Episode 107 | AuditShark, HitTail and Other Interesting Stuff
- MicroConf 2013
- Altiris Training
- Rob Walling at BOS 2009
- Micropreneur Academy
- Double Double
[00:00] Rob: In this episode of Startups of the Rest of Us, Mike and I are going to be talking about Audit Shark, HitTail and what we’re looking at doing in 2013. This is Startups of the Rest of Us: Episode 107.
[00:18] Rob: Welcome to Startups for the Rest of Us, the podcast that helps developers, designers and entrepreneurs be awesome at launching software products, whether you’ve built your first product or you’re just thinking about it. I’m Rob.
[00:27] Mike: And I’m Mike.
[00:28] Rob: And we’re here to share our experiences to help you avoid the same mistakes we’ve made. What is the word this week, Mike?
[00:33] Mike: Well, I’m working on getting the AuditShark out the door to my early access customers next week.
[00:38] Rob: So to recap, it was – was it September 10th was the original early access date?
[00:43] Mike: Uh huh.
[00:44] Rob: You got an answer from a couple of people and then you ran in to an issue that if I recall took about six weeks to fix. There was – well, it was a bug or missing feature or something.
[00:52] Mike: Right, it was a missing feature that I thought would take a week and then I ended up taking six weeks.
[00:56] Rob: So that was September 10th. So, then somewhere around late October did you get it back in your hands or is there something that cropped up since then?
[01:02] Mike: I think it was just the matter of having the time to actually dig in to it and figure out what needed to be done and you know, there’s all these other ancillary things that needed to be done because I’ve got a couple of different components that have to pass data back and forth. So, between me implemented things on one side and somebody else implementing things on the other side, it’s just – it took a little bit longer.
[01:21] Rob: So, you and – you said you’re looking now on getting early access back in to the hands of customers, is that right?
[01:26] Mike: Yup. So, I think I’ve got all the bugs worked out in the database synchronization and that everything seems to be working properly now. There’s a lot of other bugs that I need to fix but the product is basically functional and I can – I feel like I can release it now. I mean it’s – I’m obviously not happy with how everything is all situated but at the same time I feel like I could give it to somebody and they would actually get some value out of it.
[01:48] Rob: Right, if you’re not embarrassed by your 1.0, you waited too long?
[01:52] Mike: Right, right.
[01:53] Rob: We’re good. So, next week when we record, you will probably – there’ll be some customers using it again you expect?
[01:59] Mike: I don’t know because this week is Thanksgiving. I don’t know whether or not I’ll be touching base with them this week. It may not be until Tuesday or Wednesday of next week. I anticipate within the next day or two having things able for them to actually use it. I don’t know if I’ll touch base with them just because it’s a holiday week.
[02:17] Rob: Yeah, that’s the tough part about this time of the year. I was just talking to someone about this at lunch and we have a couple of HitTail features that are just wrapping up in terms of ready to go live and launching market and I think I’m going to put a hold on them until mid January. You know, maybe there’s a week or two in early December or some people are kind of looking around, but historically December is just a terrible month for non-consumer apps, all my B2B apps just go in to hibernation and that’s why it’s nice to have a SaaS app. It does have recurring revenue because the growth goes in to hibernation but the income still comes in. The other apps like DotNetInvoice that just kind of take a dive since they’re one-time purchases. So, do you think you’ll be able to get the early access in to other folk’s hands in early December though?
[03:00] Mike: I don’t know. I have a few people who have already make created accounts in the system and I’ll probably talk to them and say, “Hey, you know, just letting you know the stuff is all out here and you can use it now,” and start sending in to their systems and it’ll be able to give them the results and stuff that I would expect. And right now, the big thing on my plate is to just build a policy that will allow them to pull those results back and start looking at them and say, “Oh, I should fix this,” or “I should do that.” There’s just tons and tons of other things that are in place. I hesitate to start going in and approaching new people who aren’t really familiar with it to be able to do any of that stuff because it is December.
[03:37] Rob: Yeah, for sure. So, what is your timeline then? What – what happens from there? Like are you ready to – to launch and start marketing by mid January? Do you think you’ll be there?
