In this episode of Startups For The Rest Of Us, Rob and Mike do their annual goals episode. They revisit goals from 2017 and rate how they did as well as look ahead at goals for 2018.
Items mentioned in this episode:
Rob: And I’m Rob.
Mike: We’re here to share our experiences to help you avoid the same mistakes we’ve made. What’s going on this week, Rob?
Rob: Well, when this episode airs, I will be with my family in sunny Florida. We’re planning to hit Legoland and spend a few days at the beach. It’s gonna be a nice time to kind of warm up a bit. It’s supposed to be highs in the single digits here in Minneapolis during that week, so it’s nice to get out away from it, get warm. We actually enjoy Legoland a lot, not just our kids, but I don’t know if you’ve been there, but I enjoy it even as an adult.
Mike: Yeah, I haven’t been to Legoland. We’ve gone to Florida a couple of times for Disney World but I haven’t gone to Legoland yet.
Rob: Yeah, I like it more than the Disney stuff. Less hectic, it’s a little bit less expensive and it’s more building things rather than kind of idolizing characters. I mean there are characters in it but they’re so much about creating things and being constructive. I think that resonates with me as a maker and with our kids as well. Like I said, it’s lower key, there are some rides in there and there’s stuff to do but it’s not like volumed turned up to 11 like I feel – a lot less crowded – I feel Disney is.
Mike: Yeah. The other thing I found with Disney is, like you said, it’s very crowded but also getting to everything is just rather difficult. You kind of have to hone in on the things that you want to do and you’re gonna end up waiting for pretty much anything anyways.
Rob: Right. The park’s so big. The parks are separated. On and on, we had never been to Disney World. We went last year, and I was kinda like, “Yeah, I don’t know if we’re gonna come back. That may be the last time.” Disneyland is fine, it’s a lot smaller but it’s still crowded, and you have the long lines. Legoland, to me, is much more calming and relaxing experience. How about you? What’s going on?
Mike: Well, over the last 20 days, because we’re recording it’s the 21st of December right now, but I’ve had 20 Scotch Whiskeys for my advent calendar. So far, the Glenfarclas and the Peat’s Beast have been the best ones so far, but there’s several other runner ups that are pretty good, been a lot of fun. Interesting so far. There’s some of them that I actually really did not like but most of them I would say, are middle of the road and then there’s a couple that I really liked, and then there’s a couple that I really just did not like.
Rob: That’s super cool. You wake up every morning and have that with your cereal?
Mike: I put it in my cereal.
Rob: That’s awesome, yeah.
Mike: No, I usually have it at the end of the day.
Rob: Yeah, that makes sense. Other update for me, I’m listening to the book by Tim O’Reilly. It’s called WTF?: What’s the Future and Why It’s Up to Us. I’m kinda struggling with it. I thought it would blow my mind and so far, I feel mired in kind of theory or just academic thought and I’m hoping that it picks up because I like Tim O’Reilly. I like his writing, he’s a futurist, he sees things before they happen. He’s the guy that named Web 2.0 because he saw what the movement that was happening. I know there’s good stuff in here but I’m about maybe a fifth of the way, maybe 15%, 20% of the way through the book. I’m kinda struggling with it so I’m hoping it gets better because I really wanna make it through. I don’t wanna quit the book.
Mike: Are you listening to the audio book?
Rob: I am, yep.
Mike: I’m surprised that the audiobook is not as, I’ll say, riveting. I mean, business books are not riveting to begin with. But it’s interesting that even the audio book, you think that the pace will be pretty good and it’s not, it sounds like.
Rob: I’m 1.5, no, I think, I’m actually 2X it too. I think a small part of it could be that I was listening to it while I was shoveling, moving some snow out of the driveway. I don’t know. I was paying attention to it but maybe not enough. It’s one of those things where I’m questioning just cause I know how sharp Tim O’Reilly is and how much of his writings have…. Kinda like is it me or is it this book, is the question I’ve been asking. I’ll try to remember to update folks once I’m all done with kind of a final verdict.
Mike: Got it. The only other thing that’s going on for me at the moment is I’m working on a scholarship program for MicroConf Starter Edition. If you’re listening to this and you’re interested in becoming a sponsor for a scholarship ticket or if your company’s interested in just sponsoring MicroConf, drop me an email email@example.com and we’ll talk about it. I’m just kinda hacking things together this year. But trying to put something together in place that we’ll be able to kind of reuse moving forward and make things better year over year.
