[00:00] Rob: In this episode of “Startups for the Rest of Us,” Mike and I discuss our goals for 2015. This is “Startups for the Rest of Us” Episode 214.
[00:15] 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.
[00:24] Mike: And I’m Mike.
[00:25] Rob: And we’re here to share our experiences to help you avoid the same mistakes we’ve made. So what’s the word this week Mike?
[00:30] Mike: I’ve been running a little bit of an experiment lately. I’m not really a huge fan of time tracking software of pretty much any kind, but I’ve started using Toggle, it’s T-O-G-G-L. But I started to realize that I felt like I was spending a lot of time on things that didn’t necessarily matter, and I was starting to wonder where all my time was being spent. Not just with my time, but with my productivity in general. And what I found was just the very act of tracking of some of that time, and mentally calculating, okay, what category does this go in, it’s been a good experiment so far. I’ve only been running it for about a week.
[01:04] Rob: I’m a big fan of time-tracking. And ever since back in my days of consulting, you know, it becomes a habit at that point, because you have to report invoices and such. But even after that, when I was doing my own stuff, I would track my time to figure out which apps I was spending the most time on. And then at the end of the month, I used to do a dollar per hour, per app. So I would see which particular app that I owned was making me not very much money per hour and others which were making more. So I agree with you, there’s a discipline to it, there’s a little bit of an annoyance, because it feels like bean counting, but I find that the data you get out of it is more than worth it.
[01:38] And also, the fact that it makes you think about what you’re doing all the time, because you have to basically categorize that somewhere. Frankly, it’s a discipline I’ve fallen out of and it’s probably something I should look at again. I actually asked my guys, the developers I work with, to track their time, even though we’re all salaried employees. I asked them to track it and I said, I don’t need to see it, but I think it’s a good discipline for you to have.
[02:00] Mike: And I found that there’s certain things where business overhead for example, I don’t get anything out of that, dealing with financial stuff or learning about new things for the business. I don’t necessarily get anything out of it, but there’s no specific ROI for them. But I do find that I’m spending time on some of that stuff, and it’s just like, ugh, is there any way I could start cutting this out so that I can work on things that are worth more. So that’s what I found to be the most useful. And then obviously, because of AuditShark and the Academy and my consulting business, all those different things, there’s time spent there and I’m just trying to figure out how to reallocate most of it, which is pretty cool. How about you, what have you been up to?
[02:39] Rob: So I launched my startup audio documentary, it’s called “Launch.” And so far it’s received a warm reception. I’ve been pretty happy with the feedback I’ve been getting on it. You mentioned you’ve listened to part of it.
[02:51] Mike: Yeah, I’ve listened to a little bit over an hour so far.
[02:54] Rob: Got it. So you’re right at the point where we start questioning what we’re building and why and who we’re building it for.
[03:00] Mike: Yes, yup.
[03:02] Rob: So there’s some good ups and downs. I re-listened to it, just because I haven’t listened to it in a month or so. And since it went live, I kind of want it to be fresh. It’s called “Launch. A Startup Documentary.” And it’s basically a two-hour audio documentary of building and launching Drip with myself and my lead developer Derek. You can find that at startupstoriespodcast.com or you can download it at iTunes if you just search for Launch Documentary. It should come up in the top one or two. How about you, what else is going on?
[03:29] Mike: It’s getting towards the end of the year, and one of the things that I was thinking about a couple of weeks ago was kind of what I wanted to do for next year. It reminded me of a conversation that I had with Heaton where he had asked me why do I do all the different things I do, because I have a couple of different businesses and several different products. And he was asking me kind of a matter of factly, why is it that you do all these different things. I was like, you know, I like to do a lot of different things. If I work on the same thing for too long, I get bored. New Year’s is coming up, are there any New Year’s resolutions that I have. Why do I have to wait until New Year’s to start doing some of this stuff? So about probably three or four days ago, I started figuring out what I wanted to do for some month-long experiments for life and business and things like that. And the first one that I’m doing is going to the gym every single day with one day off a week for a month to see if I’m actually going to follow through with something like that.
