In this episode of Startups For The Rest Of Us, Rob checks in with Mike Taber’s progress with Bluetick. They talk about his big new customer, traction on the podcast tour, Mike’s outreach to his LinkedIn connections, and more.
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Rob: Welcome to this week’s episode of Startups for the Rest of Us. I’m your host, Rob Walling. This is episode 481 where I catch up with Mike Taber. He gives us an update on his recent progress with Bluetick.
It’s been about six weeks since we last spoke. Frankly, the last update was a little disappointing. Mike was not moving forward with the marketing things that I had encouraged him to do in October, November. He was kind of stuck and his motivation was not at an all time high. He’s definitely having a down month.
I appreciated the conversation this week. I think you’ll enjoy it. Things are definitely starting to tick up from Mike as I talk about in our conversation. The roller coaster metaphor (as completely cliche as it is) really matches up with our conversations. It’s 1–2 months, it tends to be about six weeks. You’ll just hear some episodes he’s crushing it and moving forward, in other episodes he’s not and his motivation’s low.
This week, he’s no different, but I hope you’ll enjoy this conversation. This is one that left me feeling a little better about things. My hope is that our conversations after this carries through. I think that’s something that Mike really needs and has really struggled with over the years—his momentum. He’ll have these good months—one, two, three months. But then, he hits this roadblock and can’t get past it. It really trips him up and stops momentum.
When you’re building a startup, as a founder, momentum is just so important. It’s important for your team. It’s important for your morale. It’s important just to stay sane while you’re trying to push this boulder up the hill once you get that momentum. It’s a lot easier to keep it going.
If you have no idea what I’m talking about. Mike Taber was essentially a former weekly co-host of Startups for the Rest of Us for about the first 450 episodes. He took a step back to focus on his startup, Bluetick, which is warm and cold email engagement. I enjoy these conversations because I think they’re valuable for you as a listener, to hear someone going through struggles, to hear them have to persevere as a founder, not have as much success as they’re trying to get. It is becoming more and more of me helping him think through things.
I think and hope I could give him some clarity so that he knows what he’s doing over the next four to six weeks. I try to cheer him on but also give him some tough love and accountability of, “You should have done that.” It’s not directly every episode an accountability session, but it definitely is a longitudinal look at a founder. I think we started these eight or nine months ago now, so it’s interesting. I’ve listened back to two or three episodes at a time to try to make sure I ask the right questions on the next one. It’s going to make a fascinating case study (I think) if we stitched this out over an extended period of time.
Mike has not committed to doing that over an extended period of time. I think it depends on a lot of factors, but it’s definitely becoming an interesting story (I think) that each of us can dip into every once in a while. He’s quite being open and honest. I’ll vouch for him that offline before and after, he and I had just a few minutes of conversation. It really isn’t other stuff going on that he’s not talking about both good and bad. There’s always some stuff in the works that’s a little early that we don’t touch on.
Really, this is what’s happening with him. I don’t have this big prepped conversation where we picked out the good or bad or whatever. He’s being an open book and I really appreciate that about Mike. I think it helps him think things through and keep moving forward. I also think that it helps all of us to follow someone’s story, to hear the struggles, and to hear how he’s pushing himself to make it through those. With that, let’s hear an update from Mike Taber on what he’s been up to on Bluetick.
Mikey T, how’s it going, man?
Mike: It’s going well. How are you?
Rob: Doing all right. Just wrapped up the State of Independent SaaS report and did my first livestream ever yesterday. I will just say it was really nerve-wracking. It was a 30 minute essentially with producers. Sander was there, of course, doing stuff, then there was a video guy that had the lower third. It felt like a cable access, new show or something. It was very intense. There were cameras, lights, and all that stuff. Fun, exhilarating, but completely adrenaline-filled and exhausting, just sitting and talking for 30 minutes. It was fun.
How about you? What have you been up to for the last six weeks since we talked?
Mike: Lots of stuff going on. I’m sure we’ll cover the vast majority over the next 30–40 minutes or so.
Rob: I’m excited to get into it. After the last episode, I did receive some feedback. There’s some comments on the website startupsfortherestofus.com/episodes/episode-475-a-bluetick-update-from-mike-taber. You can read those in there. There were mixed comments. Some people were really down on the fact that you hadn’t started the cold email outreach, the podcast tour, email outreach, or I guess it just started but there were no results. Other people were like, “Hang in there, Mike. Don’t let these things drag on forever. We’re rooting for you.”
