In this episode of Startups For The Rest Of Us, Rob and Mike revisit their 2019 goals. The guys check in to see if they are on pace with their 2019 goals as well as discuss some other topics including why remote companies grow slower.
Items mentioned in this episode:
Rob: In this episode of Startups for the Rest of Us, Mike and I revisit our 2019 goals. We pontificate on why remote companies might grow slower than collocated ones and we answer a couple of listener questions. This is Startups for the Rest of Us Episode 441.
Welcome to Startups for the Rest of Us, the podcast that helps developers, designers and entrepreneurs be awesome at building, launching, and growing software products. Whether you’ve built your first product, or you’re just thinking about it. I’m Rob.
Mike: And I’m Mike.
Rob: We’re here to share our experiences to help you avoid the same mistakes we’ve made. Where this week, sir?
Mike: I know that we’re only a couple of weeks out from MicroConf in Vegas. We are just in the process of selling MicroConf Europe tickets. That will be in the 20th to 22nd of October and it will be in Dubrovnik, Croatia again. Looking forward to that. It’ll be awesome and it’ll be back in the same location and one that has a fantastic view of the ocean.
Rob: Yup. I loved that hotel last year. I’m very much looking forward to that, October 22nd, 23rd, and 24th, is that right?
Mike: I believe so, yes. I have to look at the calendar.
Mike: That’s hard.
Rob: Go to Eventbrite and they’ll be on sale soon. That’s good. I’ve got to start looking for speakers for that here, soon.
One thing I wanted to throw out that I’ve been thinking about, there’s this book called Mindset. I believe it’s by Carol Dweck. Is that right? I wish there was some device that I could type a name of a book into and figure out who wrote it. But anyway, it’s about having a growth mindset versus a fixed mindset. It’s about expanding your thinking and not being caught up with the same beliefs you had your whole life, as well as just believing that you can get better, and that you can change and do more.
I loved this book when I read it. When trying to instill growth mindsets into our children so they don’t go through life thinking, “Well, this is what I have. I’m like this the whole time and I can’t learn new things. Whatever I believed when I was 10 or whatever was instilled in me can’t change.” I really think that this runs true and there’s a parallel here with successful founders. Successful founders I know have growth mindset. They’re always trying to learn, they’re always trying to get better, and they’re always questioning their beliefs.
There are certain moral beliefs implicit that you probably never shared. There are beliefs that you shouldn’t. There are these other ones like, I remember talking about Split Testing in 2008. People were telling me like, “Oh, that’s tricking people. You’re tricking people.” That’s what internet marketers do and we don’t do that in Startups.
Let’s try and talk about email marketing in 2009–2010. It’s like, “Oh, you’re a spammer.” I’m talking about SEO to market a business. It’s like, “Yeah, it’s just gaming and Google. You should just write great content and you’ll rank.” I feel like those are fixed mindsets. Things like, “Well, this is bad and what I believe is going to hold true forever.” But the folks who are able to embrace those new things, if you’re able to do it quickly, and if you’re able to implement these things and take advantage of them, these are the founders that I see succeeding.
The reason I bring this up is there’s a constant ongoing flux of new ideas coming in and trends that come in and out of the whole startup scene. Part of my talk at MicroConf was about trends that I have observed over the past 14 years of being involved in the scene. One of which, of course, is the changing nature of funding, that being bootstrapped and venture-funded used to be this binary thing and then self-funding is introduced where [00:03:33] bank. That’s a little different than being bootstrapped. There’s taking a $100,000 from friends and family. You don’t have an institutional investor. How different is that?
Then, there’s obviously TinySeed, there’s a [00:03:45], and there’s other players. Technically, yes you took a dollar, so you have now taken funding but it’s not the same as the VC funding of 10, 15, and 20 years ago. It doesn’t come with the same negative things.
Some thoughts I’ve been doing and really going back to first principles of what is bootstrapping about? Is it bootstrapping? The reason that I bootstrap—I would assume for most of us—is we want the freedom to run our own company and we want to have purpose working on something interesting. We want to have healthy relationships with our families, not get a divorce, not never be around our kids. If we could do that, whether we take a little bit of money, don’t take any money, which is totally a viable thing, or take a lot of money or whatever, I guess I’ve always had those three goals, that freedom, purpose, and relationship. I think that funding has traditionally been at odds with those—10–15 years ago it would have been—but in my head, there are more shades of gray than perhaps has been the case in the past.
Mike: Part of those things that you just talked about are the change in definitions or understanding of specific pieces. For example, bootstrapping. What does bootstrapping mean? I think that question has come up a lot more recently because of things like TinySeed and [00:04:57]. What does it mean to be a bootstrapper? If you have a very specific or fixed view of that in your head, then it’s going to impact how you view taking money for your company or somebody else taking money for their company. I don’t think that a lot of those definitions are necessarily static because bootstrapping itself is relatively new. It’s really only become a household word in our circles in the last 10 or 15 years. Our circles didn’t even really exist 10 or 15 years ago.
The landscape itself is changing and those definitions are changing at the same time. It makes it difficult to not adjust with it. You’re going to be left behind if you can’t adjust your definitions or mindset along the way.
Rob: Yeah and that’s the thing. This is something that I’ve struggled with. I’m an engineer. I wrote code for decades. I do think in very binary and I used to think in very black and white terms. I used to be more opinionated, more fixed in my thoughts. The older I get and the more experienced I get, the more I realized that that has been a detriment to me in my career and the things that held me back early on were holding on to these ideals that I truly believed and later found out were not as black and white and not as “true” as I thought they were.
Anyway, that’s it. I’ve been thinking a lot about that and how to continue. It’s all up for me to continue to grow. I ask myself the question, “What things do I believe today that I will look back on five years and think that wasn’t correct or that was holding me back then?”
On a lighter note, did you know you can get a refund for audible books that you don’t like?
Mike: I did not know that.
Rob: This is crazy. Remember how I talked about how I’ve backed 185 kickstarters? The only thing worse than Kickstarter for me is Audible. I believe—I would have to look at the library—we have close to 500 audio books.
Rob: I’ve been a member for nine years. It’s nuts. Granted my kids listen to audio books. Sherry listens to them. We all share the same account. Hundreds and hundreds. That’s how I read. I don’t buy physical books. I really don’t buy books on Kindle. I have a lot of them. But I also will go and just try a book and if I don’t like it—I get two, three, or four chapters in—if it’s not doing for me what I thought it was doing, or if it’s too way academic, or just a crappy book, I bail on it. I’ve always, at least for the past 10 years, valued my time more than the cost of an audio book which runs around, let’s say, $10 with a membership.
I have a bunch of audio books that I haven’t listen to. If they’re good, I listen all the way through, I take notes, and I do all that stuff, but if they’re not, I bail on them. I’ve always hate that cost and I realized the other day, you can go back and just say, “Hey, I didn’t like the book.” I’m sure if you abuse this, they have some repercussions or something if you listen on every book and then return it or whatever, but it’s interesting. It’s buried to find it but I definitely went back. I looked to about a year. I went back and refund maybe seven or eight books that I only got a little bit into. I remember specifically why they were crappy. I got some extra credits and you know what I do with those credits?
Mike: You got more books?
Rob: I even [00:08:10] bought more books. Of course I did, Mike. It’s got a voice, I love the information, and learning new things. I’m listening to books everywhere, on topics anywhere from growing your business to negotiation. I have a book on Leonardo Da Vinci, one on World War II, one about dungeons and dragons, two about dungeons and dragons, I listen to Profit First based on a recommendation from Patrick Folly, and I have something about dealing with challenges mentally and blah-blah-blah. All of those won’t stand up to the scrutiny but I do like having a very plethora of books to be able to listen to based on the mood and goals I have at that time.
Mike: The only thing that shocks me about any of that is that you waited until you got the credit before going and buying more books.
Rob: No. It’s true. I didn’t actually spend all the credit.
Mike: You lied. You lied to thousands of people.
Rob: I did spend several of credits but yeah, I’m kind of backed up. I don’t have a big wish list, but I don’t tend to buy a lot of books until I’m ready. Right when I’m ready to listen to it then I’ll buy one or two more and then go into it. Right now, I’m a little overbought because of this credit glut that I experienced after the refund.
All that said, let’s talk about some 2019 goals. You and I make goals each year. I know they’re varied opinions on goals. I’ve always been a goal-driven person. I find that goals help me focus for the year. Not get shiny object syndrome, not wander off and do other crap because there are always more opportunities that are super interesting than I can ever do. The goals help keep me focused.
I sometimes do re-evaluate goals and say, “You know what? I screwed up when I made that goal in the last year. I shouldn’t do that this year. I should pivot the goal.” These are things that I spend a lot of time thinking about. I’ll try to do it on a retreat to make sure that I spend a day or two thinking about it and I really want to accomplish that in the next year. That’s a high-level thing that I then try to focus on the next 12 months.
With that said, we set some goals back in December. It is now second week of April. We kind of just passed the first quarter of our goals. You had two goals with a bunch of subpoints under that. It might be five or six. I had four goals. Why don’t you talk through your first one and let us know how you’re doing? This is either going to be the walk of shame or a celebratory episode where we can high five each other.
Mike: I think it’s going to be a walk between them because I didn’t exactly have a lot of heads-up on the particular piece of this podcast episode. I did not go back and take a look to see what exactly all these numbers looked like. I can give you a ballpark idea but probably not exact.
In terms of exercise, I know that at least halfway through the first quarter I was ahead, and then it really dropped off the end of the quarter as MicroConf got closer. I think that I’m close to what it should’ve been but I’m not absolutely sure.
Rob: You’re saying that you’re not sure if you’re on track for two times a week?
Mike: I think that it’s close. I mean they’re still a little ahead or a little behind but I’m not too far off. Twice a week would’ve been 25 times by the end of the quarter. I know that I was at least 15 or 20 at one point. There is one point where I was six or eight weeks ahead or something like that. I was doing very well but then as MicroConf got closer, I got busy and I stopped going to the gym. Now that MicroConf is over, I can start going back. I haven’t gone back and actually looked at the numbers. I think I’m on track, but I could be a little ahead or a little behind it. I’m not sure.
Rob: Yeah, give or take. You’re on track, it sounds like. I’m way behind. The winter decimated me. I’ve talked about this in the past. It started getting warm here a couple weeks ago. I actually started exercising. My first goal is three days of exercise a week. We’ve got six or seven inches of snow yesterday. It’s like halfway through April. It’s a train wreck for me so far. This is a good reminder. If I didn’t have this goal, I would just not care. I care because I have this goal. It is something that I need to change and is something that I want to be doing. I don’t enjoy exercises. It’s not something I’ve ever really want to on purpose, but they did something that I need to get motivated for. This is a friendly reminder that I’m walk of shaming with the exercise one and I need to figure out a way to do better with this.
Mike: The second one for my getting my health back on track was having a normal sleep schedule. Part of that involved using my CPAP machine at least five times a week and average usage of at least 6½ hours at night. I can say with absolute certainty that I am actually beating that if not exceeding it in a number of different ways. The app that I use for this only goes back, I think, about 30 days or so. I can get more data then, that if I needed to. But even over the last 30 days, the lowest I have on here is 5½ hours and that’s actually a lower one. Most of the rest of them are six plus. Some of them were highest. One of them on here is 9½. We got 10 hours and 40 minutes on here for one of them. I’m doing well on that one.
Rob: Very nice. My second one is about TinySeed. It’s to build it into the de facto brand when bootstrappers look for early-stage funding. The subpoint for that was first batch of founders chosen and they have a good chance of success, good progress, growth, and all that stuff. That’s by the end of the year.
Yes, I would say I’m on track for these. I think the de facto brand thing comes over time. Maybe it’s not a year but it’s kind of a long-term goal. The first batch of founders are on track. We wanted to have everybody chosen by MicroConf. We didn’t get that done but we are most of the way there. To be honest, the biggest hang up as per usual is legal rather than any actual conversations or phone calls or any of that. It’s just getting everything in, bullet points and the legal docs. I’m feeling good about this. This is my main thing that I’m working on. I would say on track for that.
