Episode 84 | Five Traits of Successful Founders

Show Notes


[00:00] Mike: This is Startups For The Rest of Us: Episode 84.

[00:03] [music]

[00:11] Mike: 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 Mike.

[00:20] Rob: And I’m Rob.

[00:21] Mike: And we’re here to share our experiences to help you avoid the same mistakes we’ve made. What are you doing this week, Rob?

[00:24] Rob: I’ve been working pretty hard on refining some parts of the HitTail article, the one-click article feature I mentioned last week. So I got some good feedback from early users. I had about ten, ten orders so far for articles. And it’s crazy and so I’m saying it’s a two to three-day delivery window but with the amount of writers that are available through this partner that I have, one article came back in three hours.

[00:47] Mike: Wow. [Laughter]

[00:48] Rob: That — is it — yeah.

[00:49] Mike: That’s crazy.

[00:50] Rob: They’re only — they’re 400 -word article so I’m, you know, specifying it pretty low because at this point they’re kind of just SEO blog post type things but they’re high quality writing. I mean they’re all, you know, native English speakers and that kind of stuff but yeah. But I think the average is probably been like eighteen hours. A lot of them are coming back in less than a day. There was only one that was on that really assertoric topic that took — it took like almost two days for someone to claim it and they wrote it like six hours or so.

[01:16] Anyways, that’s one good. It feels really good to get that out and get it out in to the wild and to make some refinements to it based on suggestions. So I’m feeling like that’s wrapping up pretty quickly and got to kind of be moving on now to more marketing stuff because this is really — this completes the operation retention that I talked about last week. And so I am really redoubling my efforts and kind of refocusing on doing things more in public. I’ve kind of been under the radar for a good month or two, really, I haven’t done much. Other than the podcast, I haven’t done much of anything in public. And so I’ll be heading back to that.

[01:48] Mike: Yup.

[01:48] Rob: How about yourself?

[01:50] Mike: I read an interesting blog article on the SmartBear Blog by Jason Cohen and it talks about the mid-market briar patch and how going after to been market is generally, not always but generally a losing strategy as opposed to going after the enterprise or small business market because if you’re going to go after small businesses, then obviously the way to do it is generally through SEO and you know, online marketing techniques. But if you’re going after the enterprise market, then you’ll have to scale up and it cost a lot more time and effort and energy in order to land those customers. So some people look at that and they say, “Well, I don’t want to go after that out. I’ll go after the mid-market” which is kind of what I try to do initially with AuditShark and the article basically goes on to say that the mid-market is essentially a briar patch because you spend just as much time, effort and energy going after the mid market as you do going after enterprise customers because by the time those customers are mid-market sized, they already have all these processes and purchasing procedures in place and everything that makes it just as difficult to raise them as it does to get in to an enterprise customer but your return on it is like a hundred times less or thousand times less than it would be if you’re going after an enterprise customer.

[03:03] So you’re much better off going after those enterprise customers than the mid-market customers because it’s the same amount of effort but your return on it is, you know, a hundred extra or a thousand extra or something like that.

[03:15] Rob: Got it and this struck a cord with you because of your early direction with AuditShark of going after banks, right?

[03:20] Mike: Yeah, definitely because I mean my target market for banks. I mean I talked about it upfront was, you know, anywhere from fifty to a couple of hundred employees. It was a little bit more difficult than I originally anticipated. I thought it’ll be a lot easier just based on my early experiences talking to a couple of banks. It turns out that it’s just a lot more effort and it’s just not cost effective to do it.

[03:41] Rob: Right. So what’s in line with exactly his premise at article and that’s cool. Hey, we talked a couple of weeks ago and I had mentioned that I wanted to start mentioning some, some Micropreneur Academy members more often, people who have had success because literally dozens of folks that I know have launched products and, you know, either quit their jobs or enough money to quit their jobs and just don’t and just basically have two incomes coming in. I know a few folks doing that.

[04:07] Anyway, so there’s a guy name John Turner and we mentioned him last week. seedprod.com is his URL and he has a WordPress theme, the ultimate coming soon plug-in for WordPress and it allows — it’s a lot, you know made a lot for the startup movement of having the landing page and collecting e-mails so it ties in a lot before we say but he’s starting in a very elegant way. You know, at one point he turned down a job with, I think WooThemes. I mean he turned down a job with a pretty big WordPress development company. So he — this guy is a very sharp WordPress developer. He has built over the past six months specifically, he’s been working on a little longer than that but he launched and his growing revenue and frankly, you know, he’s not at the point of having recurring revenue up to the point of quitting a job but I think like last month he has enough that seriously considered doing so.

