's just. I think like going back to like the phrase you used, just the decision making framework. Like I'm trying to use this framework to make better decisions and it actually helps with that. at that it's quite good for helping me allocate my budget in these different ways or kill creative that's not performing well based on this model and so on 

[00:57:52] Ian Yung: Yeah, you, can get really good signal on a relative basis, right? So does this work better than this? Does this channel more productive than this channel? That is, there's a lot of tools that are very good at, identifying that, and that's the decision you need to make. It's just a, it's an ordinal decision and it's not a specific discreet, like I, I care that it's exactly generated however many dollars of revenue.

[00:58:15] The dollars of revenue that matters are the one that go into your bank account.

[00:58:18] Nima Gardideh: Yeah. Like are they 

[00:58:20] Ian Yung: Yeah, exactly. 

[00:58:21] Like, is, 

[00:58:21] Nima Gardideh: the.

[00:58:21] Ian Yung: is, it flowing through?

[00:58:22] Nima Gardideh: Okay, I have two questions for you. I think they're like, somewhat related. 

[00:58:26] One is like in a business like tonal, there is like the first purchase right there is like a big purchase I'm making, and then there's like a subscription component after the fact, right?

[00:58:36] , and so you have to like, make some decisions around like, are you gonna break even on the hardware or not? And then like, wait for the money to come back. And then that's kind of where your profits are. And I'm sure there's costs associated with every day these months. So you're producing content and so on and so forth.

[00:58:52] And so and  question there is how do you think about sort of like CAC when it comes to that? , and then I think the other question that is related is as you had, you were talking about, oh, in parachute there was all these different parts of the business that were related and, and, and , if they did well, we would help the company grow and, and touch a modern, similarly, the merchandising part.

[00:59:18] Do you have like a. Growth formula, at least in your mind or very publicly in the organization that you're talking about, like these are the 4 0 5 variables that are related for us to make this thing work. Is that like living in your mind, is that like very publicly discussed? Like how did you think about that? 

[00:59:38] Ian Yung: No, very, very much so.  it's you need a framework that is publicly discussed or publicly, like internally within, within the organization, right? , people need to be aligned around why your view of the world is representative of like reality, right? And so I, I won't go too much into the specifics, but conceptually you can think about acquisition as because it's so easy to like, do incrementality testing and like, okay, how much acquisition is actually because of paid media, right?

[01:00:12] How, how much is the gasoline actually making the flame grow bigger? But then you also it's important to measure and quantify how much acqui, how much acquisition is happening because the fire exists in the first place. And that's the organic stuff. That's your, your word of mouth, that's your pr, that's your organic social, that's your whatever, right?

[01:00:32] All, all the stuff that just makes you a good business to begin with. . Like you have to quantify that and you have to get people aligned to what they do. It matters to this because we're measuring this and this organic position exists independent of anything that happens on the paid media site. So, so that's like the first break.

[01:00:54] It's like, okay, yeah, paid is gonna throw a lot of gasoline. If, if you look at it holistically, it introduces a lot of noise, right? Because depending on how big your budgets are, it can dwarf this, but this is still important because without this initial fire, the gasoline is just gonna be sloshing around and won't ignite.

[01:01:13] So getting the merchandising team at touch and monitor, for example, getting the customer service team at parachute just bought into the fact that if you provide goods customer service, that improves our perception of word of mouth. There's gonna be some word of mouth virality going on here.  if we can measure that and report out on that, hey, we're getting better over time, that's motivating to those teams to like continue to want to, to drive not just to their own things, but that they're actually driving the business forward because they are.

[01:01:41] Right. 

[01:01:42] , so, so that's, I guess the first part, like you have to have this model. It has to be communicated, it has to be educated and it has to be accurate , right? Like you can't have a situation where we're doing well, but like that's going down. And so it does have to be representative of reality.

[01:01:58] It doesn't have to be perfect, but it has to be directionally correct.

[01:02:02] Nima Gardideh: And so are you, like, are, do you have models where you say, if we had an increase of 10% in our nps, we think that we would grow the business even like we would reduce the CAC overall C of the business By this much, like are you going that granular or is it more of like a philosophical understanding of 

[01:02:20] Ian Yung: de depends. So, NPS is very noisy. I, I, I like philosophically, I think NPS is great cuz it asks you would you refer, but it is so noisy and so it's really hard to, to, to draw a quantitative, analytical conclusion in that type of model. So, so that is more of a philosophical thing.  it is possible to do sort of like correlation analysis around functional KPIs to this main metric.

[01:02:48] , and so that's where you kind of have to use some art to under to know what are the ones that have the potential to be correlated, do the correlation analysis and then, and then prove that to, to teams.