My hope today is to dig into some of that stuff. I did listen back to some of our older conversations over the past. It’s been six or eight months now since we’ve been doing this kind of format. We retouch base every four to six weeks. The Google Audit stuff started a long time ago. That sealed .NET component has hung around in a very long time.
I think that’s the thing I want to look at today. I mentioned this a little bit last episode. I want to figure out how we can have things hang around for shorter amounts of time. We talked about them for months on hand. It feels like you’re not making progress on those fronts even though you might be on to some.
Before we were recording, my memory was, your big wins over the past six months have really been getting the Google Audit done and wrapped. Am I correct that that’s completely done? You haven’t had to spend any time on that?
Mike: Yes it is.
Rob: Cool, that’s good. Then, the other thing is something that we talked about last conversation where you said a new larger customer has signed up. I think it’s your biggest customer, actually. You were building some features, trying to keep them onboard. How has that gone since then over the past six weeks?
Mike: That customer is using the product. So far, it seems to be working well. I’d like to obviously see more of their users a little bit more actively engaged, but it’s kind of an ongoing process. So far, things are working out as far as I can tell. In terms of generally held, Bluetick is going well. Revenue is up in November, December, and it looks like it’ll be up in January as well. That’s a good sign, I guess. We’ll see how things go. I don’t know. It’s hard to put it in words as to not where things are at, but expectations do not always align with reality.
Rob: Sure. Even if you look back over the past three months, you’re saying revenues ticked up each month, which has not been the case a couple years prior to that. It’s been stagnant. It had been stagnant or slow the client from time to time. Can you give us any idea of scale? Probably without mentioning exact dollar amounts. When you say revenues up, is it up a few percentage points? Is it up pretty dramatically over that time period?
Mike: Over the past couple of months, I have to say it’s up maybe 30% or 40%, something like that. Maybe 50%.
Rob: Okay. How are you feeling about that?
Mike: I’m feeling good but it’s still short of where I would like. Revenue’s always going to be short of where you would like it to be. I feel really good about where things are headed. I spent a lot of time over a holiday break thinking about different things. You’ve mentioned how there were a couple of large things that were hanging over my head or Bluetick’s head in terms of where the product is at. It’s just not getting certain things done like Google Audit, for example. I made it a concerted effort to fully finish some of the things that I started now.
If I worked on the Google Audit, for example, my goal was to finish it, put a line in the sand, and say, “Look, even though there’s other things going on that are important, it needed to be paid attention to, I can’t just do 80% of this or 60% of it, then let it drop, and then move on to something else.” I need to take it all the way to the finish line as opposed to letting other things that maybe just as important to distract me. I’ve been making more of an effort to take things all the way to the finish line.
Rob: Yeah. I think that’s good to know about yourself. I have seen that in you for sure, the tendency to bounce from one thing to the next, to have that stuff that you do talk about for six months on podcast interview, and they feel like they hang around. There’s certainly a mental weight on your psyche if not in completely most things.
Mike: Yeah. That’s what I recognized, just the mental weight of those things. If there’s a couple of them, they start to stack up even though I’m bouncing back and forth between some of those things. I may be making progress on them, it doesn’t mean that they’re gone and out of the way. They still weigh on my mind. I think about them and there are times where I really shouldn’t be. It’s very distracting.
I got to a point where I made a list of distractions and said, “Look, I’m going to make an active decision to not pursue these things.” These are known distractions I basically written down. It’s like those shiny object syndrome for entrepreneurial ADD like, “Look. Recognize that these things are there, but I’ve made the decision to not go on this direction, and just walk away.”
Rob: Yeah. A really hard part about entrepreneurship is knowing what to work on next and try to prioritize. When you don’t have a boss, a lot of us came up through grammar school, high school, and college. Then you get through a job. Everyone’s telling you what to do. “Do this project.” “Do these worksheets.” “Write this code.” “Build this thing.”
Then, you’re a founder. It’s like, “I have 100 things I could work on. What do I do next?” It’s very, very hard to get used to. I think what you’re doing—locking it down and saying, “Whatever I decide to work on, I’m going to be deliberate about it. I’m going to see that through until it’s done.”—is a very strong way to do it.
A second topic are the distractions that then try to pull you away from those things. I’m curious to hear, you said you made a list of them. Is it stuff that we would expect like Twitter, Facebook, podcasts, audio books? Or was it other stuff?