[04:57] So but it just really impressive and cool to see someone come in to the Academy, used the lessons that we’ve laid out and really take a lot of way from. He expressed that he learned a lot from the Academy. So a folks are, you know, interested in that type of thing and so maybe we’ll mention it every, every few episodes just to give people idea of what’s going on there and who’s coming out of it. I’d like to kind of do some little spotlights here and there. But if you’re interested in finding out more about it, it’s at micropreneur.com.

[05:24] Mike: Yes, I’ve looked in to what he’s got for a plug-in and the model that he used to kind of promote was really interesting. He actually didn’t even mean to build a product out of it, what he done was he released this plug-in for a WordPress as a coming soon plug-in and he got — I forget how many tens of thousands of downloads but it was a significant number of downloads was — I think he started out with — about 10,000 and that’s when he decided that he was going to turn it in to the WordPress plug-in in to having a like a professional version of the plug-in. And it’s more or less like an up sell and at this point, I think his free version has something like 70 or 80,000 downloads according to WordPress.

[06:03] Rob: .org.

[06:04] Mike: There, they just, you know, show you how many downloads are and some ungodly number. I mean it’s ridiculous. I mean that’s where a lot of his sales come through because there are certain things that are in is professional version of his plug-in that are not in the free version. I mean I think that’s just a really great way to do it. I mean it seems to fit really well with the WordPress community.

[06:24] Rob: Right. That’s this kind of a standard way I’ve seen evolving. I shouldn’t say standard. It’s kind of becoming the standard way of releasing the free — it’s almost a premium model but the audience is so big and if you can actually get found in that WordPress.org search engine, it’s a lot like ranking high in Google. I mean it’s just another discovery engine and so you can get enough kind of free users that, you know, it can turn in to a reasonably high income stream for folks like us who are solo entrepreneurs. I mean if you are some enterprise company, this wouldn’t even be a blip, right? The amount of income you could make from it but that’s that not the game here.

[07:00] Mike: One of things I’ve been working on lately is I’m working through the website designer with the new site design for AuditShark, my new developer for AuditShark has just kind of come onboard. He’s got about a day’s worth of effort in so far. So he really hasn’t done anything yet but you know, he’s certainly starting to pick some things up and you know, we’ll see how things go. I’m hoping things work out on this side just to help get things moving a little bit quicker.

[07:25] Rob: And at the same time, I think I’m going to have to let my developer go who’s been working on HitTail for a little while. He had just seemed to — he’s a solid developer but he’s not working as far as I’d like and sometimes he just kind of disappears and doesn’t answer e-mail for a few days. So, you know, I have higher standards at this point so I may be looking for another developer which is tough because HitTail is in Classic ASP and it’s not easy to find good Classic ASP developers because of them have moved to .NET by now.

[07:51] [music]

[07:54] Mike: So what we’re talking about today?

[07:56] Rob: Today, we’re talking about five traits of successful founders. So I’ve been listening to the book Winner’s Brain and it’s by Jeff Brown and Mark Fenske. And basically, these guys are two researchers. So they are, you know, they’re fairly academic in the research but they’ve written kind of a layman’s book and it’s about people who succeed and how their brains are different from, you know, a lot of other people and it’s not just people who succeed and it’s people who perform at high level.

[08:22] So they not only took all the research in the space but they also look at interviewing people like Kerri Strug, she was a gold medal gymnast, and a bunch of other high performing athletes, musicians, that kind of stuff. They — as far as I know I think they may have one or two entrepreneurs in there but it really is a lot of it is focused on performance and achieving goals and so, you know, in my opinion it totally applies to what we’re trying to launch companies and such.

[08:49] Now, there are five traits that they named. There’s actually — there’s eight lower level traits that they go through and they called them Win Factors and we’re not going to talk about those because they’re pretty — there are kind of low level stuff. There is like self awareness, motivation, focus, emotional balance but they are the higher level skills that we’re going to talk about today.