Rob: Yeah, because sponsoring a scholarship is a big deal. It makes an impact on someone who typically can’t otherwise afford to go. We’ve had several people do this now to great success. We can get some people coming to MicroConf who, I think, really get a lot of value out of it but are just early enough in their entrepreneurial journey that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to make it.
Mike: Yeah. We’ve been doing scholarships for probably the past four, five years, I think, at this point. But it’s always been on a very small scale. This is kind of a concerted effort to take things to the next level and not just involve the people who approach us or just hand out scholarships on their own but to involve corporate sponsors and kind of expand the reach of the program a little bit more formalized, I don’t know. I think it’ll turn out to be really interesting. It’s just a matter of how is this actually going to work. There’s a lot of logistics to kind of straighten out. I had a lot of good conversations with people and answer some, I’d say, some difficult questions so far. It’s looking good so far.
Rob: Awesome. What are we talking about today?
Mike: Well, today, we’re gonna be going through our goals for 2018 and to kick us off, we should probably talk about our goals that we set back in episode 318 for our 2017, and see how we did on those.
Rob: Right. Every year we like to do our goals episode where we visit the old ones, look ahead at the next year, and then we also do our predictions episode which we did a couple of weeks ago. How about you? What is your first goal for 2017?
Mike: Well, my first one was to log at least 100 days of exercise this year. I would say that – are we giving ourselves points like one out of five or one of out four on these?
Rob: Seems like one to five scale.
Mike: I would say on this one, I’d probably have to give myself about, I’d say I’d go with a three. I logged about 50 days worth of exercise, and if you remember, I had a partial tear on my rotator cuff, basically four months of that, I just really couldn’t go to the gym. Between my back and my shoulder, there was just no way I was gonna be doing anything. Even with that I still got to 50.
Rob: Good for you.
Mike: How about you? What’s your first one?
Rob: My first one was to not start any new projects in 2017. It was to run the three MicroConfs with you, to continue shipping the two podcasts that I do, to continue working on Drip and to just take a break from the chaos that have been my life when I set this goal, the acquisition had only closed five months or later. I was still reeling from that, looking ahead at 2017 as basically like a rest year or recovery year from just the hard work and the stress and the chaos of growing Drip and then through the acquisition.
I had one exception that I indicated was that I would consider being second author on the Zen Founder book which is now launching very soon. If you go to zenfounder.com/book, you’ll see a landing page there, and you can get on the launch list. It’s turned up really well. It’s called The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Keeping Your Shit Together, How To Run Your Business Without Letting It Run You. Sherry did the vast majority of the work but I was involved with writing some copy in it and then contributing a few stories to the book.
I, on this one, give myself a five out of five. That’s not too hard given that part of this was a non-goal that I didn’t want my perpetual restlessness push me into starting something new. But I feel like I did accomplish this just like I set out to do.
Mike: Awesome. My second goal was to make Bluetick profitable including my time. Let’s see here, if I had to give myself a grade on this one, I’d probably give it a two out of five. I definitely did not make it profitable including my time but it is profitable. I feel like there’s at least some level of credit there especially given that it started at basically zero for MRR at the beginning of the year.
Did that public launch back in August to September timeframe, spent the last couple of months working out issue with getting people onboarded and working out various, I’ll say, problems associated with the onboarding process and getting people connected and making it so that they get that value upfront as opposed to much further down the road. I still don’t feel like it’s at a level of like three or four because I just don’t think that I got far enough.
Rob: My second goal was to do one to three angel investments and I give myself a five on this. I was trying to remember exactly how many, but I think, I did three. Yeah, I did three. A couple of them were subsequent, follow-up rounds in existing startups that I’m invested in. Then, there’s at least one new one. I think I kind of accomplished this and it was fun.
I think I don’t have this as a goal for 2018 not because I don’t wanna continue doing investments but I kinda wanna be pretty choosy. I always have been pretty choosy about the businesses that I invest in. I’m kind of just taking them as they show up on the radar. If I hear about them at MicroConf or hear about them on a podcast or someone approaches me. I think it makes a lot of sense for me to do it but I’m not going out seeking. It’s not like some active goal anymore I have.