[04:22] Rob: Nice, well, that’s a good way to build a habit if you want to.
[04:24] Mike: I was three days into it and on the third day, it was probably about 7:00, 8:00 at night, and I’m like, oh, I really don’t want to go to the gym, but I still went. It was 9:00 at night and I got to the gym and I worked out for an hour and I went home. It was definitely difficult to get in there.
[04:40] Rob: I’m curious, if Heaton was asking why do you do all the things you do, was he asking you for like what is your single motivating factor that gets you to do everything, or was he saying why do you do so many things instead of focusing on one?
[04:53] Mike: I think it was more out of just idle curiosity, you know, why do you do all these different things?
[04:56] Rob: Got it.
[04:57] Mike: It’s not often that you get asked why is it that you do what you do.
[05:00] Rob: I know. And it’s hard to find a satisfactory answer to, to be honest for me. I think that’s probably something I want to find a better answer to, is like why do you do so many things? And I have reasons I can rattle off, but I think deep down at the core, I want to really know that because doing multiple things means you don’t do them nearly as well as if you were just focused on one. And yet I’m doing the same thing right? I mean, I also run Microconf and have Micropreneur.com and the podcasts and startups and a book and all this stuff, so that’s something I actually, I’m taking a retreat here in about a month and I think that’s going to be one question for me, is whether or not I want to continue doing all these things, why I do them and if I should continue to.
[05:39] Mike: Yeah, that’s a question I have to answer for myself as well.
[05:42] Rob: So hey, have you been listening to the “How to start a startup” podcast from Y Combinator?
[05:47] Mike: I have not.
[05:48] Rob: Okay, so I mentioned it in the last episode. And it’s a Stanford course that they’re basically releasing as a podcast. And I started listening to it, and I’m maybe four or five lectures in. So far the first lecture was decent and then the other ones, it is so geared, it’s Y.C., so it makes sense. But it’s so geared towards billion dollar businesses that I’m struggling to pull things out of it that apply to bootstrappers. At this point, I’m not sure I’d recommend it to you if you’re bootstrapping, because all it’s serving to do for me right now is to distract me. In terms of, their talking about these really sexy big businesses and raising all this money and changing the world, and it gets you all excited, you know. It’s like when you watch “The Social Network” or you read the Steve Jobs biography or “Hatching Twitter,” I get super excited and I think why am I doing stuff so small? Why aren’t I thinking big? But in reality, there’s a reason that I’m doing stuff so small, and there’s a reason why I’m not thinking that big, and it’s because I value my lifestyle, and I value having time with my family and being in control of my time and all these things. And so, I think if you’re susceptible to that, to kind of the influence of listening to these things and getting pulled off your core mission.
[06:55] If you’re core mission is to really have time, income and mobility, then I would say you may not want to listen to this. Even though it’s good stuff and it’s interesting interviews. And then the last thing I want to point out today is if you haven’t stopped by startupsbytherestofus.com/greatesthits, you should check it out. We put together a page of our greatest hits. I think we’ve chosen maybe 20 or 30 and are based on download popularity, as well as our favorites. We need to update a little bit, it only goes through episode, I think 179, so we have 20 or 30 we have to cull through and choose a few out. But if you’ve only been listening for the last 50 or 100 episodes, there’s a lot of episodes before that I think you’ll definitely want to check out.
[07:37] Rob: Today, we are looking back at our goals that we talked about a year ago. So we’re reviewing our 2014 goals and then we’re going to set our goals for 2015. And I was thinking this year we can do a little scoring thing. You could say, I got on that goal, I got a zero, I got a one, if you achieved it, or I got a half point, if you kind of achieved it.
[07:57] Mike: Can we not. So my first goal was to go full-time on AuditShark. And I guess I would say that I achieved that. I did that back in, what was it, July, yeah, about five months ago. I’ll say 0.75.
[08:12] Rob: Nice.