[03:50] Mike: I’m thinking mid January and to me everything looks like it’s a go. It’s just like the time of the year is just not good. That’s really what it comes down to. At this point, I’m embarrassed enough by it that I feel comfortable moving forward. It’s just – like I said, it’s just not a good time of the year. So, I feel like if I were to try and move forward right now, it’s probably just not going to work out very well and I would much rather take the time and effort to make things a little bit less embarrassing I’ll say and put things in people’s hands, you know, early January and move forward from there.
[04:20] Rob: Very good. So, I have some – a couple of cool announcements, podcast and MicroConf related. First is our RSS feed now goes back 100 episodes. Other one, hopefully, more exciting, we have super tentative MicroConf 2013 dates and a location. Don’t book any – any plane tickets yet but maybe pencil it in on your calendar. We’re looking at tentatively April 28th, 29th and 30th and in Vegas. And we did actually look at six or seven different cities this year. All signs are pointing towards late April having it in Vegas again. So, pencil it in and we’ll obviously, you know, be in touch more in the – in the coming weeks we’ll be talking about it and as always, go to MicroConf.com, being the first to hear about when tickets go on sale. We did sell out in about two and a half weeks last year. So, assuming the same thing happen you’ll definitely want to be on that e-mail list.
[05:16] Mike: So, I’m putting together an e-mail life cycle campaign for my Altiris Training site and I’ve been getting traffic but it’s just not converting at the rate that I’d like. It’s – it’s converting a lot lower. I mean it’s in the typical 1 to 2% range that I think most people would kind of expected to be but I really like to raise that quite a bit more. So, I’m looking to putting together a – I’ll say a pre-life cycle e-mail list so that when people come to the site, they can sign up for the e-mail list and get some more information about not necessarily the product that I offer but educational tips and things that they would be able to do with the software when they start learning the materials that I teach them. So, trying to get them to come back to the site as oppose to people who just come to the site once, they never come back.
[05:59] Rob: You saw my Business of Software talk in 2009, didn’t you?
[06:02] Mike: I probably did, yes.
[06:04] Rob: So, if you haven’t seen the video, search for I guess Rob Walling Business of Software and I honestly don’t remember if it’s 2009 or 2010. The entire talk focuses on using e-mail to get people to come back to your site. I’ve been like such a fist hounding proponent of that approach since then and it was something that I work – it had worked with the Micropreneur Academy. It had worked with DotNetInvoice and frankly with every one of my products eventually gets e-mail integrated in to that, that front end marketing cycle. And about six weeks ago, we launched something very similar. You know, you’re talking about what you’re doing in Altiris Training, we launched something on HitTail and if you go to hittail.com and actually it’s not – I have it off the homepage right now.
[06:41] But if you got to hittail.com/faq as an example, you’ll see the little thing in the lower right. It’s kind of like some – some sites have the chat window on every page. We have the e-mail signup widget. It has definitely worked well. It’s good that you’re – good that you’re working that in because, you know, almost guarantee to bring people back to your site and it’s returning visitors who, you know, are the ones that purchase. The other thing that you may want to think about is to do retargeting and just sign up for a service like AdRoll and you install a tracking pixel and then people when they visit your site if they are floating around the internet, then you can, you know, just play ads to them.
[07:21] Mike: Yeah, I thought about doing that just because I know Google has something very similar to that where it just follows somewhere around. I’ve seen how it works and I’ve seen the statistics on how well it works. It can be disconcerting. I’ve experienced it myself and I’ll say there’s a fine line that you have to make sure you don’t go over because if – if you see those ads on every single site that you go to, then there’s a serious problem.
[07:43] Rob: Yeah, it’s a stalker.
[07:44] Mike: Yes.
[07:45] Rob: A stalker.
[07:45] Mike: It crosses the line in to stalker though. I’m hesitant to start spending the time there because I don’t know if I would have this – the time to spend on making sure that it doesn’t cross that line.
