Episode 76 | Why It’s Easy To Be Great But Hard To Be Consistent

Show Notes

Transcript

[00:00] Mike: This is Startups for the Rest of Us: Episode 76.

[00:02] [music]

[00:11] Mike: Welcome to the Startups for the Rest of Us, the podcast that helps developers, designers and entrepreneurs be awesome at launching the Start-ups, whether you’ve build your first one or you’re just thinking about it. I’m Mike.

[00:19] Rob: And I’m Rob.

[00:20] Mike: And we’re here to share our experiences to help you avoid the same mistakes we’ve made. So what’s word this week, Rob?

[00:25] Rob: Hey, did you notice the change I’ve made to the intro?

[00:27] Mike: A little bit, yes.

[00:28] Rob: Yeah, I just changed it. But I feel like we need something that’s more broad because I think that in, you know, that we’re 76 episodes in you look at our listener base and it’s not just people launching software products.

[00:38] Mike: Right.

[00:39] Rob: Like it’s far from that. So I feel like we’ll find a better word for the next few weeks.

[00:43] Mike: Yeah. I think, you know, it’s just kind of naturally come out. But I see what you’re saying, I mean because there’s a lot of people who are asking questions with me that are not necessarily software Start-up related or, you know, there are  other products or even, you know, I mean we’d — I think last week we got a question from somebody about — they’re asking about physical products.

[01:00] Rob: Yeah, it was now and again, musicians, there’s inventors, there’s lawyers, there’s CPAs. I mean they’re really is — it runs again and so — anyways, hey so yeah quick update for me. I have this revenue goal for HitTail and it was for February. So it was for, two months ago. And when I missed that goal, I was, you know, depressed and disappointed and stuff. And that’s when I had my little– it was about three or four episodes when I kind of had the crisis of faith with HitTail and just talking about revamping it and really coming back to my goals for them such. Well I round up hitting that goal at the end of March except not exactly.

[01:34] [Laughter]

[01:34] Rob: I was actually — no it’s a several thousand dollar goal and I was $20 shy.

[01:38] [Laughter]

[01:38] Rob: So it was pretty brutal. And to make matters worse, I noticed there were two refunds that had been delayed that should had gone through in February that came through in March and they for $9.95 each. But even with those refunds, I was still — I would have been like 26 cents shy.

[01:53] Mike: You should have put up some Google ads sense. You could have at least made like a dollar.

[01:58] [Laughter]

[01:58] Rob: No. But it really made me realize and I was talking to someone about it and saying, you know, it’s like the goal is a big round number but like hitting that round number, doesn’t matter. It’s like being $20 shy of it is close enough. So I’m — I’m actually quite pleased with — with doing that as long as next month goes up from there. I have this weird thing with HitTail because it has annual subscriptions in addition to monthly subscriptions. And it actually makes it kind of a pain.

[02:22] There are some accounting tricks that you’re supposed to perform but they’re fairly time consuming. You’re supposed to take all the annual stuff divided by twelve and spread it out over your revenue over the course of the year but there is just no way I’m going to do that because it’s a manual thing to do at the end of every month. So as a result, I have — you know, so far that’s fairly choppy revenue that will move up and down by several hundred dollars a month. I wanted to always increase essentially, right? That’s the goal. So I’m working on that.

[02:46] Mike: Cool.

[02:46.] Rob: How about you?

[02:47] Mike: Well I’m off this week. So I’m trying to get a bunch of automation systems in place for the year. And I know I’m not going to see the payoff for most these things for a little while but it’ll definitely kind of contribute to the things that I’m doing this year.

[03:00] One of the things that I started doing this past week also is I outsource some of the AuditShark programming. So that will start to pick up this week and next week. And I know it’s going to take some time for the contractor to kind of get up to speed on a lot of the stuff but I feel comfortable with having him do that because he’s the same person I put in charge of putting my form software over and having look at the work that he did, I feel pretty comfortable just kind of hand him this piece and saying, “Here, go to work on it.” And you know, “Here’s some screencast that kind of help you get started. And the intent is to have work on it full time and I know that I can keep him busy for the first seeable future on it because there’s a lot of little details and stuff that need to be taken care of. So I’m looking forward to kind of getting that process going.

[03:45] Rob: That’s crazy. Yeah, that’s just the first time you’ve outsourced any AuditShark development …

[03:49] Mike: Yup.

