Product Interview - Adam Gifford @ TackleHack
This is an archived post from 2020 which was posted on my previous blog, Product Distilled. It was a project in which Chris Davis and I interviewed local product leaders in the Louisville, KY area. Check out all the posts and let me know if you'd like to see more.
Adam Gifford is the CEO and Founder of TackleHack, an e-commerce technology startup in Louisville, KY. TackleHack is the only e-commerce software platform and curated marketplace dedicated to makers of small-batch and custom outdoor gear.
Tell us a little about yourself outside of work!
I’m a huge outdoorsman. I love spending time on the lake or in the woods. It’s finally spring, so I’m getting ready for turkey season and the bass spawn. I’m counting down the days until opening day, and you can bet I’ll be ready with gear from TackleHack.
How would you describe your role within your company's product organization?
I am the founder and CEO of TackleHack. Our team is expanding, but we are still a young company. Roles shift daily, and we all take on new and different tasks. Currently my main focus has been on product development and marketing. Next week it may be something else, but whatever it is, I’ll do it.
What are you working on right now that’s exciting to you?
Honestly, it all fires me up. I love what we are creating at TackleHack, but if I had to pick one aspect it would be the vendor software we have coming out. I can’t give too many details right now, but it will be a game changer for the outdoor industry.
What is the most important part of your day?
Early morning, before everyone is up. Typically from 5 to 7 a.m. I love getting up early to go hunting or fishing anyway, but when I start early and get simple things knocked off my to-do list, it sets the tone for my entire day. I am more productive throughout the day, and those few silent hours in the morning do wonders for my outlook and mindset for the day.
What drains you at work?
Having to reschedule the same meeting. It seems silly, but the constant back and forth of scheduling the same meeting is draining and very telling. If you reschedule more than once, it’s obviously not a priority and a waste of our time.
Work & Product
Do you have a daily routine to stay organized or perform better at your job?
We’re an early stage startup so things change rapidly from day to day. I live in Trello and Slack to maintain a high-level of communication with our team and to make sure we are staying focused and hitting our targets. Short of that, I try to leave my day open, so I can easily shift focus to where it needs to be at a given time.
How do you go about gathering customer feedback?
We capture feedback in various ways, but my favorite is cold calling. This is when I get one-on-one feedback from users and potential users. We’re a small team; we don’t have the luxury to change things over and over. We have to stay lean and fast. The most efficient way for us to create a product people want to use is to ask them directly and discover exactly what they want to use and how they want to use it. We then implement the trends we see from that feedback.
How do you make user feedback actionable?
Some feedback we don’t act on at all; some we implement instantly; and some we add to our future work board. We have a clear vision of where we want to go with TackleHack, but in parallel, we have to be very mindful of our users and deliver what they need. Some things are obvious, like bugs we have to eliminate. Other feedback tickets may not be mission critical, so we look for trends or recurring topics. We take action on the items that reduce friction and improve functionality first.
What is something you've done recently with your product that was a huge hit with users?
We recently added video capabilities to product listings. Our vendors make amazing products, but many of the features that make their products so sought after are not necessarily the way it looks. Customers want to hear the duck call or see how a lure runs in the water before they buy it. Now they can - right next to the “buy now” button.
What advice would you have for someone who is hoping to grow in their product-focused role?
Live it. You have to fully commit and go all in. True growth comes from pushing yourself past your comfort zone. You can’t be afraid to fail. I’ve found that every time I’ve failed or something didn't work like I thought it should, I’ve learned from that and discovered a new way to get it accomplished. It’s easier said than done, but you can learn a lot and improve a lot by failing early and fast.
What’s a lesson that you learned the hard way, but would never take back?
I’m not a software engineer, but I’m building a software company. I took a lot of bad advice and paid for a lot of poor quality work when I first started. I quickly learned to challenge contractors, because some will take the path of least resistances and that becomes costly to you in the long run. If it wasn’t for some of those early challenges, I may have never sought out the strong internal team we have put together or pivoted to a scalable business model. For that, I’m thankful.
What is one piece of advice that had a big impact on your life?
Growing up, my parents never let me quit anything. My dad would always say“If it was easy, everyone would do it.” I didn’t have to start a project or sport, but if I did, I had to finish it. I carry that tenacity and work ethic with me today, and it’s allowed me to achieve things I initially thought I couldn’t.
If you could wave a magic wand and fix something about one of your favorite products, what would it be?
That the battery life of all Apple products lasted for 365 days per charge.
What is one product or company being built in in your region that you think more people should know about (other than your own)?
The research and development that the University of Louisville is doing on freeze-dried blood and its applications on earth and in space.
What is a book, podcast, or website that you think more people should know about?
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield - It’s a simple book with a powerful message about resistance faced by artists and entrepreneurs trying to break through their creative barriers.
What would you do with your time if money was no issue?
Travel the world with my family and fish.
Is there something that you want to plug?
If you love the outdoors, visit TackleHack.com to find unique and custom outdoor gear.
How can our readers keep up with you?
@TackleHack on Twitter or Adam Gifford on LinkedIn