In this episode of Startups For The Rest Of Us, Rob and Mike talk about the importance of consistency. They reminisce about how the podcast has evolved over the years and the benefits of putting an episode out week after week.
Items mentioned in this episode:
- BoardGame Tables
- Inc.com Article
- Uexpress.com Article
- differenceconsulting.com Article
Welcome to Startups for the Rest of Us, the podcast that helps developers, designers and entrepreneurs be awesome at building, launching, and in growing software products, whether you’ve built your first product; you’re just thinking about it.
Rob: I’m Rob.
Mike: And I’m Mike.
Rob: And we’re here to share our experience to help you avoid the same mistakes we made. 400 Episodes, Sir. Congratulations.
Mike: Thank you. I did it all by myself.
Rob: I know you did. How does it feel?
Mike: I don’t know. I feel very run down today but I don’t think that it has anything to do with Episode 400. I think it has to do with the fact that yesterday was the Fourth of July here so we had a bunch of people over and my kids are away for the week. They’re at Sleepaway Camp. We had a bunch of people over and we’re just like grilling and swimming in the pool, which was 92 degrees or something like that, and we haven’t even kept it covered for several days; it’s just hot as heck.
Rob: Yeah, and you stood out, man. You were hanging out. You drank too much so then you’re hung over and tired today.
Mike: I’m just tired. I’m not hung over. That’s the funny part. I don’t know if it’s funny, but I’m not hung over; I’m just tired. I didn’t sleep very well, I don’t think.
Rob: Yeah, and I feel a little bit the same way you do. We had friends over as well. I’m also kind of tired from the heat and just from whatever else. I think the 400 Episode thing makes me feel, if anything, old. It’s like we’ve been doing this for eight years, I believe. Is that right? Wasn’t it 2010?
Mike: Yes, 2010.
Rob: It was somewhere between February and April of 2010. I could look at the archived pages post, but it’s a long time to do this. We’ve had millions and millions of downloads. I was just looking at the statistics, millions of downloads, tens of thousands of listeners per episode. We’ve built something. We’ve built something pretty special, I think, that resonates with people. We’ll talk more about our favorite episodes and we’d have some listeners who wrote in, and I thought that was really nice. I think it’s a testament that we basically were able to show MicroConf out of the podcast. I don’t know that we could have grown it to what it is without this show. It’s like the entire conference. These days, MicroConf is its own name but, back in the day, we really sold tickets. It was kind of like my email list, your email list and people listening to Startups for the Rest of Us.
Mike: Yeah, and I think that just having that podcast episode that dropped every single Tuesday almost without fail makes people feel that they’re part of something. Then, when you come to MicroConf, you’re meeting the same types of people who were listening to the podcast. As you said, things have grown and people who come to MicroConf don’t necessarily always listen to the podcast. It’s taken a life of its own but, in the early days like that, that was really what drove that audience, I’ll say.
Rob: Yeah, for sure. How about you? What else is going on this week?
Mike: I have a meet-up that I put together this evening. I’m meeting a bunch of people who are either FounderCafe members or attended MicroConf or both this evening over in Worcester. That should be fun. We’re going to head over to British Beer Works or something like that and meet up around six o’clock and just have a couple of drinks, have dinner and just talk business.
Rob: That’s super cool. Did you just initiate that out of nowhere?
Mike: It wasn’t completely out of nowhere. When we set up the slack group for MicroConf, there were a bunch of people in there who were like, “Hey, who’s in the Greater Boston area?” and a few different people chimed in. I think that there was even a private channel that was created for people who are in the Greater Boston area, and then a couple of people mentioned to get in together. What I did was I just went through and looked to see who had come to MicroConf who was in the Boston area and I just emailed them. I have a running list of people that I know who live in the area and I just went through them, emailed them all and said, “Hey, here’s the time, date and place. Who wants to get together?” About half a dozen people or so chimed in and said, “Yeah, absolutely. Let’s go.”
Rob: That’s super cool. That’ll be a nice-sized group, too. I like that size.
Mike: Yeah. We’ll see how it goes.
Rob: Cool. Once you’ve done it, I’m interested to hear how it was on the show.
Mike: Yeah. That’s something we’ve actually talked a little bit about in the past in the background between you and me, just figuring out if that’s something that we wanted to facilitate in different places. I don’t know if there’s a good technical way to manage that, to be honest.
Rob: Yeah, the TropiColombia guys due their juntos, but they do have local meet-ups. It’s definitely possible but it’s always been the question of, “Do we have the bandwidth?” or, “If we don’t do it and we hire someone to do it, how do we make it pay for itself?” basically, right?