[03:49] Rob: … right? Because we’ve talked about this in the past.

[03:50] Mike: Yup.

[03:51] Rob: Wow. Congrats. Congrats for the making the stuff.

[03:52] Mike: Yes and most of the stuff that he’s doing is all UI related. I’ve got all the core stuff done but the UI stuff as you know, I mean anything UI related tends to take a while because you have to get things just right. And there’s always these little nuances that you have to deal with. So yeah, I’m looking forward to it though.

[04:07] Rob: That’s cool. Yeah I actually had kind of a cool thing. I think I’m going to be able to lower my hosting cost as I’ve mentioned in the past like the hosting cost for HitTail is almost 2000 bucks because of the massive amount of disc space that I need …

[04:19] Mike: Yup.

[04:20] Rob: As well as quite a bit of RAM and stuff. And so we, my DBA and I, he — like pulled it on a lighter and I work till 2 in the morning one night and we got clearance from our host, from Micolo to basically do a bunch of high intensity work that would really hammer on the SAN — they gave us certain, certain time frame we could do it that really reduced rate because we get billed based on IOPS, based on IO per second that we hit the SAN. So the more volume I send in a month to the disk, the more I pay.

[04:51] You know, I haven’t really gone over in the past but doing — I was basically archiving like 600 million keywords …

[04:58] [Laughter]

[04:59] Rob: For people who had canceled. Yeah, it’s crazy and that just hammers things, right? Because it’s not just moving data, it’s not copying data. It’s actually hitting indexes. It’s writing to logs and it’s copying from one to another. So I got this very tiny window of like 12 hours on a Sunday and we basically just hammered away this thing and they give me a big break on the pricing. And so my database went down. It was 300 gigs before. It’s right around 80 gigs now.

[05:24] So, it feels so much better like all the indexes had been rebuilt. The database is a way faster. I’m going to be able to shrink my hard drive space because I have almost terabyte of SAN of rate 10 SAN high-speed disk or hard drive space. So this is very… That’s why it’s a thousand bucks and it’s all cloud-based.

[05:41] So yeah, I’m going to be able to, hopefully, cut my hosting bill down. I don’t know if I’ll quite get it in half but it’ll be some, you know, it’ll be 30 or 40 percent down. And the nice part is that it goes right to the bottom line like the apps are already profitable so anything that I can cut out of it does improve the probabilities. So, I’m pretty excited about that. It was a lot of work but it was something I knew we’d — we’d only have to be once. Probably once every few years, we’ll have to do that. So it’s a big project. But I’m stoked that it’s done. And actually, the other benefit is I didn’t think we’d be able to add a non-ASCII character support. So meaning right now, we can only support like the Latin languages but I’ve had several folks e-mail me.

[06:19] One guy actually has a Chinese website and it has multiple millions of visits per month which since it hit they’ll charges based on the number of visits you get, this guy is a big — this guy is a “enterprise client” for me. Like he’s — he’ll probably be four figures a month, you know, somewhere between one and three thousand bucks a month just for him to use HitTail. And we got Unicode support in. We’ve made them in to our cards over the weekend. So super stoke had start approaching now. We’ve had cancelations because people, you know, weren’t able to use foreign characters and — excited. I feel like there’s been kind of a couple breakthroughs right in a row.

[06:52] Mike: That’s cool. Did you actually test it with all that and the non-ASCII characters? Because I mean I don’t have any foreign language websites to even test something like that on.

[07:01] Rob: Right. Yeah luckily, I do have — there are some folks in Western Europe who use HitTail still even though it was kind of jacking some of their stuff update, it was readable. It just wasn’t a hundred percent. And so yeah, I’m actually working with them right now to verify because I can’t read the language, right? I don’t know if it’s — it looks okay to me but I don’t — I want to make sure the right characters on the right places.

[07:21] So — so it’s not fully tested but yes, it is. I knew that the data structures are now and if there’s anything messed up, then it’s only going to be some, some code tweaks which is much easier than trying to change a column from, you know, one type to another in a — in an eighty million row database.

[07:35] [Laughter]

[07:36] Rob: So …

[07:37] Mike: That’s funny. Eighty million row database. That’s probably just one — one table or two, isn’t it?

[07:42] Rob: That’s one table. Yeah.

[07:43] [Laughter]

[07:44] Rob: Yeah so it’s a big one.

