Taking Personal Kanban to the World

Round 2! All is not lost.
Moving right along from the children’s book publishing no-go concept, on which I spent a fair amount of time planning and preparing, startup idea #2 is already out the door and up and running in less than a month.

Stemming from an initiative that emerged at Snapper while Sandy was there being an Agile coach, the Personal Kanban Board is now live and ready for action!
The design has come from Gina Higham and the evolution and product-izing from Sandy. Together we established the business idea, created the website and are happily sending boards out into the world as we speak.
It’s been quite a different initiative than my book startup idea. A much shorter gestation period for one thing – any delays in getting started were purely a result of everyone having too many other things to do (i.e jobs).
However there have been a lot of learnings from this one – for us in particular we had no idea how different business would be when you have a physical product. It’s not just an initial design/build cost and then multiple downloads. It’s an ongoing regime of proofing designs, printing, picking things up, packaging, posting … the list goes on. All of these things make the real cost of sale considerably higher than we had imagined.
Some insights:
Totally shocked by the postage costs. When your product costs $32 and the postage is $9 it gets a bit ridiculous (and that’s only WITHIN NZ!). But as the Kanban Boards are a bit over the standard size (they’re about A3) they bypass all the normal packaging costs and head into the stratospheric ‘oversize’ bracket. Definitely worth buying more than one at a time if it’s being posted – it’s $9 for as many as we can get into the envelope!
Connecting with Customers
So far we haven’t made any attempt to really promote the boards. We wanted to start slowly, see what was actually involved in getting a board from concept to customer, and make sure we had something people wanted. It seems so far that we do – but what we have realised is that we have a product that people want when they see it in action. The concept is a bit harder to grasp remotely – sales so far have primarily come from Sandy’s presentations or colleagues or people who have seen one somewhere. So we obviously need to work a bit more on making the description clear and obvious to the person who stumbles across the site (any ideas welcome btw!).
We were very excited to make it into the O’Reilly media 4 short links on July 4th and happily sat back as the stats flew up and waited for the US orders to come rolling in. And waited. And nothing. Welcome to the world of cruising around online! In part these people could be just not interested in the product, in part it could have been that the page they landed on didn’t make it clear enough what they were in for (though we actually thought it kinda did). Whatever the reason it has reinforced to us that our connections, at least for now, need to be personal. That’ll be a bit challenging!
Still, overall we know we have actually got a great product that really does make life better when you use it. And it’s a great adjunct to the coaching work that Sandy does. I’ll let you know if we gain more insights!


Brenda Leeuwenberg
  • So, this is a really interesting adventure you guys are having! As far as the lack of sales from click-throughs issue goes, how well is the Kanban system known? I mean, it’s something I’ve never come across before and yet it looks like it would be worth using. So for me as an outsider, I want to know how the Kanban system works and how easy will it be for me to learn. 

    At the moment, the KF1 website seems set up for people who already have experience using Kanban, which makes me think it’s not intended for absolute beginners – but perhaps this isn’t actually what you’re intending. I know there are links to this info, but somehow it would seem better coming from the KF1 team itself – share your story, how it’s changed your work life. The “Visual Workspaces: Kanban for One” blog post is really good – all those colourful boards and cheerful people – but it would be better to have content like that on the  KF1 website. And does Kanban even need to be confined to the office? Can it work at home? And what advantage does buying a KF1 board have over tacking up a few sheets of paper to the wall?

    Ok, I hope all this totally unsolicited feedback is useful to you. As soon as I get a desk at home, I’ll buy a board! Until then, best of luck with the business!

    July 10, 2012 at 10:59 am
  • Trish Stonestreet

    Great product. Can I suggest you approach Google and sell them the idea to redesign their tasks list as a personal Kanban board?

    July 11, 2012 at 9:19 am
  • Kristina

    4 unfiltered ideas:

    1) Party plan! Seriously, if you guys are short on time, and you have enthusiastic customers who are only too happy to evangelise and demonstrate for a small commission… and no individual postage costs ‘cos the promoter has a whole lot of them in one place and the buyer/workmates come to him/her…
    2) Kanban. As the commenter below says, does anyone outside of the Agile community know what it means? Could you rename it for the masses, the way you have renamed the stages in the process (eg you nicely translated ‘Backlog’ to ‘Things to do’). Is there any kind of copyright thing that needs to be taken into account here? A different name will help with marketing to a wider audience. Like a ‘Kan-do’ board (oooh, a Japanese pun!) or ‘Get stuff done’ board or (dare I say it) ‘system’, which your instructions explain is based on a Japanese business system, that you can also use to be more productive in your business or personal life…

    3) Warehouse Stationery. As I was standing looking at corkboards, whiteboards, and combo corkboard-whiteboards on special here the other day, I felt like I should get something like them, but not quite them, because I knew they would just become a dumping ground for old clippings. That was before I saw your Kanban boards. Next time I was in Warehouse Stationery, I thought, you could sell those boards here. Except that people wouldn’t know what to do with them, unless you had really good instructions, a poster on the wall, or a demonstration. This is also where you’d need the new name. Geez, it’s really a productivity tool; you almost have to write a book and package the board with it as a kitset. Oops wait on; someone already wrote a book…

    4) What Robyn says. You need more content on your website, written just for the website/your customers.

    July 28, 2012 at 11:46 pm
    • Wow, fantastic ideas – thank you!
      We are working on the website – it was thrown together pretty quickly and we’ve realised there are quite a few things we can do to make it better. Certainly the copy but also the overall layout – just need to find the time now!
      I do like the Kan-Do option – that’s something we just might put in place! 
      We are looking at a few options for retail outlets – we also thought they’d be great corporate Xmas gifts – along the lines of the gift that keeps on giving (in a good way).
      Also – we have a purple board coming :)

      July 30, 2012 at 10:42 pm

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