Mike: My next one was to lose 15 pounds. Do we cue the audience’s laughter here now?
Rob: Not there.
Mike: No. I think after MicroConf, I actually gained eight pounds but then the day after or two days after, I was back down to a normal weight or whatever. I hadn’t really lost. I think this is all water weight. I really haven’t lost any measurable amount of weight at this point. I’ve got to work on that. I think that’ll go back to the exercise thing.
Rob: My third goal is to not panic when the stock market crashes. I don’t really think that’s happened. I mean it’s been a little up and down but there hasn’t been a crash. I don’t know yet, we’ll see. This one’s a little bit out of my hands but it’s just something nice to be in the back of my mind.
Mike: You can go out and buy a bottle of whiskey so that when it does crash then you can drink the whiskey and hopefully forget about the stock market.
Rob: Yup, indeed.
Mike: My next one was to have more regular and in-person social contact. I would say that I’m actually succeeding there. Still meeting up with a bunch of people once a week. Obviously, there is a massive injection of social contact at MicroConf, but yeah, I’m still meeting up with people. I wouldn’t say that this is in-person social contact, but I’m also meeting up with a group of people online, usually on Saturday evenings. But we’re going to take a break for a couple of weeks, then startup back again in May. It should be good.
Rob: Very nice. My fourth and final goal is to write or rewrite a book. I have not started on this nor I thought about it. It’s been because of MicroConf and TinySeed all happening here at the first of the year. I’m not on track to do this because I haven’t started it and it hasn’t been on my radar. I want to see once we get the batch chosen, we get things rolling, I want to see how my time works out and if I’m able to do this. As I said when we set this for the first time, writing another book aligns with the main thing I’m doing because writing another book about startups didn’t align with growing Drip. It didn’t align with growing HitTail but it does align with TinySeed. I have more of a reason or an excuse because I really want to do it. There’s more of an excuse to do it. I just got to figure out if I can carve out the time.
One thing that’ll hopefully help with that is, we actually just announced that we hired a program manager with TinySeed who’s going to help in the accelerator because there’s so much work to do. We hired Tracy Osborne formerly of Wedding Lovely. She’s spoke at MicroConf in 2016, did really good talk there. I’ve been a longtime fan and we’ve kept in touch. It just worked out really well for her to come and join us. She’s a developer, a designer, she’s written several books on design, and I believe in some development as well. She’s a public speaker. She’s got a lot of chops. I’m stoked to be working with her on this. That should help achieve, hopefully, a few of the goals on this list in terms of freeing up time, hopefully, for me to do something with the book as well as helping us grow TinySeed into that brand I was talking about.
Mike: Congratulations. It’ll be great to have her around.
Mike: My last one on here was for Bluetick. It was to establish attraction and move on to something else. The comments I had on here was that it’s fuzzy, not exactly what it should been, whether it should be revenue-target or customer-based. For this, I would say it has meandered the past couple of months. It’s probably largely for the same reasons that you have not gotten around to writing a book was because of MicroConf.
It was about a week or two before MicroConf. I was sitting down and working on stuff. I realized that basically the first three months of this year were basically taken up by MicroConf. I did very little else. It got me thinking about how much of my time is actually spent working Bluetick. My current estimate is between 30% and 40% of my time throughout the course of the year is spent working on Bluetick, whereas I previously thought it was closer to 100%. That’s totally not the case. It changes things in my mind more than anything else, but it’s just a perception or a recognition, I’ll say that I’m not really working on it full time. I’m working on it about a third of the time. That would probably explain how it meanders a little bit and how I’m not getting as much done on it sometimes than I feel like I should be.
Rob: That makes it tough. It’s hard to not have that focus. It’s almost like you’re basically working almost nights and weekends on it. You’re kind of doing it as a side project.
Mike: Yeah. That’s really what it is which in part explains why it can meander along if I’m not paying attention to it. It grows when I am. But if I’m only paying attention to it 30% of the time, it’s really not enough to offset turn out of it, to be perfectly honest. I don’t know. I have to give some more thought to that at exactly how to address that particular problem, but I’ll figure something out.
Rob: Indeed. We’ll there were a couple of other things that I want to talk about. We do have a couple of listener questions but something I thought was interesting from Patrick Campbell from ProfitWell spoke at MicroConf a few weeks ago. A couple of the things or slides that he put up that, I believe challenged people’s thinking, were from some research they have done. They have a lot recurring [00:19:44] SaaS companies using ProfitWell and he posted up two different slides. He posted several that agreed with our mindset of, like this one agrees with your internal monologue of how you believe the world to be.
But how about this one? This is from data. This is from 1800 respondents. The slide said, “Remote companies have considerably worst growth and retention than collocated companies.” The room went silent. He’s like, “I know. None of us want to hear this because we’re building remote companies. We want to build remote companies.” How does that make you feel? You instantly question the data. Whereas, seven of these different slides that had statements like this, some were totally in the MicroConf wheelhouse and totally agreed with bootstrapping and all that stuff, others were like this and they’ve challenged our thinking. This one in particular, he had 1800 respondents. The growth was between 21% and 29% slower for remote companies than it was for companies located in the same location.
The other one was companies with founders with a hobby grow slower. This is when the hobby takes 10 hours a week and the study was done four years in a row. It was 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017. Each year, the growth was 10% or 12% slower with founders with a hobby.
It’s interesting. I want to back these around really quick. I don’t want to dispute the number because he asked these questions. They’re pretty rigorous company, I believe, in terms of data and research. What do you make of them? What are your thoughts on this?
Mike: I thought that the way he positioned these was to let people think about them and understand their default position on what their beliefs were about the data, whether it conflicted with their worldview. I found that more interesting than the actual data itself because I don’t have access to this data directly. It’s not stuff that I look at or actively thinking about. The data itself makes sense to me, but I don’t have anything to dispute it either way.
Remote companies have a worst growth of retention or founders with a hobby grow slower. That intuitively makes sense. The first one, remote companies having a worst growth rate and worst retention rate, I don’t know what he meant by collocated. Does that mean they have an office?
Rob: Just local companies having an office that are not remote.
Mike: I could see that because I think a lot of people have issues working remotely. Some people are just not wired that way. They can’t do it.
Rob: Yeah. I can see that the retention part of it makes a little bit of sense to me. When you’re working remotely, you don’t have as much of a connection to the people whereas if you cut to lunch with folks every day, there is more of that team or family depending on how you couch it. There’s that feel that really is different. I could see that one being causation because obviously, correlation is not causation. That’s where I look at. The fact that remote companies have considerably worst growth, it doesn’t mean that being remote causes worst growth.
Again, I’m not trying to challenge these numbers but I always thinking, most venture-funded companies, the VCs, do not want them to be remote. They frown on remote. I would hypothesize that most remote companies, the majority, are actually bootstrap companies—bootstrap, self-funded, whatever—not venture-backed, anything but venture-backed.
As a guess, I would also say that venture-backed companies tend to grow faster overall than bootstrap or self-funded companies. One, because that’s the mandate. For better or worse, it’s growth at all cost a lot of times. That’s the number one KPI, it’s growth, and that’s not necessarily with folks in our community. Number two, venture-funded companies tend to have just more money at their disposal. They can goose the growth almost; they can force the growth.
That was something that has gone through my head. Perhaps growth is not caused by them being remote but it’s one factor in that.
Mike: It seems to me like you’re trying to justify what those numbers are and kind of fit them into your mental model. I think that was one of the things that I took away from the talk is if there’s data, there’s two ways to approach it. One is this is factual and how do I relate to it? Or you trying to either pick it apart or trying to make sure that it doesn’t conflict with your worldview. I can see both ways on both of them. I think you can as well. But you’re trying to map these things to your mental model of why these things could be true even though you don’t necessarily want to go out and get funding, for example.
Rob: Totally. That’s the thing. Companies with founders with a hobby grow slower. Remote companies grow slower. It’s like, “So what?” When I come back to my values of freedom, purpose, and relationship, the growth is not one of those three core values. I did like having companies that grew in revenue because it led to a certain amount of success. It lends a bunch of things. I can impact more people; I can make more money. It led to more purpose and I can have more impact. There was just a bunch of stuff with it.
But frankly, if I’m going to have a hobby and I’m going to play my guitar, or I’m going to play tabletop games, or my hobby is hanging out with my kids, but I grow slower by 10%, 12%, or 15% a year, I’m actually okay with that. That’s a personal thing of mine.
While these things might say, “Oh my gosh,” it might make you rethink everything. It’s like we’re not in the venture-funded space, so, can we just have profitable businesses? Isn’t it that what Startups for The Rest Of Us and MicroConf our movement, or community, or whatever you want to call it, it’s kind of about it? Is it growth at all cost? It’s nothing we’ve ever espouse.
Frankly, just growth in general is good, it feels good, and it’s a goal. It should be a goal somewhere in your radar but it’s not the number one, end-all-be-all for me or for a lot of people, I think.
Mike: Yeah. Just growing headcount is not the major goal for most people that I know. Whereas you said, if for a VC or a funded company, it kind of is, to be honest. It would make sense that those types of companies would do that. Again, I think that even in just saying that or kind of going that part of the conversation, we’re really drawing attention to the fact that now we’re starting to try to pick apart the data and question, “Is this data accurate?” or, “How good is the data?” That’s exactly what I took away from Patrick’s talk, which was when you see data that conflicts with what you think, consider why that is.
Rob: Yeah. I don’t think it’s what we’re doing here. I wasn’t saying that data’s not correct. I was saying, let’s say this is correct. Am I okay with that? Am I okay with growing a business? Am I okay having a hobby? Yeah. That’s the beauty of being in control of my business is that I can make these decisions.
Mike: Yup. Totally.
Rob: Cool. Listener questions. Let’s dive-in. We have a voicemail from Josh Doody. It’s about metrics rules of thumb for B2C products.
Josh: Hey, Rob and Mike. It’s Josh Doody here, MicroConf attendee frequently. Also, I run my business at fearlesssalarynegotiation.com. I have a question that might be a little bit outside your wheelhouse, but I’d really love to get your perspective on some metrics and things for my business, as people who think about SaaS a lot.
I run a B2C business that has two sides. One side is coaching. That side’s great, I’ve done marketing, it works really well, that’s where I make most of my living. But then, I have a product side of my business that, again, is B2C mostly driven by organic search traffic on Google.
Really, what I’m struggling with is trying to figure out what are good metrics for my business? How do I know if I’m doing well in terms of converting email subscribers to customers, primarily, but even top-of-funnel, converting visitors to email subscribers? I use a sort of typical nurture campaign sales sequence-type funnel in my business.
I’m just curious if you could point me to some resources or other examples of folks who do B2C organic search-driven businesses online? I’m in the career space, salary negotiation, getting rated, and that sort of thing. We’re just really curious if you have any ideas from a SaaS perspective of what a good funnel from search visitors to converted customer at an info product would be? My products range from about $47 for some email templates going up to about $240 for the complete bundle, is what I call it.
Thanks so much for all you do for the Startups for the Rest of Us. Love the podcast, been listening since the beginning, and looking forward to what you guys think. Thanks for your time. Bye.
Rob: Mike, for a question like this, I’d like to take us out to our remote correspondent. He’s a growth expert. He does some B2B, but he does even more B2C. MicroConf speaker, TinySeed mentor, Taylor Hendricksen. Taylor, what are your thoughts for Josh?
Taylor: Hey, Rob and Mike. Thanks for having me on. Josh, thanks for submitting your question.
Before we jump in to the rule of the metrics on B2C products, I’d like to note that it really does differ greatly from business to business and product to product, depending on the few things. The two of the biggest ones being the purchase price, that you’re obviously selling the products for, and what kind of hunger towards the offer there is. Some things that are solved here [00:29:05] would generate much better returns in these metrics than other ones that really don’t have that.
Jumping in, there’s three of the rules of thumbs I’d like to go for in general B2C offers. For onsite opt-in rate for a website visitor using organic to an email opt-in, we like to see conversion rate of about 2%-3%. We see this as low; you could have nothing. Or as high is anywhere from 6%-7% if you have a really great offer dialed-in into that content.