[08:12] Mike: We’ll go with 75% if that makes you feel better about it. I would say that, mainly because it’s not a full-time income.
[08:19] Rob: And has it changed your life, full-time at AuditShark? Because a lot of people’s goals are to go full-time on their product.
[08:25] Mike: I would say my life is considerably different in a good way. But I would say it’s not necessarily because I went full-time at AuditShark, it’s because I quit consulting.
[08:33] Rob: So my first goal from 2014 was to 5x Drip’s revenue from December of 2014. And I did not achieve that. I was looking at about 3.1x of the December revenue. So I’m going to give myself a half a point. The biggest reason we weren’t able to do that was because Drip was not ready to scale in December of last year like I thought it was. And if fact, if you listen to that launch documentary, you’ll hear that we basically launched people like it, but then it took us another five months of development to really find that product market fit to where it could start scaling up. And that wasn’t really until June or July.
[09:13] Mike: Well, my next one was finish my security book. And I’d have to give myself a zero on this one.
[09:19] Rob: Did you start your security book?
[09:21] Mike: You know, I started putting one together and I probably only wrote a couple of chapters, and I just remember thinking to myself, how can I possibly put together something like this that isn’t going to be completely and utterly boring.
[09:35] Rob: To you or to the reader?
[09:37] Mike: I would say both. So yeah, I kind of bailed on that, but I did start on something called, “The Single Founder Handbook.” Singlefounderhandbook.com is going to be where I’m going to be launching that. It’s going to be more about how to build and structure a business in such a way that it’s something that you’re interested in doing long term. And I say that because I’ve talked to a bunch of people who, they’re goal was to build a business and then they built a business, and then they realized kind of after the fact that they didn’t actually build themselves a business, they built themselves a job, and they don’t like their job. So now they’ve got this “asset” that they don’t actually like coming into work and doing any work on it, but it pays the bills. And they’d like to go do something else, but they really can’t because they’re stuck in that, so it’s not like a job where you can take a couple of weeks off here and there and then go do something else.
[10:25] It’s like if you’re not working on your own business, then it’s probably tanking. And a lot of people that I’ve talked to are kind of in that position. So I’m really looking at putting together something that addresses those types of things and talks about how to structure the business so that it allows you to do the things that you want to do rather than forcing you into a situation where you have to do certain things or things go haywire.
[10:47] Rob: Cool. So my second goal for 2014 was to get HitTail back on track in the next 60 days. So that was within 60 days of last December. And if you recall, Google’s Not provided was wreaking havoc on HitTail and it was bleeding customers, because it wasn’t able to provide nearly as much value. And I did get it back on track although it took me probably 90 days, but it was a big scramble to basically get another source of data. Were now reporting from Google Webmaster Tools instead of relying on the Google query string right? Because they don’t provide keywords anymore. And that essentially got HitTail back on track. So I feel good about that one. We also rewrote HitTail in Rails this year, meaning that even if it had another problem, I could have a developer fix it instead of me.
[11:31] Mike: My third goal was to get back to blogging and writing. The goal I set for myself was 26 blog posts or email newsletters for the year. And I ran into a situation where things were kind of just going haywire within MailChimp and I kind of got frustrated with the whole thing. And I felt like it got in the way of me actually writing and posting things. I mean, I still kept writing to some extent. I’d probably give myself maybe half a point for this, but I definitely didn’t come close to the 26 blog posts that I wanted to. That said, about probably a week or two ago, I finally got everything from my blog moved out of MailChimp and into Drip. So now that all of that stuff is straightened out, hopefully it’ll make it easier for me to kind of overcome those mental hurdles associated with that. And I have started writing again.
[12:16] Rob: Yeah, this is a tough one because I admire the goal when you said it last December, but I remember thinking this is a tough one to adhere to given all the other stuff you’re trying to do as well. Writing is just a time consuming thing, and unless it’s a major driver of revenue or it’s a major focus for you, it’s hard to get a blog post out every week or two.