[01:03:02] Nima Gardideh: That's cool because something like response rates of customer service being correlated to like, yeah.  like, I don't know, social responses, which is then so correlated to lower C and all that sort of stuff. 

[01:03:14] Ian Yung: in installation times. Right.  from Right delivery times. So we had a, a big issue at Touch Of Modern where stuff took a long time to get to our customers. That's correlated.  for tonal. It's, yeah. You order, we have to like actually install it on your wall. It's not like we can just ship it and like, hey, figure it out yourself.

[01:03:37] , people think that it's like a, a flat screen tv, but you don't hang off your flat screen TV and yank with as much force as you can. Right.  so, so there we do have a pretty involved operations team that makes sure that it is safe and it's well installed and it's clean and, and we're not like damaging anything that takes time.

[01:03:57] We found that. if we can shorten that time. There's, there's increases in our conversion rates.

[01:04:03] Nima Gardideh: when you say it sounds quite obvious, right? But I think maybe if you're on that team, you don't recognize how important that may be.  or if you're on the marketing team, you're just thinking like, oh, that's not related. I'm just gonna get people to go through the funnel as fast as possible.

[01:04:16] And let's go back. So this is kind of like the way I would like, like the growth to be discussed. And I think there is a component of it that I find curious, which is you are talking about working with a totally different team, like the merchandising team and like an operations team.  and I assume, and correct me if I'm wrong, they do not report.

[01:04:41] To the growth team. Like, they're like totally different functional teams and they're, they have their own KPIs and so on and so forth.  so is part of this job just leading by influence, kind of like a product manager's role when they're building product? Like, are you just building relationships with these folks and aligning with them on these things?

[01:05:00] And I assume the founders are quite involved in this multifaceted way.  do you, in a, would you rather them report to you or would you rather this is, this is like the better way to have this run? Like what is, how do you, how do you think about that 

[01:05:14] Ian Yung: It's impossible, like solving problems with reporting relationships. it, if that were the true solution, there'd only be one. Se like, like it just funnels to one person, right? Like, it's impossible, right? That's not a scalable solution.  so, so you can't solve every problem just by reporting relationships.

[01:05:32] , and, and I'd actually argue any leader should be leading by influence, right? A again, for the same corollary, like you, there's always gonna be someone that doesn't report to you. That's important to what you do, that you're gonna have to build a relationship with an and be productive, right? So I guess I'd answer it that way, like the reporting relationships are obviously helpful in some situations and it cuts through a lot of noise and, and reduces overhead for communications and, and whatnot.  but a again, it's not it's not a catchall solution that just solve it with like making it report to one person. Cuz , the flip side of that is you have concentration in perspective. Like, you're not actually gonna get that diversity of thought of someone with a different perspective.

[01:06:20] , so it could bias yourself to too, too much group think And plus it's just a lot of work. Like

[01:06:30] Nima Gardideh: Yeah.

[01:06:31] Ian Yung: just gotta, it's a lot of work. I enjoy

[01:06:34] Nima Gardideh: Yeah.

[01:06:34] Ian Yung: but it's a lot

[01:06:36] Nima Gardideh: Yeah. That's, and I think that's like well said. And especially on the part of like having someone maybe at your sort of like level to , have to not only communicate with and align with, but also because they have like a similar level of, let's say like, for lack of a better word, power they can push back against maybe the ideas that were not great that you had.

[01:07:01] , and so that in itself is like a very useful sort of dynamic to be in. I find like a similar thing, especially around functional design, like I think. and our org is fully functional.  so like all the functions are separated.  even though, like quite commonly in marketing teams, for instance, you'll have like a marketing designer and like a growth engineer.

[01:07:21] And then there's like those teams that report up to growth VPs and stuff.  we don't do that. We have like a design team and like an engineering team and a marketing paid search or paid social org. They're fully separate. They run their own sort of processes, but then they work together on, on accounts for this sort of same thought process.

[01:07:46] And I, I'd say I've been like quite inspired by Apple in that way. I think they do a really great job at doing these functional or designs.  but it's just been lost into the tech industry for some reason. 

[01:07:56] Ian Yung: Yeah. I mean, org designs I think sometimes get overused to like solve, like what's the root problem? So like embedded teams, for example, like having like an embedded team, like a growth pod that has PMs and designers and engineers all focus on that one thing. Yes, it solves the problem around bandwidth and prioritization.

[01:08:15] They're gonna be focused on this one problem together, so they won't be distracted by other demands. But like you create other problems, right? Because then , the problem is the same. You just, or  volume or like the scope of problems just gets shifted from one, like you solve one, but you create another.

[01:08:34] Nima Gardideh: And I think a lot of the, and, and one thing to that note is your org design maybe should change based on the problem at hand. So like, if you are in the need of that sort of pot system, then switch to that and go for that for a while because that's kind of the way you're going to be able to use your resources well.