[09:06] And the first one, I’ll just dive right in to it. It’s called Opportunity Radar. Basically, their premise in the book is that having these five traits dramatically improves your chance of succeeding at achieving goals whether that goal is to win a gold medal, whether it’s to, you know, play at concierto at some place or you know, what we’re saying here is whether to launch a company. I mean it kind of all goes — goes in that same thing. So the first trait that we’re going to talk about is Opportunity Radar. And the way they defined it is as someone with good opportunity radar recognizes that opportunities don’t always come in gift wrapped that more often than not, they come wrapped in a problem or in an idea that everyone else has missed.

[09:47] So as I was thinking about that I was realizing like in our world by the time something is written about in Inc magazine or Fast Company, it’s too late, right? The opportunity has passed because everyone knows about it. You have to do these things when they are still hard. Do you remember in like the late 90’s or mid 90’s, websites are really hard to build, right? You had to hand code the HTML, there weren’t many resources. It was just hard to do. [Laughter]

[10:11] So I was in college at the time and I remember building static HTML websites and it was really hard to do them. It was hard to make them look good and if you knew  how to make them look good, you could charge a lot of money to do that but to build a similar thing now, would cost one tenth of the price if that. Same thing with web applications, when they start coming around dynamic code and such with Perl and C++ and then there was, you know, PHP and Classic ASP. Those things were a pain to work within the late 90’s and now, today, you can build stuff five times, ten times faster. But if you went back and build that old functionality, you know, the opportunity has gone. You have to take things way up to the next level and be at the edge of the game and be building things that are hard today.

[10:53] The last example is like buying apps and websites before there was Flippa. You know, that’s something I did. I’ve continued to do it on Flippa but there is a lot more competition, a lot more people talking about it now. It’s not that the opportunity is gone but being able to recognize that opportunity four or five years ago, you’re just going to be much better off if you’re able to recognize that when everyone else is not flocking to it, you know, it’s a gold rush mentality that’s being in there before everyone else is starting to mine for gold as well.

[11:19] Mike: That kind of reminds me of Bill Bither story. Bill Bither was one of the speakers at MicroConf and he talked about how his company Atalasoft had — he started it when .NET was first coming out and he started building .NET imaging components because he looked at that, you know, upcoming opportunity and realized that .NET was probably going to be the next big thing and because it was this new platform that people were going to need tools and libraries in order to build other things so he build this .NET imaging platform and he ended up selling it last year for something like $10 million.

[11:55] So you know, definitely having that opportunity radar and recognizing when those things are going to come up, obviously, can potentially make you millions of dollars but at the same time it doesn’t have to. I mean it can be one of those things where you’re in the right place at the right time and you recognized something that other people are just kind of missing or you recognize that, you know, there’s something there and it may not be, you know, the next Facebook but it could certainly justify putting in some time and effort in order to make you a full time income or you know, supplement your income.

[12:25] Rob: Right. And I think another example of that is this whole micropreneur movement that we’ve kind of spearheaded here it’s that getting in to WordPress.org and getting, you know, 10,000 or 20,000 downloads and then turning that in to an income stream even if it’s 5,000 or 10,000 bucks per month that’s a great income stream for a solo individual but it’s an opportunity that everyone else meaning all the other businesses, you know, small business, medium sized enterprise, they’re ignoring it. It’s fitting in to a niche that other people are missing and so many other micropreneurs that I’ve seen succeed are doing that, right? That’s why we kind of push people to look for a niche and what do that niche — I mean often times I’ll say, you know, it should be a vertical niche but sometimes that niche is more horizontal or something like a launching plug-in like John Turner has is a bit horizontal but it still has that niche of being in WordPress and being easily discoverable and having a decent user base.

[13:18] So it’s in that opportunity right up always be on the look out for opportunities, noting things down. I mean I don’t think everything has to be a novel idea like I know that it doesn’t, you know, I still have DotNetInvoice that is completely not a novel idea and that still does well for me. HitTail is, I mean is reasonably novel but it’s, you know, has a unique algorithm but it’s not like some groundbreaking new technology that no one else has ever conceived of. It’s really just an opportunity and space that other people have overlooked.