[12:37] Mike: This is part of the reason why I’m giving myself half a point on this is because part of this was just about writing more. And I’ve kind of channeled those writing efforts into writing in the Single Founder Handbook, not into the blog. So I’m still writing, it’s just not all going into the blog. The goal was to write for the blog and for the email newsletter, but not a lot of that’s going in there. I mean, I probably will cross promote or cross post some of that, so I can reuse some of the content a little bit, but that kind of factors into it as well.
[13:04] Rob: So my third goal for 2014 was to throw two MicroConfs with you of course, in a sustainable manner. And the sustainable manner part just meant throw two MicroConfs without spending a bazillion hours on it. And I think we definitely did that in April because we hired a coordinator named Xander who took a ton of stuff off our plates. I think we mostly did that in October because we were working with Dan Taylor on it. There were still enough stuff in the October Prague Conference that fell through that I felt like it’s not super sustainable. You and I are obviously talking about ways to improve on that. But overall, I think this one’s mostly a full point.
[13:42] Mike: So my next one was to take an extended vacation. And I would give myself a half a point on this. I did not take an extended vacation of two-plus weeks which was kind of the goal. But I have taken a week-long vacation there. And I did get some extra time in for some personal time away for my retreat back in August too.
[13:59] Rob: Very nice. My fourth goal was to re-launch micropreneur.com. And this was really more about launching the forms and getting a venue where people could continue to share and interact because if the forms in micropreneur.com were, as we said, their WordPress, and they were getting old and there was a bunch of issues with them. And we just did that here in the last month. We moved over to a new platform called Founder Café. And so far things have been going really well. Lots of discussions, and I’ve been in there every day or two interacting. So I would give this one a full point.
[14:30] Mike: My fifth goal was to make a conscious effort to improve my health. I have a very specific goal in here which was to lose 2.5% of BMI by MicroConf which was about 10 pounds. And if I remember correctly, I did do that. I would say that that’s going really well. Of course, with my month of change starting a couple of days ago with this, that would go through December, and I would expect to be able to drop some more weight and improve my health even further. But I’ve noticed that kind of since the June-July timeframe, when I stopped consulting and stopped being on the road, and stopped eating out all the time, my health has been dramatically changed for the better. And not just my physical health, but my mental health as well.
[15:08] Rob: So my fifth goal from last year was only an honorable mention. I did this very much on purpose, because before I set my goals for last year, I had to retreat and I looked at what I thought I could realistically do in 2014. And the previous four goals I mentioned is what I had down. The fifth goal I put as an honorable mention because I genuinely didn’t think I could get to it and I would have time even to start it, but that I could see it coming up in 2015 and that if I had time in 2014, it was something I would do. And that goal was to write a second edition of “Start Small, Stay Small.” And frankly, as time goes on, second edition is like a loose term, because so much has changed that it would kind of be a complete re-write. It would almost be like writing a brand new book. So I didn’t get that one done, obviously get zero points for that. But not feeling too bad about it, because I didn’t think that I would. Yeah, it’s interesting, when you write such a tactical book like that, the stuff just doesn’t stick around forever.
[16:02] What I did notice, because I went back through, and I have not picked up a copy of my book in years. And I picked it up the other day and I noticed about probably 60-70% of the info is mindset and it’s thought-process and that kind of stuff. And that stuff, I probably wouldn’t have to re-write. So it really would be where I go into the keyword planner and the super numeric stuff, would certainly have to change. So let’s dive into our 2015 goals. Looks like we each have five.
[16:30] Mike: Well, I think the first goal that I have is to run a series of life experiments. The first month of change is going to be going to the gym almost every day. But there’s some other things that I want to try as well. So for example, one of the things that I always kind of wanted to do was to become an early riser. And I know that’s going to be something that is going to take a while to do, because I am not a morning person by any stretch of the imagination. So I’m going to try and get up early every day for a month and see how that goes. Part of that is also getting enough sleep at night, and then there’s, I’d like to try maybe going vegetarian for a month. I haven’t fully worked out the entire year yet. But I just want to try a bunch of different things.
