Episode 53 | How We Left Our Jobs Part 1

Show Notes


[00:00] Rob: This is Startups for the Rest of Us: Episode 53.

[00:04] [music]

[00:11] Rob: Welcome to Startups for the Rest of Us, the podcast that helps developers be awesome at launching software products, whether you’ve built your first product or you’re just thinking about it.  I’m Rob.

[00:20] Mike: And I’m Mike.

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

[00:26] Mike: So today, I’m running a bit of an experiment and you are the unwitting participant of that experiment.

[00:33] Rob: Nice.  What is it?

[00:34] Mike: Well, right now, we’re – obviously we record our podcast through Skype and as I told you before, I kind of switched over to using a MacBook Air instead of my Lenovo laptop that I was using; and I have Windows running inside of a VMware Fusion session inside of my MacBook Air.  Right now, I’m recording it through Skype and through Pamela which we use to record through Skype and all of that is being done on the Windows side.

[01:00] Rob: Got it.

[01:01] Mike: I’ve got the Windows virtualized and Skype is running inside of it and Pamela is running in that and it seems to be holding up pretty well.

[01:08] Rob: Well, cool.  You still loving the MacBook Air?

[01:10] Mike: Yes.  It’s funny I mentioned to you before that I had ended up taking it back to the Mac temple and …

[01:16] Rob: Right.

[01:17] Mike: … they swapped it out for me so this is actually my third MacBook Air that I’m on.

[01:22] Rob: Really?

[01:22] Mike: Yes.

[01:23] Rob: Wow, it’s crazy.

[01:25] Mike: But you know what? Between the AppleCare and the warranty behind it, I mean I’m not really out of anything except for the trip to the Apple Store and …

[01:32] Rob: Right, and they move your data and …

[01:34] Mike: Yes.

[01:34] Rob: [Indiscernible] yes, so you don’t have to do that.  That’s cool.

[01:36] Mike: Yes.

[01:37] Rob: Well man, I have a knee-deep for what’s going on two weeks now pretty much all day everyday plus every night I’ve been working late and I’m just trying to revitalize and refurbish HitTail.  I talked last time about acquiring HitTail.com and it’s – you know, it’s one of those things where the app – it has been supported but it hasn’t been maintained, you know.  [0:02:00] It has been supported in terms of frontend email support and such and fixing people’s issues but there’s just a lot going on in the background that has kind of degraded over the years; and so I’m in the process of moving from the old servers to a brand spanking shiny new server at another data center and doing that is just an unbelievable amount of work.  I did not anticipate it would take this much to do it.  So, it has involved – you know, since the database is so big because there’s millions and millions of rows – I mean it was actually approaching a billion rows in the database.

[02:32] Mike: Oh my god.  Really?

[02:33] Rob: Yes, yes.  One table has 570 million.  Another has – yes, you know, a couple hundred million.  Yes, there are a lot of people using it and there’s a lot of incoming keyword data and referral data and so the thing holds up well.  Like it doesn’t – except from hardware failures it has had, like it doesn’t crash per se.  I mean, you know, it’s – there’s never a bunch of bugs or anything in the code.  But the database is just very large and so my initial thing was yes, we’ll just move the database across the internet and the DBA was like you’re out of your mind.  Like you’re going to have to have someone burn this, you know, on a USB drive and FedEx it; and even then, we’re going to lose, you know, one day and then we’ll have to set up replication.

[03:10] That’s what we’ve done and I’m really happy that I hired a DBA because I was going to try to do it on my own and that would have just been a joke, like I probably would have gotten one day into it.  It just wouldn’t have worked although bringing the DBA and kind of like – it kind of complicates things because we do it the right way.  It also means that it’s going to get done right.  Yes, just 24/7, you know, doing that and staying up late because we’re doing maintenance stuff at midnight.  Luckily, my DBA is in the UK and so it works out for his workday but I don’t know.  I just feel like I’m back to a crazy schedule and it feels good.  It feels good to focus on something for a long time.