[13:46] Mike: I think one of the things we should definitely mention here is that just knowing that having the opportunity radar is a good thing, as a little different than how do I develop that and I think that one of the things that you need to look at when you’re trying to develop your opportunity radar is to figure out what problems people have and if somebody is trying to do something and they’re having a hard time doing it and they ask for your advice and you can’t find a solution either, then chances are there maybe a good opportunity there and you should definitely start looking around to see if there are other people who have similar problems but, you know, opportunities as you said at the very beginning of this, they don’t land on your lap, they don’t come gift wrapped and you know, you do need to look for them a little bit and a lot of people will focus on the problems that they’re having not necessarily developing a solution to the problem. They want to find a solution to the problem and if you get in to the mentality of looking for problems to solve versus looking for a solution to those problems, then you’re going to hone that opportunity radar a little bit.

[14:43] Rob: Absolutely and if you don’t already have an idea notebook, you really, really need a place where you can capture them because you will forget to create ideas you have I guarantee it. Nothing please me more than going back through this little black notebook I have and seeing ideas that I really like, you know, that I came up with a few months ago and it’s — some of them are terrible. 80% of them are terrible or they just aren’t going to ever pan out and when I go back through it I can totally tell that they are but that for that 20% that is pretty darn good, it’s like kind of having this gold mine in my opinion of just being able to run through it and think about what’s the viability of this idea and kind of taking — taking it to the next level, you know, in a mental exercise.

[15:20] So trait number two for successful founders is having an Optimal Risk Gauge. The idea of having an Optimal Risk Gauge involves being able to recognize what risks there are, determining how much risk you can tolerate and whether or not you are willing to pay the consequences if you fail. So some questions that we see pretty commonly are things like at what point should I quit my job, how much income should I have before I do that and how large of an idea should I attack, you know, is this niche good enough, how mush risk is involve going to the niche.

[15:52] And all those things, yes we can — you can try to put some numbers together. You can put calculations together and try to engineer it but ultimately you have to have a risk gauge and you have to know how much you are willing to put up with. That’s one big reason that I always say, try to keep your app, your V1 between four and six months of your time because most people should be willing to risk that. If you’re not willing to risk that and you probably shouldn’t do, you know, launch a software product, do startup at all.

[16:18] Some people look out and say, “Well, I’m going to do a twelve to twenty four-month product” and to me, that’s just an outrageous amount time and we see a huge drop off for people actually able to complete that. So taking about in terms of four to six months and are you willing to make that risk, you know? Are you able to calculate how much it’s going to be and tolerate it if that time does go to waste?

[16:38] I took some big risks early on. I shouldn’t say big but they were, you know, four to six month, seven month risks, a few thousand bucks which at that time was quite a bit of money but the biggest one I took early on that did pan out was when I bought DotNetInvoice. So I paid 11,000 bucks when I first bought it and that was a huge amount of money at the time. Now, I still want a salary and doing a little bit of consulting and stuff. So but at the time, I determined that I was willing to take that risk, right? But if I lost it, I would be very disappointed but that I was willing to pay the consequences if I failed.

[17:08] And you know what? Flanking that money down and buying DotNetInvoice turned up to be a great thing for me because when there were bunch of things wrong with it, right? There were like twenty four show stopper bugs after I bought it, bunch of other things. Revenue wasn’t as high as they told me but once I closed, the fact that I was on the hook for that money that I had spent made me ultra motivated to get those things fixed and to get them fixed very, very quickly. And that resulted in, you know, I’ve talked about before but I basically was able to triple revenue in the first few months and that got me to the point of making back that eleven grand in, it was less than six months if I recall. You know, being able to gauge the risk that you’re willing to do, being able to gauge the risk of the action you’re about to take is a super valuable traits of entrepreneurs.

[17:52] Mike: And of course, you’ll have a problem with a risk gauge is that humans are notoriously terrible in actually estimating what the risk levels are and I don’t know specifically why that is. I think that it’s because we put it in our heads that there’s a certain amount of risk involve in something and we try to relate it to other things and unfortunately, because we’re bad at doing some of that Math in our heads say, oh there’s one in twenty chance of this or you know, one in thirty chance of that. You’re like, oh that doesn’t seem that high but then when you start trying to do those numbers in your head, it turns out that that’s actually a reasonable amount of time that those things are going to happen.