Mike: It’s a combination of things. It’s stuff like that. It’s also things within the product where it’s like, “Look, this feels important but it actually doesn’t matter.” For example, there are certain new features that are on the list of things to do where I don’t feel that the features would be nice to have, but they’re not going to be things that drive revenue in any way, shape, or form. They would make the product better, but it’s not going to do anything for me, so don’t spend time on those things because that time could be better spent doing marketing, sales, demos and things like that.
Rob: Yeah. You’ve gone even a layer deeper. It’s not the superficial distractions of the world. You’re literally thinking, “Within my business, I have distractions that are so tantalizing,” like the siren song of, “We’re builders. We’re developers.” The siren song of building that next feature is always calling. We can always justify that our product isn’t as far along as it needs to be. That’s cool then.
You have two marketing efforts we talked about last time that you hadn’t started in mid-December. I’ll say I was disappointed or busting your chops. I really wished you had started these because I want you to get moving faster. The first one is this kind of warm/cold email where you’re sending it out, you have LinkedIn connections, Bluetick cancellations, other sales leads and all that stuff. I believed I have a quote in the dock. “It will definitely get kicked off by then,” because I said, “Do you think they will get kicked off by our next call?” You want to update us on that and what the status is?
Mike: Yes. I have started on that. Like I said, I was fortunate. I don’t know who I told this to and haven’t. I don’t remember if I messed this on the podcast last time, but I was fortunate enough to export my LinkedIn contacts before LinkedIn basically eliminated the ability to take the email addresses with them. I have all these email addresses. What I did is I went through, prioritize them, and said, “Who do I want to reach out to first? Who do I think is going to be either a contact who might be interested in purchasing Bluetick, or who would be interested in a position to either refer me to somebody else, or just give me direct feedback on a product and tell me whether or not it would be applicable in their business?”
Part of this was the discovery effort. Obviously, people that I’m connected to on LinkedIn are going to be more likely to respond to my emails. Even if I’m just saying, “Hey, can you take a look at this? Let me know whether it would be useful in your business or not? If so, I’d love to give you demo and try to get you onboarded as a customer. If not, I still want to have that conversation because I want to know why. Why would this product not be a good fit for your business?”
And use those essentially as votes. An affirmation of things I already believe or potentially new information about where Bluetick does fit in different businesses and where it doesn’t. Even if I hear something that I intuitively know or have already thought of before, I don’t care. It’s still a vote in that direction that is external. I can sit in my office all day long and think about these things. But getting those external votes to say X, Y, or Z, that’s important because it means that it’s more objective than me sitting there than looking at it and thinking about it.
I have kicked those off. My response rate is upwards of 50%. So far, I have been having tons of meetings going through every single one of them just writing down notes. I’ve got at least a page of notes if not two for every single person I’ve talked to and have a demo with. I’ve had a couple of calls that have gone like in an hour and a half, two hours before. I’m getting a lot of responses from them. Honestly, it’s kind of hard to keep up with them to be frank about it. I still have to keep going through those. I actually backed off and turned it off just so I could catch up a little bit but I’ve turned it back on and started sending those emails back out.
Rob: Yeah. The high response rate was because they’re warm, right?
Rob: They have some connection to you. You said that it was like a personal email list, LinkedIn connections, and sales leads that never converted. That’s cool. That’s a nice resource to have. Are any of these converting to sales or trials? Or are they conversations? Are they all rejections that you’re then essentially doing customer development with?
Mike: Surprisingly—maybe not surprisingly—some of them have actually turned into customers. That’s probably part of the uptick and revenue for this month. I think the tactic I’ve taken with some of these were like the person is in a sales role. I say, “Look, I’m going to show you the product. I’m not going to tell you what it’s used for. I’m just going to show you what the features and functionality are. I want you to tell me what you would use it for.” In that way, I’m not leading the witness.
I’ve found that the people who are in the sales positions, I don’t want to say that it resonates with them as a sales tactic, but it really helps me because then they’re not being lead by me in terms of the things that I’m telling them they could be used for. They’re coming to me within their own words with what they would use it for. Yeah, some of those have definitely turned into sales.
I have one person who said, “Yeah. I would use it for this. I would use it for this. I’d use it for this. These couple of other things.” We talked about getting on and have them starting on a trial. Even offered me to introduce the product and do a demo for a couple of sales managers at their company where they’ve got I think 60 or 70 sales reps, something like that.