After they are on your email list, a list-to-sale rate, we’ll purchase any of your products, let’s assume you have a 60-90 day sale cycle that you could go to. But a list-to-sale rate we would generally see about 1%-2% rate in there.
Lastly, the value per email subscriber. How much each email subscriber’s worth is around $3-$5 in the first 60-90 day period. That’s the one that differs the most. Depending on this, the financial niches can go up even higher and some of the more hobby niches can go lower.
A way to improve some of those metrics for your current setup, first off, for the opt-in rate, looking through some of your content, some of the content upgrades can definitely be improved, brought to attention more, maybe some more standout design around it. Specifically, it feels like the sour negotiation guide. I thought it was one of the best phrases you ranked for. It could be a tremendous opportunity to send people into that opt-in funnel. The current opt-ins you have were kind of just gray and not really that eye-catching.
How to improve the list of sale? This is something where it sounds like you already got a lot of the core pieces in place with the nurture sequence, the sales sequences, and stuff like that. I haven’t gone through your funnel yet but I’m sure those are pretty good. A way to boost that is to flash sales. It’s something I like to do and hopefully you can generate custom coupons with your setup. I’m not sure SendOwl can, which is the platform you’re using. Other platforms like Ontraport, ActiveCampaign, WooCommerce can do hacks to basically allow you to generate custom coupons for that user that expire in, let’s say, 24 hours. We like to push those. We’ve seen people have engaged maybe the business sales page, but they haven’t purchase yet. That’s one way to cheaply get them over the hump to make a purchase.
Last way to improve your value per email subscriber is after you gone to your main sales sequences, really link that out as long as you can. A good long-term content and an affiliate marketing sequence. After you pitch your products, go through all the good, relevant ones that you’d actually recommend to your audience just to increase that visitor value over time.
Another easy thing to add on that I didn’t see you have, is a push notification list. That’s a really easy thing to plug in. We’re seeing great opt-in rates that are really low friction ways to get that audience out and then you can actually set those automated campaigns to go out over time. Drip out the same content you normally would. Mix it with sales stuff.
In terms of resources to look for, these metrics as well as learning more how to improve those, the biggest one that comes to mind is just DigitalMarketer. Their Customer Value Ascension Journey is a good way to map that. Some of their tactics are a little bit more aggressive in terms of the rule of thumbs. They’ll say $1 per email subscriber per month, especially if you plan financial world, they can achieve this. They’re mailing pretty often and have very aggressive sales tactics within those emails.
I hope this was helpful. Back to you, Rob and Mike.
Rob: Thanks, Taylor, for your onsite commentary. Mike, anything to add?
Mike: No. That was fantastic. That was a great addition.
Rob: I know. This comes back to the whole thing of you and I have certain wheelhouses and experiences, but it’s so cool when we’re able to call on other people in the community.
Mike: Because this isn’t one of them.
Rob: Exactly. I would have had to go and research this. I had some B2C stuff way back in the day, but it was over a decade ago. It’s just not something that we would have. That was awesome for someone who, day-to-day, is doing a lot of B2C stuff. He also does some B2B but he’s one of the folks I know who’s really knee-deep in these stuff. Thanks for the question, Josh. I hope that was helpful. Thanks, Taylor, for chiming in on that.
Other question for the day comes to us from Justin Wolfe from positionhealth.co. He says, “Hey, guys. First off, thanks for the show. Very informative. I have a question about some case studies that we’ve produced for my company, Position Health, which provide real-time notifications whenever people enter or exit medical facilities. Right now, I’ve got a webpage where interested people can fill out a form to request to download the case study by entering their contact info. When people make this request, we sent it to them and add that person as a sales prospect.”
“My question is around indexing for the content in the case study. Right now, the case study isn’t published on our website, but it has lots of good content, and would probably help with making our website more findable in search engines. How would we go about making the case study’s content count towards our website in the SEO sense while still making it available by request only via our email opt-in? Thanks, and keep up the good work.”
What do you think, Mike?
Mike: There’s two things I can think of off the top of my head. The first one would be more related to SEO. I’ll say the second one first which is you could do paid ads for the content. That way, you’re essentially driving people to a landing page and you’re getting their email address. That’s not quite what you’re looking for. I think what you’re looking for is something along the lines of publishing some of the contents or a partial excerpt of it and then providing it as a download if you enter in your email address. Maybe give the title or maybe a brief synopsis of it, and then first couple of paragraphs of it or something like that, or maybe some images from it. They’re a little bit blurred out, so to speak. You can entice people using something like that. You can use excerpts from that content or from that case study around on your website in various places even in other content, use it as a content upgrade, and help capture email addresses using that.
Otherwise, if you are looking to expanding the amount of information that’s on your website, you could post it there as well. I get what you’re trying to do in terms of forcing people to download it. I didn’t mention it on our last podcast except where we talked specifically about case studies. But it’s possible you could get away with posting it for free and publicly to your website, and then also make it available in different places as something that people can just download. You put the content on the site and if you want the downloadable version of it you could say, “Okay, enter in your email address over here.” I don’t know. I have mixed feelings on how that’ll actually even work.
Rob: The last one that you said was the last one I was thinking about was basically if you have a blog or an article section or an essay section, then you put this in there as a text case study. When people land on that, then you say, “Hey, opt-in and get this epically formatted, amazing downloadable PDF thing of this. Plus, an audio version.” Frankly, that’s recording an audio version or something like that is super-fast and easy to do.
If you have just a landing page, whether it’s your homepage, or it’s a squeeze page, or it’s something you’re sending your ads to, and you’re saying, “Hey, I have this great case study and it has great content. Enter your email and download it here,” the odds of someone wandering over and digging through archives of your essays to find this one post that is the same content, is not that likely. That was my initial thought about it. Just offer it in two places as long as it’s not linked to from your header by the same name or linked to in your footer by the same name. It’s more of a section someone has to go to and search from. That’s what Google’s going to want to crawl. If you have these collections of things, then you have this group of content.
If your website is literally a homepage with an opt-in to get the case study, then just this one article off of it, that’s a little weird then. I don’t really know an easy way around that. Frankly, two pages is a thin side anyway. Google is probably not going to rank you for anything. You have to have more built out of that.
Once you get more built out, when you’re at 20, 30, 40 different pages on the site, that becomes easier to put it in the section, then Google index it—assuming they’re indexing your site—and then you rank accordingly.
I wouldn’t be too hung-up since it’s behind an email gate through this route that I can never publish it on my site to this other route because people will find it and then they won’t opt-in their email. It’s such a 5% use case that it wouldn’t be something I’d be particularly concerned about.
Mike: Well, Rob. I think that about wraps this up for today. If you have a question for us, you can call into our voicemail number at 888-801-9690. Or you can email it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our theme music is an excerpt from We’re Outta Control by MoOt, used under Creative Commons. Subscribe to us in iTunes by searching for ‘startups’ and visit startupsfortherestofus.com for full transcript to each episode. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next time.
In this episode of Startups For The Rest Of Us, Rob and Mike set their goals for 2019 as well check in and rate how they did for their 2018 goals.
Items mentioned in this episode:
Rob: In this episode of Startups For The Rest Of Us, Mike and I talk about our goals for 2019. We also look back at our goals for 2018 and evaluate how well we did. This is Startups For The Rest Of Us Episode 423.
Welcome to Startups For The Rest Of Us, the podcast that helps developers, designers, and entrepreneurs be awesome at building, launching, and growing software products, whether you’ve built your first product or you’re just thinking about it. I’m Rob.
Mike: And I’m Mike.
Rob: And we’re to share our experiences to help you avoid the same mistakes we’ve made. What of this week, sir?
Mike: Well, it’s the middle of December so I’m just kind of working on MicroConf sponsorships and scholarships at the moment. I was just having various conversations with people about different options with things that are a little bit different for a sponsorship option for MicroConf. There’s a few different options that are on there that also include the scholarships.
Last year we kind of quietly and under the radar offered 14 scholarships to people for Starter Edition. I’m looking to expand that this year and talking to various people about it. I’ve already got some people who’ve committed funds and already actually put the money in and started sponsoring those. That’s good to see and we’ll just kind of see where things shake out at the end of it. I kind of have a mental goal in mind but I don’t want to shoot myself in the foot by sharing it.
Rob: Sure and if someone was interested in either sponsoring either the conferences or offering a scholarship ticket to Starter, how do they get in touch with you?
Mike: They can reach me at email@example.com or I think firstname.lastname@example.org also works. Either one of those and if you’re interested in just sponsoring one individual scholarship option, there’s a link for that right on the sales page for the MicroConf Sales or you can go to microconf.com, click on the link to buy a ticket, and there’s an option there to just purchase an individual ticket. The terms of the sponsorships, there’s kind of a mechanism for purchasing more than just one or two tickets. I think it starts at four and goes up from there.
Rob: Yeah and I knew part of the scholarships. I mean, this is something you really spearheaded and you kind of came under the radar a couple of years ago, and then you really started pushing on this program last year. But it helps folks get to Starter who otherwise can’t afford to or they don’t have an expendable cash to get out there and it can really make a difference for someone. I know that we interviewed some folks with the kind of video interviews after the fact or during the conference to share with the person or company who would sponsor them. You and I looked through those and they were pretty meaningful and people were really impacted by the conference. I think it was a transformative experience for them. It’s nice to be able to offer something like that.
Mike: Yeah, definitely. What’s up with you this week?
Rob: Well, I’ve long had an LLC in California, obviously because that’s where I’ve been running my businesses and I just entered a process, I believe it’s going to get finalized this week, of transferring that LLC to Minnesota. There’s a bunch of reasons for doing this: (a) it’s cheaper to do business here, but (b) I had to have basically a kind of a PO Box or an accountant or whatever, you have to have an address in California that they could send stuff to. I don’t need to file tax returns in California anymore. Even just that, it’s like an extra tax return my accountant charges me several hundred bucks for.
It feels kind of a nice piece of closure for me and it’s also an opportunity to rename the thing because I can name it whatever I wanted. The name that I picked in 2007 does not resonate with me. I picked a name that was so broad and esoteric that I could put whatever I wanted under it. At first, it was like a consulting firm so it had the name ‘Group’ in it. It’s called The Numa Group. It was a consulting firm but then I just put a bunch of software products under it and put my part of MicroConf under it. I don’t particularly love the name anymore and the domain name I have for it is clunky. So I just kind of consolidate the thing. I renamed it to Start Small LLC.
Mike: Oh nice.
Rob: Yeah. It took me a while. I’m not good at naming stuff and I was like, “What is something that for me is timeless? That in 10 years, I’m going to think back and say that was a good call?” and it’s not just because it’s the title of my book, or part of the title but I just feel like it fits into so much. It tells my story in two words and it fits in with the MicroConf ethos. It just said so many things.
Anyway, that’s been kind of a fun, cathartic process of just moving everything here, like The Numa Group redirects to my robwalling.com site which I had redone. I’m just kind of getting rid of a bunch of cruft. The Numa Group site was a landing page that was outdated and I just kept saying, “Oh, I’m going to get back to that,” but why it even have a landing page? Why even have that anymore? The company is not important. Frankly, at this point, it’s kind of about robwalling.com and then about Tiny Seed. It’s my personal site and the business site and everything else in MicroConf, of course. Anyway, that’s kind of been the process.
Mike: Yeah, I can imagine that’s a real pain in the neck and it’s something you probably want to get taken cared of before December 31st because if you don’t, you’ll have a file taxes again in California the following year.
Rob: That’s exactly what I’m doing. The only other thing is I’ve been coming out of the woodwork a little more and doing some interviews and even wrote a Q&A piece for a software execute magazine. That will be out in a couple of months and I’ll probably mentioned that again when it comes out. Have you heard of Hacker Noon?
Rob: Dave, the guy emailed me from there and did a little-written interview with me. It was kinda fun. It took a lot of work. I forget how easy voice interviews are compared to written interviews. I know that you know this because of the Indie Hacker one you did last year or earlier this year and you’re like, “Yeah, I spent two days on it.” So much effort.