[18:32] The whole point is that it’s very hard to figure out how to put those assigned numbers to those risks and I don’t know if it’s a good idea that’s to actually try the assigned numbers to the risks of the things that you’re doing but it is important to think about what you’re willing to lose and what you’re willing to put on the line and whether or not there’s an opportunity for you to get any of that back. So if you spend, you know, six months trying to get something off the ground and it doesn’t work, you have to remember there’s — there’s two things that you’ve lost at that point. One is the money that you put in to and the second one is your time.

[19:04] And I think that the time is probably a lot more important than the money because you can always make more money later on and if you start to become successful then, you know, the money is just going to flow naturally with your other successes and will probably far out strip whatever money that you put in to those failures but the time is something that you’re never going to get back. So it’s really important to make sure that you’re not risking a heck of a lot of time when you’re doing those things.

[19:29] Rob: Trait number three of successful founders is a having a Focus Goal Laser and that’s being able to stay focus on goals long enough to execute. I think we all know people who decide on something and then wonder. I think we all know ourselves to do that at times. And this is again while we come back to that four to six-month time frame of if you set a goal out one year, I’m going to work every night and weekend to build an app for a year. The odds of you achieving that goal, they — they go down.

[19:56] What’s interesting is that I’ve found three things have really personally helped me stay on focus lately over the past probably two years. One of them is being in Mastermind Groups. Those biweekly meetings have kept me on task and motivated and wanting to hit these goals that I set in the previous meeting. So that’s been a big motivator. The other one has been the podcast, this thing you hear me talking on right now and the fact that I’m able to come down together with you, Mike and the listener and basically kind of publicly commit. I mean I don’t come out say I’m going to have this thing done by this particular date but just being able to look forward to talking about what I’ve done is actually a big motivator to me and to be able to talk about both the successes and the failures. I mean if you recall back in February, I had a major disappointment with in terms of trying to hit some revenue goals and there were three or four episodes in a row where I was just down at the times about it and just talking about how I didn’t know how I was going to pull out of it and eventually, I did but it’s a good venue to be able to think that stuff through.

[20:54] And then the last one that helped is I came out of MicroConf both years but specifically this year, super charge. It’s been about five weeks since MicroConf and I have not — I barely been on Twitter, I barely been on Hacker News. I’m so not distractible right now because I have this amazing focus goal laser on HitTail and on getting these things done and it came — it’s stemmed out of a few conversations that I had with a few of the speakers and some of the attendees that just got me so laser focused on getting the stuff done. So that’s been what’s helped to me stay laser focus. I think you need to have the, what the author said is like you have to hone this ability over your lifetime and that it will wax and wane and I’ve totally seen that. The entire months go by where I will just struggle to stay on focus with the goal and you have to know yourself well enough to come back to those things that do help you get focus on your goals again.

[21:52] Mike: I think one of the things that you talk about there was with the Mastermind Groups I mean you are essentially you have this accountability to the people that you have in that Mastermind Group and you know, one of the things that I have seen is that when I’m putting things together for different people to work on for AuditShark or doing different things for, you know, like the mailing list and things like that. What I’ve noticed is that if I know that there is somebody depending on me to get something to them that helps with my focus because I know that they can’t continue until I finish with my part, take enough time to make sure that those are done right. But at the same time I know that it needs to get done. So I’m motivated to get those things done and by the time I get them done, there’s somebody else who needs something. And putting yourself in to that, you know, perpetual motion machine where you’re constantly in a state where you have to move forward. You can’t just slack off. That’s really important to try to achieve and I think that that will help a lot of people with, you know, maintaining that laser focus on getting things done.

[22:53] Rob: So trait number four is Effort Accelerator and this is being able to move from intention to action. So it’s being able to have an idea and setting goals like number — like trait number three said but then actually being able to move from that intention in to action. So we all know people who are thinkers versus doers. And I think actually in my life at times, I’ve been more of a thinker than a doer. I think that reading TechCrunch and Mashable and kind of Inc Magazine and Fast Company, all that stuff, you can really get in to the entreporn thing and be just the thinker, the dreamer but moving yourself in to action and actually taking a step towards getting something done anything, doing anything in public that doesn’t just require you to, you know, kind of sit in your basement, write some code and read articles that other people are writing but to actually do something that’s risky and that scares the crap out of you, that’s what the effort accelerator is about.