[07:46] Mike: Yup. Cool. The only other thing I’m doing is wrapping up the MicroConf sponsorships and I’m hoping to  wrap everything up with those this coming week and there are might be one or two that kind of slip in under the wire but for most part, I’m just kind of [0:08:00] draw line this Friday and say that’s it. We’re — we’re kind of done and then work with the existing sponsors who’ve signed up to make sure that they’re getting the exposure that they want, that they need for the conference and go from there.

[08:12] Rob: Cool. Yeah, same for me. Most of my staff starting to wrap up until we get right close to it, you know, with all the last minute stuff has to happen but pick up the menus this week and just did some other miscellaneous tasks. So it’s starting to feel good.

[08:24] Mike: Very cool.

[08:25] [music]

[08:28] Rob: This week we’re talking about why it’s easy to be great but hard to be consistent.

[08:32] Mike: That sounds familiar.

[08:33] Rob: And I had a blog post that I wrote with almost the same title. It’s basically based on a quote from Steve Martin and he wrote a book called Born Standing Up. I’ve talked a little about it on the podcast in the past but I want to talk more about it because A, I wanted to hear your thoughts on it and B, I just felt like there’s more to say on this topic than I said in that blog post. So we’ll probably follow the similar outline. But I think this is an important message and I know there are a lot of folks, you know, who maybe listen to podcast but don’t actually read our blogs.

[08:59] I can’t remember the last time I’ve gone to my RSS reader. Do you — do you check our RSS anymore?

[09:04] Mike: You know, I used to do a daily export just to make sure that the trend was going up. I used to do like a 30-day rolling average just to make sure that it was going up and I haven’t done that in probably six months, maybe eight.

[09:16] Rob: Oh no, I was wondering if you read blogs via RSS.

[09:20] Mike: No. I haven’t — I haven’t read a blog via RSS in years.

[09:24] [Laughter]

[09:25] Rob: Yeah, it’s that funny  So I use too. I mean this is like, “Is our RSS dead?” Like obviously, it’s not dead. I still look at my RSS subscribers, you know, at least a couple of times a week. I mean that’s kind of a metric — I measure and look at. Make sure it’s increasing but at some point, I just stopped. Like I stopped checking my RSS reader and I looked at podcast more now.

[09:45] Mike: I know what you’re saying. I look at FeedBurners well just to kind of see what my subscribers look like but I don’t actually read blogs through RSS anymore and I haven’t for a very long time.

[09:54] Rob: That’s a trip. So anyways, that’s — that’s a bit of an aside but I think that’s why I want to about on the podcast is because I know that there are a lot of people who listen to podcast who probably don’t read every post that you and I post. So today’s podcast is based on Steve Martin. He wrote a book called Born Standing Up. It’s awesome. It’s his memoir about from when he is born until he finished standup comedy. So it doesn’t cover after that which is all his movies. And you know, honestly, I mean this guy is really smart. Like Steve Martin is very intelligent. He also said that he was not naturally funny which I think is kind of cool. He basically talks through the story and talks about how he learned to be funny. And so he really had to look at it from a scientific approach. And I listened to the audio version of it, of course and he narrates it and it’s very good.

[10:37] But one of the quotes probably one of my favorites is he says, “It’s easy to be great and it’s hard to be consistent.” And what he meant by that is there were tons of comedians that he would run in to who would have these knockout shows like that one show that was fantastic. They killed the crowd but that person could not duplicate that success. It was easy to be great once but it was hard to be consistently great. You know, even extrapolating on that, I realized both through — through Steve Martin’s stories but also through just my own start-ups and products and the blog and basically, anything that — that I’ve done as an entrepreneur that it is easy to be a one hit wonder. It’s easy to get a link from TechCrunch. It’s easy to get one post to the top of Hacker News. It’s easy to start writing a blog and get to 300 subscribers in a few months. I’ve seen several people do that recently. It is really hard to stick around for the long haul and do consistently deliver quality material.

[11:34] Basically, I have three reasons outlined of why it’s easy to be great and hard to be consistent. And so the first reason is that there are no big breaks. So Steve Martin talks about that. That was fascinating. And he said he thought that going on The Tonight Show was his big break and he thought that from the time he was really little. And when he was finally invited on, he goes on for the first time and he expects that this to be it like — once he does this, he set for life. You know, he’s like a career entertainer and it makes his [0:12:00] career and it didn’t change a thing like he still went back to his job of doing magic shows and playing the banjo. And you know, he’s kind of — just a small time entertainer. He said after the second time it didn’t change. After the fourth time, he got recognized on the street by one person but they didn’t remember who he was or where they had seen him. And then he said on and on he kept going back. And after the tenth time, his tenth appearance on The Tonight Show is when he started to consistently be recognized but people didn’t know who he was still. And it took like 15 or 20 times until they like his name was actually there.