[03:44] What’s funny is when I say crazy schedule, yes, I work four days a week and I work, you know, six to seven hours during the day and then I probably work three to four hours every evening so it’s not actually – I mean I think it probably winds up being 36 to 40 hours total.  It’s just that I’m packing it into [0:04:00] four days and stuff so yes, it’s really not that – it’s not that bad.  I’m not complaining.  I’m just saying it’s a shift for me, you know, to come – I’ve been working just a couple of days a week for quite some time so …

[04:09] Mike: I have to make a confession though.  I didn’t think that you worked nearly that much.  I thought you put in like 20 hours a week tops.

[04:15] Rob: Well, that’s what I’ve been doing, yes.  I’ve been doing 16 to 20 for about a year and I made the decision when I acquired HitTail that I wanted to find something that I could be really excited about again.  I kind of got bored, man.  I need to be interested in something in order to be happy.  You know, I think as entrepreneurs, that’s a pretty common trait and so just maintaining things was getting old.

[04:37] So, that’s the cool part.  I mean doing HitTail, it’s more about like setting goals and attacking something that is hard and I plan to grow it bigger than I’ve grown anything.  That means it will be a lot of work but it will be a good learning experience for me and I plan to learn a lot of stuff along the way.  I’m not doing it for the money.  I live off everything else I own so like this is not a requirement for me to live and I think that makes it, you know, an interesting experiment so – but I’m super excited about it.  So I hope I can keep the momentum up for 6 to 12 months that I think I’ll need to turn it around.

[05:07] Mike: That’s cool.

[05:07] Rob: So, yes, speaking of AuditShark, how is it going?

[05:10] Mike: It’s going well.  Last week, I implemented a mechanism for looking at the basic auto results that come out of it.  So anything that you do and initiate from the server that gets executed on the pop service, that’s a point in products and service that’s running in the customer environment.  Anything that goes through that gets piped back out to the cloud, gets saved and I think I had that work in last week.

[05:30] Now you can actually view those results and take a look to see what they are and where you were and weren’t compliant.  So it’s very, very basic reporting at this point.  I need to add in some stuff in the future to allow you to kind of cross section and slice and dice the data but so far it’s working well and I’ve got a demo coming up for a company that’s interested in becoming a reseller for it.  So it’s kind of exciting.

[05:54] Rob: That is exciting.  Yes, your first demo after beta, right? Yes, that’s cool.  Cool.  Well, [0:06:00] let’s see.  The only other thing I had is there is a blog post.  I published a post on my blog last week and it was a guest post by Saba Younus who works for AppSumo and it’s funny when she and Noah proposed it.  It’s called 10 Highly Successful Bootstrap Start-ups and I was kind of like, “Yes, mediocre.” I mean I was like, “Yes, go ahead and do it.  You know, I’ll post it,” but I wasn’t that excited about it.

[06:21] When I read the post, I was more excited and then I posted it just figuring it would do average and yes, it has 200 tweets over the last week and it has gotten, I don’t event know, like 15,000 to 20,000 visits and just all kinds of stuff.  So it really blew up, obviously caught the attention of just people who are interested in this stuff.  So if you haven’t read it, it’s called 10 Highly Successful Bootstrap Start-ups.  It’s an interesting post.  It’s neat to read about – it’s not 37signals and – who else? WooThemes or, you know, a lot of the success stories that we’ve already heard about.  Most of them are companies that I either had never heard about or didn’t know they were bootstrapped.

[06:56] : Did you make the list?

[06:57] Rob: Yes, right.

[06:58] [Laughter]

[07:00] Mike: That’s why I asked.

[07:01] Rob: Neither you or I made the list.  No.

[07:02] Mike: No.

[07:03] [music]

[07:06] Rob: Our main segment this week is called How We Left Our Jobs and it’s kind of the untold story of how you and I moved from fulltime employment into basically what we’re doing today and, you know, how we started our companies and I think it’s important to know like – we didn’t really want to go into all the grim detail of like our whole history, work history, all that stuff because I don’t think that’s important.

[07:29] I think what people really like to hear in these kinds of stories is the emotion and the thought process and like what we were thinking and how we went about doing it.  Maybe some mistakes we’ve made and successes we had along the way.  So I think we’ll probably do it like with a little bit of an interview style so that, you know, one guy isn’t just talking the whole time and the other person is kind of asking questions now and again.  So I think we dive right in.  It’s a bit of an experiment but I’m hoping that folks enjoy it.

