Since its inception in 2013, Showbie has built tools that not only help educators go paperless in the classroom but also empower teachers and students to connect and learn in meaningful and creative ways. Today, Showbie ranks as a top-selling education app for iOS, and more than 2 million teachers and students in 136 countries use Showbie in their classrooms.
Yet the market is quickly evolving, thanks in large part to the distance-learning demands created during the COVID-19 pandemic. “We want to be there to meet the need,” says Colin Bramm, CEO and co-founder of Showbie. “We want to make sure people are aware of the solutions we offer to make the most of this current situation.”
That means taking these unique market demands in stride with their post-Series A growth plans and being strategic about it. Bramm continues: “For us, it’s a question of how do we staff up our team? What kind of company response are we going to need to help our customers and to grow the value of the business over the next several years?”
In order to achieve intentional and sustainable growth, Bramm knew he needed to tackle a challenge common to growing organizations: Presenting a clear growth path around which Showbie’s leadership team and entire company could align.
Designing the future of Showbie has been top of mind for Bramm since their Series A fundraising in August 2020, but planning this new and exciting stage hasn’t been easy.
“I was looking at our hiring plans for the next year, which were a complete spreadsheet conundrum,” Bramm admits. “It was just a total disaster of spreadsheets and timelines and Gantt charts.”
Once Bramm compiled the budget, headcount, and month-over-month growth projections, he presented those figures to Showbie’s board and leadership team.
As they talked through the figures, various scenarios would emerge: If things are going really well for the company and we have more revenue, then I’d like to do this, or if things aren’t growing as much, then I’d like to do this but a little bit less of that. But these scenarios were difficult to visualize, which made alignment near impossible.
“All that work didn’t even matter because the format wasn’t something that I could easily communicate to other people,” Bramm confessed. He had graphs and charts to augment the numbers, but none of it clearly laid out what growing Showbie would actually look like.
Bramm needed his board and leadership team on the same page about Showbie’s path to growth and realized their current tools could no longer get them there. So Bramm went searching for a solution that could make that crucial alignment possible.
I think everyone who works here deserves to be part of an organization where their personal growth is fostered. And ChartHop gives us a complete picture of where we’re going and how we’re going to grow our people.
To grow in an ever-changing industry, Showbie needed an equally dynamic solution.
Specifically, Bramm wanted the flexibility to deliver powerful visuals his teams could easily understand. That’s when an industry acquaintance introduced him to ChartHop.
Right away, Bramm knew ChartHop would help his board and leadership team visualize potential growth outcomes for Showbie. All he had to do was upload the details from spreadsheets, and ChartHop would transform that data into immediate, actionable insights – saving Showbie time and money.
ChartHop’s scenario mapping feature would allow Bramm to create and explore various futures for Showbie, like the creation of cross-functional teams or what the company would look like if it made various strategic hiring decisions. But it was the ease of creating these scenarios using drag-and-drop functionality and on-page filtering that showed Bramm how easy real-time collaboration would be once he had leadership in the same room. For Showbie, this was the goal: present a powerful vision for the future that leadership (and the company as a whole) could rally around.
“It’s like I’ve got this superpower added to my arsenal that is letting me really lead the company and talk about how this will positively impact us and allow us to meet our goals this year with everybody involved,” Bramm explains.
Importantly, ChartHop’s ability to easily integrate with and sync data daily from Showbie’s human resources system, BambooHR, gave Bramm confidence that the leadership team could make informed decisions about the future since they would be working from a single source of truth.
“When those data pieces are consolidated to one system, it really [becomes] that living, breathing system of record for people and growth,” Bramm shares.
Bramm hit the ground running with ChartHop and saw the benefits almost immediately, quickly developing a primary growth plan to show his board.
Having visuals and the flexibility of scenario planning leveled up Showbie’s board meetings. Together, the board walked through half a dozen “what-if” scenarios, seeing the actual implications of growing one department over three months versus six months or the makeup of the workforce with the implementation of equitable hiring practices.
For Showbie, ChartHop was a planning gamechanger. “This board meeting versus what we used to have as a board meeting was 10 times more effective and mature and professional than what I’ve seen before,” Bramm admits. “Between the work it saved me, and the work it saved our leadership team, we probably saved over $10,000 in lost productivity – in just one planning process. The most powerful part was being able to put it in front of the leadership team so there’s clarity on the plan, and being able to make changes to the scenario in real time based on feedback we discussed in the meeting.”
Energized by the enthusiastic reception his growth plan received from the board and leadership team, Bramm decided to reveal the growth plan to Showbie’s employees in the first Town Hall meeting of their fiscal year.
“Everybody was excited to actually see, ‘Okay, it’s not actually this pie-in-the-sky vision to get from here to there, and theoretically this is how it’s going to happen. Here’s the actual org implication of where I sit in the company,’” Bramm explains. “We were able to be very transparent about that.”
He notes that rapid growth like Showbie’s makes it easy for team members to quickly become overtasked and feel overwhelmed. Using ChartHop, he could show teams key numbers, like the ratio of managers to individual contributors, that demonstrate how leadership is thinking about these challenges.
“It’s very important for us to communicate that while you’re kind of alone right now in your function, this is how we see the company being able to support this area of the business over the next three, six, nine, and 12 months.”
Bramm even found himself having similar conversations with external candidates being considered for key roles. Using ChartHop’s scenarios, Bramm could share plans for the marketing or design team, showing those lead candidates what he believes those teams will look like over the next few quarters.
Presenting the growth plan to the entire organization naturally led to conversations about employees’ professional growth. “People got the potential career tracks for themselves,” Bramm says. “[We could] have the warm-up conversations and say that certain members might go into lead roles this year.”
But with that big-picture view of Showbie’s current state and where they wanted to go, it became increasingly obvious where Bramm needed to bring on external candidates versus promoting from within – and that meant having difficult, but honest conversations.
“While everybody on this current Showbie team including myself has strengths, there’s also areas where we’re not as strong,” Bramm explains. “We do need people who have done this or that at another company, who can pull Showbie up to that next level.”
Bramm admits it was scary to have those challenging conversations, but having month-over-month growth projections for each team made it easier to explain the choices the leadership team made to ensure Showbie would be successful in their post-Series A phase.
As Bramm and the whole Showbie team began working more within the ChartHop platform, they quickly – and rather unexpectedly – discovered additional growth opportunities.
“It became very obvious to us that we needed to have a subsidiary in the UK, and that was not obvious in the spreadsheets at all,” Bramm says.
ChartHop’s map view made this possible. As COVID-19 precautions normalized remote work and Zoom calls around the world, it became easier for Bramm to visualize how Showbie could conduct business remotely and expand into new markets. Yet tackling growing markets in the UK and Western Europe brought a second discovery: the need for customer-facing teams across time zones.
In order to support teachers around the world, Showbie reached out to those who knew their product best – fellow teachers. In bringing on what Bramm calls “MVP teachers,” Showbie was able to offer round-the-clock support coverage while also supporting teachers on leave due to COVID-19.
At Showbie, growth is less about the financials and more about the people. Showbie boasts an employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS) of 85, a rating that measures employees’ enthusiasm for where they work. It’s a score Bramm is proud of and wants to preserve. Thoughtful yet strategic growth will get them there.
“I think everyone who works here deserves to be part of an organization where their personal growth is fostered,” Bramm says. “And ChartHop gives us a complete picture of where we’re going and how we’re going to grow our people.”
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