[17:07] Rob: So to summarize, it sounds like you want to try 12 different one-month experiments.
[17:11] Mike: Yeah.
[17:12] Rob: There is, if you haven’t read Steve Pavlina’s article about becoming an early riser, it’s the one, because you and I are both not morning people, and that’s the one early riser article that has actually ever worked for me. So I loved his approach. It’s a weird approach, makes you feel silly, but do it and at least for me, it worked really well. Before I get to my first goal of 2015, I have a caveat here. Typically, before we’ve done these goal episodes, I’m very certain about my goals because I’ve gone on a retreat and I’ve spent 48 hour solid thinking about it somewhere. I have not done that this year. I feel generally good about these goals, but I have not put them to the real fire test of saying, do I actually think these are all completely realistic and have I committed to these.
[17:57] But giving about 30 minutes to think about it, this is what I put together, and this is basically going to be my starting point when I start my retreat and really think though each of these. So I think it’s probably a reasonably accurate picture of what I’ll do in 2015. With that, my first goal in 2015 is to 2.5x Drip’s revenue. It’s something that I think is ambitious, but I certainly think it’s within the realm of possibility.
[18:21] Mike: One of my goals is to spend some dedicated time each month kind of looking at where I’ve spend my time and figure out how to create more systems that I can put in place that will allow me to spend less time doing those things on a continuing basis. And this kind of talks back to a little bit of what we talked about earlier, about time-tracking is I need to know where I’m spending my time in order to be able to systemize things so that I get myself out of doing those things on a regular basis. So obviously, time-tracking is going to factor into that pretty heavily, but I also need to make sure that I’m dedicating some time at the end of each month to kind of look back and say where did I spend my time, where did things go wrong, and where is it that I can become more efficient in the future by automating certain things.
[19:03] Rob: My second goal for 2015 is to get back to the point where I can choose what I want to work on and when I want to work on it. I feel like over the last year, I feel like focusing so much on Drip and growth and all this stuff, that there are times that I have to do a lot of things that I am not particularly choosing to do, but have to get done for the businesses-sake and for growth’s sake. And while I want to continue to focus on Drip, and Drip is absolutely my number one priority and I’m all-in on it, I do want to find a place where I have perhaps one more person hired and I can have them take over some of the sales, some of the marketing and the stuff that I’m kind of over.
[19:44] The stuff that I’ve done enough, that I’m not learning new stuff, that’s easy to systematize, that I’m still doing, and that I can move on to the things that are teaching me, that I’m learning from, and frankly are the things that I want to work on. So that’s a big goal for me this year, is to get back to that point, because I’ve been there. I was there for the previous two years of just doing really fun stuff most of the time and having a lot of choice on what I worked on, and I definitely lost some of that in 2014.
[20:08] Mike: My third goal is to build a better system for maintaining the inbox to zero. And what I, I think I’m like a lot of people where I use my inbox as a glorified to do list. And at one point, there were emails in there that were more than a year old. And at that point, of course, it’s just, you’re not going to do anything with that at that point. I’ve still got emails that are less than a month old in my mailbox, and those are the things that I need to figure out a mechanism for getting them out of there and on to a task list that they’re not in my mailbox. What I did realize, I got to inbox zero a couple of times, and what I realized that knowing that I had no emails in my inbox, I didn’t have to think about it. I never had to sit there and say, oh, I need to check my email because there’s all this stuff that is in there that’s on my list of things to do and I need to kind of refresh my memory about what’s on that list. But I realized that when I didn’t have anything in my inbox, I could just completely ignore it, and it was just a huge weight off my shoulders, and it was a nice stress reliever.
[21:10] Rob: When you find a system for maintaining inbox zero, you need to tell it to me, because I want to do it too. All right, so my third goal for 2015 is to host two more MicroConfs in an even more sustainable manner. I don’t know, maybe we should toss this one out. Rather than a goal, it’s like part of my plan. It’s like part of what I see taking up a lot of my time in the next year, and I kind of have to slot that out.
