Operational Scalability: Aleksandra Medina & Katrin Kaurov of Frich On How To Set Up Systems…

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Operational Scalability: Aleksandra Medina & Katrin Kaurov of Frich On How To Set Up Systems, Procedures, And People To Prepare A Business To Scale

Be reflective and adaptive — set up processes & cadence to support your products but do not forget to retro and improve/reflect on these processes as well. They can be just as important as your product itself. You are not going to know everything you need to support scale on day 1.

In today’s fast-paced business environment, scalability is not just a buzzword; it’s a necessity. Entrepreneurs often get trapped in the daily grind of running their businesses, neglecting to put in place the systems, procedures, and people needed for sustainable growth. Without this foundation, companies hit bottlenecks, suffer inefficiencies, and face the risk of stalling or failing. This series aims to delve deep into the intricacies of operational scalability. How do you set up a framework that can adapt to growing customer demands? What are the crucial procedures that can streamline business operations? How do you build a team that can take on increasing responsibilities while maintaining a high standard of performance?

In this interview series, we are talking to CEOs, Founders, Operations Managers Consultants, Academics, Tech leaders & HR professionals, who share lessons from their experience about “How To Set Up Systems, Procedures, And People To Prepare A Business To Scale”. As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Aleksandra Medina and Katrin Kaurov.

Aleksandra Medina is the co-founder and CPO of Frich. She specializes in building fintech products that focus on building community to destigmatize having honest conversations around money.

Katrin Kaurov is the co-founder and CEO of Frich. Her speciality lies in crafting unique partnerships and acquiring Gen Z members for brands and financial institutions alike.

They both have spoken about the topics of entrepreneurship, female empowerment, social finance and building products for the Gen Z user at NYU Stern, Columbia University, Women @ Google and multiple podcasts as well as events, panels and conferences.

Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

We started Frich during Covid, after we had both recently moved to NYC. Katrin moved here from Estonia and I from Latvia. Previously, we both had had quite unconventional experiences and had learned to earn and manage money at a very early age. However, all of our money questions and insecurities skyrocketed after moving to NYC and being thrown into one of the most competitive and expensive cities in the world. Both in our early 20s, we had to single-handedly figure out how to find a guarantor for an apartment, how to pay taxes and how much is too much when it comes to spending on going out.

The real problem for us was that we had no one to ask these “awkward” money questions since we were new to the city and were comparing ourselves to very unrealistic social media representations of life in the city. And that’s how the idea for Frich was born!

Frich, a social finance platform that empowers users to make informed choices. We provide a platform where individuals can openly share and compare how people just like them handle their money. Whether it’s finding the right credit card to sign up for, knowing how much to spend on a first date or figuring out how to pay back student loans.

It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

There’s so, so many to choose from! We’re both first-time founders and started the company when I was 22 and Katrin was 23. Both of us have reflected and laughed that if we knew how difficult this was going to be back then, we probably would’ve never set out to do what we do today. Ignorance truly is bliss, but it gives you courage too!

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Since Day 1 what has set our company apart has been the founder story and the brand of Frich. Neither of us have a finance background so we truly set out to build a product for ourselves and people like us. What it resulted in was a finance company that “speaks the language” of the younger generation in a supportive and non-intimidating language. We’re also able to understand the underlying cause for financial anxieties for our users — inability to compare yourself to your peers and finding a simple starting point.

As a result, we’ve been able to build very efficient acquisition and engagement channels, all based on an intrinsic understanding of who our user is — because we’re our own users.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

Resourcefulness — this is one of the key characteristics we’ve identified in ourselves and any of our early team members. When you’re reimagining an industry, there won’t be existing tools and systems that you can follow. What worked really well for us was repurposing lessons from seemingly unrelated industries and applying them to our product — at Frich a lot of the early inspiration came from the fitness & wellness industries.

Compassion — at first glance it might not seem that way, but personal finance is a very emotional topic for our users. That’s where a lot of products fall short. It’s easier to assume that people will act rationally, when it comes to money, but the truth is that money is tied to self-confidence, joy, opportunity, ambition and many other feelings. Thus, when solving a problem for someone who is already overburdened by the endless struggles of growing up, we must feel compassion and build from a place of understanding. Otherwise, we’ll end up alienating our users.

Resilience — being a founder is anything but easy. Sure, there are high highs but there are a lot of very low lows. If you don’t have the resilience and conviction needed to make this work, you’ll never take the risks that are necessary for the business to prosper.

Leadership often entails making difficult decisions or hard choices between two apparently good paths. Can you share a story with us about a hard decision or choice you had to make as a leader? I’m curious to understand how these challenges have shaped your leadership.

There are countless difficult decisions that a founder will be forced to make. By nature, founders are left with the most difficult decisions, because no one else wants to deal with them, and there’s no one else to offload these decisions to! For better or for worse, after making enough of these decisions, it will get easier.

One of the most pivotal decisions that we made at Frich was to shift our focus away from being a purely B2C business. Since the day Frich was founded, we had spent all our focus, energy and resources on building a B2C product. In early 2023 we realized that our mission (every young person deserves to be financially confident!) can reach many more people if Frich shifts our focus to a B2B angle and works together with Financial Institutions to bridge the gap between these FIs and our users.