[07:57] Mike: I think that one of the first businesses that I actually started [0:08:00] was while I was still in college.  I went to RIT in Upstate New York and as part of the program for my degree, I had to do five quarters of what they referred to as coop.  It’s basically work experience while you’re still taking classes.  It accounts towards your degree.  At least in my program we were required to have five of them.  So it was basically 15 months worth of work experience in order to finish our five-year program.

[08:24] So technically, you’re spending a little bit under four years on your classes but then you’ve got this extra year on a quarter tacked on to your degree to help you get you some work experience.  So what that does is it kind of guides you to figure out what sort of things you’re actually interested in working in in your field and it also looks great on a resume.

[08:42] The place that I had done a coop at, one of the – the IT guy that I was working with, he owned his own company building computers and I kind of lashed on to him and used him as a bit of a sounding board to create my own company and doing basically the same thing of what I was doing at Rochester and he was doing in Buffalo.  That was kind of my first business experience and I did that for probably three years.

[09:04] Rob: And did you do that while you were in college or while you were a salaried employee?

[09:08] Mike: Both, both.  Well, I mean I was …

[09:09] Rob: OK, so it ran into the …

[09:11] Mike: Yes, I wasn’t …

[09:12] Rob: Yes.

[09:13] Mike: I was a salaried employee but I was paid by the hour because I was …


[09:17] Mike: I was working there fulltime and I was, you know, building these computers on the side and then in the in-between times when I was going back and taking classes, I was still running the business and building computers for people so I made decent money at it though.  I mean I was making anywhere from $200 to $400 per computer that I was building for people and I would do a lot of – I mean everything was custom so if somebody wanted a new – you know, a special video card for something that they were doing, I mean I did a lot of gaming systems.

[09:44] There were people who were really interested in flight stimulators and things like Mac Warrior where you almost needed like the SLI that was kind of big back then where you had these graphics accelerator cards in addition to your regular video card.  I just happened to know a lot about that [0:10:00] stuff because I was interested in it and it helped me build all those machines for people who wanted to do that kind of stuff.

[10:06] Rob: Right.

[10:06] Mike: But then I just got bored with it.  Not necessarily a lot of manual labor but it was enough labor that my profit margins were probably a lot less than they probably should have been.  I just got bored looking through magazines and looking at pricing sheets and searching online because, you know, this was back before 2000, before Google was really around and started making it easy to find prices of different things online.  You know, people weren’t really publishing their prices for all their stuff yet.  It was still a lot of going through magazines and calling people and saying, “Hey, how much is this?”

[10:37] Rob: So that makes sense.  You started it and you get bored of it.  I think that’s a pretty common thing.  I’ve had that happen as well.

[10:42] Mike: So I just decided to shut it down.  It was an official business registered with the state.  I just basically waited for about a year or so before I went to the state and said, look, I’m just shutting this down because I wanted to still have the business around if somebody came back to me for some sort of support or something like that.  I just canned it.  I just washed it away.

[10:59] Rob: Yes.  It’s a tough business, right? It’s like low margin.  It doesn’t scale well, like it’s all a ton of labor and then get tiny, tiny margins because there’s so much competition so you probably – I know there was a little more margin back then but obviously not a business that had much future for you in terms of building and – building a life, you know, kind of supporting yourself from it.

[11:17] Mike: The margins went down dramatically.  It was back when Dell was absolutely terrible at what they did so …

[11:22] Rob: Right.

[11:23] Mike: … they would put out a machine and they would tank after a week or three weeks or something like that and it was constant.  So I saw that at the place that I was doing a coop at and I just – I said, look, I can do better than this and …

[11:35] Rob: Right.

[11:35] Mike: … so I did.

[11:35] Rob: What did you do after that?

[11:37] Mike: After that, I went and worked fulltime at Wegmans Food Markets in Rochester, New York and I was the programmer analyst in the IT department working on a pilot project for selling groceries online and that was interesting.  I had a lot of fun there.  I lasted there at about – for about two and a half years and I worked there while I was working my way through grad school as well.

