Esteban: You have worked in Europe, Asia, and Latin America. Where do you think startups have a better chance of thriving?
Francisco: I think there's a lot of effort that's been put in Latin America, in different countries. I think most countries in Latin America are actually creating their own organizations. And there are a lot of things that have come out of a Latin America endeavor, both community-driven and driven by investors, or even the government, that are actually trying to bridge the gap between the knowledge that we have here in LATAM and the resources we have, and the hunger that is there. There's an entrepreneurship spirit. I think that will bear fruit. It's already bearing fruit, but it will do so even more in the future.
When you compare different regions, you're comparing different sets of expectations. If you talk about Europe, you'll see there's a lot of different dynamics there that have to do with the fact that each market, even if it's integrated economically, speaks a different language. That restrains the possibility of scaling up.
If you were to create Rappi, you probably wouldn't do it in France because of red tape. On the other hand, there's a pool of talent in Europe that's difficult to replicate, apart from the United States, just because it's 400 million people, and there is a highly educated population.
What's going on in China is different from what is going on in India or Indonesia. There's a lot of thriving places there, but I find a lack of investment in some ways and a lack of talent in other places. That has to do with visa permits—where people want to travel and there's talent available, but you cannot bring talent to your city. That's where Singapore, Hong Kong, Mumbai, and Bangalore were doing a good job of facilitating migration, which is why they're becoming hubs.
Esteban: It’s good to hear Latin America is thriving, and that we have that hunger for startups. What are the main KPIs or OKRs you normally measure while building a marketing and growth strategy for a new team?
Francisco: I think you need to start off with the overall goal. Sometimes, a company just wants to test out the water and see if there's a product-market fit. In that case, you're not looking into measuring all things. You just want to see some sort of trend regarding product adoption.
Based on that, you’ll work backward. If your goal is to get a certain amount of revenue, then how many new companies or new customers do you need to acquire to do that? Then you go back a step. In order to get customers, you need to get qualified meetings or X amount of free users, then you start creating.
You want to have one North Star metric or maybe a small constellation of two to three North Star metrics. Then you can translate those into OKRs and map out your growth equation where you have, as the result of the equation, that North Star metric you want to move.
You’ll play around with the factors, with the levers that impact that final result you want to achieve. If it's a sales motion, that would be a conversion between a qualified meeting and a closed one. Then you can start going to the nitty-gritty and double-clicking to see what's underlying.
If you go into a more product-led motion, then you would have things like, how many people do I get through the door? How many leads are we having? When you have that mapped out, then you can start doing the job of trying to improve those metrics.
Esteban: When you start working with a new team, from scratch, how do you help them unite and develop a cohesive strategy throughout the whole process?
Francisco: Usually, when you start your marketing efforts at a company, the first hire is a generalist. This person will have insight into multiple areas, so your goal is to give them focus.
When you're working with a team, each person is pulled apart from the rest by what they need to do. What I try to do when I talk to those types of teams is to understand what it is actually valuable to those that are hiring them. So the main obstacle when you're starting off is the opportunity cost. Whenever you focus on one thing, you're not doing something else. I take a look at what the company wants to achieve and help them prioritize the activities. Typically, I ask questions and team members themselves will start figuring out what they need to do.
Esteban: Many of us have been in the startup environment where you have to wear many hats, and that can lead to burnout and mental health issues that can become very serious. A startup cannot put growth aside to solely focus on mental health. How can you balance those two aspects? Do you see a correlation between mental health and growth?
Francisco: At Yerbo, I’ve been working with multiple startups that are using our services to gain insights into the mental wellbeing of their individual employees and as a team. In the startup world, there are a lot of demands on the individual to deliver; there is always something you can do. This is a work style you need to get used to, but it can create a lot of anxiety.
There are multiple factors that go into burnout. The risk of burnout doesn’t only go up when its leading indicators go up. It can be tied to interpersonal relationships or exhaustion. However, there is something that can balances it out, and it has to do with work engagement.
If you look at entrepreneurs, you'll see founders and entrepreneurs often have high levels of burnout because they are tired of devoting everything they have to one single project. On the other hand, they're also very engaged. They're on a mission.
If you have high engagement and high burnout, you can only keep it up for a bit. At some point, you're going to break. What I recommend is for people to actually take charge of their mental wellbeing and whatever it is that works for them, going for a run, meditating, tracking your mental wellbeing with tools such as Yerbo, or whatever it is you want to use. I think it's important you try and get a pulse of how you're feeling.
Try that, and you can start spotting personal trends with your wellbeing. Maybe you tend to catastrophize, saying everything will go badly. I think it can be very powerful and helpful to track yourself and notice you are getting into that behavior. Then you can avoid it by creating room to go into flow.
For example, There's at least a couple of days when I am only called into meetings, only putting out fires. This should be the exception, not the norm. If it becomes the norm, then I need to block time for deep work, to get into the flow and do things. Managers need to rise to the occasion and respect the calendars of their individual contributors.
I think there's a lot we can do as individuals and teams, as companies, to avoid this, but the most important thing is to be aware that this is actually a problem and not a badge of honor. Saying you're super busy, working all weekend, and pulling all-nighters is not a badge of honor. It just means you're going to burn, and you're not building a business that can scale. If you need help, just look for help. That's okay. We need to destigmatize these things.
Esteban: Francisco, thank you very much for joining us today. This was really insightful.
Francisco: Thanks so much for having me. It was amazing being here.
“Saying you're super busy, working all weekend, and pulling all-nighters is not a badge of honor.” Take it from Francisco, even when you have a great marketing strategy, if you are burnt out, it is not going to be executed well. Take care of your team’s and your mental health and your strategy will fall in place.