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IG#20: Product-Market-Fit isn't enough

Why you need more than PMF, multi-layered calendars, and more

Dominik Nitsch
5 min read

Welcome to your Sunday read to make you just a little more effective at work and life. Today, we’ll dive into Product/Market/Model/Channel Fit, Multi-Layered Calendars, and Career Optionality.

Let’s get it.

Photo by Clark Van Der Beken on Unsplash

[1] Product/Market/Model/Channel Fit

Finding Product-Market-Fit has long been the gold standard for entrepreneurs.

It’s not anymore.

Here’s a story:

In my day job at Sdui, we expanded to several markets. We thought we had found Product-Market-Fit in one of our segments (pre-primary schools) based on initial feedback.

After all, our software (the product) solved all the needs of pre-primary institutions (the market).

But it just didn’t work. Something was off.

During this time, I stumbled on Brian Balfour’s seminal series of articles, arguing that PMF is not enough.

Instead, you need Product-Market-Model-Channel fit:

  • Model refers to your business model: how you make money, and size of your typical customers
  • Channel refers to your acquisition channels

We didn’t have Model-Market fit. In our new market, there were only a few thousand pre-primary schools. We were charging them a few hundred euros per year.

This put us way below the Model-Market fit threshold:

We also didn’t have Model-Channel fit: as discussed, pre-primary schools basket sizes are in the 100s of Euros per year.

We were cold calling the pre-primary schools (a typical strategy for basket sizes in the 1000s and up).

This was too time-intensive for a kindergarten teacher that has their hands full (and at times, literally full of shit).

Instead, we should’ve opted for online marketing and a self-serve approach, where they could have adopted our software in their own time.

In higher basket sizes, people want to speak to another person.

In lower basket sizes, people don’t want to speak, they just want to get it done.

(Extreme example: imagine you go shopping for toilet paper, and before you can buy it, you have to go through a consultation with an advisor. Would be a shitty user experience.)

Only by eliminating the salesperson from the process, we got one step closer to model-channel fit.

Use this framework next time you evaluate a business. It’s among the most powerful ones that I know.

You can find the whole series of articles here.

[2] The multi-layered calendar

Insight from Hugo - thanks for sharing!

You know what’s crazy?

That, even though we live in 2023, the calendars that we use are fundamentally still the same as they were 100 years ago.

Sure, they’re digital, online, always available, and you can invite people and add videoconferencing.

But from a logical perspective, they haven’t changed at all: you write down appointments.

Which drives me nuts.

For me, a calendar serves 3 purposes:

  • Scheduling appointments with other people
  • Blocking time slots in which I’m not available
  • Planning work slots where I work on my tasks

However, I can only use any given block of time for one of these three purposes:

  • As I’m typing this, I’m on an airplane
  • Hence, my calendar is blocked with my flight time (because, well, I’m on an airplane)
  • Additionally, my calendar is blocked for the time I need to get to and from the airport
  • I also have tasks - like writing this newsletter - that I want to do during my time on the plane and at the airport

When you look at my calendar, you just see a massive block of time.

Whereas in reality, that is just the foundational layer; there is much more on top of it.

There are tools out there like Motion and Amie that assign calendar slots to your tasks, which is great. I’d now also like to assign tasks to certain blocked slots.

This is where Multi-Layered Calendars come into play. What if …?

  • You could synchronize your health data and calendar data?
  • You could see retrospectively when you worked on which tasks?
  • And, through the combination of these, backtrack which behaviors contributed to productivity?

I won’t explore these questions here, but here’s an article about the multi-layered calendar that dives deeper into this. It’s well worth reading.

I recently became a Motion Affiliate. I love the product, I use it every day, and it’s saved me a ton of time and energy. For those of you who would want to try the first iteration of a multi-layered calendar, I have a special link right here (that also makes me some money when you use it to buy).

With it, you get a 7-day free trial for the software that can help you reclaim up to 1 month per year. Let me know how you get along.

[3] Career Optionality

Ever heard of career optionality? Me neither - until I recently read this post by Elena Verna:

“I finally realized that I set out the wrong end goal for myself. Leadership title should have never been the end goal—only a step toward the ultimate unlock: career optionality.

Career optionality may look different for people, but it materialized into becoming a solopreneur for me. As a solopreneur, my brain is my product, and I created a solo business around it with various monetization streams: advising, interim, public speaking, workshops, course creation, etc. VP titles validated my abilities and impact, aiding my journey toward solopreneurship. But only in solopreneurship did I find a happy place for my career: fulfilling, flexible, challenging, and impactful work.

So do set out the goal to get to the leadership titles, which are quite valuable. But not as an end destination. Work towards unlocking career optionality as an end goal, which will enable you to craft your career any way you’d like.”

Construct your career in a way that gives you options.

Without them, it’ll be difficult to do what you truly want to do.

Action Items:

  1. Apply the Product-Market-Model-Channel framework next time you evaluate a business.
  2. Recognize that your calendar is your most important tool, but that it has its limitations. Use tools that remove these limitations.
  3. Ask yourself: how can I build a career that gives me lots of options?

One ask from my side

I’ve been getting a lot of feedback that some of you really enjoy what I’m writing - which makes me feel giddy, warm, and fuzzy. Please keep that coming.

My friend Lea mentioned recently: “a few friends and myself love the newsletter - we don’t always agree with what you write, but it encourages discussions among us, and that’s awesome”.

I love hearing that. If everybody agreed all the time on the things that I write, this stuff would be boring as hell.

So if you feel anything like Lea, please tell a friend about this newsletter, and maybe even forward them this email. It’s the best thing you can do to help this newsletter grow.

The more people subscribe, the more time I’m forced to spend on writing the best possible newsletter. Again, everybody wins.

Thank you.

That’s it for this edition of International Generalist. Thanks for tuning in and reading!

Who’s behind International Generalist?

I’m Dominik, and every day, I try to figure out how to become a tiny bit more effective. Then, I share some of the lessons learned here.

When I’m not writing, I build the international business for Sdui - the Leading European SchoolOS -, play Lacrosse, lift weights and enjoy draft beers.

Here’s how else I can help you:

See you in two weeks!

Much love



Dominik Nitsch

Proud generalist: Entrepreneur, Athlete, & Writer.

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