[11:57] So I was working fulltime and then taking [0:12:00] either part-time or half time classes at RIT to get my master’s degree.  You know, I got to the end of my degree and I had met my future wife while I was taking grad classes because she was getting her master of fine arts at RIT as well.  Then she said, “Well, you know, I’m done with classes and I want to move back to Massachusetts,” so we just decided to move to Massachusetts together.

[12:20] I lasted at Wegmans for two and a half years or so and I just – I got to the point where I just kind of felt like I needed a change.  I ended up taking the pilot project that we were on and canceling it not because it wasn’t doing well.  The fact was that people enjoyed shopping in the stores as opposed to actually ordering their groceries online and …

[12:38] Rob: Right.

[12:38] Mike: … so they just said no, we’re not going to continue this pilot program anymore and they moved me off into the logistics department which, as you can imagine, is not exactly the most thrilling thing in the world.

[12:48] Rob: Yes, exactly.  Yes.  It’s not that interesting.  It’s the kind of stuff that’s really cool.  Like if you’re a junior developer, you learn a ton but to me, doing that for 5 or 10 years is just mind-numbing.  I can’t imagine that you would want to stick around very long.

[13:01] Mike: Don’t get me wrong.  I mean there was a really cool project that they were putting me on.  It was a voice recognition system for the warehouses so the warehouse workers could go around and talk to these little headsets and they would interact with the database and tell them where to go, how much of the stuff to get.  From the end-user’s perspective, it was probably not necessarily very interesting but if you look at it from a what-did-it-accomplish standpoint, they increased their throughput pretty quick and I went over to the seafood warehouse where I implemented it the very last week that I was working there.  They increased productivity by something like – it was about 100 percent in literally a day.

[13:37] Rob: Nice.

[13:38] Mike: It was ridiculous.

[13:38] Rob: Nice.  So you left there after your wife finished college.

[13:42] Mike: Yes.

[13:42] Rob: Grad school.  Where did you go next?

[13:44] Mike: Then I moved out to Massachusetts.  I got a job working at a start-up company called Pedestal Software and I worked there for – probably about two years or so.  It was about that time that the company had gotten acquired by Altiris Corporation which is a publicly-traded company and they got acquired for around $65 million [0:14:00] to $70 million.

[14:01] Rob: Right, and we’ve talked a little about this before.  People approached me with it.  Were you a developer there or were you …

[14:06] Mike: Yes.

[14:07] Rob: OK, so you were writing code.  Cool.

[14:09] Mike: They hired me as what they referred to as a custom engineer and that was essentially somebody who could come in and could pick things up quickly and learn quickly but I didn’t necessarily work on the core of the products.  What I worked on was a lot of ancillary stuff that was associated with it and shipped with it but it wasn’t necessarily core components of the code.

[14:29] So like I did very, very little C or C++ or any of that stuff.  The vast majority of the stuff that I wrote was in this custom scripting language that was shipped with the products that was executed by the core of it.  I think I literally touched the code once because there was something weird that was happening where if a line was more – if it was longer than 10 kilobytes long, it got truncated and we couldn’t figure out why and I found in some places in the code where it said it just arbitrarily declared a 10 kilobyte array and if it read more than that, too bad.  It just truncated it.

[15:02] Rob: Right, right.  Cool.  So your one production fix.  Hooray! So that one production fix means you got like 10 percent of the gross when the companies sold?

[15:09] Mike: No.  You know what? I didn’t even fix it though.  That’s why I got zero.

[15:11] Rob: Oh, nice.  You didn’t get zero.  You got like 0.0008 if I recall.

[15:16] Mike: Yes.  It was something …

[15:17] Rob: Yes.

[15:17] Mike: … like that.

[15:18] Rob: Right, right.  So you went straight from there to consulting.


[15:23] Mike: There was a company that was based right in my hometown where I was living.  They said that they needed somebody to come on and do consulting.  They were actually looking for a fulltime employee and it turned out that I was a little bit too expensive for them.

[15:37] So we worked out a deal where I wasn’t an employee for them but I would do work for them for this specific project and they had a six-month contract.  They put me on this contract and I worked for that contract for about three months or so and then the customer ended up pulling the plug and refusing to pay.  So that was not a fun experience but I was able to get a job less than two weeks [0:16:00] later because of my contacts at Pedestal Software and then I went and did some consulting work for the former VP of sales and marketing at Pedestal.