[07:54] Rob: It’s really easy. You just flip a bit. [Laughter] It says how many maximum times to show to someone and you can just choose. And I actually wouldn’t – so I wouldn’t recommend using Google for it for a number of reasons I won’t go in to but there are other services. One call the AdRoll, AdRoll.com that actually uses like seven or eight different ad networks. Google is one of the ad networks they use and so, it has an umbrella overall these networks since you lot more exposure and you have more kind of more control over – over what gets displayed and stuff. So, anyway, just a thought. For doing any type of the advertising, retargeting is – is a necessity. I would not recommend by the way ReTargeter.com I tried and I didn’t want – I did not like them. They did not work out at all. So…
[08:31] Mike: Cool. So, what else have you got going on?
[08:33] Rob: Well, I was doing some review of what HitTail has been doing. You know, the year is coming to a close here and I was just kind of looking at goals for 2013 and trying to figure out where do I want to bring HitTail in 2013, what other things that I want do. You know, I’ve been kind of hinting around that I want to launch a new app and so I looked back at the HitTail growth curve. And over the past five months, it’s been growing 30% a month. It is averaged that. So, you know, someone has been hiring at some level but I hadn’t put it in those numbers because I look at everything in dollar amounts but it’s pretty freaking crazy to think about that. And actually it’s been over the past 13 months, it was 19% per month which frankly that it sounds – I mean it is a lot but it started pretty small, right? It wasn’t – it’s not like it was doing 10 or 20 grand when I acquired it. So, growing it 19% a month is good. I guess you do it for 13 months straight, that’s kind of a [Laughter] – that was surprising to me. It did sound like a lot.
[09:26] Mike: That is a lot. I think I’ve read something recently Paul Graham had advocated that for a lot of their Y combinator startups. They shoot for something like between 5 and 10% of growth rate per week.
[09:39] Rob: Yeah.
[09:39] Mike: So, that’s —
[09:41] Rob: So, 20 to 40% per month, that is crazy.
[09:43] Mike: Uh huh.
[09:44] Rob: That’s crazy in terms of a bootstrapper, you know. If you’re going after venture capital, then yeah, that’s like you said that’s where you need to go. And they measure it per week because they’re only air for twelve weeks.
[09:54] Mike: But if you think about that, that’s about 21% per month. If you start multiplying those numbers out I mean that comes out to a 21 1/2 % per month. So, you’re just not too far behind that —
[10:06] Rob: Yes.
[10:06] Mike: … in terms of HitTail growth.
[10:07] Rob: Right, over, over —
[10:08] Mike: Over 13 months, I mean that’s a crazy amount of growth.
[10:11] Rob: Yeah, so I mean obviously it has to slow down at some point because you just hit like eventually your churn when you have so many paying customers, even at a low single digit churn rate, you’re still losing a huge amount of – of customers and you just have to add them back in faster than you can’t find them fast enough. So, every business plateaus and then you have the lower churn and find another flywheel marketing approach. But I haven’t hit that next. When I hit the first plateau – revenue was around I think it was about 5 grand and I went a couple months there and then shut up and I haven’t seen – haven’t seen the next one. So, we’ll see when that happens. But I did want to say that I think the biggest reason all I know that there has been a couple of the biggest reasons for the growth. One is measuring the right things and actually looking at the data and focusing on these metrics like lifetime value and churn rate and paid conversions and then the other thing has been finding multiple marketing approaches, not a lot of them. It’s been trying probably twenty different marketing approaches but finding three that have really driven the bulk of the growth. And it’s – even if I name the marketing approaches, it’s not going to work the same for every business. You really do need to try a bunch of them and figure out which ones you can scale up.
[11:20] Mike: Yeah and I think that’s a hard part for most people’s figuring out what those three approaches are because you do have to try so many things and it’s not hard to try them. It’s mentally difficult to go through the exercise of failing so many times until you figure out what actually does work.
[11:33] Rob: Right and I think the first step before – the first step that I was able to leapfrog by buying HitTail is that I already knew that it’s solved the problem, right, it had problem solution fits so that I could kick — as soon as I get the redesign done and stabilized it, I knew that it solved someone’s problem. It was just me finding that market and figuring out the best way to market to them. And so finding that market took some trial and error and then once I figure it out, “Oh, these people really understand it, this group,” then trying those 20 marketing approaches in to that niche and figuring out all these three have are the ones that have worked in and some of them are not repeatable like one of them worked really well and gave me a big 30, 40% rise in a month but I can’t do it again. It was a one-time thing but that’s okay, right because it worked and got, you know, got me to the next – kind of the next plateau. It’s always an interesting ride and that’s why I mean one of the reasons, you know, you talked about doing AuditShark and I talked about doing HitTail, they’re bigger ideas but they – they are new challenge, right? It’s learning something new and that’s – that’s been the fun part of it for me.