Rob: We’ve talked about not wanting to run an events business, like we don’t want to be in the events business and yet we throw three events a year already with the three MicroConfs. I think if we did the juntos or something like that, local meet-ups, basically, it would definitely span out itself. I think if we had the aspiration, we could totally pull it off. It’s just not you nor I have ever really wanted to gear up and not work on our software products in order to do that.
Mike: Yeah, I think that’s the biggest issue, is just having the bandwidth to be able to do it and, as you said, without charging for it and hiring somebody to help manage and facilitate all that. It’d be really hard for us to pull it off.
Rob: Yeah. Last weekend, I went to a three-day mastermind retreat, is what I’ call it, and it was the Rhodium Community. You know Rhodium Weekend? Have you heard of it? Chris Yates runs Rhodium, and I have a lot of respect much like I often tell people that MicroConf is the younger sibling of BoS. It’s less expensive, it’s more focused in slightly earlier-stage companies, very few have funding and BoS is a different story. It’s still very much about building real software companies and not with venture-back stuff even though some of them do take venture funding, but I have a lot of respect for BoS.
I also have a lot of respect for Rhodium Weekend. It’s a 100-person event held in Vegas every year. It’s run by Chris Yates, and it is more about buying and selling websites. There’s a lot of talk about internet marketing, but what I found is, like MicroConf, it’s very ethical. Since Chris has built the audience, he’s been very picky about who he lets in and so it’s not the sleazy internet marketing. You can go to a lot of really shitty internet marketing conferences. People are pitching from the stage and that’s not what Rhodium is.
Every year, there’s a Rhodium conference and then he has this mastermind that he runs that Sherrie [ph], my wife is a part of, and it’s a monthly call with about 14 people, and they do hot-seat format. They do all kinds of stuff. Once a year, that small group of 14, goes to a house and stays there for three days and they do a hot-seat format. Sherrie [ph] was unable to make it and there was a seed open so they invited me because I know Chris and I actually knew a few people in the group as well.
For me, I had to really think about whether or not I wanted to do it because of that format. I know you’ve done this with Big Snow Tiny Conf. I’ve never done that. I’ve done really small things with four or five people and then I obviously do MicroConf, but that in-between felt very uncomfortable for me going into it, especially knowing only three people there in advance. I really debated whether to go or not and, in retrospect, it was awesome, like it was really, really good as I kind of knew in the back of mind it would be.
I felt a little introverted and everybody else knows each other really well because they’re on these calls and they hang out, but it was a big deal. It was game-changing for me in terms of my thought process of, “I think I want to do that again.” It makes me really want to do one of the Big Snow Tiny Confsnow that I have more scheduling flexibility. I don’t ski but I’ll drink hot chocolate and read comic books or something while you guys ski or snowboard. I think I want to do it.
The cool thing about it is it really opened my eyes to the value that you can get from a group of that size, and that was my doubt. There were certainly some struggles with it, too. With 15 people, I think in my opinion, it’s just a little bit too big. I would love for it to be 8 to 10, and that would be a perfect size. With all of that said, I can imagine that it might be even more valuable to have everyone having the same type of business or at least similar because they were all over the board.
There were people who literally just build and buy content websites that they monetize with affiliate links and AdSense. There were e-commerce. There were e-commerce drop shippers. There were people who manufactured their own products. There were two or three SaaS. There were some people who just do a lot of SEO and they just build sites and sell them. There’s a real wide variation of who’s done what, and I think that was super helpful but I also imagined, if everyone was SaaS, that there could potentially be more value to it.
Mike: Yeah, and it goes both ways, though, because if you have people who are doing things in different types of businesses, then you get a different perspective than you would if everybody is doing the same type of thing. If everyone was doing SaaS, you don’t get the perspective of, “We’re e-commerce and this is how we do affiliates.” They may view them very differently and you can get really good, solid takeaways from those that you can put together and put forth on your business that are going to work for you. You would not get that if everyone is always talking to the same types of people, I’ll say.
Rob: Yeah, I totally agree. It’s a good point and that absolutely was true. I was surprised how much I had to offer someone doing drop shipping commerce. It was more than I thought. Some hot-seats would start like, “Boy, I’m not sure I have anything to add here,” and then I would have insights. It’s like, “Yeah, that was similar to my experience with Drip.” There’s enough overlap with these businesses–maybe at 60% similarity–because there’s always going to be marketing, and there’s SEO, and there’s affiliate programs or whatever that’s similar. I don’t know. Maybe having everyone working on the same type of thing would take away from that, the variety of thought or whatever.