[16:10] Rob: So Pedestal, you were salaried.  You’re a nine-to-fiver or whatever, nine-to-niner depending on how much work you had, but you were getting a paycheck every week then you left.  They were acquired and you decided to leave which makes sense.  You said it wasn’t fun anymore, right?

[16:23] Mike: Yes.

[16:24] Rob: So your next move is into consulting.  Was it scary to say I’m not going to get a salary – you know, I’m only paid by the hour.  I don’t have healthcare anymore.  Work could dry up at anytime, all that stuff or were you mentally – you were just like, oh, screw it.  I’m throwing it to the wind.

[16:38] Mike: I wouldn’t say it’s a bigger risk.  At least for me it wasn’t nearly as big a risk as, you know, you trace it as because …

[16:45] Rob: Sure.

[16:45] Mike: … my health benefits, I was getting them through my wife at the time because being on her health plan was actually more cost-effective than being on mine at Pedestal.  So that didn’t really make a difference and then in terms of thinking to myself, just throwing it to the wind and saying, “Oh, I’ll give this a shot and see what happens,” I basically had kind of the promise of six months’ worth of work and I was being paid significantly more than I was at Pedestal.  I mean I was basically being paid twice as much.

[17:15] Rob: Right.

[17:15] Mike: Which is great but at the same time, you don’t necessarily have the guarantee that you’re going to get a paycheck but as you and I have talked about before, I mean that guarantee of a paycheck is really an illusion.  You’re lying to yourself if you think that that’s a guaranteed paycheck from now until you decide to retire.

[17:31] The thing that I didn’t really realize was that although it was a six-month contract and it was intended to be a six-month contract, the big mistake that I had made was that in signing that with the company, I was doing subcontracting through.  I didn’t get paid unless they got paid and they …

[17:46] Rob: Oh, you’ve talked about this.  Yes.  Yes …


[17:49] Mike: … within seven days but I didn’t think through enough to say, “Well, what if the customer doesn’t pay them?”

[17:54] Rob: Yes.

[17:55] Mike: So …

[17:55] Rob: Yes, that sucks.  So you had no money, no paycheck basically for three months of work.

[17:59] Mike: Yes.  [0:18:00] I got paid for, I think, the first two weeks and then the next 12 to 13 weeks, I didn’t get paid for which was fine because I still have that $8000 from Pedestal and I think I was making $3000 or $4000 a week and doing consulting for them; and, you know, so that right there was going to carry me for a couple of months anyway.

[18:18] So I wasn’t real concerned about it until I got the phone call that says they’ve canceled the contract.  They’re saying that, you know, we’re not doing what they wanted and blah, blah, blah and I’m like, “We’ve been showing it to them every single week.” He’s like, “I know.  There’s nothing I can do,” and that’s when I went out and decided, OK, well I’ve got to get a new consulting job and I was able to get one very, very quickly within a couple of weeks.  That was kind of what I banked on initially when I ended up leaving Pedestal.  I said, “Well, I’m pretty good at what I’m doing in my abilities,” or I think at a very high level and I knew enough people.  Then I said, “Well, I can probably get the work if I really, really get it,” and I was able to.

[18:53] Rob: What made you continue doing consulting and not look for a salary job at that point?

[18:58] Mike: It paid a lot more, to be perfectly honest.

[19:01] Rob: Got it, because I’ve gone through that same – or I don’t do it anymore but probably three or four times over about six years, I went through this decision of whether to go back to a salary job or get consulting and so I’m interested – so for you, it was the money.

[19:14] Mike: Yes.

[19:15] Rob: Yes, that makes sense.  That’s a good reason to do it.

[19:19] Mike: Well, I mean you think about it and sure you don’t necessarily have that job continuity or maybe you’re not at the same place every week or whatever; but if you have a salaried job then you’re making maybe $100,000 a year or something like that.  If you’re doing consulting, you’re good at what you’re doing, I mean you can easily make 50 percent more or 80 percent more.  I mean …

[19:38] Rob: Yes.