[01:08:52] ,

[01:08:53] Ian Yung: We,

[01:08:54] Nima Gardideh: type of sort of like, oh, sorry. 

[01:08:56] Ian Yung: no, no, I was just saying we do tiger teams for specific problems. And so we'll, we'll say, Hey, this is a problem that is , multi-functional and collaborative in its very nature, it's very important. We need people like dedicated to, and we'll just nominate people as part of a Tar Tiger team to just in a small group, just like hash it out and report back to the, to the bigger org.

[01:09:18] And we've, we've used that a couple times. In total.

[01:09:21] It's to 

[01:09:21] Nima Gardideh: And do they hand their existing responsibilities over during that time, or they just take on this new responsibility as like a side thing? 

[01:09:28] Yeah. .

[01:09:28] Ian Yung: a side thing. Yeah. 

[01:09:29] Nima Gardideh: Yeah. startups.

[01:09:31] Ian Yung: Yeah. It's,

[01:09:33] Nima Gardideh: I, I was just gonna ask , and maybe this is kind of where we're closed, is just the structure of the teams that you've been a part of, and I assume you've built some of these teams.

[01:09:42] So like what is the types of Disciplines that are, that are reporting into the growth org? Like are there marketers, are they designers? , are there just marketers and growth folks? , how have you been designing these teams?

[01:09:59] Ian Yung: it's how you balance like full-time headcount and agencies or, or consultants or support staff, right? And, and it's based on volume of work that needs to be done. So I've sort of on the paid side, there's channel managers and sort of like a director that's focused on, on sort of paid acquisition.

[01:10:19] , I think analytics support very important if, if you're gonna be doing incrementality testing and, and doing all these like data stuff, like you have to have someone pretty deep in the weeds doing that.  very important website maintenance and design and, and c r O testing is another functional specialty that I think is pretty important if you are an e-comm business.

[01:10:42] , the brand marketing skillset. So having someone that has that specific focus and perspective is, is important and, and it might. Sort of manifest itself not just in sort of campaign management and, and like marketing calendar ownership but organic channel and, and , in some cases it might be influencer relationships because the influencers are used as an expression of brand reach rather than pure performance.

[01:11:14] Influencers could also be pre-performance, kind of depends on how you want to use those.  having creative support. So someone who has skillsets in either visual or auditory, like just from a creative lens in terms of the transforming a brief into an assumet that resonates with consumer.

[01:11:38] That's a very important skillset set.  that's sort of like in the marketing world, right? , and then obviously it's different functional levels in terms of levels of experience and how how much firepower you wanna put in a, in a, in a particular area. Product marketing also very important oh, UX research user insights, super important.

[01:12:01] , they're the counterpoint to the analytics people, right? So analytics can find out what's going on, like transform that into a hypothesis. Like why, why is that behavior actually happening? , and you need to do qual research for that. 

[01:12:15] Nima Gardideh: And I assume there's like a mixture of like, some of these folks are in-house, some of these folks are like contracted and you're tapping into like resources externally.

[01:12:23] Ian Yung: yeah. I mean, if you have enough work and it's where it's crucial to have that in-house knowledge, domain expertise, then bring it in-house if it's sort of periodic or, or not sort of core to your business, use an agency. That flexibility will, will be very,

[01:12:42] Nima Gardideh: Awesome. Well, Ian, thank you so much for doing this with me. It was super fun to just learn from you and your experiences.  I'm quite grateful for for all , the nuggets and knowledge that you bestowed upon me.  and hopefully our listeners thank you for coming here and I'm excited to see tonal scale.

[01:13:00] , you're just starting there. So it sounds like it's been already fruitful.  and there's a lot more to, to be done on, on that, on that platform. And it's quite of an interesting company. And I'll, I'll do an intro in the beginning of the of the pod for folks to know about these different brands you've worked on.

[01:13:21] But it's quite of an interesting one. I've been following it for a.

[01:13:24] Ian Yung: Awesome. Thanks for, thanks for having me. 


[01:13:26] Nima Gardideh: All right. And that's a wrap. Thank you so much for listening. As always, please subscribe and follow us on the diff different platforms. You might be listening to this podcast. We want more people to, know about this as we're trying to skill it up a little bit more.  we're getting better and better guests as we've approached this podcast over the past year.

[01:13:47] , next up is going to be Ethan Smith.  he's the CEO and founder of Graphite who's quite of an interesting.  fell. I, I'm excited for you to hear him talk about seo and we've got Bong and from Placemaker and my co-founder has done another episode with me, and we're gonna share a bunch of of our tactics.

[01:14:07] So a lot of interesting things coming up and appreciate you spending a time listening to this. Have a one?