[12:35]: So it’s just — this incredible story of like there is no big breaks. The analogy is The Tonight Show or TechCrunch or Mashable or Hacker News or any of these things. They just don’t have the impact than a lot of people from the outside think that they do. Yeah, he would do a standup. You know, this is back when Carson did The Tonight Show. So they would have them on once and then it’d be a couple of months later, they had appear. So this is over the course of a couple of years probably but he was on fifteen times.

[13:00] Mike: Wow. No, I think that that’s, that on, I mean it takes a lot of exposure to get people to recognize you. That’s hard. I mean most people will see that sort of thing. And they’ll, you know — I mean even if you’re getting an e-mail from somebody, you might recognize the e-mail, you might not. I mean just this past week, I had somebody e-mailed me and say, “Hey, I’ve heard this name before but I can’t remember who it’s from. Can you help me out? You maybe you know who it’s from?”

[13:23] I think it takes a lot of exposure in order to for people to recognize who you are and that kind of falls in to, you know, there are no big breaks. I mean that TechCrunch link is going to get you a little bit of notice but it’s not going to necessarily land you a heck of a lot of business from it. At least not just from them. I mean you have to have a lot of different sources of where that traffic is coming from which is why it’s so important to not rely just on Google for example for all of your traffic.

[13:48] Rob: Yeah, that’s a good way to put it in like you — you almost have to have this diversification of traffic. Most successful businesses that I see have some kind of traffic diversification where they don’t have more [0:14:00]: than maybe 80, 85 percent from any single source, right? So they have at least 20 to 30 percent from multiple sources. And those were actually the ones that scale the best, right? Because then if you can figure it out how three of four different sources scale, you better often, like you said relying solely on Google and then having Google — you know, they did their Panda 3.3 Update about a month ago. And it’s just wreaked havoc on a lot of — lot of folks I know.

[14:24] So reason number two it’s hard to be consistent is that — and this is specifically with start-ups and you know, thinking of ideas and launching products. It said it’s easy to think of ideas but it’s really hard to finish them. We all love to sit around and think about ideas and we all love — even if we’re not sitting around. Ideas are constantly hitting our minds for a new businesses. I have a whole notebook full of them right here.

[14:45] And it’s easy just to think about them and it’s even really easy to start sketching them out. It’s easy to start writing some code if you’re a developer. But what’s hard is finishing them and that’s when you have to kind of face the music. You have to get people to pay you for it. And that’s when you have to launch it to the world and those are the really scary things. Right? Those are the things that like put the terror in your heart because if they don’t work, then you’ve invested a ton of time into it. And you have to go do something in public which is typically scary for folks, you know. If you haven’t done it a lot, it is something that — it’s just a natural thing for us to want to become vulnerable and post this thing you’ve been working on for several months. Anyways, yeah. So it’s easy to start things and it’s a lot harder to finish them.

[15:29] Mike: I wonder if that falls in to the kind of the same boat as public speaking. I mean most people would rather be dead than being on stage which means it’s great for the person who’s up there because everyone out there would rather be dead than be where he is. You know, it makes me wonder why is that. And I think that it’s because people don’t necessarily like to be publicly accountable. You know, they don’t want to be the center of attention. I mean you get people on small groups and stuff. They thrive on that sort of thing but when you put somebody on a stage in front a hundred or two hundred people and it’s a completely different story. So [0:16:00] I wonder if having all of that attention drawn on somebody and launching a product is really no different than that because you’re putting yourself out there and people are looking at you and they’re looking critically at the things that you do and or evaluating and judging you basically on whatever the product is that you’re putting there out there. So I could see how people would push off from that and get to the point where they’re about ready to launch and they say, “Well no, I’m going to pull back. I don’t really feel comfortable putting this out there yet.”