[19:38] Mike: … it’s a huge difference and …

[19:40] Rob: Yes.

[19:40] Mike: … you can start taking off not just this two weeks that most people get every year but you can take off three.  You can take off four.  You can take off five.  I think last year, I took off two weeks and that was basically including holidays and stuff.  I barely took any time at all and this year – so far it’s September.  I think I’ve taken five weeks off [0:20:00] so far.

[20:01] Rob: Right.

[20:01] Mike: So …

[20:02] Rob: Yes.  See, I always had a problem – I had a hard time taking time off when I was consulting because not only did I have to pay for my travel and stuff, because typically I take time off with travel, but I wasn’t making my, whatever, $100 an hour for all that time I was traveling.  That was like painful to me and I thought about it a lot and that’s one of the reasons I didn’t enjoy consulting that much.  It was because I was – I had monetized my time in my head and I had a real hard time doing things that I felt like were not productive.

[20:31] Mike: Yes, that’s one of the big problems with consulting is that you’re either making money or you’re losing money.

[20:37] Rob: Yes.

[20:38] Mike: That’s just the way that it goes.  Although I do consulting and that’s how the business that I own makes money, I still get a paycheck.  It’s not like I get paid when I work and I don’t get paid when I don’t work.  I get a paycheck every month no matter what.  It’s just a matter of keeping – making sure that the business has more money coming in than is coming out.

[20:55] Rob: Right.  You started a consulting firm, right? You went from being a one-man shop to hiring employees and such.

[21:03] Mike: Yes.  So I had a 2200 square foot office and separate offices for everybody because back in the day, I mean I was reading [Indiscernible] software and that was kind of the thing to do.  I was looking at trying to transition from a consulting company into a software company and it never really worked out that way because in 2008, that’s about when the economy tanked which meant that everybody cut back and the first place that they cut back was consulting.

[21:28] So my consulting business completely tanked at that point and I could keep myself busy but I couldn’t keep the other guys who were working for me busy because the problem was that I would come in and I would explain, “Oh, these are all the things that we can do for you,” and they would say, “Yes, we want you to come in.” I say, “OK, I’ve got this great person to do it,” and they say, “No, we want you.” OK.  Well, that doesn’t really help my business.  It ended up backfiring on me.  My ability to come in and present and do those sorts of things and people would say, “We want you.” We don’t want some other person who – we don’t want a [0:22:00] bait-and-switch.  We want you.  It just happened that way.  There wasn’t a whole heck of a lot I could do about it.

[22:05] So then after that, I laid everybody off.  I got rid of the office.  I basically redid my basement to make that into a home office and decided that I wasn’t going to scale out a consulting company.  To be perfectly honest, that was a hard decision to make.  It was hard to say I’m not going to do this anymore and I think that that’s partly because you look at it and say, “Well, I failed with this.” I could also look at it and say, “Well, I learned that that wasn’t going to work.” So it just depends, I think, on your frame of mind and how you think about it.

[22:34] Rob: Yes.  How did it feel – you build up this firm and then you see that it’s not going to work basically and you have to lay everybody off and obviously you had a lease.  You probably had money on that.  You know, there was a big swing.  You had a bunch of money in the bank and then it swung way down and you were in the hole basically in debt.  Like what was going through your mind during that time? Were you like depressed or were you pissed off or were you just like, “Oh whatever, this is business and I’ll dig myself out”?

[22:58] Mike: I was thinking that I would dig myself out and I think the reason for that was because I had run into the same general situation probably three times before that where things were going down and going down and then I would end up with a big sale and things will be way back up.  I felt like that was just part of the cycle and it wasn’t until I was probably six or eight months in with having very little income versus all the expenses that were associated with it when I started really digging around and looking and saying, “Well, wait a second.  This has gone a lot further and faster than I thought it did.”

[23:35] At that point, it’s too late.  I mean there’s really nothing I could do about it.  I mean there were a couple of times – I think my largest sale was about $170,000 and it’s just – you know, you get that in one shot.  It’s like boom.  It’s $170,000 and it was an $80,000 profit on that sale.  So when you end up getting those kinds of numbers and you start getting used to that, those are the terms that you’re thinking in; and I’m looking at the books [0:24:00] saying, “OK.  Yes, things are going down but all I need is one sale,” and boom …

[24:04] Rob: Right.