Mike: Yeah. It was way more effort to do those. I think people’s expectations are different as well if you’re talking versus if it’s written, it seems like it should be carefully crafted, say exactly what you mean, and not anything else. When people are listening to you, you have a lot more leeway, I think, because people understand that you’re talking off-the-cuff and it’s not heavily scripted thing when you’ve memorized ever question and every answer.
Rob: Yeah, that’s right, and it feels less prepared whereas writing, it feels like you need to rewrite it, reread it, edit it, and do all that, which is exactly what I did. It took me 2-3 hours to answer the questions. What was cool was some of the questions at Hacker Noon interview, ones that I’ve really never been asked, which is always fun to think through but it’s also time-consuming, and it’s peaked.
It’s kind of peaked productivity stuff. I had to do it in the morning. I couldn’t in the afternoon there. I would just been too tired to really hammer something out. Then I came back to revised it, updated it, and stuff. I feel like it turned into a really good interview. I haven’t done a written interview in probably five years just because of the time that it takes. I just turn them down. But I kind of wanted to do this one. We’ll be sure to link that up in the show notes.
This week, we are diving into our goals for 2019. But first, Mike, the walk of shame. We get to look back at our 2018 goals. Episode 372, just a short 50 or so, 51 episodes ago, it looks like. We talked about our 2018 goals. Why don’t you roll into your first one? Are we going to do a 1-5 scale of one we completely flubbed the goal and five is we completely nailed it?
Mike: Oh I figure we talking about 1-5 is like my goals versus your goals.
Rob: Oh, no. No, no. This is how well we carried them out.
Mike: Well, I’ve been quite honestly we could put one on pretty much every single one of mine. We could kind of shorten it. I’ll go through them but this last year was just absolutely atrocious.
Rob: Let’s do it. Let’s roll through all yours right now then.
Mike: Sure. You want me to go through all five of them then?
Rob: Oh yeah, the agony. Let’s read them in slow motion so everyone can watch a trainwreck.
Mike: The first one was actually a carry-over goal from the previous year, which was login at least 100 days of exercise the coming year, and I fell way, way short of that. I probably got to 25 or 30 and that was just about it. The second one was making Blue Tech profitable including my time, which has also not happened.
And then the other three, I think at least one or two of these, about two or three months in, maybe March or so we decided, “Hey, these just don’t even look realistic. We should just can these to begin with.” One of them was speaking at six plus conferences or events because the idea was that, at first I thought, “Okay, well this can be a way to market Blue Tech,” but at the same time, you really have to have the right audience for that kind of thing anyway, and it felt like more of a distraction than anything else. So, I ended up canning that one.
Then the other one, reading at least one business book every two weeks. That seem to me like it was also a distraction. It was like a consumption thing. I also cut back on podcast listening just because of the same thing. It will just take up mental overhead that I just didn’t want to have. Then the last one of that list was hiring someone to take over Blue Tech development, which kind of requires that Blue Tech become profitable. If that doesn’t happen then it’s hard to fund that. So yeah, I would say pretty much one on all of those.
Rob: What does that tell us? Is it were you doing other things that you would say were accomplishments that were outside of this? Was it a focus thing or was there a better priority that came up? Or do you think our goals are stupid? That’s another. Should we not set goals?
Mike: I think a lot of it had to do with lack of focus. By lack of focus, I don’t mean I’m working on one thing and then working on another. I mean literally lack of focus. Inability to focus. Because I wasn’t sleeping. I mean, I’ve been kind of suffering through this for the past several years, like I got on a CPAP machine a couple of months ago and that thing has been working fantastically. I’m actually sleeping now. But I went back and before this episode, I looked at the sleep blog that I’ve kept for this sleep therapist that I saw. I was up anywhere from 3-8 times a night and I was only getting anywhere from 4-6 hours of sleep. There were times when I would get 1½-2 hours of sleep a night so I felt fuzzy.
It’s hard to describe the difference that it may swing. I felt that way. Yesterday, for example, I woke up and I had a fantastic night of sleep. It’s a world of difference between being able to think straight and just kind of going through the motions and getting things done but not really able to focus on any one thing and feeling like you’re shifting back and forth but not making any real progress.
Rob: Yeah. It’s easy to get distracted and your thoughts are fleeting. In addition, I don’t know if this happens to everyone but when I only get a few hours sleep, I am actually super pessimistic and I tend to look like someone with depression. I don’t technically have it because it’s not over a long period of time. I will wake up and just be like, “Oh this is all just shit. None of this is going to work. Oh my gosh. Why am I even starting startups? I can’t do any of it.” That will be my inner self-talk and I’ll catch myself now and be like, “Dude, you’re really tired. You should just go to sleep.”
I know that’s not easy for you but that’s what my inner monologue will be on those days of like, “You’re going to be better off not working today.” But for you, it was happening everyday, right?
Mike: Yeah, even on the weekends, too. That was the worst part is, I was exhausted and I couldn’t get to sleep. When I did go to sleep, I didn’t realize also the time because I was trying all these different things to just get to sleep. Or I’ll move my bedtime back earlier and I’ll go to sleep, or try to go to bed at 10:00 or 10:30, turn off all electronics, don’t answer emails after 7:00 or 8:00 o’clock at night, just turn all that stuff off. It works to a slight degree but not enough and I couldn’t figure out why and it kept happening.
Of course, come to find out through the sleep study, like, “Oh, my body is waking me up multiple times a night because I stopped breathing.” You can’t change habits and fix that. It just doesn’t happen. It didn’t matter what I did. Nothing was working.
Rob: Yeah, and that’s tough and it’s frustrating. Obviously, five goal set and zero goals achieved. Health issues were a major impact on that. It’s interesting. Sherry talks about this, that a lot of mental health issues in general, like people with depression or ADHD or other stuff, one cause of those, not for everyone, but one cause is a lack of sleep. Once people stop being able to sleep full nights, their minds start doing weird things.
She also talks about there’s some research studies that talk about the quite a bit the angst of being a teenager, how you turn 13 and you get all angsty from 13 to 18 or whatever kind of the thing is in high school. A lot of that could very well be too just a lack of sleep. The kids at that age need about 10 or 11 hours and most kids do not get that much and they’re tired all the time and it leads to the sadness or whatever. I’m no expert on this, so I don’t want to talk, but Sherry has talked to me multiple times about this and especially with our kids, because a couple of our kids at different times, they have behavioral issues, they have focus issues, and one of the first things that we will get is sleep and exercise every time instead of trying to medicate or whatever.
I’m not anti-medication but it’s like the first two resorts every time Sherry is like, “How has he been sleeping?” and, “Is he getting out and getting 20 minutes of hustle, hard exercise?” Not a 20 minutes walk but 20 minutes of running around playing dodgeball a day. I think that it’s interesting and it can have a huge impact on your mood and your ability to focus, which then has a huge impact on your productivity.
Mike: Yeah. For me, it was that vicious cycle of not being able to sleep and then it also affects my ability to go to the gym. If I don’t go to the gym first thing in the morning, it’s just not going to happen because I get busy in other things getting in the way. Not being able to sleep has a direct impact on my willingness and ability to go to the gym. It just puts me in this vicious cycle where I don’t get to sleep, so I don’t go to the gym, so I don’t feel good in any way, shape, or form, and then I go to bed and I’m stressed out, exhausted, and tired. And then my mind is wandering even before I get to sleep so I can’t get to sleep. When I do sleep, my body just – I guess I’m assuming because it’s physical problems. I just got the sleep apnea that wakes me up.
All of it combined. It just doesn’t end and there is no way for me to kind of break the cycle until I found out what it really was. I knew I wasn’t sleeping but that was a symptom. It wasn’t the underlying problem.
Rob: And you have that machine for the past couple of months. Dude, how’s your progress? Has it been night and day? Not just how you feel because I know that you feel is night and day but are you making substantially more measurable progress since then?
Mike: Yes. I can point to different things that I’ve done in the past, like two months or so. In the past two months, I have probably made more progress than I have in the past 10 or 15. It is night and day but I’m cautiously optimistic about how things are going to turn out but obviously at this point, I feel it’s more about execution that anything else. But I still have to make sure that I crack down on those health issues and make sure that they don’t get in the way.
Now that I know what the problem is or problem was, then I can try to do things to address it. But before, I was trying all these different things because I didn’t know what was going to work or what wasn’t and how to get around it. I remember pushing off on the sleep study a while back for my doctor, and she’s like, “Have you ever thought about having this done?” and I was like, “Well, I have but I don’t really want to go through it and have nothing come out of it,” because last time I ended up going in, she recommended that I go for a blood work. She’s like, “Oh your platelet count’s low and let’s check this out.” I go and she referred me to this doctor, go through that, and then $400 worth of test later, the doctor tells me, “Well, you don’t have leukemia,” and I’m like, “I never thought I did. I don’t know why I’m here for that test.” It kind of pissed me off but what do you do? The doctor’s are really just trying to figure out what’s going on here and they do it by process of elimination.
Part of it’s maybe my own fault for not doing it sooner because she had recommended it in the past but at the same time, I didn’t really want to have that done just because I didn’t know how much it was going to cost. My insurance barely covered any of it. It cost me several thousand dollars for between the machine and the tests and everything else anyway.
Rob: In looking back on obviously these goals, you said five of them are ones. This is a weird question but is there something that you’d accomplished in 2018 that you feel good about, that if it had been a goal, it would be a five? Something of note? I don’t know how you even rank that. I’m just trying to dig in to figure out is there anything there?
Mike: Like was 2018 a complete loss or were things you actually proud of?
Rob: Kind of, yeah. I mean, I just kind of digging into it because this sucks and there’s gonna be someone listening to this who thinks, “Oh, Mike should’ve sucked it up, accomplish stuff anyway, and push forward,” and then there are the majority of people I’m guessing are going to be like, “Wow, that totally sucks. I hope that never happens to me. I hope I never feel that way.” And then there are going to be people who like, “I’ve been through that.”
Whether it’s sleep issue, whether it’s your neck and back hurting so much that you can only work two hours a day, which has happened to me, whether some people get vertigo really bad so they get super dizzy, some people get depression, they get ADHD, there are all these debilitating things. They can be physical, they can be mental, they can be whatever, but it happens to a good chunk of us. Maybe not for a whole year in us since you’re saying on and off for a couple of years but I just think there’s a lot to think about with that. In terms of staying healthy, I think it’s probably the big takeaway, perhaps.
Mike: Yeah. The two things that I can point to is, the first one is the accomplishment, the scholarship program that I got, going last year at MicroConf. I think that, that was a good start and this year’s trying to take it to the next level. We’ll see how that goes but it was more about experimenting and trying to figure out what’s going to work, what’s not, and help work with the sponsors, figure out what works for them as well. I think that we did well with that.
Rob: I would agree with that and you basically spearheaded that and put in a bunch of time. That was something that was a little mini startup within MicroConf and I’m glad you called that out because that was something you did that was really cool. I think something else you may not call this up but you kind of crushed it on sponsorships this year with both the conferences so I would call that as a win for you. It’s weird to put a goal in there of like, “I want to increase sponsorships by X, Y, and Z,” because it’s more relevant to us, it’s an internal thing, and I don’t know that it’s that interesting to folks outside, but it is something you put time into and had success with.
Mike: Yeah but even the sponsorships themselves, they help us make Starter Edition possible because we, too, subsidize Starter Edition out from Growth Edition to some extent, and we have to because it costs the same to run both of the conferences. The stuff that we do there has a direct impact on Started Edition, which has a direct impact on people who are getting started with entrepreneurship and softwares. I think that all ties together is like a general kind of goal or direction that we both kind of always as long as this podcast has been going. But yeah, it’s a good thing to call those out. But I don’t know as I would probably have put those in exclusively as goals.
The only other thing I would say is, and I wouldn’t even call this a goal again, but I’ve started getting out with a group of friends here once a week and actually having some social contact outside of my office. It’s weird to say that because I don’t have an office that I go to. I don’t have employees or people that I meet with on a regular basis. I barely have any contractors at this point. It’s really just me, working on most stuff.