The thought was, “Hey. I can put you in front of these people because we’ve known each other. I trust that this is a decent product and does what you say it does.” I held back on that a little bit just because adding that many all at once is a little disconcerting, I’ll say, but I also want to be able to put him in a position where he’s using the product himself personally for his sales outreach efforts. Then, when they have an internal meeting, it’s not just, “Oh hey, my friend developed this and I think that you guys should use it,” but he can say, “I’m using it for these situations and these are the results. It’s working for that.”
Rob: Yeah, got it. It sounds like this has been going well. Is this a win? Is this the high of the last month, you think?
Mike: Oh, totally. I have one customer who’s onboard right now. Their billing just went through a couple of days ago. They’re in an organization where there’s either 10 sales reps and the manager of that person is looking at Bluetick directly and saying, “I want to see what the results are from this. I’m interested because the rest of the team might be able to use it, too.”
My previous thought have been, if I can get more into these situations where the multiuser counts are providing value, then obviously the revenue will follow from that. It looks like that is probably the right direction to go. I’m still having a lot of these conversations. I just want to see any of these direct outreach efforts. Any little bit helps, to be honest.
Rob: I would agree. I’m stoked to hear that you’re getting response rates up to 50% because that’s really nice. It sounds like you’re learning a ton, which is really nice, and you’re getting some prospects and potential customers, which I think is good. This is forward progress. It is more forward progress than you’ve had in the past several months. Bravo to that and glad that it’s working out. For me, it’s motivating to hear.
Does this motivate you? I know you’ve said there’s been a lot of conversations, but does this gear you up like, “Oh man, this is working,” like, “This is exciting”?
Mike: It does, yeah. I implemented a pause feature several months ago where customers, instead of cancelling, they can pause their accounts for a nominal fee on a monthly basis. I don’t know if I mentioned this about this part of the Google Audit. They’re really cagey about if you cancel a customer’s account and you keep their data around because Google says that it’s their data, not yours and the customers.
What I did was I said, “Well, in order to bypass that, I’ll implement this feature where you can pause your account,” at which point you’re technically still a customer of mine. I don’t need to delete your data. Four to five people who would cancel over the recent time period, switched over, and said, “Yeah. I’d like to pause my account.”
This week I have one of them came back. I had a call with them later this afternoon. Then another customer from a couple of years ago have come back as well. Yeah, that’s growth. You’re right. To answer your question directly, it is motivating to see this kind of stuff come through. Part of it is a mindset shift for some of the conclusions I came through over the holiday break. Some of it is just seeing quantifiable results from the things that I”m doing.
Rob: Yeah. You’re doing things in public again. You’re not just dealing with Google Audit and building some features. You’re out there and you’re taking risks by sending warm/cold email. You’re having conversations with customers, which can be a lot of work. It can be scary, you can get negative feedback, but you’re doing it and it’s working to at least some degree. I don’t know, I’m pretty excited about that.
Does coming on this show and recording this every month or two make you feel accountable to something? Do you ever think, “Man, I need to make some progress so that Rob does not bust my chops”?
Mike: You know that’s a really interesting question. I feel like before when I was on every week, not as much. If that makes sense. I feel like coming on less frequently, I feel like I should hold myself more accountable because I come on less frequently. If that makes sense.
Rob: Yeah. It’s easy when we’re here every seven days, it’s like how much can I get done, and talk about during that time? You’re always thinking, “Well, I got to talk about something,” but you can let yourself off the hook. So, good. That makes sense.
That was an aside, but I was thinking about that and listening to the last episode. I had said, “Hey, I’m going to ask you about this next time.” It truly was an accountability and has been. I’ve been trying to do that, so it’s good to hear it. So, cool. We’ll call that a win. I’ll obviously going to ask it again next time. It sounds like it’s working. Keep doing it, man. I’m totally rooting for you on that.
Then there’s the emails for podcast tour or to just go on podcast and those had started sending already. I believe you said you might’ve had one response or whatever. How’s all that going?
Mike: I scale that back a little bit because of the LinkedIn prospect that I was doing. I am starting to ramp that back up again. I’ve got a call next week with somebody. We’ll see what the schedule shakes out with. There’s a couple of others that I’m trying to figure out where on the schedule we can get together just because we’ve exchange calendars, go back and forth and stuff. That seems to be moving forward as well, but my list for that is much shorter as well. I don’t have 900 of them.