[24:04] Mike: … $80,000 profit margin and, you know, things will be fine.  I don’t think I really realized the magnitude of what was going on until it was too late.  I mean things had already gone way past the point of recovery.

[24:17] Rob: Yes.  That’s tough, man.  The reason I asked that question is because, as you know, I’m pretty risk-averse and the reason is, is if I had that big swing, I think I would have completely freaked out.  Like I would have had so much anxiety about it and I would have of course said, “Well, I’ll dig myself out,” but I would have just been – I would have been really, really stressed about it.

[24:34] Mike:  Have you been in a situation where the deals that you’re getting – maybe you’re only getting a couple of them at a time for any of your businesses but the price point is extremely high.

[24:43] Rob: Yes, not really.

[24:44] Mike: Yes.

[24:44] Rob: Not like you’re talking about, no.

[24:46] Mike: Right.  I mean when you’re looking at those sorts of things, it only takes one and that …

[24:50] Rob: Right.

[24:51] Mike: … pendulum can swing quick.

[24:53] Rob: Right.  No, that makes sense.

[24:54] Mike: So – and those are the things that I was looking at and I was pursuing these deals that I thought would come in and like I said, I just didn’t realize how bad things were until I got to the point where I’m like, “Oh my god, I don’t know if I can make payroll in another month or two months,” or something like that and it was just – you know, it was too late at that point.  You can’t just say, “OK.  Well, I’m going to take the guys that I’ve got and focus on building a product,” because you’re not going to be able to build a product, put it out there and start making enough money from it in this course of like six or eight weeks to be able to support three or four people fulltime.  That’s just not going to happen.

[25:30] Rob: Right.  So these days, you’re a one-man show.

[25:34] Mike: So, I …

[25:34] Rob: High profit margin, huh?

[25:35] Mike: Oh, yes, definitely because I just got myself to support so I can buy whatever I want.  I don’t necessarily have to worry about where the money is coming from or how much money I’m spending on it.  Like the MacBook Air that I got, I just decided, you know, my laptop [Indiscernible].  Oh OK, I’ll just go buy a new one and I don’t have to worry about benefits for other people and HR stuff.  I don’t need to worry about hiring and if a customer says, “Yes, this sounds great.  [0:26:00] We want you to come in and do it,” no problem.  It makes things a lot easier.  Like I said, my profit [Indiscernible] margin is much, much higher with just one person as opposed to me doing consulting and then trying to manage somebody else as well.

[26:12] Rob: All right.  If things are good, why are you screwing with perfection and going off trying to build apps and do that? Because obviously there’s more here than we can really tell, right? During this same amount of time, you acquired an app for me.  I think you launched an app on your own.  There were other things going on that we just don’t have time to talk about but you keep going after the product.

[26:34] Mike: There are a couple of different reasons.  One is because – I’ll be honest.  I like writing software.  I do.  I think writing code is fun and a lot of the consulting that I do is not necessarily writing code.  So I would prefer to get back into writing code but the other thing is that it scales a lot.  I certainly make a decent living doing consulting but I know that if I can write some code that gets out there and starts doing well, then I could make considerably more money for less time and less effort.  Some point down the road, I can just say, “Look, I just want to sell this whole thing,” and check out.  At that point, I can do whatever I want but I also know that when you’re doing consulting, you’re tied to somebody else’s schedule and that’s what I really don’t like.  I prefer having my own schedule to work on stuff.

[27:16] So I’ll give you an example.  It was about a month ago.  I took two weeks off and during those two weeks, I worked on AuditShark and I just said, “You know, I’m going to work on this.  I’m not going to, you know, work on anything else or worry about customers or consultants or anything like that,” and I would – sometimes, I would get up early and sometimes I would get up late and if I had something to do in the  middle of the day, I just go do it.