[23:42] So I actually knew this really smart guy and I’ve known several in my life but I knew an exceptionally smart and creative guy when I live in Sacramento. He was a filmmaker. He was a musician. He wrote stories like he just was super creative but he never really finish anything. And he would talk about — he’s actually in a band with me and he would talk about writing songs and making movies and we would see clips of stuff and I’d hear like a verse he would write. And was really impressed with what he did but he would never put a chorus to that and he would never commit to sitting down and being disciplined and turning that that intention in to action.

[24:13] So it’s not that — he’s not a bad person and it’s actually not a bad trait to have as long as you know that about yourself and he didn’t know that and he would talk about like, “Yeah, I’m going to write this song. I’m going to write the stories.” And we would sit around and said, “Man, I know that you’re not going to do that just having to look back at the last year of your life.” So knowing that about yourself is a huge deal because it’s being able to then combat that everyday and to realize that that is your natural inclination is to lean towards being a thinker than you rather need to find kind of a job or a place in life where being a thinker is really good or you need to figure out how to just do yourself in to being a doer if in fact, you know, you want to do things like to start a company.

[24:51] Mike: One word that you mentioned that was entreporn which is not entrepreneur but essentially it’s the idea of going out and reading all these books and articles and magazines on things that you want to do but never actually getting around to doing any of them. There are certainly an ad been flow when you’re running your own business of that type of activity but there are always times where you are much more creative than productive and vice versa. So the point that you made a little bit there was that there are people out there and you know, there are mentalities of people can get in to where they’re doing a lot more of the thinking about stuff rather than actually doing that one of those things is, you know, consumption of what other people are creating.

[25:31] You do need to make sure that you’re not falling in to that trap of constantly thinking of ideas and thinking of things that you’re going to do versus actually sitting down and taking the next step in doing them.

[25:42] Rob: I wrote this blog post. It was in 2008. I’m looking at it. It’s about four years ago. It’s called the Single Most Important Career Question You Can Ask Yourself and it basically comes down to the dichotomy of consumers versus producers and it says “Are you a consumer or are you producing things?” It totally fits in to this dichotomy, right? And it’s not that you aren’t 100% a consumer or a 100% a producer. Most will have a mix of both but if you really want to get things done, you have to stir yourself. You have to figure out how to motivate yourself to consume less and produce more because everyone I know who — who’s doing it like who is executing, who is starting companies, who’s being successful, they consume way less than the other people I know. They are so focus on their business that they’re totally motivated and they’re, you know, they kind of have that single focus laser vision.

[26:31] So the fifth and final trait of successful founders is a Talent Meter and this is being able to gauge yours and others competence and incompetence. So there’s this phrase the authors used and it’s the “double whammy of incompetence” which I love. It says that when you’re incompetent and you don’t know that, that it’s twice as bad. And I would actually say it’s exponentially as bad. I know that I am incompetent at certain things and hopefully, I don’t have a lot of incompetence that I’m not aware of because being aware of something means you can either avoid it. You can outsource it. You can try to improve it.

[27:08] There are a lot of options but it’s when you think that you’re great at something and you know, you go on American Idol thinking you’re a great singer and you really aren’t and then everyone laughs at you, man, that’s kind of a lame example of it but thinking that you really are, you know, the person who’s able to write the code and design the website and execute all the marketing for your startup when you have a major deficiency in one of those three areas, it’s a bad thing, right? Being able to gauge yourself and others in a competence and incompetence and it’s going to come in to play when you hire, when you outsource, when you find partners and when you’re trying to overcome your own weaknesses.

[27:44] I think most things on the podcast that we talked about like most of the questions we get comes down to — I typically say if you know that you tend to procrastinate, then lean towards the side of this, you know, then overcome that. I mean I can’t — I can’t even recall how many times in the last 84 episodes that I’ve said that exact phrase “if you lean towards this, then do the opposite” and so the presupposition in there is that you know that you lean towards this. I mean it really does come back to, they call it Talent Meter. I call it Self Awareness. It’s being able to know yourself and to gauge yourself and gauge your abilities both the positive and the negative ones and then really focusing like we talked about on the strengths finder episode really focusing on the positive ones and writing those to the success and shaping your success so that your positive traits fit well in to that and not trying to chase some success where, you know, you have to overcome all your negative traits in order to get there.