Rob: Yeah. If I were to choose between going on podcast and talking to customer prospects, guess which one I would do? It’s what you’re doing if one of those has to be scaled back. A podcast tour is a nice thing to do. I do feel like you could probably get it going at some point. As I said earlier, that’s not going to drive a bunch of customers. What’ll drive a bunch of customers is cold outreach, warm outreach, marketing funnels, and all the things we know about. I don’t have much of an issue with that.
I’m curious. I’m meant to ask when you were saying that some of the folks you’re talking to are interested. They’re either coming back on or they’re signing up. Why Bluetick? In their words. We’ve talked a lot about differentiation. I kept saying you either need a unique marketing channel. You need to rank number one in Google or you need to rank number one in some type of channel where you are capturing the customers.
Or you need to have this pretty unique selling proposition or a unique feature or some unique positioning when someone looks at your other nine or 109 competitors filling the space you’re in, that they say, “Wow, Bluetick is best at this and this is my need.” How do you differentiate? I’m curious what has come out of these conversations, if anything, that makes you think, “This is exactly why they’re signing up for Bluetick and not the other tools.”
Mike: I haven’t teased out some of the specifics of that. I’ve got some ideas. When people switch from other tools to Bluetick, most of the time it’s because they run into a problem that those tools aren’t very good at. Whether they can only have contact in one sequence at a time, or they’re missing emails because it relies on the Gmail API and it’s not checking the spam folder, or the notifications and stuff don’t get triggered.
I have direct access to the mailbox, so every email that comes in, I can process it versus years in Gmail API. You’re very dependent upon their scheduling on all of those things. Whereas Bluetick, it checks the mailbox every 10 minutes. And longer term, I have other plans to make that even faster, and reduce the process in time on my site.
That’s one of those things where I actively decided it’s good enough for now. It doesn’t need to be that good. Every 10 minutes is fine. There’s other ones out there, they take upwards an hour, or 6, or 12 hours. They get by, so what difference does it make? I’m already faster than that. It doesn’t make a difference.
I think one of the other things is that the workflow itself inside Bluetick, it’s weird because some people say it makes complete sense. Some people say, “I don’t understand this at all. I’d rather go use these other tools that work on the same way.”
Rob: Okay. I wonder long-term—I don’t think we’ve dived into this now—you’re saying you check more often. Is that right? Your data is more up-to-date or fresh? That’s a feature, not a benefit. I’m thinking, what’s the next thing on top of that? Is it like your data is always synced? Unlike other tools, you’re near real time acts. There’s a way to position it where Bluetick is the real neartime version that’s always accurate and everything you just listed. I don’t even remember. You were saying spam, trash, and folders. How does all that get combined into one or two bullets that are true benefits?
Mike: The benefit of it is if Bluetick sees the email, like a reply, it will pull the person out of the sequence. If there’s a delay, let’s say that there’s a four hour delay for some other tool, a reply can come in within that four hours. If the tool doesn’t see it, it can send out a follow-up. What happens is you receive an email that says, “Hey, you sent somebody an email replying to something.” Then they come back with an email and it says, “Hey. I haven’t heard back from you.” I’m just like, “I literally just sent you an email an hour or two ago. Why are you saying that you didn’t see it and that you haven’t heard back from me?” That’s the situation that you go in every 10 minutes […]
Rob: Yeah, that makes sense. It’s something we can look at and talk through in future episodes as you get more data. Something I wanted to touch on is the last episode, I asked about your motivation. I said, “How’s your motivation over the past six weeks?” You said, “It’s okay.” You said, “Sleep was fine but not great.” Then you started talking about front-end code. That’s what you launched into something like, “I get discouraged when I do that. Should I hire someone part time? I threw that out.” Has that come up again?
I get the feeling that if you get demotivated by thinking about front-end code, it takes a bunch of time. That’s something you naturally shy away from like a hot stove, even if it’s only your lizard brain and you’re not actively thinking or realizing that you’re shying away from that. Has that been an issue or are you so much in sales and marketing mode that it doesn’t matter because you’re really not building features right now?
Mike: I think it matters more when I run into problems with the front-end code. I’m struggling to get some of the CSS right or some of the pages to show up in a way that I want. I’ve kind of coached myself to be less anxious or particular about some of that stuff. It’s like, “This doesn’t look perfect but you know what? It works.” The interesting thing I also realized was that Bluetick works really well for the people who use it in the way that it’s supposed to be, which means that you’re not logging in into it very much, which is a really bizarre way to position your SaaS app.