[12:34] Mike: Cool. So, are you on Twitter very much anymore?
[12:37] Rob: So, I do check in probably once a day when I’m on my phone. I have to admit I haven’t seen you on very much at all and I’m kind of – I’m not seeing a huge point to it right now. Are you on it and I’m just not seeing or are you just not been checking in?
[12:50] Mike: I just haven’t really – little of both, I mean I check in once in a while but I don’t really make a concerted effort to post on Twitter or to actually pay attention to what’s going on and I don’t know whether that’s because I’m just not really interested or because I feel like I don’t necessarily have anything to say. I mean I feel like I do have things to say. It’s just I don’t have time to sit there and do it in a hundred and forty character increments. I mean I feel like if I’m going to provide somebody with value about, you know, insights or thoughts that I have on something, I’d rather do it on a forum that gives me more than a hundred and forty characters than, you know, something like Twitter.
[13:25] Rob: It’s more of a rare breed. I think the old school kind of blogger types you look at Joel Spolsky and you know, maybe Paul Graham and I don’t even know the – a lot of the guys that kind of you and I grew up reading, you know, during our formative startup years, they don’t really use Twitter that much. Joel is on there a little bit, you know, every – a couple of times a week maybe and even Jeff Atwood is not on there nearly as much as I would, you know, think he might be. When you blog for so long and you think your ideas through to that level, its – you’re right, it’s just hard to sound intelligent or to like be groundbreaking in a hundred and forty characters. Now, there are people who did it very well. Actually, I do more retweets and responding than I do sitting down to actually draft original Twitter content. I don’t know. It doesn’t appeal to me. I don’t feel like I can provide that much value. I feel like you and I can provide more value being here on the podcast just discussing stuff and it’s a lot less effort, a lot less strenuous than to sit there and think, “All right, what can I say that’s intelligent and groundbreaking in these hundred and forty characters?”
[14:20] Mike: I think that’s why I’ve shut away a lot more recently than I have in the past from writing bog articles as well just because I share so much on the podcast that it’s like okay, well, I can rehash this particular idea on my blog but kind of what’s the point.
[14:32] Rob: Yup, we’re both on that route. I haven’t blog nearly as much in the last year than, you know, that I had in previous years and one of the reasons because the – podcast is just more fun. It’s like a less time consuming thing and I actually feel like it could – it provides more value to the people who are really in to it like it’s just a closer medium. It’s more intimate.
[14:50] Mike: It’s a different medium because when – when you’re writing a blog post, you can write whatever it is that you’re going to write but within any given sentence, you can say it in like ten different ways. I mean you can put intonations on different words and the exact same words can have different meanings based on what you emphasize. So, I think that doing a podcast, the words that you say are completely different than the words that you would write down even if it was going directly from podcast to transcript. I mean you listen to a podcast versus reading the transcript of that podcast. They’re two entirely different things and you can read the transcript first and then you go back and listen to the podcast say, “Oh, that’s what he really meant.” And I think it’s just a different mental image that people are getting from that podcast versus the transcript.
[15:33] Rob: Have you thought about your goals for 2013 yet?
[15:36] Mike: Not really, I really haven’t.
[15:38] Rob: Do you set – do you tend to set goals?
[15:40] Mike: I usually do but the problem that I find is that I don’t actually get around to set in them until some time in January or February. So, at that point, I’m already short changing myself by like a month or two. So —
[15:51] Rob: Yeah.
[15:52] Mike: … I don’t know. I wonder if this year I should probably take a couple of hours or days or something like that at the very end of this year to say, “Okay, let me sit down and actually figure out what it is that I want to accomplish this coming year.” I mean I have a few things in minds but nothing that I’ve really written down and I committed to myself.