Mike: Yeah, I definitely think that that’s probably the case. It depends on, specifically, what you’re looking for. You could easily have a group that is all the same types of people than a different group that is very different, and it depends what you’re trying to get out of the group. I think that that’s more the issue than anything else because at Big Snow Tiny Conf, Chad DeShon runs boardgametables.com and he’s got some fantastic ideas but because he’s B2C and he’s selling physical products, he’s not the type of person that I would probably end up in a group with but he’s got fantastic ideas. I’ve seen some of the stuff he’s done and it’s just amazing, and then there’s other ones who are doing more e-commerce-type businesses and we get some great ideas from them people, too.
Rob: Yeah, that makes sense.
Mike: I don’t know. It depends on what you’re looking for.
Rob: For me, where I’m at right now where I don’t really want to start another SaaS app, it was super helpful because I was able to talk to people about what it’s like running an e-commerce shop, not that I’m going to necessarily run one but I at least was able to talk for an hour to someone who’s been running e-commerce, manufacturing their own stuff for 10 years. It’s like, “Wow, those are the headaches of it. I don’t think I want to do that.”
Then, another guy who’s built two authority content sites from scratch, not just these little content sites that have AdSense or whatever but really built something substantial that he sold for I’m presuming six-figure exits–and I don’t know how much they were–but he had a whole process and a whole realm of knowledge that I have just not been exposed to. That was helpful for me to be like, “Yeah, maybe an authority content site is the next thing for me.” It just got me thinking along different lines, which is helpful because I am, at this point, direction-less in the sense of what I am going to do next.
Mike: Yeah, that makes sense. I’m curious to know what was it that you went into, thinking that you were going to get out of it because, obviously, you’ve had some hesitations going into it. I think most of just were the fact that the people in the group probably knew each other. Did you make the mistake of asking if everyone knew who you were?
Rob: Of course not. I never do that. You’ve done that, haven’t you?
Rob: Did you do that at Big Snow Tiny Conf and you’re like, “No, I didn’t mean that. I didn’t mean it that way.”
Mike: Yes, that was my first year because everybody has been talking to each other and I showed up late. I was three hours later than everybody else and it seemed like everyone knew each other. They knew who I was but I wasn’t sure and I just said, “Does anyone here not know who I am?” and as the words left, I’m like, “No!”
Rob: “I mis-phrased that. That’s not what I meant!”
Mike: Everyone laughed. It’s been a running joke for three or four years now.
Rob: That’s funny. Now, Chris had told me that that the folks never knew of me or knew who I was. I don’t know if that’s through being married to Sherrie [ph] because she’s in the group or it’s just that our circles crossed enough. It was nice. There were a few people who just knew me as Sherrie’s [ph] husband and then, when it came up that I was the co-founder at Drip, they were like, “I love Drip.” That was actually cool. I think almost everyone in the group used Drip or uses Drip so that was a touch-point for some folks, which is nice.
Mike: It’s funny that you mentioned overlapping circles because my wife has been spinning up her business and getting into different things with Facebook ad campaigns and this and that. There are certain things that are recommended to her or certain types of products so our circles are starting to overlap in more ways here and there. It’s just funny hearing some of the tools that she’s starting to use, like I either know who that person is or I’ve heard of the tool before and have thoughts and opinions on it.
Rob: That’s funny. You asked me what I thought I was going to get out of it. I thought that being in a room with a dozen successful founders, people who have launched businesses, grown businesses and several who have exited some multiple times, I just thought that there would be interesting conversations and that I would learn something. I went in very deliberately. Within the first day, I knew everybody and so at dinner, I was like, “You know what? I’m really interested in what this guy has to say about content sites, authority sites that have a personality.”
Right now, it’s just kind of article factories, but actually having a point of view in everything. I sat next to him and he asked me a bunch of questions about what I was going to do next and he said, during his process of exiting and then doing his next thing, he made some mistakes so he made some recommendations for that and then I grilled him for quite a while about, “If you’re doing it from scratch, what would it look like if you’d acquire one?” I wanted to pick people’s brains and get an idea of what it’s really like to run all these different types of businesses. I think that’s really what I went in doing.
I came away with not only that knowledge but I was also inspired. I think that, over the past several months, I’m not that motivated to start something new because it’s so much work. As we know and as we talk about on the show and as we’ve lived, it can be really stressful. At this point, I don’t know why I’d put myself through that again, and that’s the struggle, but I also want to do interesting things. I want to work on things that I’m excited about so part of has been helped purely a lot with ZenFounder stuff and gearing up some of that marketing.