Like my social contacts, outside of my house is extremely limited. One of the things that I was trying to do is figure out in terms of the mood and you kind of talked about, if you don’t get sleep, you kind of feel depressed and why am I working on this and things aren’t working and you’re very pessimistic. I felt like that for a very long time because I wasn’t getting sleep. One of the things I tried to do was say, “Okay, well what can I do to fight this?” and one of them was getting out and be more social with people. So I kind of established that, Dungeons and Dragons group, then meeting with them on a weekly basis. Honestly, it was quite helpful but even now after getting sleep, it’s even more helpful because it’s not just me looking forward to it every week but everybody else is as well.
Rob: That makes sense. So some good things did come out of 2018 is what you’re saying.
Mike: Yeah, some, but I don’t know. I’m hoping 2019 will be substantially better.
Rob: Yeah. Sounds like a rough year. Looking at my 2018 goals, looks like I had three of them. One was to be in fewer meetings under 10 hours a week. You and I laughed, chuckled about this a few months back because the reason I was into so much meetings is because I was at fast-growing startup that was growing from, I don’t know, it was 20 or 30 people and it went up to 60-70 by the time I was leaving and that just requires a bunch of meetings to keep everybody apprised of what’s going on and all that. I was running a big team and non-senior leadership and there’s just a lot of stuff required with that.
When I left Drip in April, basically my meetings went to zero. We did this in November or December of last year so I didn’t have knowledge I was going to be leaving in April but I did achieve this in a way that I probably didn’t expect. I think the way I wanted to achieve it or would have thought about in November-December was to stay at the job but just change it so I was in fewer meetings but it turns out that leaving the job also did the trick. Frankly, my life’s been better for it, being in fewer meetings, that is.
Mike: Yeah. Add in six plus months of zero meetings a week, it tends to bring that average put down pretty far.
Rob: Yeah, I know. I am so much more chill and just content taking time off like this is something I’ve never done and it’s worth it.
My next goal was three days of exercise each week and so fewer meetings, but I give myself a five, a few days of exercise, I’m going to give myself a four. I basically crushed this goal from January until it got cold. I crushed it during last winter and then all through summer I was out doing stuff, I was riding my bike. Everything was built into my day and I was doing it.
Then it was probably around October, just a couple of months ago, that it got cold. We started homeschooling one of our kids and Tiny Seed started picking up. But what I let go was exercise and it’s what I always do and it’s always my lowest priority. So I did it for maybe 9 or 10 months of the year and there were weeks where I had five days of exercise. Way more than I even need in my opinion. Healthy by nature just by genetics or whatever. Even getting in three days of 20 or 30 minutes pop is enough. Mostly achieved, and I think it’s something that I want to certainly get back on the wagon here and the next few weeks as winter continues to bare down on us.
My last goal for 2018 and this one’s interesting. Let me read this whole thing. To ship something in 2018. Not sure what it’s going to be, yet. But I’ve been laying low for 18 months, 2017 was supposed to be a rest year and it was a hard year. First part of 2018 is going to continue to be rest but I need to start shipping, either consistent blog posts, a book, a new podcast, a course, software, something, and what is that something like?
Mike: I assume that that would be Tiny Seed.
Rob: It is and in 2017 November, I had no idea that that’s what I’d be doing. It’s interesting that it’s like knowing yourself. I figured I was going to need to do something and then I actually frankly started working on a book after I left Drip in April. I did write maybe 12,000-13,000 words, which is about a quarter of a book, 20%-25% of worth from a book. I did do that and then I eventually just slowed down on it and lost some interest and decided I just didn’t want to force it. There’s also that that’s in play and could feasibly come out sometime.
That’s what I had and I don’t know with me if goals are self-fulfilling prophecies or I make goals that I secretly, way in the back of my subconscious, know that I will achieve or something. This one strikes me as weird, honestly, because I remember the mindset I had at the time and I genuinely had no idea what I was going to do. I just know that I needed to put something out into the world and that something obviously has become Tiny Seed.
Mike: I think that generally, your goals tend to be, I wouldn’t necessarily call them self-fulfilling prophecies but more along the lines of you have this inkling in your head and in your subconscious that you know what direction you want to go or need to go but you’re not quite sure how you’re going to get there, and during our goals episode you put something down that has kind of surfaced but you’re not always certain of the specifics. But by the end of the year, something has solidified or something has come about.
For example, your fewer meetings. You probably weren’t thinking, “Oh, I’m going to leave Leadpages,” but at the end of the day, that was one of the ways that that came about. Maybe that partly influenced your decision because you wanted to have fewer meetings. And then the same thing with shipping something. That kind of goes back to leaving Leadpages as well but Tiny Seed kind of came out of that. You knew in the back of your mind, “I want to do something, not sure what that looks like.” I think your goals on a yearly basis tend to reflect that.
Rob: Yeah. That’s good insight. I also feel like I’m pretty methodical and I kind of know when it’s push year and maybe a rest year. I don’t know. I haven’t had many rest years per se but I don’t know. As we started Drip, I knew 2013 the goal had to be launch it and grow it to X, and then 2014, 2015, and 2016 at the beginning of them, I did make revenue goals for the end of the year.
This is an interesting conversation, actually, because some people don’t like goals, or they don’t believe in them, or they say they’re not worthwhile, or they say that they don’t fit them, they’re like, “Oh, how can you possibly plan 12 months out?” Maybe that’s a personality thing but I have had set goals for myself frankly since back in high school with Running Track.
I had goals to hit certain times at certain by certain meets or to make the state meet or whatever, and that to me was a motivator to strive to do that. I had goals to write certain amounts of things and then when I started blogging and started becoming a professional, I had a goal to make this much money by the time I was this old. I don’t know. I’ve been a goal to reverse it so maybe these goals fit my personality and am not something that everyone necessarily needs.
What I find is interesting is my wife, Sherry’s personality is quite a bit different than mine. But when she goes on a retreat, she also sets at least some, I don’t know if she calls them goals, but there’s things that she’s striving to do and she looks ahead a year and says, what are some things that I want to get done? Now I would call those goals but maybe you could call them a mind map. You could call them something different but it still is something and it may not have an exact time frame, it may not be, I want to make exactly this much money from this thing but it’s like I know that I need to kind of do this.
That’s how we do these episodes. I think we should probably call that out. Do you feel the same way? Are you a goal-driven person and does having goals, you think it helps you? Or do you think it’s a waste of time, I guess, to have these?
Mike: I’m definitely driven by goals but I feel like the further out those goals are, it’s harder for me to really conceptualize the entire path getting there, and unless I sit down and kind of do all the planning work of saying, “This is what it’s gonna take to get here. This is what’s it’s going to take to get here.” Unless I kind of do that whole process, I’m probably less likely to reach the end goal because I don’t necessarily have a map to follow. Part of having that map to follow it’s fun for me to build that but once I figure out the answer to a particular problem, I am not always the best at following through and actually implementing it.
That’s more of a personality thing than anything else but I can definitely buckle down and get things done, but it depends on kind of what is and what my interest level is. If there is a goal that I put down and I know exactly how to get there, if the hardest part is figuring out how to get there, then I probably weight less likely to actually do it.
Rob: Yeah. That makes sense and I think, to be honest, there were times when, I think back seven, eight, nine years ago for me, it was really hard to look ahead a year because I just didn’t know. These were years where I decided to write a book and wrote it in three months. There was no inclination that I was going to write a book that year. I just decided this is a new thing and I’m going to move on to it. We decided to launch MicroConf into that pretty quick and launched a podcast.
Those years, I think, if I had goals that I wrote down, probably completely went off the rails. But I was okay with that. There was a lot of stuff in flux in terms of my professional career and I was trying to figure stuff out and it’s not like I nailed these goals to my door and I could only do them when I etched them in cement and I could not veer from them. I veered from them because it was a better decision at the time.
What I find with goals I set now like we’re going to talk about in these episodes, these are a way for me to focus because I think most of us are presented with way more opportunities than we could possibly pursue and way more “good” ideas than we could ever implement, some of them good, some not. Having goals is at least some bumpers to keep me in a lane so that I don’t look around at every email I get offering for me to do this thing or this opportunity or whatever, and say, “Oh, of course that sounds like fun. I should do that.” But I come back to these goals and say, “Yeah, these are things that I really wanted to do and they made sense when I really thought about them,” and unless something amazing comes along that just blows my mind, I’m going to kind of stay on this track for this year and see things through.
I think that not having goals can lead to a shorter term perspective because again, shiny object syndrome. Opportunities come up so frequently that can be just derail you and you can get to the end of the year and be like, “What did I do the last 12 months?”
Mike: Yeah. It’s giving yourself permission to say no to things. There’s that idea that unless it’s a “Hell, yes,” it should be a no. But you’re right. There’s just so many things that we could do. It’s more about what do you want to do if you had all the time and resources in the world? But you only have so much time see in your lifetime to do anything.
It’s hard to figure out for each individual, I think. If you’ve got this unlimited list of options, what is it that you want to achieve? What are you going to be proud of? Eventually, you’re going to be gone and what do you have left behind?
Rob: Yeah. It’s an interesting thing to think about. It’s like a legacy. If you look at legacy and say, “All right. Mike, in 20 years, you and I will be in our 60s. We could still work, we’re still going to do stuff. But are our best days of accomplishment behind us?” This is a rhetorical question. We don’t have time to answer it here but do you have goals? Or a goal of when you look back, when you’re in your 60s or 70s, would you want to think, “Yeah, I did that.”
I think each of us should if we don’t. And how are we going to get there if we haven’t set some goals along the way? Do we just kind of wander our way and make it and in the end we’re like, “Hey, I’m glad all of that worked out.” Or does it have to be a deliberate decision every week, month, year to kind of make progress towards something bigger?
Mike: Yeah, but I don’t think you’ve always know what that’s going to be 20 years in advance. I mean, it’s hard to know what’s going to work and what’s not as you’re moving forward, and some things you’re going to do and be very proud of them. But in the grand scheme of things, they may be meaningless to, I will say, the greater world but to you, they meant something.
I think looking back, you’re going to want to have those things that meant something to you and yes, it would be really nice to have legacy where other people recognize the accomplishments that you’ve had. But at the end of the day, did you live the life that you’ve wanted to live?
Rob: That’s almost a great way to end this episode except for we haven’t covered our 2019 goals yet.
Mike: Damn you.
Rob: I know. I’m glad we talked to that through because I think the whole goals conversation is kind of been on my mind recently or every year or so, it just comes on my radar of why do we set these and what does all these mean? Maybe a separate episode we talk about legacy but for now, shall we dive into 2019 goals? Looks like you have two of them with multiple sub-parts. It’s like a tax. You’re like you’re an IRS document. One part D is, yeah. You let this roll into it.
Mike: All right. The two goals that I have for 2019, the first one is really just get my health back on track. With goals you really want to have some sort of definition around exactly what that goal means, so for me it means basically four different things. One of them is exercising, the second one is getting a regular sleep schedule going, and then the third one is losing some weight because I’ve put on probably about 25-30 pounds or so in the past couple of years, and it’s more because just lack of sleep and everything else is going into it.
Then the fourth one is regular in-person social contact, which I’ve got partially down at this point, I think, but think I probably need to expand that a little bit. Exercise a certain number of times a week. I wanted to get to it at least twice a week, and then the normal sleep schedule, I really need to be getting at least 6½-7 hours of sleep every night. Previously it was only maybe 4-5 on average, I think. Then obviously losing weight. I’d say 15 pounds to kind of start with for this coming year. Then regular in-person social contract. It’s kind of a nebulous thing, but I’ve got at least one scheduled night a week with people. Maybe I’ll go to two, but I’m not sure about that.
Rob: Yeah, that one’s tough because I don’t know that you want to commit yourself to two nights a week. It doesn’t necessarily always makes sense.
Mike: No, but I do notice that when I go to my gaming group and I come back, I tend to get a really good night of sleep that night every single time.
Rob: Interesting. Is it because you drink a lot?
Mike: I plead the fifth. It’s when I host, I don’t have to drive anywhere so that’s certainly helpful.
Rob: Less drinking disturbs your sleep, right?
Mike: Yeah, it does.
Rob: It helps you fall asleep but it doesn’t actually give you a good night sleep.
Mike: That’s true. Those are kind of the four subheadings under that first goal.