Most of the time I think you want people to log into your app and use it as much as possible because you’re getting the most value out of it. Bluetick is actually the opposite where the less you login, the more value it could provide you because you got things automated and setup to run into the background. If something doesn’t look quite right or if there’s a dropdown that’s slightly on the wrong spot, it actually probably doesn’t matter nearly as much as I use to feel like it does.
As long as the data that you need shows up in the UI, that’s one of those that I kind of backed off and said that this doesn’t really matter as much. I agree there’s probably some of that that is influenced by the fact that I’m doing much more of the sales and marketing. Just showing the products to people and saying, “This is what it can do,” and less front-end development.
Rob: Right, cool. Other than that, how was your overall motivation? I think sleep ties into that. How was your sleep and your motivation? You sound up. You sound up to me. Last time, you didn’t. You sounded down. This is the roller coaster of entrepreneurship. That’s the beauty of doing this every month and two for months. Presumably, if you do these for years, you just see the ups and downs, and the ups and downs. Has that been reflected over the past six weeks? Or is it just the last week or few days that you felt that?
Mike: I felt really good for the past couple of weeks. Part of it could be just the result of getting past some of that front-end code. I had to redesign the UI. I put all the navigation at the top of the page. That was probably part of where my frustrations last time where coming from. I had to move everything and at the same time, not break all the code that was currently in place for it. It wasn’t quite as simple as I would’ve liked to move the navigation. Now that it’s done, I even enjoy going into the app more myself just because the navigation has been moved to the top. It’s easier to get around and less clicks to do different things. I definitely feel like that factors into it. Obviously, increasing MRR also helps. There’s that.
Rob: That’s a huge motivator and when things are going up in another right, you can put up with a lot of other stuff. That’s the mental battle.
Next, I’m curious about the sealed untestable .NET component. I’m curious on a couple of fronts because when I listen to backdoor conversations, we’ve gotten back and forth. I’ve been like, you should either do this and get it done. Don’t let it hang around. Either decide not to do it or decide to do it and do it soon. It sounds like it keeps you from building features that you need.
Then when I hear this update today where it’s like, “No, you’re selling. You’ve grown MRR substantially.” It makes me think, why are we even talking about this .NET component? Leave it and just keep going. Push it down the line. What’s your current thinking on it?
Mike: I feel the same way. I’ve gone back and forth on it a bunch of times. It’s like, “Do I really need to do that? Do I need to do it now?” The answer is, probably not. Do I want to because it’s technical debt that has been hanging over my head over for a while? It is distracting. I rather have it out of the way but at the same time it is a chunk of work to get done. It’s not stopping the product from doing what it does. I don’t know. I don’t have a great answer for you.
I think if I buckled down, just did it, knocked it out, and got it out of the way, I wouldn’t have to ever worry about it again. Or at least until other stuff happens. I do feel like I would probably have to address it in a semi near future if I’m starting to add in substantially larger accounts just because the back-end I don’t know.
I don’t know how far I can scale it up without adding more servers in which would mean that I need to reengineer how some of that stuff works. At that point, it would be a hornet’s nest to get into that code and start working with it, to try and separate it among multiple servers. I don’t know. I don’t have a great answer for you. I just don’t.
Rob: I don’t either, in this case. Given how limited you are, my bet is to leave it where it is, and sell. Revenue solves everything. In this case, profit really solves everything. In your case, just growing MRR, if you can keep doing that and focus 100% of your time on conversations, 100% of your time on selling, and grow another 50% over the next two months, technically that sucks. I hate it. It’s something you can circle back to.
I think the thing that I’m going to bust your chops about is when you get the point and you’re like, “I need to build these features in order to get these bigger customers on. I can’t because the sealed .NET component is keeping me from doing it. But I still don’t want to do it.” There’s going to come a time where you have to do this, I think. The technical debt is going to sink you, at least based on how you described it.
I think that’s in the bank of my mind of don’t worry about it until you need to. Once you do, buckle down and do it. In two or three weeks, it’s done. You know what I mean? Stop everything. That’s how performance used to go.
Like with Drip, you just don’t do much work on it because you’re cranking on features, you’re selling it, you’re marketing it, you’re doing this stuff, and you’re grow, grow, grow. Then you hit the point where it’s like, “Oh, no. The database is about to fall over.” Unfortunately, it was a fire drill and it was all hands on deck. We pulled people off features, we go and upgrade the database. We do a lot of stuff. It bought us about 4–6 months more. That’s not sustainable. You don’t want to grow a business long-term over that. About the time you’re at $1 million or 20 employees, it’s too much. It’s too jarring and you needed a better process.