In addition to that, I do think that I need a project to just be working on and so I’m trying to strike that balance of having something that’s interesting but not so stressful that I don’t have to work on all the time but I can when I want to. That’s where a SaaS app becomes a really tough sell because it’s just so needy. It’s like having a new baby versus some of these other business models that are a lot easier to have in a mode where you can swoop in, do a bunch of work and then leave it for a while.
Before SaaS, those are the businesses I had and my life was definitely more calm back then. It’s good. That’s what I got out of it, was being opposed to other business models and ways. If I look back at my experience, I’ve always wanted financial freedom and the freedom to work on interesting things and work on what I want. I tried to get that early on with investing in stocks and then I tried to do it via real estate and then I did it via entrepreneurship. Even in the early days, it was not all software. I acquired some e-books, I did had an e-commerce site, I had this whole variety of things and then I got into SaaS. I’ve been through that but it’s like I’ve never been married to a single business model or a single way to make money or have been dogmatic about it. Should we dive into the importance of consistency?
Mike: Sure, why don’t we?
Rob: Hey, it’s the 400th episode, man. We kind of get to do what we want to do today, I think. That’s how I feel about this.
Mike: Technically, we used to do that every time.
Rob: That’s a good technicality. We did get some high-fives and some compliments from a couple of folks. Austin Peak [ph] wrote in and he said, “I just want to thank you. I’ve been listening to your podcast for years and you guys helped inspire me. I can remember the second you changed my life and opened me up to even more business podcasts. It was Episode 240. I was folding laundry in my bedroom. I stopped what I was doing and I wrote down every other podcast you mentioned and it helped change my life.”
That’s kind of cool. Now and again, we get these, “You’ve changed my life,” or, “You really opened my eyes to something that I didn’t see before.” I think you and I take for granted that we just hop on the mic every week, we ship the podcast 20 to 30 minutes, typically, but we really have had a striking impact on a lot of people both through FounderCafe and Micropreneur Academy, MicroConf and the podcast. In fact, I want to roll an audio clip here from Fatcat Apps’ own David Hehenburger.
A3: Hey, Rob and Mike. This is David Hehenburger. I’ve been listening to your podcast since the early days and it’s had a huge impact on me. The biggest thing was when I first listened to the podcast, I was stuck in a consulting business that I wasn’t really trying that much. By listening to your podcast and following your Rob’s advice of stair-stepping, I was able to get out of consulting, launch a number of successful work-less plugins and now, over the last of year, also launched a successful SaaS app. This podcast has just had a huge impact on me. Thanks so much for everything, guys.
Rob: Mike, I don’t think we toot our own horns very much and I think that’s probably a good quality. We come across as authentic on the podcast because we are just who we are, but I think the 400th episode is the time when we can celebrate what we’ve done, what we’ve built and the impact that we’ve had on people. I was perusing our very ancient website, startupsfortherestofus.com. We need a facelift on that thing soon, but there’s a Success Stories tab and we stopped updating this a while ago.
Basically, we did a call at one point for people who had listened to the podcast and launched a product that allowed them to leave their day job. There’s about 20 names on it and, again, we added names for a couple of months and then stopped. I know that there are more people impacted, but Kevin Taylor from Beam Calcs, Duncan Murtagh from Vetter, Tom Fakes from FHRNews, Phil Derksen from WP Simple Pay, David Hehenburger who just sent the voicemail in, Jerome Samuels, Brecht Palombo from Distressed Pro–a lot of folks don’t know that he was an early member of the Micropreneur Academy and said that he implemented a bunch of stuff that we’d mentioned in there–Jordan Sherer from Widefido, Nate Grahek from StickyAlbums–StickyAlbums, as far as I know, is a seven-figure business. He’s very succesful in the photography space and eh had just been a long-time listener, Richard Chen from phpGrid and there are others.
I think it’s cool to do that. I think, for me, a lot of times, it doesn’t feel real. What’s your take on it? How does all that resonate with you?
Mike: I agree with you. I think I’m in the same camp where I don’t think about it often. Occasionally, we will get somebody who writes into us a set of questions at startupsfortherestofus.com and says, “Hey, I just wanted to let you know we did this and would you mind putting our link up under the success stories?” We obviously don’t go and update it a lot but there are occasions where people will write in and say something, saying, “Hey, you changed my life,” or, “We implemented this,” or, “We launched this new app that got me out of a job that sucked.”