I think it’s 11 angel investments that I’ve done so it’s not an inconsequential number. I think two or three of those are already out of business which is how it should be. But yeah, I’ve really enjoyed the angel investment and to be honest the best part is that I’m able to live vicariously. I’m still involved in a startup and I can still talk to the founder and I can offer advice. I can be involved in this business but I don’t have to run it day-to-day. That’s been the fun part of it.
Mike: My third goal was to blog publicly at least every two weeks so it’s a total of 26 blog posts. If you recall, I think about three or four months into the year, we’ve gotten together and we kind of pointed out like, “Hey, this is probably not realistic.” Because I haven’t done it so far and it wasn’t something that was really going to make me towards my main goal which was really making Bluetick profitable. We essentially canned that but then in August or September when I did that launch, I did a 21-day video series. That right there is pretty close to having that completed even though I basically canned it several months before. Should I give myself a five on this or are we not just not gonna count it?
Rob: I don’t know. It’s kinda like a ‘not applicable’. Goals changed a few months in. I remember when you first mentioned this I was like, “Really? Are you sure you wanna commit to this?” Then a few months in it was like, “You need to focus on Bluetick. The revenue source.”
My next goal was two days of exercise per week. I definitely accomplished this especially once I learned, through Sherry actually, I learned about the High Intense – Is it High Intensity Interval Training, HIIT? It’s just what I always struggle with is I don’t have a lot of time and I often don’t have the extra time to gear up and run out to the lake and run back because kids are here in the house and I’m watching them. There’s just complexity with me being able to work out. The fact that I can throw on a YouTube video and just get my heart rate way up and be exhausted in 10 or 15 minutes in my own house while my kids are playing legos upstairs, it really changed the game for me.
In addition, I was also riding my bike to and from work three days a week which is five, six miles each way, it’s was a great 22-minute workout each way. Pretty much hit this with flying colors, exceeded it actually, so I give myself a five here. I had many weeks where it was three and four days of exercise per week. I competed for nine years in track, I ran the hurdles, and I competed against people who went to the Olympic trials. We were legit. I trained 30+ hours a week almost year round. Once track ended, I realized that I actually don’t like running.
It was always about the competition. It was the competition and the team that I liked. But I didn’t liked running itself so I struggled to get out there and run even though I used to run a mile warm-up, mile cool down. Then do two miles of intense 400-interval training, just stuff that you would throw up after practice, it was super intense. But exercise is not something that I have ever enjoyed doing in a non-competitive basis. This is probably the first time in a decade or more that I’m actually kinda keeping up with some type of a regimen.
Mike: I guess with that stuff in mind, why don’t we dive in to our 2018 goals? Do you wanna go first?
Rob: For sure. First goal for 2018 is to write a VR program that allows you to roll around on a mattress of Bitcoins. How did this get in here? Are you messing with my list again?
Mike: Maybe a little bit.
Rob: That’s a good one, Mike. I like this.
Mike: I had that idea when I was writing down my goals on our outline. I happened to see some advertisement for some sort of a VR Helmet or VR Goggles or something like that. I was like, “Oh, Bitcoins’ a rage right now. VR is the rage. Why not throw them together?” The part of the advertisement was also the dual-end lightsabers with the VR Helmets.
Rob: I’ll tell you what. This Bitcoin mattress thing, that could make you a thousand-aire overnight.
Mike: Yup. Definitely.
Rob: A thousand-aire idea. My first goal for 2018 may sound odd when I first say it but bear with me on this one. My goal is to be in fewer meetings each week, to get my meeting count to basically under ten hours a week. This is not a symptom of being acquired. It’s a symptom of growing the team, whether I was independent or not, I would be in a lot of conversations. I’m pivotal to a lot of decisions that happen and as the team has grown, I’m called into more and more things to lend my insights, my opinions.
I’m often brought in and I almost feel like a consultant who has knowledge of the space and knowledge of the history of Drip and ‘we wanna run this by you’ and I have another unique insight. Right now I’m in a lot of meetings, don’t enjoy them. I really think back to when we were 5, 8, 10 people, hover at any of those points and we just had so few meetings and I really enjoyed it. Parts of that was to my detriment, to be honest. I think that some of the folks who worked remote, they would’ve preferred to have more kind of Facetime but just the way that we’re running Drip was be heads down and create the product.
I’m working to get some things in place to decrease the number of meetings I’m in right now. I don’t think they’re gonna take hold for a couple of months, part of it is hiring someone. I’ve already hired a senior director of product who started maybe three months ago who’s taken a bunch of responsibilities off my plate. I’m looking to just kind of fire myself from other positions that require me to spend a lot of time in conference rooms.