But when you’re as early, as scrappy, and as agile as you are, and you’re just trying to get to default alive or you have enough money to basically buy out your own time, I think you just have to. That’s how you have to operate.
Mike: Yeah. I would love to have that off out of the back of my head. For now, I’m kicking it down the road even more.
Rob: Yup. I think when you get there, it would be amazing if you could hire someone to do it. If you could bring in high-end senior engineer, you just bite the bullet, and eat some money. You show him what it is, you say it needed to go from there to there, you write up the spec to tell him exactly how you’re going to do it, and again, it’ll cost you. It’s not a $10 an hour developer.
Mike: Yeah. I hate to interrupt you at that one. I don’t know if I could outsource that. The reason is because there’s a lot of domain knowledge that I acquired based on just having written different prototypes and doing different things that I think would be difficult for somebody else to have or acquire. I’m not saying they couldn’t come up with a plan that I could interject and say, “Hey, if you do it this way, these things are going to break.” I don’t know.
Rob: Yeah, I hear you. Said every developer ever, Mike. This is really hard to do. I know you have domain knowledge. I know it’s not easy. I just think it’s possible and something you should consider.
This is the same thing that I think we both thought about MicroConf, that we brought Zander on. I thought that about marketing before I met people who are way better in marketing than I was. I was like, “I’m the only one that knows how to market this product. All the copies are my own.” Then I’d meet someone and I’m like, “Well, they’re better at this.”
It’s not cut and dry. I don’t really think we should go down this road right now, but it’s something I just know that it’s going to derail you for probably a month if I were to guess. Maybe longer. If you’re going full speed with marketing and sales, and you really are landing customers and growing, it would be a shame for you to have just put the brakes on that and switch over.
Mike: The fortunate thing is I think the way things are, I think you’re right. I think there’s definitely ways for me to make that work. One of which is if I hand it over to somebody, the interesting thing in Bluetick is I have a flag in the database that says, “What version of the backend storage extension are you using? If it’s version one, use this code. If it’s version two, use this code.” I could switch on an individual mailbox level. I could just use my mailboxes like a test, switch it over, and then upgrade it.
If things are working great, I could roll it out slowly to other customers as opposed to doing everything all at once. That’s what the real kicker. It’s a critical core […]. I can do it individually. It took a while to get to that point.
Rob: I think that’s the way you do it. That’s the speed bump way of doing it versus the […] way. Cool. That’s good.
Someone wrote in and made a comment. They asked if you ever took the Enneagram? I sent you, just for the record, I went, and paid $12. I said, “Merry Christmas,” and sent you an email with the link. I’m curious if you took it.
Mike: Yeah. I saw that email and I’m like, “You bastard.” I have no way out of it.
Rob: Because you gave me crap the last time. I was like, “Look. I’ll pay for it Mike. Just take and bust chops, right?” and you’re like, “Oh. No, you won’t.” I was like, “Can I pay for this in advance?” This is the best.
Mike: Yeah, I saw that. I did spent the time. I went through and took it. It was interesting. It was definitely better than the previous time I took it where everything came out even. This time, it gave me a spread of the different types. One that came to the top with a score of 22 was Type 6, the loyalist. Then the next one, both of them was the score of 20, it was Type 9, the peacemaker and Type 1, the reformer.
I read through it. I actually thought it was interesting enough that I printed it out, and I’m going back through it and highlight different things. I felt like after reading through the results and the description of the things, I felt like it was pretty dead on.
Rob: That’s cool. What is a key motivation? You’re like a 6 with 9 or 6 with, what was the third one you said?
Mike: 6 with 9 and 1.
Rob: Yeah. I’m looking through this description. If you’re on a computer, you can just Google Enneagram Type 6 with Type 9 and it will give you a combined thing, like loyalist and peacemaker. Some 6s and 9s find it difficult to say what is actually on their minds. There is a great tendency in this relationship to clam up, to be silently stubborn, defensive, and to make the other person guess what’s going on.
The thing I like about the Enneagram is there’s some positive but they definitely talk about blindspots a lot. Potential trip spots or issues. It can callout things that I think it’s that know yourself and try to figure out how to be better for it. If you think it’s pretty accurate, are there things that you’re going to do or have started doing that you think can help overcome some of these?
Mike: That’s what I was looking at. That’s why I printed it out and I was going back through it. The printout of the results for me was about 20 pages. It’s because there’s the top level one, then there’s two that are tied for second.