We will do that on occasion but I don’t think about it too much, I guess. Maybe I should but I do know that, obviously, I see the stats and stuff. It’s hard, in many ways, to associate an email address or a blip on the screen from some metric someplace with actual people, I’ll say, because there’s that level of abstraction. I actually teach people this when I’m talking to them about Bluetick because in every email address there, there’s a person behind it. You have to treat it that way. I think it’s very easy to lose sight of that especially when you’re looking at all these different marketing tools that measure this or analyze that. It’s like every single one of those has typically keyed off a person.
Rob: Yeah, and I think we made a good move in launching MicroConf. I remember the reason we did it and it was because Micropreneur Academy had a community it was building and we wanted to meet people in person. The fact that we now know, in person, face-to-face, by name, so many podcast listeners, I think, is a unique thing because if we didn’t have MicroConf, how would we have met all these people? Maybe at BoS or maybe at other conferences, but that has helped me understand who are audience is more.
I think it’s also helped shape some of the content that we produce and how we talk on the show. There are days when I will outline a podcast while we’re on the show and I’m saying something almost specifically to one person based on either one conversation I had with them or just the persona of, “Yes, this person with these WordPress plugins, this episode’s for you. These are all my thoughts that I would tell you if I had the time to do an individual call with you but, instead, I’m just going to record this podcast.” I think that’s been helpful to have real people on the other side of the earbuds because a lot of podcasts don’t have that.
Think about if you had 20,000 listeners and you didn’t have a conference. How would you possibly know the people who are listening?
Mike: Yeah, you have absolutely no idea. I do the same thing to some extent as well on occasion in an episode and there was somebody who emailed me earlier in the week or earlier in the month and said, “Hey, what are your thoughts on this?” and, a lot of times, I’ll reiterate them through the course of a podcast episode because you can be a lot more expansive on a podcast episode than you can in an email. I have tried to cut down on the length of the emails that I write these days but it’s easier to talk about it and just do a podcast episode on it than it is to drill into all the little details and edge cases in an email versus somebody asking for advice about a specific thing. Speaking of which, we should also put out a call and say, “If anyone has questions that they want answered for the podcast, this would be a good time to send those in because we’re running low on questions,” I believe. Is that correct?
Rob: That’s correct, yep. If you can, you can call into our voicemail or send us an .mp3 file or even just drop us an email because we are almost out of them so we would get your question quite soon.
Mike: We’re accepting emails now?
Rob: Accepting emails and accepting five-star reviews on iTunes. I’m kidding. I wanted to run through just a couple of favored and most popular episodes but it’s hard to know what resonates with different people. I remember Episode 47 was Movies for Nerds and it was a bunch of startup tales, and I remember that being a big deal for a while. I think it had our highest listenership of our first 50 episodes for quite some time. Then, a favorite is always the podcast for startup founders. Episode 104, 240 and 395 are basically that episode. It’s podcasts and we’ve updated that several times. Then, Episode 255, Moving on from AuditShark, seems to have gotten a spike in listenership on that one and some extra-popularity which I think is interesting. You can still get that one in the podcast feed. I think the feed goes back to Episode 254. Are there any others that you remember offhand or do they all start to blend together at some point?
Mike: I think they blend a lot, to be honest. It’s hard for me to go back and say because I was there for the entire conversation so it’s hard for me to point to any particular one where it’s like, “That really stuck out to me,” or, “I listened to that half a dozen times,” because I was involved in the discussions. There’s not many that really pop out. It’s like, “This is interesting,” although I have heard people who have commented on the Moving on from AuditShark and how difficult that was, especially leading up to that whole decision.
Rob: That makes sense. I have gone back periodically and I’ll just go back and randomly pick 10 episodes. I might go back a year or even a year and a half. I’ll go back to that early podcast feed or as far back as it goes, which I think goes back 150 episodes so I guess that would be almost three years. I’ll listen to 5 or 10 in a row and it’s kind of fun to walk down memory lane. Typically, you’re either working on AuditShark or just moving on. I’m working on Drip or, even before that, HitTail.
It’s interesting for me to see what I agree with that we say and what I disagree with. I think things change that quickly, that there are opinions that one or both of us had that I’m like, “You know what? I don’t think that holds true anymore,” or there’s things that we say that I’m like, “Wow, that’s really insightful. That’s a pretty smart thing. “It’s not patting myself on the back; it’s just like, yeah, Mike and I had a really solid answer to that listener’s questions or a solid take on pre-launch email marketing or that kind of stuff. It’s fun to do that. I don’t do that much but, when I do, there’s definitely some good content on the show, I think.