Mike: On my side, I actually have two carry over for goals that I wanna put on there. First is log in 100 days of exercise this coming year and then, the second one is making Bluetick profitable including my time. Those I definitely wanna carry over. In addition to that, my first goal is to read at least one business book every two weeks. I think this is more of to kind of get back involved in learning things because, I feel like I’ve stagnated to some extent.
I’ve had my head down for so long on various things that I’ve probably kinda lost touch a little bit with a lot of either things other people are exploring and obviously I don’t have the time to do everything myself so I think that just finding time to carve out, to explore ideas from other people would be helpful to me, not just from a personal growth standpoint but also in helping to grow Bluetick.
Rob: That’s interesting if you have some particular topics or a particular topic that you kinda wanna start with, let me know because I have literally this list I went to where I read hundreds of business books in the past 20 years and especially recently I just do a lot of Audible. If you have specific things you’re looking for, I can certainly make recommendations. I suppose you could also ask our listeners here if you have a suggestion of a good business book that you’ve read in the past 12-24 months, maybe send it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we may even mention it on the show.
My second goal is three days of exercise per week. It’s just upping the game from last year to the level that I’m at now. Like I said, I think with the fact that it’s pretty convenient for me to do right now, I’m hoping, kind of crossing my fingers, that I’m not cursing myself by upping the goal. I do have a tendency to achieve a goal, and then increase it the next time, and eventually make it too much, more than I wanna commit to or whatever, and then I just say, “Ahh, I’m gonna stop exercise altogether because I’m not achieving it.” My goal’s to not do that.
Mike: My second goal is to hire somebody to take over Bluetick development. The downside of this when I think is that it really is heavily contingent upon making Bluetick profitable including my time. Because, unless I get to that point, it’d be really hard to hire somebody. But I also recognize that doing the development for it is just so incredibly time-consuming, and it’s not just the time itself but it’s the mental energy associated with it because there’s all these little things that you kind of have to keep in your head. When I switch over to do other things, it’s really difficult to focus on them or concentrate on them. Even when I’m able to do that, if I have to go back to the development side of things, I’m really almost starting over again because of all the different things that I had in my head at that time.
I’ve noticed this with a couple of different major pieces that I’ve been working on where I had to go back and kind of relearn how certain things work. I struggle to do that just because sometimes so much has passed between when I stopped working on that piece and when I started working on it again. I think that just having somebody dedicated to working on the development side of things is really gonna help out.
Rob: Just as you make Bluetick profitable, you’re going to make it not profitable again by hiring someone?
Mike: Yeah. That’s kinda what I’m thinking.
Rob: Such is life as a founder. I think getting the development off your plate will be a huge win for you this year. It would allow you to focus on the things that frankly you should be focusing on more. It’s like development is, what’s funny is, we come up as developers, and we wanna build products, and then when you get to the point where you’re building it you’ll realize, “Ha, development is not, a, not the most important thing, and b, it’s not driving revenue the way that so many other things will.” That’s obviously where you find yourself.
Mike: Yeah. That’s really the problem is that there’s so much development work to get done but it doesn’t directly drive revenue. I can definitely see when, different periods of time, where I pull the focus off of marketing and go into development and I could see the revenue growth level off or decline. That’s just what’s going to happen because I can’t do both at the same time because it’s really hard.
Rob: My third and final goal for 2018 is to ship something. I’m not exactly sure what it’s gonna be yet but I’ve been laying low for 18 months like I said. 2017 was supposed to be a rest year to recover and 2017 was not a rest year on the personal side. Number of health issues, and extended family, the chaos with two new kids joining the family a few months ago. You can go listen to zenfounder.com if you want all the details of what went on there.
But it was a very hard year so I don’t actually feel rested yet. I don’t feel like shipping anything now. I plan for the first part of 2018 to hopefully continue to be a restful period because it has now for about four weeks. It’s been pretty calm and I’m starting to feel a little more relaxed and I know that once I do that kind of clear the mind, that I’ll start to think about something that I wanna ship about.
I don’t know if it’s gonna be consistent blog posts, if it’s gonna be a book, if it’s gonna be a new podcast, if it’s gonna be a course of some kind, or a software, or something. I really doubt it’s gonna be software just because I keep saying that Drip was my last one and I still think that’s true. I’m guessing it’s gonna be one of these other things or maybe it’ll take a form that’s completely different, but that’s my goal. Ship something in 2018 aside from the three conferences, the two podcasts, and a bunch of…
Mike: Partridge and a pear tree.