[16:30] Rob: Yeah. You know, I think another reason folks don’t want to launch and I think is that it can finally mean that like your failure is complete. I think that’s we’re all scared of failing that launching is when, you know, if you tank at that point, then it’s kind of unequivocal, “Okay, I really have wasted the last six months.” Whereas if you never launch, then you never get that for sure, no. You can almost perpetually push it out and say, “Well, maybe this thing is still going to work, you know.” And I think I — I really think that’s a wrong way to look at it. I’ve had a couple of friends recently who have launched and it hasn’t taken off in the way that they wanted. And you know, that they’re doing their pivoting. You know, that word is overused now but I think that — gives folks a lot of leeway as entrepreneurs. It’s like you don’t have to fail anymore. You can pivot — you can pivot to a new market. You can even tweak your, you know, your idea altogether but you don’t necessarily have to scrap everything you’ve done. You can — with one friend, he’s keeping the domain name because he has great, the incoming links are ready. He’s working in a similar market. He is going to start building an e-mail list again and he’s going to, you know, redo the product and re-launch it. And it’s not going to be — I think it took him eight months to develop it, originally and it’s only going to be one to two months worth of effort to pivot. But think about any old days like I would never have thought of that like five or six years ago. I would have launched and if it failed, I would just tank it and started a new idea where as now, it’s like there’s much more of a trial and error mindset due to the lean start-up that I actually think that’s a pretty good way for entrepreneurs to go because it leaves you an out to where you [0:18:00] can launch. You can “fail” but as long as you learn from that and then you, you just changed direction, you don’t have to lose all the work you’ve put in so far.

[0:18:08] Mike: Well said.

[0:18:09] [music]

[0:18:12] Rob: The reason number three it’s hard to be consistent is that even after a lot of folks launched like Mike and I were just talking about, it can be even worse once you launched because either you have some success, you get some customers and now, you’re trying to market it, you’re trying to support it and you’re trying to add features to your product or you launched and nothing happens. No one cares and you have this huge let down, right? And you get depressed. You get bombed that you spend all this time on it. And so either this as you ramp up in terms of the amount of work you need to put in to it and to this point, you probably even think “Man, launch it.” Once I get to launched it, I hear this all the time, right? Once I get to launched it, then the work will just decrease dramatically and they won’t be able to kick back. And that’s actually when a lot of really hard work starts because now you have paying customers, now you’re dealing with the people factor, you know. Everything is great with your start-up until this pesky customers get involved. This is when the hard work starts. So …

[19:06] Mike: Can I quote you on that? “The pesky customers.”

[19:09] [Laughter]

[19:09] Rob: Yeah, please don’t do that. A friend of mine said that to me at one point, they really made sense. It’s like obviously, we love customer. The customer is why we have our businesses. But it is much easier to sit in a basement to write code and write docs and even to do some marketing than it is to deal with actual real life customers who are paying you money. They had that that weird factor, the X factor of some customers that are demanding. You will often have to spend a lot of time with them and other customers are less so. But it — it really just adds complexity.

[19:36] So the bottom line is that even once you’ve launched, it’s not like you’re finished. I mean that’s really when the work starts. I think we’ve often said that getting to launch is like the halfway mark. And most people don’t think about that and so what happens is when someone launch a start-up, they’ve put all this work into it and then, you know, if it takes off, it’s a ton of work. And if it doesn’t, it’s a let down. But either way, it really is hard to be [0:20:00] consistent to pass that, right? Because they ought to have so much work to do or they’ve been let done. It’s just hard to continue investing and then another six months and to think, “Wow, I have to start this whole process kind of over again and get this product off the ground.

[20:11] Mike: Part of that is just that you have this idea in your head that you get to launch and your work is going to decrease and that’s not the case. So, your expectations were not necessarily in line with reality and I think that that’s probably what disheartens a lot of people because they get to that point and there’s, you know, their expectations are just not what reality is and they can’t handle it. They don’t really know what to do or what to think about it at that point.