[28:38] A good example would be if I wanted to be an Olympic gymnast, that would be a terrible thing for me. I’m 6’2 and a half and I’m rail thin and you know, I don’t have a lot of upper body strength. I mean it’s basically, yes, I can set that goal up and I can work towards it but I’m setting myself up for failure by not realizing. You know, I’m kind of incompetent. I’m not set up to succeed in that arena whereas if I know I’m much more I have an engineering mind set and I’m goal-driven and I’m focused, then I can set up my startup ideas. I can even choose the ones that fit really well in to that framework and I wouldn’t go after something like a social network or something that we take a ton of creativity to build because those aren’t my strong suits.

[29:18] And so being able to evaluate yourself and know whether you’re a really good product builder, whether you’re a really good engineer, you can engineer marketing well so you might wanted to do more SEO and AdWords types of stuff or whether you really in to interacting with customers and interacting with the community in which case you’re probably not going to use those engineering-type marketing approaches but you’re going to go more towards, you know, relationships and partnerships and starting community type of stuff, that’s where this talent meter comes in.

[29:44] Mike: And I think there’s two different things that are kind of going on here is one is that you have to know what your strengths and weaknesses are be able to acknowledge them and the other one is being able to gauge how you relate to other people in those strengths and weaknesses. So for example, you know, the example that you gave was going on to American Idol and thinking that you are a strong singer when you’re not. And there’s thing two different things going on there.

[30:08] One is you are not a god judge of your own strengths because chances are good that there’s a lot of other things that you’re good at. And two is not being able to relate your strengths and weaknesses to those of other people. So I think there’s two different subtle differences between them but they are certainly important to keep in mind.

[30:25] One of the things that I find is in a way very fascinating is that when you start asking people, you know, how attractive they think they are in relation to other people or how smart they are, you know, studies statistically show that the majority of people say that they are above average and statistically that’s just not possible. The Math does not show that that’s correct but people still feel that way. So it’s very difficult sometimes if you’re in that position to be able to figure that out and I don’t know what the answer to that is to be perfectly honest. I mean I don’t know how you would go about addressing that problem. Do you? Can you think of anything?

[30:59] Rob: I think — yeah, I think you have to look at where you’ve succeeded in the past, what you’ve really enjoyed doing in the past and focus on the areas that you’ve been naturally drawn to. So if you’ve had great successes with on engineering Math mind set then that’s going to lean you towards, A, writing code. B, focusing probably more on the engineering-type marketing stuff which is, you know, funnel optimization, SEO, AdWords. I mean more of the Patrick McKenzie and you know, quite a quite a bit of the stuff that I do or I’ve done a lot of in the past.

[31:28] Mike: But I think — I don’t know if that solves the problem because you may be very good at marketing but you have never really had a lot of success at it because you haven’t tried and it makes it difficult to be a judge of that or figure out whether it’s something you should try or not.

[31:46] Rob: Yeah, I don’t think you had to — have to — have actually try the marketing. I just think, you know, I’ve known for a long time what I have certain strengths and certain weaknesses. I mean I would come out and say that I don’t enjoy managing people. I would call that a weakness of mine. So I don’t think you necessarily have to fail at something but you have to maybe do it and really not want to do it or be, you know, be kind of force away from it. And then I think that you do succeed in and you find yourself having a lot of success doing and getting a lot of enjoyment out of, you need to keep track of that stuff and see how that can fit in to a new business venture.

[32:18] So yeah, you maybe never done marketing but if you really enjoyed the things that are, you know, similar to that, you really enjoy talking to people and building a community and partnering it up, then that’s probably the kind of marketing that you want to look at doing and you want to look at doing things more through social networks and building partnerships and such rather than getting in the nitty-gritty of funnel optimization and churn rate and conversion rates and that kind of stuff.

[32:42] Mike: Yeah.

[32:42] Rob: I keep naming the same examples. It’s a little overly simplified but it’s hard without having some right in front of us, you know, to say like what really are your successes and what do you really enjoyed doing and then trying to actually translate those in to things.

[32:54] Mike: Right. But I mean I think what I’m trying to put in to words as more of one of the lines like software developers which is, you know, a lot of our audience consists of software developers and they are software developers because they like to an engineering and building things and they like writing code. And the problem is once they get in to doing things like marketing task like building mailing list and form that in web pages or finding somebody to make something look good for them, those are the things that they don’t necessarily enjoyed because they’re not good at them. What I wonder is how much of that and again, it can be activity related but, you know, how much of that is they just feel uncomfortable doing it in relation to the coding versus they just have an — had a lot of experience at it. So you know, is it something that they should try or not?