Rob: Yeah. That makes it complicated.
Mike: It does make it a little bit more complicated. Then things dropped off after these top three. I have to go through it a little bit more. I plan on highlighting different things that stick out to me, that they resonate really well with me. I just haven’t done that yet.
Rob: Yeah, that’s cool. Do that because I’m curious. The whole point of this was when I took it, some people on a leadership team that I’m on took it, it really dead point out that some of them, they were a couple threes. That’s the achiever, the success-oriented, pragmatic type, driven, images-conscious, their motivation is to achieve. They’re probably never going to stop wanting to achieve. Whether it’s nature or nurture or it’s something their parents said or did to them when they were kids or whether it’s just genetics, that’s what they want.
It was interesting to work with them because I kind of don’t care about that. I don’t need to make a dent in the universe. My thing was creating, building, and doing interesting things. I can’t remember. I was trying to look through, find what my number is. I don’t have the report. My memory’s mind was like a creator. It was a creative type. You’re motivated by creating things, putting them into the world, and having people using them.
Of course, there’s a bunch of negatives to that, too. You can bee too introverted. I don’t know. There’s stuff. All that to say, that was once again a confirmation, it helped me know myself a little more like, “Yeah, that’s right. I do need to be creating things.” I am most excited when I am creating new things rather than taking a company from $5–$50 million. In my opinion, not creating very much. That tends to be the place I really get bored with it, so it’s good for me to know that.
Running things for the long term, building processes, and have them on a scale, I’m going to do the same thing for 5 or 10 years. I can exist in an org like that but I need to be a person that’s creating things. That was the whole point of, “Hey, have you thought about taking it? So you can learn a little bit more about what motivates you.” Really, the motivation you talked about was flexibility. You’re like, “I want the flexibility that entrepreneurship offers.” I’m concerned that that’s just not enough motivation to keep you going when times get really tough and when sleep gets hard.
Mike: Yeah. I think what I like the most about the Enneagram was that it talked about different levels of the personality types. Within the levels, it’s essentially how healthy you are as a person within that level. They say, “If you’re unhealthy, you could turn into this other personality type at this level.” Or, “If you’re healthy, you can turn into this other personality type at a certain level.” I thought that that was the most interesting piece to me.
Like I said, when I was reading through some of these things, it was shocking to me how dead on it was. I’ll read a very little excerpt here from the personality Type 6 where it says, “Sixes do their best to be solid and responsible, but they are often troubled by an undercurrent of doubt and anxiety. In fact, sixes often seem a bit jittery and uneasy in general. They live in a state of worry then find something to worry about.” I’m like, “Yeah, I kind of do that sometimes.”
Like I said, some things just jumped out of me. It’s like that totally describes me. Then there were other ones like, “Yeah. That’s not really me.”
Rob: Yeah, cool. I’m glad you did that. I hope you’ll look through it. Maybe come back through their findings in terms of things that you think might motivate you.
That kind of wraps us up for today. I think the one question that I would like to find out is your high and your low over the past six weeks. Your high sound like the fact that it’s growth. The cold outreach is working. What’s been the lowest point for you, where you felt most discouraged, the biggest loss or whatever?
Mike: I think that implementing the client site. Some of the client-side features that I was working on before which I finished probably shortly after our call was just the trouble I was having with reorganizing the navigation to help better support some of the multi-user functions that I’m adding. That was just a real nightmare. It sucks.
Rob: Discouraging and that was what you touched on last month as you were doing it.
Mike: Yeah, there was that. I think there was one feature that I wanted to get to this other feature to implement. It ended up taking longer to finish the client-side navigation changes. I implemented this feature that allows customers to skip sending emails on public holidays. Christmas, for example. There’s a toggle in there that just says, “Don’t send these emails during the holidays,” and that happens to be one of them. It’s shocking how simple that code was to write on the back-end, but it just took way longer than I wanted it to to get into the product. It didn’t get in until after Christmas, which I really wanted to get in there beforehand, but it is what it is.
Rob: Cool, man. Thanks again for coming back. We’ll circle up with you here in the next month or two.
Mike: Sounds good.
Rob: All right, take it easy.
Mike: All right, bye.
Rob: Thanks again to Mike for coming on the show. I always appreciate our conversations. If you have a question from Mike or for me or for prior guests or just in general, for the show, about startups, Star Wars, Dungeons and Dragons, leave us a voicemail at (888) 801-9690, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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