[20:33] Rob: And I think on the side note, I realized how much this applies to kind of everything in life. I have friends who create art like they paint, and they will do a really good painting every now and again but they’re not consistent with it. That’s okay if it’s a hobby, right? It’s the same thing with playing guitar. Might have friends who would play guitar and they really wanted to be good at the guitar and they could play one song really well. They wouldn’t invest a time to be consistently good at it. And I think another great example is like with bloggers. I’ve heard this set a lot of people who say, you know, you want to have a popular blog? Start your blog in 2005. Implying that like the only reason that you have a popular blog is because it’s been around for a long time, and that is not true. It is easier to build a blog audience now than at any time in the past with Hacker News and Twitter and all these social sharing things. When I started, it took me 6 months to get the 66 RSS subscribers. It took me a year to get to 250 RSS subscribers. Who today would just have to spend a year day to 250. I bet starting a brand new blog, you can get to 250 in about 2 months, maybe less. If you write some stuff that works well in Hacker News and write with that audience, you know, this consistency, this whole theory, it applies across most things you will do in life whether it’s business or, you know, hobby or anything. If you want to be really good at it, it is going to take consistency.

[21:50] Mike: And part of that comes down to efficiency as well because as you do things over and over again, you make this little tweaks, I mean, it’s not any different than SEO or anything [0:22:00] like that, I mean you’re making this little tweaks that you have to consistently make across all your sides or, you know, across every page on the website or whatever. And each one provides you with those incremental improvement so that when you add another page, “Oh yeah. I’ve got to do this thing that I did before that converted a little bit better” or that made people want to stay on the page or read it. And the same thing with blog post, I mean you have to continuously add in new content, add in new blog post and when you do that, you submit it to all of these different websites and, you know, you’d gain traffic from those and oh, by the way, I found out there’s this other website I can also submit some articles to and they’ll be happy to post the link and share with their audience.

[22:40] Rob: Right. And that make sense what you’re saying about tweaking and constantly almost like split testing constantly because that’s what comedians do, Steve Martin talks about doing that constantly of just trying jokes and they fail, right? And this is why you’ll see a comedian rise to fame and they have this great act. Chris Rock did this. They had these great acts and they become huge and then they record it, they release it on CD and then they can’t go back to the bars. They can’t start over again. Their next show, they have to write from scratch, write a whole show and go back to the, basically playing to big amphitheaters. Almost all of them fail at that because they don’t have the years of trying material of starting with 2 minutes of crapping material, turning it into 2 minutes like good than turning it into 5 minutes of good material which can take months to do. They basically have to just say “Well, I guess I’m good enough now to write a one or two hour show from scratch and the whole thing is going to be funny.” And it just doesn’t work that way.

[23:36] And actually Seinfeld talked about this as well. There’s awesome documentary called The Comedian and he basically scraps all of these material that he had used for, like his – he have kind of one show that he did consistently, that was funny. And his scraps it all and he starts over. It’s after the Seinfeld Show and he just start to playing the show up like a New York club and try material on people, and a lot of it bombs. And that’s it. Right. It’s trial and error. That’s the same [0:24:00] thing we’re talking about like being an entrepreneur is there are a lot of parallels to you because they’re always trying to improve it.

[24:07] Mike: So given all that, one of the ways to improve consistency because it sounds like, you now, you have to try a bunch of different things and some things are going to work and some things aren’t. But, you know, how do you go about making everything better?

[24:19] Rob: Yeah. I think that’s kind of the nuts involved to this thing, right? It’s like how can we help improve that and I have three ideas that I want to throw out. The first is that as entrepreneurs, there is this thing we have called “The Madness”, I think Justin Vincent quote that on texting. You know, when you think of an idea and you’re like “Man, that is the best idea ever.” And you go and write away you like buy a domain name or five domain names and then you start writing code and you’re like write respect and then you put out thing on oDesk, I mean this is all within an hour? And then next day, you wake up and you’re like “What was I’m thinking that? The idea was terrible. And so you basically have invested some time, invested some money into this idea that was basically just madness taking you over. I mean, you’re  stepping to be a lot more. I feel like I have better control of it now. But that’s one way to be really in consistent, is to think of ideas, jump on them, work on them for a day or a week and then just loose esteem because they aren’t actually that good of an idea and you acted too soon.

[25:13] One way to get around that is to basically give yourself a cooling off period. And so the cooling off period, I have, I roll over myself and I never spend money on an idea in the first 48 hours of the idea. And typically it’s much longer than that. I’ll sketch it down on my notebook and then come back to in a few weeks but that helps me keep on clouded judgment once I start plunking down money in time because I really want to use, you know, my money in time to the best of its ability. I think giving yourself a cooling off period is probably a good way to start.