Mike: One of the things I wonder about is, a long time ago, we’ve made the decision to put the transcripts of all the episodes out there partly for SEO reasons but also just so that it made it easier for us to go back and search through if we’ve found something. I think that we’re still very happy that we made that decision even though it cost money for every single one of those transcriptions, but what I find interesting about what you just said is that when our opinions on something change, there’s still that record of what our opinions were at the time. I wonder if there’s any confusion that could potentially be drawn out of that by people who search for something and then say, “This is what Mike’s and Rob’s opinions were on this back in 2014 or something like that,” and maybe that leads them down the wrong path. I wonder if that’s a nonsensical concern but I’m thinking about that too much.
Rob: I don’t know. People have definitely asked for an updated take on certain topics. I guess it’s hard to know or impossible to know.
Mike: Yeah, you wouldn’t know unless somebody said, “Hey, I followed this advice,” and then you’re like, “Yeah, now that you asked me again, I’m thinking about that and I would do something different now versus then.” That’s part of the value of having that transcript or being able to say, “This is from four years ago or five years ago.” People can also take that in context and say, “It’s from X years ago. Does that still hold true?”
Rob: Yeah, that’s true. I think you’re leading us to the topic of today’s episode, which is probably just going to be a short conversation at this point because I feel like this has been good. Just reminiscing and talking about things, I think, is fun to do. We don’t do that very much and so it’s interesting to think about. We titled this one The Importance of Consistency and I think the consistency of showing up every week has been perhaps one of our biggest weapons or one of our biggest strengths in building the podcast.
I know, early on, we did every week and then we ran at a content about 20 episodes in and then we started going every other week and realized that the listenership was not growing at all. Then, we made it a commitment and we also made it easier. We make it so that we show up, we record and then our editor does everything from there. I think that was a game-changing issue for us, getting someone who we can essentially pay to really get the show produced. That’s the only reason.
I think the two reasons we’ve been so consistent–I know from my perspective–is, number one, because it’s not a ton of work for me. Even in the busiest and most stressful days of growing Drip, selling Drip and all of that stuff, I knew that I could show up on the mic for about 45 minutes and you and I could record and that it would be there. It’s very, very rare that you or I miss an episode because we’re too busy. I know if that ever happens. It’s always because there’s a vacation or we have a scheduling snafu or something.I can’t remember a time where you were like, “You know what? I’m just swamped this week. I can’t record.” It just doesn’t happen. We’ve prioritized it and it’s on both of our calendars. That’s the other thing. If this was a solo podcast, there would be so many weeks where I wouldn’t show up, but the fact that I know that you’re going to be there means I can’t leave you hanging.
Mike: I think that has to do more with accountability and having yourself accountable to somebody else. It’s like a gym partner. If you’re going to the gym by yourself, it’s a lot easier to fall off the wagon than if you know that your buddy is going to meet you there and you’re going to lift weights every Tuesday or four to five days a week at 7:00 AM. Somebody else is depending on you to be there.
Rob: Yeah, that makes sense. As you pulled a couple of references, there’s an inked.com article, differenceconsulting.com and [0:30:13.5] Express. We’ll link them up in the show notes but these are talking about consistency and the power of it.
Mike: Yep, and I think the first one is that, for me at least, consistency builds predictability. For other people, it’s essentially eliminating the unknown. We drop this podcast early in the morning every single Tuesday almost without fail except when there’s a technical glitch. When that happens, there are people who will email us and say, “Hey, I don’t see the episode out there. What’s going on?” Everyone knows it’s going to be there and if there’s something that comes up where we’re going to need to record an episode in advance, we make it happen. We always have a contingency plan. We plan ahead and make sure that that’s going to happen because we know that if we don’t, we’re going to get emails, tweets and things like that like, “Hey, where is the podcast episode?” That happens when there’s a glitch, but we don’t miss the episodes.
Rob: That’s right. Even in the weeks of MicroConf which are super busy and taxing for us, we record ahead, in essence. We get an episode or two ahead. I was thinking there was one episode that was about 40 episodes ago so probably around 360-ish where you went on vacation or something happened last-minute and I was trying to get a guest and I couldn’t.
Mike: It was Episode 360, the one where Rob takes over the show.
Rob: Something happened where my guest fell through and I couldn’t get anybody online. It’s just a solo episode and I comment in the episode like, “I’m doing this because we need to ship something and I’m just going to talk to the mic.” I answered a bunch of listener questions that day and it was actually fun. I wouldn’t want to do it every week but it’s that kind of thing of just making sure that we get something into your earbuds every Tuesday morning.
Mike: Interesting that you said you’re going to talk to the mic.