[16:09] Rob: Right, I have not tended to do annual goals. I am a goal-oriented person but I haven’t tended to say – tended to say, “Oh, I’m going to do it, you know, next year.” Just start to thinking what I want to do in 2013 and the interesting part is I didn’t have to think very hard. It kind of just – it all just fell out because its things that I am right on the verge of working on now and I know that they’re going to take longer than I think, you know, all of them. So, I have some things – you know, one thing is like, “Oh, I’m going to get that out here in about 90 days,” but it’s like well, it will be 90 to 120 days. And then I’ll be working it on after that for several months.
[16:41] So, it really is more of a 2013 goal. I did want to throw out these three goals that I have. One is to I want a 2.5X HitTail in 2013 and I have a plan to make that happen. And then I have three info products that I’ve been – that have been sitting on my list, on my back burner percolating for about 18 months and I just have not done another – really haven’t done an info product since probably maybe my book a couple of years ago. So, I mean by the time we do the podcast and do MicroConf and you know, run my apps, I just haven’t – haven’t meant – made a time for it. But I am now taking the step forward and have a date set in the next couple of weeks to sit down and do one of them and I’ll probably launch it after the first of the year. And so the goal would be to launch the other two later in the year and they’ll be on, obviously, start up at later topics.
[17:29] Mike: Info products are interesting because as a developer you look at it and you’re like, “Oh, this isn’t a real product, you know.” It’ll cross [Phonetic] around the real product part of it. And it’s just like it really is because if it’s bringing in revenue, then what difference does it make how you got there and I think that when you’re just starting out, you look at those info products. It’s like, “That’s not a real product. That’s not a software product,” but at the end of the day it doesn’t matter as long as it’s actually bringing in that revenue.
[17:52] Rob: Well and providing value. You can often provide as much or more value giving someone information and you can trying to build an app to help them do something. A lot of the times it’s not that they don’t have the software to do it, it’s that they don’t have the knowledge to do it and sometimes you need both but I actually think there’s a – there’s a lot of value to be having and there’s a lot that’s not being said on certain topics that I feel like I have – I’m assuming unique inside in tiers so. I agree this ties in to the stair step approach that I mentioned last time when we’re interviewing or discussing with Brennan Dunn and how he has a couple – he’s like – what is it? An in-person seminar that he gives and then he has the E-book he has written that have helped him bootstrapped his way to being supported by products. And I guess to wrap that out, the last goal that I have for 2013 is something I’ve mentioned already, it’s to launch a new app and I have a specific revenue goal as well on the first six months after launched. Were you and I really going to build the same app?
[18:44] Mike: I think so. It’s interesting that we have that conversation because I saw in the outline that you’re building something and I’m like, “I wonder if it’s this,” because you were pretty vague and I’m like, “This is what I’m building in the next couple of weeks.” You know, is this is the same thing that you’re building just based on the notes that you said and it’s basically the same thing.
[19:01] Rob: Yeah, it’s similar. It’s probably got 70% overlapped I’d say.
[19:04] Mike: Right.
[19:05] Rob: I’m at the point I’ve well in the customer development. I have eleven commitments to – I’d say they’re purchase commitments. So, basically commitments to sign up for the app and to pay at this price point assuming it does this, assuming it has a positive ROI and its say – it’s a marketing tool and the e-mail marketing space which is something I have – I have a lot of experience and I feel like I, you know, could lend some expertise to and there’s – there are several things that are lacking in today’s e-mail marketing tools. So, yeah, it’s good. I know the numbers have ROI works out. So, I have high hopes for this. I should know – I’m sure there’s people out there thinking we struggle at the entrepreneurial ADD thing, right? Because it’s a lot of people bounce around from one idea to another. I mean I never get one off the ground or they get off one of the ground and get it to a point, I mean get bored off it and jump to the next one and leave the other one to die. And that is not what’s happening here.
[19:56] My whole approach of having a portfolio of product is that I build an app, buy an app. I spent 12 to 18 months on it and then I either automate it, I hire someone to manage or I sell it. I do want of those three things. I have almost never let an app die unless there’s been some specific instances where Google has, you know, done some things and the app will kind of die on its own but it’s nothing that I could have – I couldn’t have saved it by focusing more time on it. It’s just been kind of a consequence of relying on Google for traffic for that particular app. But I do have – I’ve talked about having a product manager for HitTail and we have a plan in place to continue growing HitTail. Like I said my goal is to 2.5X from where it is now over the next year. So, I’m excited.