[25:40] Mike: That’s interesting that you bring that up because that Altiris Training website that I came up with, it wasn’t something that I just said “Oh, I’ll go on and buy this domain name or I’ll search for this.” It was something that I kind of out of my mind for, I don’t know, a couple of weeks or a couple of months and said, you know, it’d be really nice to be able to just record a lot of the stuff once and I kind of kick the tires on a while before I actually got the domain name  or [0:26:00] even started searching for a domain name for it and then I just happened to see that AltirisTraining.com [Phonetic] was not taken and, you know, it’s kind of an instant “Okay, yeah. I got to do this and I’ll do it right now.” And then putting together the website. I was just, I was literally just fooling around with some plug-ins and I’ll be honest, I kind of accidently launched the product more than anything else because I was just playing around with some plug-ins that I wanted to check out and say, you know, how do these things work and can I use them on some of the just existing AuditShark stuff that I’m doing and before I knew it within a couple of hours, the website was actually done and I said “Wow. This is going to be a lot easier to launch than I thought it would be.”

[26:35] Rob: Right. And that so much better way to do it, just stretch out that time frame but be more kind of more confident that the ideas are rational one. It would have been cool to do it while you’re all passion about it and do it in the first five hours of you thought about it but you have the potential to kind of just waste that time.

[26:49] Mike: Yeah. I’ve done that as well. I think Justin’s absolutely right when he calls the “The Madness”. I mean because you’re just not thinking clear, can you really need to wait a little while and kick the tires on that idea or run it by some other people or at least do some market research on it at the very least before you poke your head up and say, “Wait a second, was this even a good idea?”

[27:09] Rob: The second way that I have for improving consistency is to get affirmation early and often and by this I don’t mean someone telling you your idea is great but I mean by potential customers telling you your idea is great.

[27:25] Okay. If I could tell you with a hundred percent certainty if you came to me with an idea for say a small software product and I could tell you with a hundred percent certainty that “Mike, if you go full time for 6 months or half time for 6 months and build this and go through your all the toiling but it will succeed absolutely on equivocal way.” There would be a lot less out in your mind, right? It would actually be a lot easier to be consistent I think. I don’t think that we are as entrepreneurs are scared of the work. It’s not the hard work that scares us, it’s the fact that we might be investing hard work into something that’s going to fail and that’s going to waste our time and that we’re misusing our time and our money and our resources.

[28:02] So if I could tell you for sure, it would be a lot easier trip, right? It much less of a mental battle. While no one can tell you for sure, can we get above 20 percent certainty? Can we get above 50, 60, 70 percent certainty? I think we can and the way you do that is by starting to tell customers about it. Building a mailing list, starting to do the marketing. Seeing how many people you can drive to a sight seeing how many e-mails you can capture? I mean, this is the problem, right? It’s like if you’ve don’t do that in advance, it’s not just about having that customer list when you launch so that you get a bunch of revenue. It’s actually about fighting the mental battle that we all fight as we spend 6 months in a bedroom trying to write this code. And it really is helping deal with the mental aspect of it because if you have 500 people on your list, then you’re pretty confident that you’re going to be able to sell few of those and you’re pretty confident of the people have an interest in it. This is why I didn’t start writing my book until I had 5 or 600 people on the list. This is why you and I didn’t start planning a conference until we had several hundred people on the mailing list.

[29:02] These days, I don’t do much without talking to a lot of customers whether it’s in person or, you know, via the marketing trails and getting into sign up for the e-mail list. And there are people like Jason Cohen also did this with WP Engine, WordPress Engine. He said that he had 30 people committed verbally to pay him, I think it was — I think you and I had a price. It was like 30 people, 50 bucks a month before he invested in real time in the idea before he started hiring and pursuing the idea. The first step for him was not, there will be infrastructure. The first step was finding those customers because that gave him early affirmation.

[29:38] Mike: Yeah, that’s essentially just validating your idea has legs and, you know what Jason did was making sure that he had paying customers and, you know, you just do the ballpark math on it and if you get 30 people who are each willing to give you $50 a month, that’s $1500 a month. And if you extrapolate that from, I mean, those are people that he just know and those are essentially personal [0:30:00] contacts at that point but if you can take that and say okay, but what if I can anonymize this a bit and just pitch it to people that I don’t know, how far could I grow this, how far could I take it? And those initial customers are essentially just the validation of the idea and then you can, you know, you grow things from there.