Rob: I know. Consistency has done a lot for us. It builds trust. It’s predictable so it eliminates unknown for folks, and I think these articles were saying it shows dedication. It shows that we’re committed to something. I think subscribing to a podcast and sticking with it is a commitment. It’s a bummer when I subscribe to podcasts and I get invested and then they just pod-fade and they disappear. It’s like, “Man, this sucked.” I think the fact that we do have this many episodes can be a show of dedication and allows people to trust us more that we’re going to keep shipping.
Mike: Right, and the other thing I think is interesting is that, early on, what our main goal with the podcast was, really, to help promote FounderCafe but I think that that changed over time because we really don’t promote FounderCafe too much on the podcast. In fact, I’ve heard from people, “You should.” People tell us, “You should promote FounderFace a lot more on the show because, then, you get more people into it and you get more conversations and there’s the whole network of facts that can go into that.”
If you are interested, go over to foundercafe.com. There’s an application that you can fill out. It’s $100.00 per quarter and it’s a set of forums that you can join to interact with and ask questions of and get information from people about whatever it is that you’re working on, whether it’s a new marketing campaign or you have a question about how to use a particular product or what other products people would recommend for a certain situation. Definitely go in there and check it out. The application process is really just to help filter people out that are not a good fit. There are people where we’ve essentially turned them away because in the application, we ask what they want to get out of it and, if they’re not going to get out of it, what they would expect, then we’re just going to say, “Hey, look. This is not a good fit for you.”
Rob: Yep. It’s an online community of seasoned entrepreneurs just like you, and we do a really good job with the application process in making sure that we get folks in there who are going to help each other succeed in essence foundercafe.com.
Mike: I think the other interesting thing about the podcast and how we’ve been so consistent over time is that, as I said, we changed what the main reason that we’re doing it early on was but, since then, one of the things that comes to mind is back when we first started the podcast, there really weren’t any other podcasts that were like ours or was catering to our audience. It’s interesting that there are a lot of other podcasts that have popped up that are, in a similar vein, startup founders, working from home, boot-strapped or self-funded and building something and just talking about it. I think it’s really interesting to have seen those but early on–and, again, not to toot our horn here–we’re trailblazing. At this point, we’re no longer trailblazing. We’re like the old horse on the track.
Rob: That’s true. Sometimes, I wonder if someone comes along and says, “You have 400 episodes? That’s either really cool and shows you’re consistent or it’s overwhelming.” They’re like, “Well, I don’t want to get into this show. There’s already 400 episodes. I can’t possibly catch up.”
Mike: I was going to say potentially demotivating to certain people because they’re like, “I would start a podcast but these guys have got hundreds of episodes. Who would listen to me if these guys are going that strong or going for that long?”
Rob: Yeah, I wonder if it cuts both ways. I was thinking more from a listener perspective, someone who decides to subscribe or not. 400 episodes could honestly discourage them because they just can’t catch up. It’s like, “Well, I’ve already missed all that.” It’s like coming into a show or hearing about it when it’s five seasons and it’s like, “Why? I don’t think I really want to watch all that.”
Mike: Yeah, I’m not sure. That can happen with TV shows and stuff like that like The Sopranos. I’m never going to go and watch that. It’s just not going to happen.
Rob: I know. I’ve heard it’s so good but there’s too many episodes. There isn’t too much good TV out these days.
Mike: I think that’s a little bit different from what this podcast offers just because in this podcast, every episode is different and you can take it as a standalone thing versus something like a TV show where if you’re not really involved from the beginning, it can be hard to get in there. I think General Hospital has 14,000 episodes or something like that. It’s some ridiculous thing. They’ve been going since the ’60s or ’70s and they just drop a new one every week. I think Sesame Street has some ridiculous number as well.
Rob: You can drop into them. I think our podcast is more like Law & Order because it’s episodic. It’s like a single episode, start to finish, you can get value out of it or you can follow the story over the years. That’s what I’ve heard from people who liked the podcast, is they say they came for the content, originally, and the tips and the tactics and then they stick around to hear what we’re up to, in essence.
Mike: I guess it can go either way, then. What do you get out of the podcast these days?
Rob: That’s a good question. I don’t know that I’ve asked myself that question in a few years. I think, early on, it was definitely because there was no other content like it and I felt like it should exist in the world. I wanted there to be people talking about this stuff much for the same reason that we had Micropreneur Academy and FounderCafe and MicroConf because we wanted them to exist in a world and we wanted to be part of those communities.