Rob: That makes sense. Let me do my first one. My first one, not surprisingly, is three days of exercise per week. It’s basically a continuation of something that I started a couple years ago, although I believe you started a whole exercise goal first, probably 3-4 years ago and eventually I was, “All right, I need to get on this.” It’s never something I’ve needed to do but I know it’s something I should do in all honesty, especially as I get older.
It’s kind of a boring goal, but it’s something that I need to have on my list or else I have no desire to do it and I will not make the time. Unless it’s written down and I know that I’m going to have to come back here and talk about it, it’s an interesting accountability thing. It’s not that I’d be terribly devastated if I came back and say, “Oh, I got a one.” I know it’s good for me, like eating my vegetables and I know that I will at least made some type of public commitment to it. For me, it’s helpful to say this as a goal.
My second goal is for Einar and I to build it into essentially the de facto brand when bootstrap has look for early-stage funding. This one is going to be tough to measure and this is where the 1-5 will help us out because I think by the end of 2019 frankly, that’s only 12 months away and it’s not a lot of time to do this.
I’m guessing this is this is a multi-year process. What I’m saying here is, I want to raise all the fund, kind of close the funding and have a batch that goes live. We get companies, they’re having success, and it’s just executing on the Tiny Seed vision. I don’t know exactly what to put to measure at the end of 12 months, but I have a feeling in my head of what I want it to be and I want it to feel successful. I want it to feel like it’s well-regarded and I want it to do right by both the founders and the investors who were involved with it. I want it to make a difference.
I feel like if we had said at the beginning of starting MicroConf, that the end of next year or the year after, we want it to be a prominent player in the conference space, which was not a foregone conclusion when we launched it by any stretch. That did happen. It didn’t probably happen in the first year. It took us a couple of years to get there but we knew it when we saw it. Once it happened, it was like, “Oh yeah. MicroConf is a thing now.”
That’s how I want. I want Tiny Seed to be a thing. That’s my long way of saying 2019 for me is definitely the year of Tiny Seed.
Mike: Yeah. I think for this one, I agree that for the way you kind of phrased it here is for it to be the de facto brand when bootstrappers are looking for early-stage funding. That is in and of itself as kind of a multi-year goal, but I think you could probably narrow that down a little bit to say you’ve got the first batch of people going through, however big that batch happen to be. Maybe you put goals around it, maybe you don’t, but at the end of the year, I think that you want to see that whoever has gone through that batch, has a reasonable looking chances for success based on where they started.
The exact definition of that is not going to be determinable right now, but you’re going to kind of know it when you see it six, eight, ten months afterwards. Maybe they’re at that point by the end of the year, maybe they’re not. It depends on kind of when you start that batch and get them started through the process, because if you start in January, then obviously you’ve got a lot more time than if you started in next October.
Rob: Yup. I made a note there, first batch of founders are in the batch and they have a good chance of success. I mean, in the back of my head, I really want this stuff to start moving in Q1, which is January, February, March, so we’ll see how close we can align to that, but it should give us a good chunk of the year to get people moving.
Mike: My second goal I have here on the list is specifically related to Blue Tech. First one is just getting my health back on track and then the second one is to establish some sort of traction for it or move on to something else. Maybe that sounds like a major shift, but at the same time I feel like with the focus starting to coming back to me and clarity and getting sleep, things need to move in a good direction or it’s just going to be meandering. If it’s still meandering at the end of next year, then chances are good that either I’m not committed to it or there’s something else going on.
Quite frankly, I just don’t want to be in a position where I’m making excuses at the end of next year. It’s got to move or not. If not, then fine. I don’t want that to happen but at the same time, as I said, I just don’t want to be in this position next year where I have to justify kind of what happened.
Rob: Yeah, I think that makes a lot of sense. I think it will be a tough decision. A lot of work easier to try to push it forward and then evaluate that.
Mike: Yeah. I don’t know exactly what the target is for that. I’m kind of fuzzy on what it means. Is it a revenue target? Is it customer base if I get to X-1 customers I plan to get to X? Do I kill things? I don’t think that’s really applicable. Did things shift substantially now that I feel like I’m able to focus or am I still in that position? Do I still feel like I’m not able to focus on it? If that’s the case then made it’s a motivation issue and maybe I’m just not really interested in it. But we’ll see.
Rob: Yeah. I feel like in my head it would be finding product-market fit. Having a product with that really is easy to grow because turn is so low and when people start using it, they stay and that you’re able to add enough customers that, like you said, it becomes profitable including your time, or it’s very close to that. It’s on a trajectory to hit that within a short amount of time, I guess. That’s all still amorphous but that’s what I think in my head it probably looks like.
Mike: Yeah, but that’s what I said, establish some sort of traction with it like the MU site trajectory and I think that’s exactly the same thing. Does it to appear to be on the right path, and you may not know exactly what that is right now but afterwards, you kind of know whether there’s a good difference between where it’s sat now versus where it is at that time.
Rob: Yeah. My last two goals. Again, my first one is three days of exercise a week, second one was about Tiny Seed, and my third one is do not panic when the stock market crashes. This is one of our predictions that we have every year. There’s going to be this correction or whatever.
Mike: Did you panic last week or the week before when the stock market dropped like 1000 points in a week?
Rob: Nah. I didn’t at all. No.
Rob: Maybe this is an easy one. I mean, I kind of pay attention to it but I’m also so diversified and I don’t have so much in stocks that it matters. I don’t know. Maybe I’m just not going to panic. Maybe this is not a big one for me. But I’ve just been thinking about it. In 2008 when it all went down, I sold stock after it had gone down and it’s a complete rookie mistake that everyone makes. The reason that the mainstream investor, the reason that their returns don’t match a simple index fund is because people do that and they panic.
I’m in a way different mental position and a way different financial position this time. My hope is that no matter how bad it gets, I’m just kind of like, “Yeah, whatever. I don’t need to sell stock this point, to do anything and that that I’m able to just ride this out.” That’s how you’re going to do it. So I’m at the bottom is certainly not going to do it for you.
My last goal for 2019 is one that I want to do, I hope to do, but it will be the first to go if all of my focus is required to do what we need with Tiny Seed. This fourth goal is to either write or rewrite a book. By write I mean finish and publish, get something live. I continue to get feedback in a positive way.
There was a Hacker News thread when we announced Tiny Seed in October that went pretty bad. It was on the homepage for a day or something and it was crazy. Got a bunch of good conversation and comments around that. Part of that was like, “Hey, this is from the guy who wrote Start Small, Stay Small,” and someone like “Oh that would be great if we rewrote that,” something like that. That single heat, if he updated it for a second edition. That comment got upvoted 26 times or something and most comments get a couple upvotes. Then I chimed in like, “No, this is actually good feedback for me.” I know I hear this now and again but it is something that sold enough copies and that the mental or the high-level things in it are still applicable but kind of the tactics and a lot of the boots on the ground stuff has changed since 2010, in the last eight years.
It makes me really think about going back to that manuscript. I do have a different take, and I do have so much better examples, and I do have entire topics that I talk about now that are just not in a box. That would it be a lot less work to rewrite or not even rewrite. It’s like update, a second edition, basically, and expanded.
I think I would like to get that done and the nice part is it’s not a side thing or it’s like, “Oh, I need to steal time away from Tiny Seed.” It could be in service of that because a launch of another book and getting that into the hands of a bunch of new entrepreneurs or even founders who have read the old one, it continues to promote the idea of bootstrapping. It continues to push behind my brand and my brand is obviously attached to the Tiny Seed brand. I think it could be in service of my other goal, which is to grow Tiny Seed in prominence and respect.
Mike: There’s ways to cheat here a little bit was for me to take your old conference talks and have them transcribed and then put those in the book.
Rob: That’s a great idea. Obviously, it wouldn’t be just transcriptions. I would want to clean it up and stuff. There’s still some content in the Micropreneur Academy that I think never saw the light of day outside of the academy that I think could be modified and updated. Not like nuts and bolts, here’s how, and what to click in the Facebook interface but there’s still some kind of philosophical and high-level stuff that’s in there that I wrote. I can see that being a tractor that I didn’t put in the first one because either it wasn’t relevant or just cause I didn’t.
That’s the thing is to your point, there’s been so much content that we’ve kicked out on the podcast conference talks or through other means. Even that when I started writing the Drip book, the book I’m sort of writing this year, where I was kind of writing the story of Drip but then I started realizing there were these takeaways and there were mistakes and there were things I did right. Those are kind of essay right now and I could pull pieces of those into it. I think you and I get together every week and we talk for 30-40 minutes. We generate a lot of content that could be pulled from.
Mike: Yeah, for sure. I think we are about out of time for the goal episode. It went quite a bit longer than I had expected but good things, good takeaways for you?
Rob: Yeah, I think so. It was a good discussion and can kind of going to get these solidified. We’ll see. We should check-in in three or four months and see where we are.
Mike: Cool. Well, I think that wraps us up. If you have a question for us, you can call into our voicemail number 1-888-801-9690 or you can email it to us at email@example.com. Our theme music is an excerpt from We’re Outta Control by MoOt, used under creative commons. Subscribe to us on iTunes by searching for startups and visit startupsfortherestofus.com for a full transcript to each episode. Thanks for listening, we’ll see you next time.
In this episode of Startups For The Rest Of Us, Rob and Mike do their annual goals episode. They revisit goals from 2017 and rate how they did as well as look ahead at goals for 2018.
Items mentioned in this episode:
Mike: In this episode of Startups For The Rest Of Us, Rob and I are going to be talking about our goals for 2018. This is Startups For The Rest Of Us Episode 372. Welcome to Startups For the Rest of Us, the podcast that helps developers, designers, and entrepreneurs be awesome at building, launching, and growing software products, whether you’ve built your first product or you’re just thinking about it. I’m Mike.
Rob: And I’m Rob.
Mike: We’re here to share our experiences to help you avoid the same mistakes we’ve made. What’s going on this week, Rob?
Rob: Well, when this episode airs, I will be with my family in sunny Florida. We’re planning to hit Legoland and spend a few days at the beach. It’s gonna be a nice time to kind of warm up a bit. It’s supposed to be highs in the single digits here in Minneapolis during that week, so it’s nice to get out away from it, get warm. We actually enjoy Legoland a lot, not just our kids, but I don’t know if you’ve been there, but I enjoy it even as an adult.
Mike: Yeah, I haven’t been to Legoland. We’ve gone to Florida a couple of times for Disney World but I haven’t gone to Legoland yet.
Rob: Yeah, I like it more than the Disney stuff. Less hectic, it’s a little bit less expensive and it’s more building things rather than kind of idolizing characters. I mean there are characters in it but they’re so much about creating things and being constructive. I think that resonates with me as a maker and with our kids as well. Like I said, it’s lower key, there are some rides in there and there’s stuff to do but it’s not like volumed turned up to 11 like I feel – a lot less crowded – I feel Disney is.
Mike: Yeah. The other thing I found with Disney is, like you said, it’s very crowded but also getting to everything is just rather difficult. You kind of have to hone in on the things that you want to do and you’re gonna end up waiting for pretty much anything anyways.
Rob: Right. The park’s so big. The parks are separated. On and on, we had never been to Disney World. We went last year, and I was kinda like, “Yeah, I don’t know if we’re gonna come back. That may be the last time.” Disneyland is fine, it’s a lot smaller but it’s still crowded, and you have the long lines. Legoland, to me, is much more calming and relaxing experience. How about you? What’s going on?
Mike: Well, over the last 20 days, because we’re recording it’s the 21st of December right now, but I’ve had 20 Scotch Whiskeys for my advent calendar. So far, the Glenfarclas and the Peat’s Beast have been the best ones so far, but there’s several other runner ups that are pretty good, been a lot of fun. Interesting so far. There’s some of them that I actually really did not like but most of them I would say, are middle of the road and then there’s a couple that I really liked, and then there’s a couple that I really just did not like.
Rob: That’s super cool. You wake up every morning and have that with your cereal?
Mike: I put it in my cereal.
Rob: That’s awesome, yeah.
Mike: No, I usually have it at the end of the day.
