We’ve finished season 1 of Hamburger Business Review, a shareholder endorsed project (74%). Ten episodes of discussion about a Harvard Business School case study on McDonald’s. Closing the season I feel a growing expertise about the fast food industry, somewhere right on that edge of realizing how much I don’t know.
This is an AAR for the season as a way to look back and learn from our experience.
What is an AAR?
The after action review is a terrifying concept in business. I learned the process in the Army and I’ve tried to use it in every work setting I’ve ever been a part of. But the concept of trying to learn from past experiences forces people to think about what went wrong and what they could have done better, and I’ve never had a boss who wasn’t 100% allergic to this idea.
But KmikeyM is a “Company of One” so I can look at my own projects without having to appease the ego of fragile leaders!
I use a simple version of the AAR that asks:
- What happened?
- What worked?
- What about next time?
What was supposed to happen?
With support from the shareholder proposal Zach Rose and I were tasked with producing ten episodes based on case studies about McDonald’s. With just 10 episodes we didn’t expect to make money but we used Substack which allowed for listener support.
What actually happened?
We created ten episodes, but not on the schedule we initially hoped. Weekly was too ambitious, but we maintained steady progress. Substack doesn’t have the best tracking tools but with each episode we added people to the list.
We ended the season with 48 Substack subscribers, 2 of which became supporters. With case study costs of about $100 and both Zach and I buying microphones, we’d need a lot more support to hit break even.
Downloads roughly matched our growing subscriber count and were increasing. The most growth came from recommendations from people with bigger audiences.
What were the differences?
Trying to produce a weekly podcast around case studies was harder than anticipated. We recorded each week on Saturday morning/afternoon and I was occasionally less prepared that I would have liked. Reading and researching, then recording, and then editing was more time than I expected.
I expected our download numbers to be higher. While the material is pretty dry (we’re not a humor, news, or serial killer cold case podcast) it is the kind of podcast I would like to listen to and we did have some super fans.
First and foremost, the format worked. Using the Harvard Business Review’s collection of case studies allowed us to dive into various aspects of McDonald’s and we learned a lot throughout the season. We were able to bring aspects of what we’d learned from previous episodes to the new subject matter, which made the latter episodes much more compelling.
Secondly, we worked out a process for a good episode. We’d read the case study and take our own notes and highlights. I created a Google Doc and would write up an outline that acted as a bit of a guide, and we’d record using Streamyard for about an hour. I’d then edit that down to 20 to 30 minutes (much easier using Descript!) while using the edit as a way to write up the description / newsletter part of the Substack. After posting I could use the notes and discussion to create a one minute vertical video for social.
What didn’t work?
My microphone was initially terrible, and when I upgraded it made a huge difference in sound quality.
I edit using Final Cut Pro, because it’s the program I know the best. I didn’t start using Descript until the last few episodes, and that made a HUGE difference in the labor of editing.
I really like making the reels/shorts, and they seem to get a lot of attention, but probably not converting people to listeners in the short term. Listenership was low and we didn’t have much of a marketing strategy beyond posting announcements on social media.
While we built the ability to financially support us into the project we didn’t really promote that or ask for support. Largely this is because we didn’t need it. It was a 10 Episode season and both Zach and I were a bit shy about asking people for money to do something that was pretty fun.
There are so many podcasts, and I’m not sure I can make a great case for why someone should listen to HBR over The Daily or some cold case serial killer garbage. But that said, HBR is not a “general audience” podcast, and I think if you’re into business, entrepreneurship, and thinking about how the business and culture of fast food works and impacts us, you’re our target demographic. We didn’t put enough energy into finding those people.
We really found our groove later in the season. It’s hard to recommend a new thing you’re trying out, and I think the first few episodes were us learning (but the Russia one is very good!).
Also, we should have had more guests on! A great way to gain additional perspective and gain a little more attention from the guests audience and promo.
What About Next Time?
What would you do the same next time?
- Get shareholder support for the podcast creating greater stakes
- Set the goal for a single season or specific number of episodes (not an ongoing project that never ends)
- Have a co-host
- Ensure some ability for paid support from the start
What would you do differently next time?
- Batch record episodes and then edit to the schedule
- Create and document a repeatable process and schedule
- Write more in the Substack, give links and context and conclusions and make it a more fun read and not just a vehicle for the audio
- Build out better internet presence (social media, web site, etc.) to create a better funnel that would lead people from our personal accounts to HBR-specific accounts and then to the podcast and then to becoming supporters
- Create merch for sale (I still want an HBR mug)
- Host occasional virtual events to get some audience feedback and share ideas and have a little community
- Create more value for paid supporters, highlight them, have them tell their stories, etc.