[20:25] Mike: The thing that I’m looking at building is more specifically for my needs versus I had in it mind to productize it I mean because I’m so focused on AuditShark right now that I know that productizing what I was going to be building was not necessarily in the near term but obviously, you’re much further along in that than I am. So, and I think it’s probably best if I build what I have to do for myself versus trying to productize it because I need it for Audit Shark. I need it for some of the other things that I’m doing. At the end of the day, I don’t necessarily know of what you’re going to be building is what I need.
[21:13] Rob: Exactly. We do have different goals as we describe the thing we’re going to build. Yours is focus on kind of a different end goal. I think they’ll be overlap of functionality but the fact that you need it now and not in three or four months and that you have a developer, you know, you said you’re training or kind of working with the new developer to find out if he can stick around with you long term, it just seems like – like be a natural fit for that.
[21:34] Mike: Uh huh.
[21:35] Rob: Cool though I’ll be mentioning probably putting up a landing page and breaking ground the first lines of code here in the next few weeks.
[21:42] Mike: So, you had mentioned that you have a product manager for HitTail, right?
[21:46] Rob: Yeah.
[21:46] Mike: How did you go about finding a product manager for that? I mean what was your – your thought process behind that? I mean you said that you – you kind of have a plan in place for at least a mental concept of what you’re going to do with a product after 12 to 18 months but isn’t it difficult to kind of hand that off to somebody and just say, “Okay, well, this is going to be something that you’re going to be working on,” and do you have them working at full time or…?
[22:08] Rob: Yeah, so what I did was I had known – I’ve known this guy for over a year, about a year and a half and we’ve – we’ve hang out a lot. I would not — I mean I would have a hard time. I shouldn’t say I would not but I would have a harder time if I was just posting a job description somewhere, you know, and saying, “Looking for a product manager,” because it’s such a unique skills that you need to run these kinds of products because we don’ have a team of developers and designers and people, marketing people. It’s like you need to have all of those skills in one person or be able to work with my contractors, you know, who I’m already – who I’m already using for the skills that I lack. And so, it just so happened that I wasn’t specifically seeking a product manager. I was just going to keep working on HitTail and then once I realize that, you know, this guy that I knew had the ability and was going to – he’s going to go start doing consulting and I just said, “You know, long term, do you want to launch products, you’ll – you can learn more from me by working for me than doing anything else. And if you do this and you’re able to handle the product, then it only makes sense that either we can grow it twice as fast or that I can then branch off and build another product which obviously ultimately means that I can grow revenue for the whole company twice as fast or more for that matter.”
[23:18] And so, it really was a – I’ll say it was a trial run, you know. I basically brought them on half time about 20 hours a week. He’s a contractor. He evaluated me as a client and I evaluated him as a guy who’s running — running the app. Overtime, he’s just proven out that he can – that he can handle a job and so I’ve given him more and more responsibility. Until at this point, I’m doing – I’m actually doing the last several weeks doing very little on HitTail and it’s, you know, it’s continuing its growth and he’s managing making – he’s making now high-level decisions on the thing. I think ultimately long term, we will likely it’s possible we move towards like an employee arrangement.
[23:55] Mike: That’s interesting. I mean one of the things I’ve had some issues with lately is just letting go of certain things. I think part of being a programmer is just being a little bit OCD about certain things and you know, sometimes it’s just hard to let go of things that are you look at and say, “Oh, that’s not actually important in any way, shape or form,” but for some reason you still it is. And I feel like product management in some sense is one of those things where if you get somebody who’s good and they know what they’re doing and they can actually do the job, you can just kind hand it off to them and they’re going to do as good job as you and don’t get me wrong, it’s not that it’s not an important job but it needs to be done right and you have concerns about just handing that off to somebody.
[24:37] Rob: Yeah, definitely requires the right person, right? Because if you hire the wrong person for the job, there’s no chance they’re going to do it as well as you do. You mentioned having those deal over certain things and not being able to letting them go. Do you have any examples of that?