That’s what the podcast was in the early days as well to promote what’s now FounderCafe. Then, over the years, I think, it’s certainly helped with Drip because just having the audience as an early seed, an early customer group, was helpful. These days, I don’t know. I don’t know that I can point directly to something right now that I’m gaining from being on the podcast but I do enjoy it, if that makes sense. I don’t know that I gain anything by playing Dungeons and Dragons with my 11-year-old but it’s fun. I have gotten things out of it in the past. It’s worthwhile, certainly, to show up and do the show because it has yielded so many things, I think, for both of us.
Mike: I think I would call a random benefit generator, like you don’t know what the benefits are. It’s hard to point to any specific thing like, “By doing this podcast, I’m going to get 75 new people added to my product and I’m going to make these certain relationships.” I think it’s just hard to predict those in advance or, even at the time and, say, “Down the road, I’m going to get these benefits out of it.” There’s definitely examples you can point to in the past, but I think that there’s a lot of things that you just get this random set of benefits moving forward that’s hard to nail down and say, “This is what I get out of it.”
Rob: Yeah, that makes sense. Someone said a portion of the value you put into the world, you get a small portion of that back, and I think that’s a really apt and insightful thought, and that has been true in my experience. I think that, by putting the podcast out, there’s value created in the world and they put in the hard work. The founders who listen to this, they put in the hard work. If we had some type of influence or motivation or we provide something for them, I think there’s a lot of value created in the world and a little bit of that does wind up coming back to us, whether it’s the ability to sell at a conference, whether it’s business opportunities or whether it’s if you or I needed to raise funding to do a small, bootstrap kind of angel round.
I think that the podcast has made that so much more possible for us, and we’ve had other avenues as well. Obviously, I still have an email list from my blog. I have the book list. There are other things that we do but the podcast is probably the thing that you and I have done. Certainly, for me, it’s the thing I’ve done with the most consistency because of what we said earlier. We’ve made it pretty streamlined and it’s enjoyable and because of the commitment to do it. Imagine if we missed a week.
Mike: I think the internet would freak out for a little while.
Rob: It would feel really weird to me to not have an episode or if we decided that today was the last show. At 400, we’re just going to be done. That would really be odd to not be putting something into the world. I think that’s the thing, is blogging is so time-consuming and as much as I loved doing it, just once the business has gotten in the way and I needed to focus, I had to stop blogging. I made that decision to do it, but I still want to be able to put thoughts into the world because I am experiencing new things and I feel like I still have things to teach and share with people, and the podcast is such a good way to do that because of the low time commitment.
Mike: I also think that it’s a better medium for doing it than a blog post where somebody might hit upon a blog post and they may or may not read it. If somebody subscribes to your podcast, it becomes a much more intimate experience where they feel invested in the story and the people who are doing the podcast, and I don’t think a blog can raise that level of connection between the reader and the author versus something with a podcast, like you’re in their ear. Your actual value is in their ear.
Rob: It’s definitely much more engaging, and I think we learned that early on. I talked to a few podcasters who are also bloggers and, in our early days, I remember my blogging audience was 10 times the size of the podcast audience but I felt like the podcast audience was so, so much more engaged and so much more willing to interact with us. Now that the podcast audience has grown to what it is, there’s just a lot of value in having people listening in through the earbuds, as you said.
Mike: I guess we should at least give one tip for consistency, though, because we’ve talked about the importance of it but we haven’t actually talked too much about any sort of tips for maintaining consistency. We talked a little bit about having an accountability partner or something along those lines. I think we briefly talked about what the goals are, the benefits of doing something for a while. Do you have a tip that you can share for consistency?
Rob: You just couldn’t let it go, huh? You had to go with the patented Starters for the Rest of Us formula of providing some kind of tip or tactic in every episode.
Mike: You want to give that tip on the next episode? That’ll be the cliffhanger for Episode 400?
Rob: I have a couple of tips and it’s what I’ve just said. If you want to be consistent, have that accountability partner where you have to show up, make it easy or reduce all the friction you can. If you want to be consistent about going to the gym, have all your gym clothes already in the car so you don’t have to look for them in the morning. Just make it easy, and that’s what we’ve done with the podcast, is hiring an editor and making the process so we just let this get put into Dropbox and then it magically shows up in my feed five days later with the transcript and all that. I think those would be my two biggest ones, is remove friction and try to have someone else busting your chops if you don’t show up.
Mike: I think those are good ones to leave off with. If you have a question for us, you can call into our voicemail number at 1-888-801-9690 or you can email it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. The theme music is 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 the full transcript of each episode. Thanks for listening. We’ll see you next time and thanks for sticking with us for our 400 episodes.
Rob: Nice work, man. High-five on 400 episodes. I’m pretty proud that we’ve done this.
Mike: Me, too.