I didn’t have to worry about, “Oh, I’ve got to be in Vermont for five days and now I’ve got to be in Utah for five days and then I fly home,” and I don’t have to worry about any of that stuff.  I mean if you’re working on your own products and, you know, assuming you don’t have an office, you can – you work on your own schedule.  If you – if the inspiration strikes you at 9:00 PM to do something, you can just go do it.  If you don’t feel like it, you don’t [0:28:00] have to.

[28:01] Rob: Yes, that feeling is unbelievable to me.  It is incredible to feel like I’m in control of my schedule.  I have thoughts sometimes of like – I have a hard time remembering what it was like to work under someone else’s rules and to go into an office everyday and it makes me shudder a little.  I think I would curl up and die if I tried to do it now after having been out of – you know, cubes for so many years and I think there’s so much to be said for that.  It’s like you already have location independence.  You could kind of move wherever you wanted to, right? Because you’re either going to do stuff remote or you’re going to fly to a client’s site.

[28:34] Mike: Right.

[28:35] Rob: And I had that for years as well as a consultant.  You know, I could move wherever I wanted and that – I thought that was a really big deal at the time and it is a big deal but when I realized that I didn’t have time-independence – which is exactly what you’re talking about.  It’s like you have to either be in an office, you know, be in Vermont or you have to be around between 9:00 and 5:00 while – you know, if you’re coding from home, in case someone calls you and to do, you know, meetings and all that stuff, that is a big deal.  Like I think people underestimate how much work it is to have clients and to still not be in control of your time even though you can work from home.  It’s a big difference.

[29:08] Mike: Right, and I think that that’s the second piece of it, the time independence.  That’s really for me the motivational factor.  I mean I think that you mentioned it initially.  You experienced the same thing when you first started doing consulting.  You could live or work from anywhere but you’re still kind of tied to somebody else’s schedule and I just don’t want to be tied to somebody else’s schedule and that’s really kind of what’s driving me at this point is because I want that – not just the location independence because I could do what I do from anywhere right now; but I want that time independence at this point.  I’ve come to realize that it’s the time independence that I want, not necessarily just the location independence.  All I need is an internet connection and I can do just about anything I want or anything I need to.

[29:47] Rob: Right.

[29:48] Mike: You said that the time independence is really big for you.  I mean there had to be something that kind of started you out in that direction.  I mean what started driving you in that direction? Where did you come into things?

[29:58] Rob: You know, actually, I have a good answer for that and [0:30:00] we will revisit this question in the next podcast.

[30:03] [music]

[30:06] Mike: If you have a question or comment, you can call it into our voicemail number at 1-888-801-9690 or you can email it in MP3 or text format to Questions@StartupsfortheRestofUs.com.

[30:18] Our theme music is an excerpt from “We’re Outta Control” by MoOt, used under Creative Commons.  If you enjoyed this podcast, please consider writing a review in iTunes by searching for “startups”.  You can subscribe to this podcast in iTunes or via RSS at StartupsfortheRestofUs.com.  A full transcript of this podcast is available at our website, StartupsfortheRestofUs.com.  Thanks for listening.  We’ll see you next time.  [0:30:37]

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4 Responses to “Episode 53 | How We Left Our Jobs Part 1”

  1. Discovered you guys the other day. Have listened to this and three other episodes including the new one Updates. Particularly loved the energy and ideas on both this leaving the job as well part 2. Think the spontaneous duo energy is excellent. I’m a new app developer and have launched my first venture. Your series is thus far inspiring to me in a realistic non-flamboyant way. I just mentioned you in a new blog entry on my site. Keep up the good work Mike and Rob.

  2. Yes, thank you Jim. We love hearing this kind of stuff.

    Incidentally, how did you stumble across the podcast?

  3. Dylan Connole June 8, 2013 at 2:07 pm

    Hey, I just recently discovered the podcast. I found it either through browsing on itunes or maybe by being a guest on SPI or IBM.

    I only found it a few days ago but I’ve already listened to several episodes so I decided I’d listen to how you guys started. I was psyched when I heard Mike went to RIT, I graduated from RIT in 2011.

    Now I’m trying to build some relatively passive income through software development without knowing how to code at all. I’m targeting businesses so I can deal with fewer higher paying customers who have capital to spend if it saves them in the long run. I’m excited to see how it goes and would love to have any advice you have.

    Thanks for all the great info!