[33:40] Rob: Yeah because the first time you try anything, it’s going to scare the crap out of you. I mean the first time I outsource something, I was scared when I wrote the guy the $500 check. You know, it’s like this is a lot of money, what if this doesn’t work out, there’s all these doubts. And then you either get better at it or maybe you discover that you really aren’t good at it and really don’t enjoy it.

[33:56] So yeah, there is a certain level of needing to try things that are outside your comfort zone and seeing if you enjoy it and you feel like you would, you know, enjoy doing that long term. Yeah, I’m not sure there’s an easy answer to that one but I do hear what you’re saying. It’s like if you’ve never tried something and you’re scared of it, how do you know whether it’s going to work out even based on past experience.

[34:17] Mike: If you tried it a couple of times and not really been successful, how much of that is because you’re afraid of putting in a lot of effort in really making a good shot at it or is it just you really not that good at it.

[34:30] Rob: Right. My advice, join the Micropreneur Academy because we talk about all the stuff in there and we can give feedback right? You can interact with us, you can e-mail and you can get on the forums and ask questions. So I do, I do think like someone needs to have that third party, you know, whether it is the Academy, I was kind of joking but it’s like or Mastermind Group or some other folks who there — who there in the crunches with you can give some feedback on things.

[34:51] Mike: Uh huh.

[34:53] Rob: Awesome. So the five traits of successful founders are number one, Opportunity Radar. Number two, having the Optimal Risk Gauge. Number three, Focus Goal Laser. Number four, Effort Accelerator. And number five, Talent Meter. And again, those are from the book Winner’s Brain. It’s by Jeff Brown and Mark Fenske but I really do like the concepts that I’m taking away from it and I am, you know, taking quite a new notes.

[35:17] [music]

[35:20] Mike: So hey, by the way, did you notice that we are up to almost 200 reviews in iTunes?

[35:26] Rob: That’s crazy. I’ll tell you what, our review competition with texting really paid off because we were — were we under a hundred when we started? I mean it really did take a big jump.

[35:35] Mike: Yeah, it did. I think right now — I checked yesterday or the day before and we were up to, I think it was a 192. But it was pretty close to 200.

[35:43] Rob: Some awesome comments too. We have something from Craig McKeachie. It’s in iTunes. It says, “Skipped the NBA. Listen to this podcast. I received an MBA from a school that ranks in the top ten percent of US universities for return on investment and got a great deal out of going through the program. But I can honestly say, I’ve gotten more actionable real world advice from this podcast and it’s a thousands of dollars cheaper.” Awesome. Thanks, Craig. He also came to MicroConf.

[36:08] Mike: Uh huh.

[36:08] Rob: And we have one from a Dan Delario [Phonetic] who says, “I still can’t believe you can get this kind of advice for free. Thanks, Mike and Rob.” [Laughter] But wait there’s more. Richard Chen  says, “I’ve been listening to the podcast for a year. I only wish I knew about it sooner. Rob and Mike are down to earth guys give valuable, practical advice to any internet business bootstrappers. Best podcast of its kind.” Awesome. And the last one Jonathan Richman [Phonetic] from just yesterday says, “Outstanding practical advice to a very candid look at starting your own company with great insights and advice to anyone who can use it immediately.” So thanks a lot, guys. Keep those reviews and comments coming in iTunes. You can just search for us, search for startups and we’ll be one of the top three.

[36:47] So if you have a question or comment, you can call it on to our voicemail number at 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. And you can find a full transcript of each episode at StartupsfortheRestofUs.com. Thanks for listening. See you next time.


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2 Responses to “Episode 84 | Five Traits of Successful Founders”

  1. Good episode on mindset and traits. What I found out through doing my startup is that, I just can not totally avoid marketing or sales. Even though as a developer, I initially didn’t like doing those and tend to shy away from doing it, but from what I learned and all I heard, sometimes, you just have to do it.

    So it is like, if you want to be a CEO, you just have to do it, otherwise, sorry you can only be an employee.

    However, I do think one should focus on strength and do more on that, rather than trying to fix the weaknesses. As long as the weaknesses don’t matter too much in the grand schema of things of business and making money, it is ok.


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