[21:36] Mike: Well my fourth goal is to do a better job of systemizing my different revenue streams. And I jump around a lot between the different things that I have going on. And I feel like a lot of the jumping around, back and forth, between the different products and revenue streams is that it’s too haphazard. I feel like I’m constantly jumping from fire to fire as opposed to like having cold calculations about, I’m going to do this this week and then next week I’m going to do that, and having a solid plan in place for doing things versus just jumping from fire to fire. And I think that that’s definitely something I can do a lot better with that I’m just not handling very well right now.
[22:14] Rob: My fourth goal is to launch another podcast. I think that 2015 is the year that that will happen. So keep your ears peeled. I’ll obviously be talking about that process as it goes. And no, it will not be a competitor to “Startups for the Rest of Us.” It’s not going to be Startups for the Rest of the Rest of Us in case you were wondering. It’ll be in the startup space, and I wanted to look at like mindset stuff, psychology. It could be with a certain significant other of mine who has done a lot of talks about this topic. Hint, hint, if you’ve come to MicroConf and you’ve seen my wife speak. Frankly, she is the one who started pushing it forward and she was going to do it on her own. And I said, boy, I’d really like to be part of that because I feel like I have to say on it.
[22:55] Mike: Very cool. The fifth goal that I have for this coming year, is to keep up my writing habit. And I think with the progress of the Single Founder Handbook and all the issues that have been straightened out with my email newsletter, I think that will happen. Again, it kind of goes back to making sure that I set aside dedicated time to do different things and I’m still trying to figure out how to put things on my weekly task list that in such a way that I know that I can get to them, as opposed to building a task list for the week and then I get to the end of the week and a lot of stuff is not done and get it pushed to the next week. And then you end up with this flow of tasks that have been overflowing for two, three or four weeks. And obviously at that point, you’re just overloaded and things are just not getting done the way that they need to.
[23:37] Rob: So when you say keep up your writing habit, what specifically do you hope to produce?
[23:43] Mike: I want to put out a new blog post at least twice a month. So that kind of goes back to, or at least the equivalent, not necessarily a full blog post that’s published or anything. I know, for example, that Nathan Berry was doing a thousand words a day, which as long as you sit down and dedicate the time to starting writing, then you’re fine. But I think that dedicating time every single day for me is probably not an option right now, just because I don’t have systems in place for how I’m going to be working on things, what I’m going to working on it any given day. Part of that writing habit is going to kind of go back to how I manage that process. I think that the equivalent of a couple of blog posts on a monthly basis would be fine. If I dedicated some time to put it into my Single Founder Handbook, then I would count that towards that habit.
[24:31] Rob: Got it. Well, my fifth and final goal, and this one pains me so much to say, I’m really having a tough time coming out in public with this, but in 2015, I think I might write another book. That may be the second edition of “Start Small, Stay Small.” It may be something else. I have some other ideas in my head. Writing books is such a time-consuming and painful process, but the time has come where I need to do that. I’ve hit kind of the next stage of my career since I wrote the last book, and I have so much to say, that I feel like I need to put on paper. So I don’t even make this an honorable mention and it’s going to hurt if I get to the end of next year and I haven’t done it, but especially given everything else that I’ve listed of growing Drip and launching a podcast and returning to the point where I can choose what I want to work on, fitting this one is going to be a challenge.
[25:21] Mike: Well, I think that about wraps us up. If you have a question for us, you can call it in to our voicemail number at 1-888-801-9690, or email it us at firstname.lastname@example.org. And I do want to say thanks because I know a lot of people probably turned off by now. But I do want to say thanks to everybody who has emailed in a bunch of podcast topic ideas for us, those have been really helpful. So we’ll be adding those to our queues and working through them. But just to continue on, our theme music is an excerpt from “We’re out of control” by MoOt used under Creative Commons. Subscribe to us in iTunes by searching for startups. And visit startupsfortherestofus.com for a full transcript of each episode. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next time.