[24:50] Mike: I think one example that comes to mind is probably like the backend database design for AuditShark and how everything fits together. I mean because there are so many different moving parts within AuditShark, it’s very difficult to just for me to just hand that off to somebody and say, “Okay, well, I expect you to start making architectural decisions about how the stuff is going to interact with each other,” because I have a visual studio project or solution file that has I think 10 or 12 different projects in it. And most of them compile down in to a DLL that is then use in other projects and it’s just very difficult for me to conceptually just hand that off to somebody and say “I would like you to start making some of the decisions about how these pieces are going to interact with each other.”
[25:31] And then that also comes in to play with like, for example, the database design where I did all the database design for not only AuditShark but for the AuditShark pro version of the software that I haven’t really talk a lot about. I mean it’s mostly just the policy build or piece of it that I’ve talked about to people but that I can envision being its own product in the future for a different market segment. So, those are the types of things where I look at and say I have visions long term of where this is going to go or where it can go and I want to make sure that I’m not shooting myself in the foot with certain decisions down the road.
[26:06] Rob: Oh, absolutely. It’s been about two months since – since he started, the product manager, and he originally was just doing tier two support because I have a virtual assistant who does tier one. And I say it’s a virtual assistant. It’s guy who’s work – work for me now for a year and he actually does our Academy Support as well and he’s really good. I mean he’s not just – he’s not just that. He’s actually stepped up in to – in to a true support role. And so, the product manager starts just doing very basic tier two support and learning the code and it wasn’t until three or four weeks in where he made a small code change. And then six, seven weeks in, we needed some new database tables and so, I said go design them and run them by me. And that was it. He went in all the leg work. That’s for – it was the Basecamp integration.
[26:49] So, he went and looked at Basecamp, looked at their API and then he put – showed me to create scripts and I looked at them and I actually ran them on production myself. And so that’s the level of control that I – that I maintain. Now, probably with the next one – you know, I better – I’ll continue to review them because it doesn’t take me much time but I don’t feel like I need such hard core control that, you know, I need to keep maintaining the naming of everything or something like that and but maybe you do with AuditShark and if you do, you could still do it in a review process. You know, you don’t actually need to do the design as much as just confirm that it meets your design standards and the standards of your future vision for the product which is what I’m able to do with just a few minutes.
[27:28] Mike: Yeah, I totally understand what you’re saying. I mean there’s one contract where I have had working for me for almost a year now on a piece of AuditShark when I send him something. I said, “Hey, can you make sure this gets done for this piece of it?”And he wrote me back and he’s like, “Well, here’s the code. This is what you asked for but I have a concern about X.” And that literally sat in my inbox for almost a month before I actually had time to go back and look at it and I said, “Well, let me try and figure out what it is that he’s actually saying here that should be done and if there’s a different way to do it,” then he’s like, “Oh, well I’ll come back to you and let you know.”
[28:00] And I look at it and it took me probably 45 minutes to an hour to kind of review what it was that he was saying and what he have done but at the end of the day, he’d made the right decisions like there – there’s nothing different that I would have done but it was a very, very important piece of the product. So and at this point, I mean there were some other things that he came back to me with like there were probably half a dozen things I went through today and looked at them and said like – and after looking at that one thing, I just looked at the other ones and like, “Yup, I’m just going to approve this one.” I’m not even really going to look at it. I’m just going to approve because I’m sure that he did a right thing there.
[28:34] Rob: And that’s a thing, if you hire someone or you bring them on, you can’t trust them to make decisions from day one, right. You have to – no matter how smart they are, no matter how quickly they learn, they’re going to make some mistakes and you have to help them learn why that, you know, that was a mistake and just course correct them and you’ll know within a month after you course correct them a few times, certain contractors no matter what – which job they’re doing whether it’s development, design, support, they will continue to make similar mistakes and those are the ones that you know probably never going to be you’re A players. But it’s once – you correct them once, twice and suddenly after that, you’re not correcting them at all, they slowly build your trust that they’re going to make good decisions over and over and over again.