[30:18] Rob: So the third and final way to improve consistency, something we’ve talked about a lot before but it’s about finding accountability and it’s finding some type of accountability group, a start-up community, some people who are going to be able to support you as you go through the struggles of launching and who you’re going to be able to support. I like doing it in person, if possible, if I live in the big city that’s definitely what I would I do. I’m also in a mastermind group, the Over Skype but, you know, it doesn’t just have to be a mastermind group. It can be something like you can go to a meet up group as long as it means consistently and it’s the people who you feel like you can really talk about your idea with. I have actually know a couple of guys who found entrepreneurs locally by going on Facebook and searching for tech entrepreneurs in your area.

[31:02] You know, I think with something like this, it’s commonly called the Mastermind but I think you really want to keep the group fairly small like to 3 or 5 people because as it gets larger than that, you kind of can’t share stuff and be vulnerable without being concern that someone is not going to get what you’re saying or not going to understand it you get into larger groups and everyone doesn’t have a time to just kind of talk about what they’re doing on the projects. And so, you basically want to set up something that meets fairly like consistently, somewhere between 1 and 4 times a month and you want to get 3 other people together on a Skype chat or in person and you want to be able to talk to them, you know, to tell them what you’re going through and support them as well. Like do you think this can also happen in a larger setting? I mean I’m thinking like forums like the Academy Forums or something or do you think that it needs to go beyond that and always be, you know, kind of a private smaller group.

[31:48] Mike: I don’t think that it has to be a smaller group but I think that the key things to make it actually work are that you’re going back into this entire podcast episode, I mean, it has to be consistent and if you’re not consistent about [0:32:00] being accountable to people then, you’re not going to be consistent in implementing your ideas and part of that is also the people that you choose to participate in this accountability whether it’s a forum or Skype chat or whatever,  they need to be serious about it as you are. I mean, you can’t have people in there who are just like “Oh, well, yeah. I’m serious about this. I want to have an accountability group.” And then week after week they don’t do something or they’re very inconsistent about actually committing to following through on the things that they say that they’re going to.

[32:30] Rob: That’s a big part of it. Absolutely it’s that other people have to be as serious as you. That’s a big reason I see that groups fall apart is that you get this varying thing, you get someone who’s just starting out and has 10 ideas and then you get people who are way late in the game, you know, and they were basically already have profitable ideas going and you really can’t, probably can’t team those folks up too easily because they’re just such different places. Yeah, so I think like you said, consistency is a big thing. And it also say I think that, you know, I’m thinking about the Academy Forums versus something like the answers that on start- ups or having a mastermind group. I think it is going to depend on your personality a bit as to what feeds you the most but I think for the most part, having multiple outlets. I mean that’s what I d these days, right? I’m on the Academy Forums. I do frequent in a couple other online communities and then I also have the mastermind and that’s a lot to commit to. I think that as someone who works at home has no co-workers and, you know, I don’t have a ton of personal contact during the week that that’s helpful for other folks who do, you know, who can tend to feel isolated that having multiple outlets can also help with consistency.

[33:36] [music]

[33:40] Rob: If you have a question or comment, call into our voicemail number. It’s 1-888-801-9690 or e-mail it to us at questions@startupsfortherestofus.com. Our theme music is an excerpt from “We’re Outta Control” by MoOt, used under Creative Commons.  If you enjoyed this podcast, please consider writing a review in iTunes by searching for “startups”.  You can subscribe to this podcast in iTunes or via RSS at StartupsfortheRestofUs.com. Or you’ll also find a transcript of the podcast. Thanks for listening.  We’ll see you next time.

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8 Responses to “Episode 76 | Why It’s Easy To Be Great But Hard To Be Consistent”

  1. no transcript today?

    (great job on the podcasts btw!)

  2. It’s on its way. Another day or two.

  3. It’s hard to finish stuff! I read this post about the same topic just before listening to your podcast. I specially like the chart.. so true http://softwareasaliving.com/2012/01/interest-vs-required-work-vs-accomplishment/

  4. Great episode. For more on the subject of consistency, I recommend “The Compound Effect.” The basic premise is that success is attained through the constant application of positive habits. I recently read it and it’s had a big impact on how I think about my day-to-day routine.

    http://www.thecompoundeffect.com/

  5. Great episode guys! I especially liked the three tips at the end to help us entrepreneurs stay focused and consistent. I’ve saved a note that Jason Calacanis wrote me that says “Starting is easy, Finishing is hard”. I have it pinned up in my office as a constant reminder.

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