Mike: Well, you like to fiddle with stuff too. I can definitely see you just diving into stuff to kind of try and figure things out and then suddenly a product kinda springs out of it. I can see that happening too.
Rob: Yup. I can totally see that. I’ve been fiddling with stuff for months. No product ideas yet or no desire but I do feel like that could happen. I also, to be honest, as I’m doing more investments, and asset allocation, and even dealing with collectible stuff like comic books and such. I’m running across websites where I’m like, “Ahh, I should probably just own this website because I could do it so much better.” I would improve this, and this, and that. It’s profitable and there’s a revenue stream I want. It’s pretty old and they’re not maintaining it. That’s where my mind gets going.
It’s like boy, maybe shipping something actually means acquiring and rehabbing something that I’m kind of doing for a hobby/investing. But it’s in a space where I also have a personal interest and it wouldn’t be to acquire it and rehab it to turn it into some huge money-making thing although that would be an element of it, but it would be because I also actually enjoy, like you said, tinkering with things. I would definitely include something like that, buying a little tool on the side and improving it, shipping something because it would be quite a bit of focused effort to get that done.
Mike: Yeah, because it would be easier to acquire something and then either repurpose it or grow it as opposed to building something from scratch. I could definitely see you go down that road instead.
Rob: For sure.
Mike: My last goal for this coming year is to speak at six or more conferences or events this coming year. This is more of a personal growth side of things because I know I enjoy speaking but I also feel like it’s an area where I could do better at and I think that just practicing more is gonna help me do that. Then the other side of it is to help me to focus my communication a little bit better.
There are certain times where I could just be long-winded or over communicate. Some of that is just a matter of me wanting to make sure that somebody else has all the facts but over communication is something of a detriment sometimes just because then it leads into providing facts that are irrelevant or not important to the person that I’m speaking to. I think that doing the additional conference talks will help me to focus in just my ability to hone the message based on who I’m talking to and just writing talks in general helps you to do that.
Rob: Are you gonna cheat and speak at both Starter and Growth and Europe so that three of them are knocked out by your own conferences?
Mike: Well, that’s a good idea.
Rob: Because the hard part is, well, one of the hard parts is just getting noticed and getting on the docket of conferences. Writing the talks is also a lot of effort but you’ve done that enough. That’s cool.
Mike: I only have two scheduled so far at the moment. I hadn’t really thought about kinda cheating that part.
Rob: I know, I know. That’d be pushing it. If you’re out there and you’re interested in Mike speaking at your conference, drop us a line at email@example.com.
I think that’s a pretty cool goal, man. I know that I’ve done this in the past where I’ve spoke a lot in one year and it really does condense your learning and it kinda gets you over the plateau of, I think if you speak once a year or twice a year, you just don’t get enough repetition in a short enough time frame to get better at it, I think this is a good goal if you can swing it.
I would also think about if you wanna become a become a better speaker, there’s a couple of really good books that I’ve read on how to craft talks. One is by Carmine Gallo, I think that’s how you pronounce it, it’s like The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs, I’m pretty sure. He kinda talks about how Steve Jobs would craft presentations. Carmine Gallo also wrote Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds, it’s kinda like how to do TED talks. I think I’ve listened to both of those. The other one I would recommend, and I am recommending these because they’re all in Audible and if you’re gonna read or obviously get physical copies of them, and if you’re gonna read 26 books, these may be some good ones that kinda kill two birds with one stone.
The other author I like is Nancy Duarte and the book that I read which may not be in Audible because it’s so visual is called Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences. She also wrote Slide:ology you may have heard of. But I really liked Resonate. It talks a lot about how to craft presentation by telling a story.
Mike: Yeah, those are great recommendations. That’s definitely an area that I’m gonna be doing research into and try to figure how to craft a better message and put together better presentations and things like that. I think you are absolutely dead on about the fact that like if you don’t do it often enough in a year, it’s very easy to kind of lose the experience and develop a little bit of rust, I’ll say.
Rob: Those are our goals for 2018. If you have a question for us, call our voicemail number at 888-801-9690 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our theme music is an excerpt from We’re Outta 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, we’ll see you next time.