[29:15] And then it comes down – we talked about this before but they’ll make a 19 decisions exactly like you would and then maybe they’ll make the 20th decision “wrong” in your opinion. You know, that you would made a different one that probably would have been better. But the fact that they didn’t have to check with you on all 20 of those is totally, totally worth the fact that one decision is made slightly differently. And I would venture to say if you hire really smart people and that’s how I feel like I’ve done here, they actually will make quite a few decisions better than you would. They’ll make some better and some worse and honestly, you know, it’ll – it’ll even out overtime or but you hopefully, above or you would be if you’re trying to run everything.
[29:52] Mike: Well, I think the other part of that is that by them making reasonably good decisions, it freeze you up to not have to make those decisions because I spent probably 45 minutes to an hour trying to figure out, it’s like, “Okay, well one, what are our options here and two, what sort of decisions should be made?” And after reviewing everything, I was like he made the exact same decisions I would have made and it was not – it was not a trivial decision either. I mean it was actually pretty complicated and it’s just he made the right decision. I mean what else can you say at that point?
[30:25] Rob: So, I have two kind of book reviews or two books that I’ve read recently I just wanted to mention what it’s called StandOut and it’s from the guy who did StrengthsFinder but it’s a new test. We did an episode about StrengthsFinder where you and I both took this test and it kind of defined your strengths or determines your strengths and then it allows you to kind of focus on those moving forward and that’s the theory. This – what StandOut does is instead of having 36 different strengths, StandOut has basically 9 clusters of strengths and so it’s the same thing. It’s like 9 or 10 bucks to get the Kindle version and then you can take this 20-minute online test and then it spits out to – it spits out all 9 of yours in order but your top 2 is really what’s highlighted.
[31:04] So, it’s fine. It’s definitely something I recommend. With the test I’ve taken, they definitely hit the nail on the head in terms of who I feel like I am and what I feel my strengths are. And so it reinforces things. It’s a reminder to me. I redo the reports and I think, yeah, I should be doing more of this. And that’s actually one of the reasons why I have the goals that I do for 2013 of launching a new app and doing info product and growing HitTail but not just trying to sit there and focus on one thing. It’s that I’m – one of my aspects, the StandOut aspects is I’m a creator and I’m like I need to be creating new things or else I’m not living optimally and I’m not doing my best professionally. And so, it definitely fits in line with what I’m doing.
[31:41] The other one, the other book I had recommended to me a couple of times is called Double Double and it’s from the guy who started 1-800-GOT-JUNK? and College Pro Painters and he’s an entrepreneur that’s grown to businesses very large. And the premise is about doubling your revenue and your profit in three years and that’s why it’s called Double Double. And it actually sounded pretty intriguing but I definitely would not recommend it for our crowd. It’s water down because he was basically trying to write – I hate it when people do this. They try to write these very general entrepreneurial books and say super high level, you know, you should be persistent and you should set a goal and then do some stuff to achieve it, you know, but it’s like there was no really action that I could take on it.
[32:22] You know, aside from, all right, set some goals for next year, it was just – it was pretty water down because he was trying to make it so general. I think the advice I would say skip it and I think the advice to take note of is to be more laser focus if you really want to build kind of a hard core constituency of fans and whether that was his goal here or not, I just – I feel it kind of leaves – leaves a lot of people out on the cold if they actually want to do take action on your advice.
[32:43] Mike: Is that kind of the – the four steps of success and the third one is a bunch of question marks and fourth one is profit?
[32:49] Rob: [Laughter] Exactly. Yeah, it’s that kind of thing. It’s actually a decent book. I listen to it and I listened to the whole thing which means it was – it had my interest but I just found it lacking in terms of truly, you know, getting value out of it. As in I’m not going to recommend it to other people because I don’t think they’ll – it’ll actually improve your business if you listen to it.
[33:05] Mike: Got it.
[33:08] Mike: If you have question for us, you can call us to our voicemail number at 1-888-801-9690 or you can e-mail it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our theme music is an excerpt from ‘“We’re Outta Control” by MoOt, used under Creative Commons. You can subscribe to this podcast in iTunes by searching for startups or via RSS at startupsfortherestofus.com where you’ll find a full transcript of each episode. Thanks for listening. We’ll see you next time.