That was a huge business strategy decision and the internal changes that happened after that reaffirmed how important it is for the leadership team to have a strong vision and unwavering belief in the success of the company. These are key to keep the team motivated and excited through any internal changes or shifts.

Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion about Operational Scalability. In order to make sure that we are all on the same page, let’s begin with a simple definition. What does Operational Scalability mean to you?

Operational scalability to me means leverage.

Leveraging teams, processes, and procedures to deliver a consistent high quality value for the 5th or 50,000th customer.

Which types of business can most benefit from investing in Operational Scalability?

Software solutions (such as our whitelabeled product for Fiancial Institutions) are one of the highest benefactors of investment in operational scalability. If a business builds for scale, it can grow much more rapidly and cost effectively.

Investing in operational scalability pays off in consumer facing products as well. In consumer finance delivering the same high quality product or service for every customer unlocks their friends and families to be customers as well.

It’s an incredibly competitive space filled with tons of great products. The way we’ve broken through is by building a brand powered by really understanding users and delivering value to them at scale.

Why is it so important for a business to invest time, energy, and resources into Operational Scalability?

It’s one thing to personally deliver value for a few customers, it’s a much different problem to rely on your teams to deliver it for thousands of customers.

We can’t be in the room for every micro-decision that needs to be made but we can leverage culture and principals to know that our teams are making well informed and customer centric decisions.

For us, that means it’s been very important to invest a lot of time developing and instilling our culture starting with new hires.

In contrast, what happens to a business that does not invest invest time, energy, and resources into Operational Scalability?

Your head count will be high and your growth stalls. Additionally, you’ll find that your best employees are spending their energy navigating timeconsuming processes rather than bringing net new growth to the business. It’s a very tough position to be in.

Can you please share a story from your experience about how a business grew dramatically when they worked on their Operational Scalability?

We learned this lesson when growing our campus footprint. There’s only so many hours in the day for Katrin and I to show up and get users to sign-up, so we had to recruit ambassadors to grow on more campuses.

The first problem we ran into was our early ambassadors weren’t getting sign-ups at the same rate as Katrin & I were.

So we focused on culture, up-leveling their skills and communicating our principles. Now, it feels like there’s 100’s of Katrin’s & Aleksandra’s all around the country recruiting Frich users on campuses.

Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the “Five Most Important Things A Business Leader Should Do To Set Up Systems, Procedures, And People To Prepare A Business To Scale”? If you can, please share a story or an example for each.

Keep institutional memory-don’t be in a position where you don’t know why past decisions have been made or places where you are remaking the same decisions from the past

Customer centric — scale is meaningless if you destroy your value prop along the way

Be reflective and adaptive — set up processes & cadence to support your products but do not forget to retro and improve/reflect on these processes as well. They can be just as important as your product itself. You are not going to know everything you need to support scale on day 1.

New hire onboarding — new hires need to know not just the value of the business and what you are trying to achieve, but should be aware of the components of the business and how that fits with the strategy.

Know when to deco. If a product is not going as planned have plans to sunset them. You don’t want the rollout of a new promising feature or product to be hampered by an old, costly unused one.

What are some common misconceptions businesses have about scaling? Can you please explain?

Many may think that scale means depreciating quality. This is not true, particularly in software and technology companies. Building your business the right way, planning for scale, will allow you to deliver the same value to the millionth user at a fraction of the cost.

How do you keep your team motivated during periods of rapid growth or change?

That’s a really great question! I alluded to it a bit on one of the previous questions, but ultimately it comes down to the leadership team having strong conviction that the changes are necessary for the company to succeed. Additionally, in times of uncertainty and big changes, it’s hard to overstate the importance of having a strong and clear vision. When you have that vision, you can tie any changes to it! If the team believes in the vision, they’ll handle the rocky in-between moments and the motivation will come from within.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

The harder you work, the luckier you get.

I love this quote because it’s so true! It debunks this strange misconception people have about success. So many of us think that you need this or you need that to succeed but that’s not true! All you need to do is continuously keep putting yourself out there so that opportunities can find you. How could anyone ever help you if they don’t know you need help? How can you meet someone if you’re not putting yourself out there? The harder you work and the more you put yourself out there, the “luckier” you will get. It’s just a numbers game.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I genuinely believe in Frich’s mission.

Once we successfully bring financial literacy into university curricula across the nation, we can help students grow into more confident and savvy young adults. In a 2023 Ernst & Young study, they reported that “financial worry is a top driver of anxiety among Gen Z”. This means that lack of confidence in their ability to manage money is directly affecting the younger generation’s mental and physical health. This further keeps the next generation from taking calculated risks to reach their life goals. Whether it’s to start a business, pay for a Master’s Degree, travel the world or have children — people need to feel financially confident to take these risks.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can visit our website wwww.getfrich.com to learn more about what we do or find us on LinkedIn — Aleksandra Medina and Katrin Kaurov. And, of course, download the Frich app on the App Store!

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

Operational Scalability: Aleksandra Medina & Katrin Kaurov of Frich On How To Set Up Systems… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.