Rob: Yeah, that makes sense. Other update for me, I’m listening to the book by Tim O’Reilly. It’s called WTF?: What’s the Future and Why It’s Up to Us. I’m kinda struggling with it. I thought it would blow my mind and so far, I feel mired in kind of theory or just academic thought and I’m hoping that it picks up because I like Tim O’Reilly. I like his writing, he’s a futurist, he sees things before they happen. He’s the guy that named Web 2.0 because he saw what the movement that was happening. I know there’s good stuff in here but I’m about maybe a fifth of the way, maybe 15%, 20% of the way through the book. I’m kinda struggling with it so I’m hoping it gets better because I really wanna make it through. I don’t wanna quit the book.
Mike: Are you listening to the audio book?
Rob: I am, yep.
Mike: I’m surprised that the audiobook is not as, I’ll say, riveting. I mean, business books are not riveting to begin with. But it’s interesting that even the audio book, you think that the pace will be pretty good and it’s not, it sounds like.
Rob: I’m 1.5, no, I think, I’m actually 2X it too. I think a small part of it could be that I was listening to it while I was shoveling, moving some snow out of the driveway. I don’t know. I was paying attention to it but maybe not enough. It’s one of those things where I’m questioning just cause I know how sharp Tim O’Reilly is and how much of his writings have…. Kinda like is it me or is it this book, is the question I’ve been asking. I’ll try to remember to update folks once I’m all done with kind of a final verdict.
Mike: Got it. The only other thing that’s going on for me at the moment is I’m working on a scholarship program for MicroConf Starter Edition. If you’re listening to this and you’re interested in becoming a sponsor for a scholarship ticket or if your company’s interested in just sponsoring MicroConf, drop me an email firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll talk about it. I’m just kinda hacking things together this year. But trying to put something together in place that we’ll be able to kind of reuse moving forward and make things better year over year.
Rob: Yeah, because sponsoring a scholarship is a big deal. It makes an impact on someone who typically can’t otherwise afford to go. We’ve had several people do this now to great success. We can get some people coming to MicroConf who, I think, really get a lot of value out of it but are just early enough in their entrepreneurial journey that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to make it.
Mike: Yeah. We’ve been doing scholarships for probably the past four, five years, I think, at this point. But it’s always been on a very small scale. This is kind of a concerted effort to take things to the next level and not just involve the people who approach us or just hand out scholarships on their own but to involve corporate sponsors and kind of expand the reach of the program a little bit more formalized, I don’t know. I think it’ll turn out to be really interesting. It’s just a matter of how is this actually going to work. There’s a lot of logistics to kind of straighten out. I had a lot of good conversations with people and answer some, I’d say, some difficult questions so far. It’s looking good so far.
Rob: Awesome. What are we talking about today?
Mike: Well, today, we’re gonna be going through our goals for 2018 and to kick us off, we should probably talk about our goals that we set back in episode 318 for our 2017, and see how we did on those.
Rob: Right. Every year we like to do our goals episode where we visit the old ones, look ahead at the next year, and then we also do our predictions episode which we did a couple of weeks ago. How about you? What is your first goal for 2017?
Mike: Well, my first one was to log at least 100 days of exercise this year. I would say that – are we giving ourselves points like one out of five or one of out four on these?
Rob: Seems like one to five scale.
Mike: I would say on this one, I’d probably have to give myself about, I’d say I’d go with a three. I logged about 50 days worth of exercise, and if you remember, I had a partial tear on my rotator cuff, basically four months of that, I just really couldn’t go to the gym. Between my back and my shoulder, there was just no way I was gonna be doing anything. Even with that I still got to 50.
Rob: Good for you.
Mike: How about you? What’s your first one?
Rob: My first one was to not start any new projects in 2017. It was to run the three MicroConfs with you, to continue shipping the two podcasts that I do, to continue working on Drip and to just take a break from the chaos that have been my life when I set this goal, the acquisition had only closed five months or later. I was still reeling from that, looking ahead at 2017 as basically like a rest year or recovery year from just the hard work and the stress and the chaos of growing Drip and then through the acquisition.
I had one exception that I indicated was that I would consider being second author on the Zen Founder book which is now launching very soon. If you go to zenfounder.com/book, you’ll see a landing page there, and you can get on the launch list. It’s turned up really well. It’s called The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Keeping Your Shit Together, How To Run Your Business Without Letting It Run You. Sherry did the vast majority of the work but I was involved with writing some copy in it and then contributing a few stories to the book.
I, on this one, give myself a five out of five. That’s not too hard given that part of this was a non-goal that I didn’t want my perpetual restlessness push me into starting something new. But I feel like I did accomplish this just like I set out to do.
Mike: Awesome. My second goal was to make Bluetick profitable including my time. Let’s see here, if I had to give myself a grade on this one, I’d probably give it a two out of five. I definitely did not make it profitable including my time but it is profitable. I feel like there’s at least some level of credit there especially given that it started at basically zero for MRR at the beginning of the year.
Did that public launch back in August to September timeframe, spent the last couple of months working out issue with getting people onboarded and working out various, I’ll say, problems associated with the onboarding process and getting people connected and making it so that they get that value upfront as opposed to much further down the road. I still don’t feel like it’s at a level of like three or four because I just don’t think that I got far enough.
Rob: My second goal was to do one to three angel investments and I give myself a five on this. I was trying to remember exactly how many, but I think, I did three. Yeah, I did three. A couple of them were subsequent, follow-up rounds in existing startups that I’m invested in. Then, there’s at least one new one. I think I kind of accomplished this and it was fun.
I think I don’t have this as a goal for 2018 not because I don’t wanna continue doing investments but I kinda wanna be pretty choosy. I always have been pretty choosy about the businesses that I invest in. I’m kind of just taking them as they show up on the radar. If I hear about them at MicroConf or hear about them on a podcast or someone approaches me. I think it makes a lot of sense for me to do it but I’m not going out seeking. It’s not like some active goal anymore I have.
I think it’s 11 angel investments that I’ve done so it’s not an inconsequential number. I think two or three of those are already out of business which is how it should be. But yeah, I’ve really enjoyed the angel investment and to be honest the best part is that I’m able to live vicariously. I’m still involved in a startup and I can still talk to the founder and I can offer advice. I can be involved in this business but I don’t have to run it day-to-day. That’s been the fun part of it.
Mike: My third goal was to blog publicly at least every two weeks so it’s a total of 26 blog posts. If you recall, I think about three or four months into the year, we’ve gotten together and we kind of pointed out like, “Hey, this is probably not realistic.” Because I haven’t done it so far and it wasn’t something that was really going to make me towards my main goal which was really making Bluetick profitable. We essentially canned that but then in August or September when I did that launch, I did a 21-day video series. That right there is pretty close to having that completed even though I basically canned it several months before. Should I give myself a five on this or are we not just not gonna count it?
Rob: I don’t know. It’s kinda like a ‘not applicable’. Goals changed a few months in. I remember when you first mentioned this I was like, “Really? Are you sure you wanna commit to this?” Then a few months in it was like, “You need to focus on Bluetick. The revenue source.”
My next goal was two days of exercise per week. I definitely accomplished this especially once I learned, through Sherry actually, I learned about the High Intense – Is it High Intensity Interval Training, HIIT? It’s just what I always struggle with is I don’t have a lot of time and I often don’t have the extra time to gear up and run out to the lake and run back because kids are here in the house and I’m watching them. There’s just complexity with me being able to work out. The fact that I can throw on a YouTube video and just get my heart rate way up and be exhausted in 10 or 15 minutes in my own house while my kids are playing legos upstairs, it really changed the game for me.
In addition, I was also riding my bike to and from work three days a week which is five, six miles each way, it’s was a great 22-minute workout each way. Pretty much hit this with flying colors, exceeded it actually, so I give myself a five here. I had many weeks where it was three and four days of exercise per week. I competed for nine years in track, I ran the hurdles, and I competed against people who went to the Olympic trials. We were legit. I trained 30+ hours a week almost year round. Once track ended, I realized that I actually don’t like running.
It was always about the competition. It was the competition and the team that I liked. But I didn’t liked running itself so I struggled to get out there and run even though I used to run a mile warm-up, mile cool down. Then do two miles of intense 400-interval training, just stuff that you would throw up after practice, it was super intense. But exercise is not something that I have ever enjoyed doing in a non-competitive basis. This is probably the first time in a decade or more that I’m actually kinda keeping up with some type of a regimen.
Mike: I guess with that stuff in mind, why don’t we dive in to our 2018 goals? Do you wanna go first?
Rob: For sure. First goal for 2018 is to write a VR program that allows you to roll around on a mattress of Bitcoins. How did this get in here? Are you messing with my list again?
Mike: Maybe a little bit.
Rob: That’s a good one, Mike. I like this.
Mike: I had that idea when I was writing down my goals on our outline. I happened to see some advertisement for some sort of a VR Helmet or VR Goggles or something like that. I was like, “Oh, Bitcoins’ a rage right now. VR is the rage. Why not throw them together?” The part of the advertisement was also the dual-end lightsabers with the VR Helmets.
Rob: I’ll tell you what. This Bitcoin mattress thing, that could make you a thousand-aire overnight.
Mike: Yup. Definitely.
Rob: A thousand-aire idea. My first goal for 2018 may sound odd when I first say it but bear with me on this one. My goal is to be in fewer meetings each week, to get my meeting count to basically under ten hours a week. This is not a symptom of being acquired. It’s a symptom of growing the team, whether I was independent or not, I would be in a lot of conversations. I’m pivotal to a lot of decisions that happen and as the team has grown, I’m called into more and more things to lend my insights, my opinions.
I’m often brought in and I almost feel like a consultant who has knowledge of the space and knowledge of the history of Drip and ‘we wanna run this by you’ and I have another unique insight. Right now I’m in a lot of meetings, don’t enjoy them. I really think back to when we were 5, 8, 10 people, hover at any of those points and we just had so few meetings and I really enjoyed it. Parts of that was to my detriment, to be honest. I think that some of the folks who worked remote, they would’ve preferred to have more kind of Facetime but just the way that we’re running Drip was be heads down and create the product.
I’m working to get some things in place to decrease the number of meetings I’m in right now. I don’t think they’re gonna take hold for a couple of months, part of it is hiring someone. I’ve already hired a senior director of product who started maybe three months ago who’s taken a bunch of responsibilities off my plate. I’m looking to just kind of fire myself from other positions that require me to spend a lot of time in conference rooms.
Mike: On my side, I actually have two carry over for goals that I wanna put on there. First is log in 100 days of exercise this coming year and then, the second one is making Bluetick profitable including my time. Those I definitely wanna carry over. In addition to that, my first goal is to read at least one business book every two weeks. I think this is more of to kind of get back involved in learning things because, I feel like I’ve stagnated to some extent.
I’ve had my head down for so long on various things that I’ve probably kinda lost touch a little bit with a lot of either things other people are exploring and obviously I don’t have the time to do everything myself so I think that just finding time to carve out, to explore ideas from other people would be helpful to me, not just from a personal growth standpoint but also in helping to grow Bluetick.
Rob: That’s interesting if you have some particular topics or a particular topic that you kinda wanna start with, let me know because I have literally this list I went to where I read hundreds of business books in the past 20 years and especially recently I just do a lot of Audible. If you have specific things you’re looking for, I can certainly make recommendations. I suppose you could also ask our listeners here if you have a suggestion of a good business book that you’ve read in the past 12-24 months, maybe send it to us at email@example.com and we may even mention it on the show.
My second goal is three days of exercise per week. It’s just upping the game from last year to the level that I’m at now. Like I said, I think with the fact that it’s pretty convenient for me to do right now, I’m hoping, kind of crossing my fingers, that I’m not cursing myself by upping the goal. I do have a tendency to achieve a goal, and then increase it the next time, and eventually make it too much, more than I wanna commit to or whatever, and then I just say, “Ahh, I’m gonna stop exercise altogether because I’m not achieving it.” My goal’s to not do that.
Mike: My second goal is to hire somebody to take over Bluetick development. The downside of this when I think is that it really is heavily contingent upon making Bluetick profitable including my time. Because, unless I get to that point, it’d be really hard to hire somebody. But I also recognize that doing the development for it is just so incredibly time-consuming, and it’s not just the time itself but it’s the mental energy associated with it because there’s all these little things that you kind of have to keep in your head. When I switch over to do other things, it’s really difficult to focus on them or concentrate on them. Even when I’m able to do that, if I have to go back to the development side of things, I’m really almost starting over again because of all the different things that I had in my head at that time.
I’ve noticed this with a couple of different major pieces that I’ve been working on where I had to go back and kind of relearn how certain things work. I struggle to do that just because sometimes so much has passed between when I stopped working on that piece and when I started working on it again. I think that just having somebody dedicated to working on the development side of things is really gonna help out.
Rob: Just as you make Bluetick profitable, you’re going to make it not profitable again by hiring someone?
Mike: Yeah. That’s kinda what I’m thinking.
Rob: Such is life as a founder. I think getting the development off your plate will be a huge win for you this year. It would allow you to focus on the things that frankly you should be focusing on more. It’s like development is, what’s funny is, we come up as developers, and we wanna build products, and then when you get to the point where you’re building it you’ll realize, “Ha, development is not, a, not the most important thing, and b, it’s not driving revenue the way that so many other things will.” That’s obviously where you find yourself.
Mike: Yeah. That’s really the problem is that there’s so much development work to get done but it doesn’t directly drive revenue. I can definitely see when, different periods of time, where I pull the focus off of marketing and go into development and I could see the revenue growth level off or decline. That’s just what’s going to happen because I can’t do both at the same time because it’s really hard.
Rob: My third and final goal for 2018 is to ship something. I’m not exactly sure what it’s gonna be yet but I’ve been laying low for 18 months like I said. 2017 was supposed to be a rest year to recover and 2017 was not a rest year on the personal side. Number of health issues, and extended family, the chaos with two new kids joining the family a few months ago. You can go listen to zenfounder.com if you want all the details of what went on there.
But it was a very hard year so I don’t actually feel rested yet. I don’t feel like shipping anything now. I plan for the first part of 2018 to hopefully continue to be a restful period because it has now for about four weeks. It’s been pretty calm and I’m starting to feel a little more relaxed and I know that once I do that kind of clear the mind, that I’ll start to think about something that I wanna ship about.
I don’t know if it’s gonna be consistent blog posts, if it’s gonna be a book, if it’s gonna be a new podcast, if it’s gonna be a course of some kind, or a software, or something. I really doubt it’s gonna be software just because I keep saying that Drip was my last one and I still think that’s true. I’m guessing it’s gonna be one of these other things or maybe it’ll take a form that’s completely different, but that’s my goal. Ship something in 2018 aside from the three conferences, the two podcasts, and a bunch of…
Mike: Partridge and a pear tree.
Mike: Well, you like to fiddle with stuff too. I can definitely see you just diving into stuff to kind of try and figure things out and then suddenly a product kinda springs out of it. I can see that happening too.
Rob: Yup. I can totally see that. I’ve been fiddling with stuff for months. No product ideas yet or no desire but I do feel like that could happen. I also, to be honest, as I’m doing more investments, and asset allocation, and even dealing with collectible stuff like comic books and such. I’m running across websites where I’m like, “Ahh, I should probably just own this website because I could do it so much better.” I would improve this, and this, and that. It’s profitable and there’s a revenue stream I want. It’s pretty old and they’re not maintaining it. That’s where my mind gets going.
It’s like boy, maybe shipping something actually means acquiring and rehabbing something that I’m kind of doing for a hobby/investing. But it’s in a space where I also have a personal interest and it wouldn’t be to acquire it and rehab it to turn it into some huge money-making thing although that would be an element of it, but it would be because I also actually enjoy, like you said, tinkering with things. I would definitely include something like that, buying a little tool on the side and improving it, shipping something because it would be quite a bit of focused effort to get that done.
Mike: Yeah, because it would be easier to acquire something and then either repurpose it or grow it as opposed to building something from scratch. I could definitely see you go down that road instead.
Rob: For sure.
Mike: My last goal for this coming year is to speak at six or more conferences or events this coming year. This is more of a personal growth side of things because I know I enjoy speaking but I also feel like it’s an area where I could do better at and I think that just practicing more is gonna help me do that. Then the other side of it is to help me to focus my communication a little bit better.
There are certain times where I could just be long-winded or over communicate. Some of that is just a matter of me wanting to make sure that somebody else has all the facts but over communication is something of a detriment sometimes just because then it leads into providing facts that are irrelevant or not important to the person that I’m speaking to. I think that doing the additional conference talks will help me to focus in just my ability to hone the message based on who I’m talking to and just writing talks in general helps you to do that.
Rob: Are you gonna cheat and speak at both Starter and Growth and Europe so that three of them are knocked out by your own conferences?
Mike: Well, that’s a good idea.
Rob: Because the hard part is, well, one of the hard parts is just getting noticed and getting on the docket of conferences. Writing the talks is also a lot of effort but you’ve done that enough. That’s cool.
Mike: I only have two scheduled so far at the moment. I hadn’t really thought about kinda cheating that part.
Rob: I know, I know. That’d be pushing it. If you’re out there and you’re interested in Mike speaking at your conference, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I think that’s a pretty cool goal, man. I know that I’ve done this in the past where I’ve spoke a lot in one year and it really does condense your learning and it kinda gets you over the plateau of, I think if you speak once a year or twice a year, you just don’t get enough repetition in a short enough time frame to get better at it, I think this is a good goal if you can swing it.
I would also think about if you wanna become a become a better speaker, there’s a couple of really good books that I’ve read on how to craft talks. One is by Carmine Gallo, I think that’s how you pronounce it, it’s like The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs, I’m pretty sure. He kinda talks about how Steve Jobs would craft presentations. Carmine Gallo also wrote Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds, it’s kinda like how to do TED talks. I think I’ve listened to both of those. The other one I would recommend, and I am recommending these because they’re all in Audible and if you’re gonna read or obviously get physical copies of them, and if you’re gonna read 26 books, these may be some good ones that kinda kill two birds with one stone.
The other author I like is Nancy Duarte and the book that I read which may not be in Audible because it’s so visual is called Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences. She also wrote Slide:ology you may have heard of. But I really liked Resonate. It talks a lot about how to craft presentation by telling a story.
Mike: Yeah, those are great recommendations. That’s definitely an area that I’m gonna be doing research into and try to figure how to craft a better message and put together better presentations and things like that. I think you are absolutely dead on about the fact that like if you don’t do it often enough in a year, it’s very easy to kind of lose the experience and develop a little bit of rust, I’ll say.
Rob: Those are our goals for 2018. If you have a question for us, call our voicemail number at 888-801-9690 or email us at email@example.com. Our theme music is an excerpt from We’re Outta Control by MoOt used under Creative Commons. Subscribe to us in iTunes by searching for Startups and visit startupsfortherestofus.com for a full transcript of each episode. Thanks for listening, we’ll see you next time.
In this episode of Startups For The Rest Of Us, Rob and Mike make their goals for 2017. In addition to setting their new goals, they also talk about last year’s goals and how they did.
Items mentioned in this episode:
Mike [00:00]: In this episode of ‘Startups for the Rest of Us,’ Rob and I are going to be talking about our goals for 2017. This is ‘Startups for the Rest of Us’ episode 318. Welcome to ‘Startups for the Rest of Us,’ the podcast that helps developers, designers, and entrepreneurs be awesome at building, launching, and growing software products whether you’ve built your first product or you’re just thinking about it. I’m Mike.
Rob [00:25]: And I’m Rob.
Mike [00:26]: And we’re here to share our experiences to help you avoid the same mistakes we’ve made. What’s the word this week, Rob?
Rob [00:30]: The word is iTunes reviews. We have 510 worldwide reviews. A recent review is from a username that’s a lot of numbers and letters so I’m not going to pronounce it. But it’s just from a couple days ago. It says, “Great information but why do they talk so fast? Their podcast sounds like it’s being played at 2x speed and it’s annoying.” What do you think, Mike?
Mike [00:49]: I don’t know. I always play it at 2x speed anyways, so.
Rob [00:49]: I’m the one that talks fast. So here’s the thing. I actually do listen to it at 2x speed. We don’t speed the podcast up at all. I think maybe I just talk too fast. Because I don’t feel like you talk nearly as fast as I do.
Mike [01:02]: Yeah probably. It’s weird but I’ll talk to people whose podcasts I listen to and I have listened to their podcasts on 2x speed so when I talk to them I naturally expect it to be at 2x speed.
Rob [01:12]: Oh, I totally agree. So anyways, we love reviews. We don’t love it when you call us annoying. But we would appreciate if you could log into iTunes, click five stars. You don’t actually need to leave feedback or sentences or type anything. Just hitting that five star would be super helpful for us. Keeps us motivated to keep going and helps us get found in iTunes. On another note – quick Drip update – we’re hiring another person to help with – is such a task. It’s really our first non-developer hire. We’re hire someone to help with deliverability and kind of compliance and a bunch of internal stuff that’s currently spread – like I do some of it and Derek does some of it and our support team handles some of it. And it’ll be nice to be able to get that under one roof. So I think we have our number one candidate all chosen and should get that going here within the next couple weeks. How about you? Do you have any updates?
Mike [01:57]: Well, I got an email from Tyler Tringas, who reached out to me because there was a podcast episode we did a few weeks ago where we talked about some of the different books that were out there in the bootstrapped area. And he said it sounded like we were having trouble coming up with books that were kind of written in that space. And he’s got one that he wrote called ‘The Micro-SaaS eBook.’ And it’s actually being released for free from his blog. So if you go to microsaas.co. We’ll link that up in the show notes. But you can get it for free. It’s aimed at first-time SaaS developers. I looked through it. He’s got four chapters out there right now and I think he’s shooting for 12 or 13. But it looks pretty good. It’s definitely a good resource for anyone who has never developed SaaS before. It has some solid advice in there about what sorts of things you should just completely avoid. And it’s based on his experience building a Micro-SaaS of his own on the side where he built it up to, I think, $250K in annual revenue and it was for store mapping. So if you have a bunch of stores that you want people to be able to locate and put that map on your website then he essentially provides the capabilities to integrate that onto your website and allow people to search for the different store locations that you have.
Rob [03:04]: Very cool. So I was thinking today – it was actually over the last few days – you know, coming up in the late let’s say 2008, 2009, 2010 I was just all – and even before that – I was all about being solo. I think I’ve mentioned this maybe briefly before. But I think that working in an office and working on development teams and working for managers and stuff, I just didn’t enjoy it. And so I kind of turned that into this thought of I just want to be solo; and I don’t want to manage anybody; and I don’t want to work with anybody; and I want to be off on my own doing things. And then over the course of time, I found that I just couldn’t do bigger things when I was completely on my own. Even with a team of eight contractors or whatever. And so eventually I wound up hiring folks as HitTail grew and then as we grew Drip. I mean, it’s a really different way to approach building software. But the realization I had today was you know, last week several of my team members were out of town. Anna and Derek specifically were out for several days for Thanksgiving and so was I. I didn’t see them for about a week and then they were gone Monday and Tuesday and I was in the office and realizing like I actually really don’t like doing this solo thing anymore.
[04:05]: It’s been an interesting transition for me of how much my enjoyment of work now is about having teammates; and about doing things with the team; and working with people; and helping them do their best every day and helping them excel. And then they, I think, in turn do the same for me. They kind of motivate me to do it. So, it’s kind of a random realization. But I’ve been thinking, you know, obviously if I think years down the line and I think what am I going to be up to – I don’t honestly know if I want to do another solo thing where it’s just completely me because so much of the fun and actually so much of the biggest epic realizations and the big breakthroughs that we have tend to be when I’m talking and working with another person or two other people and we’re having these in-depth conversations. Kind of like the breakthrough Derek and I had a couple weeks ago. That just wouldn’t have happened on my own. I don’t know. It’s kind of an interesting thought process. What do you think about that?
Mike [04:55]: I wonder if that’s more of a factor of what your historical experience has been when working with other people. I mean, your last job was working for the City of Pasadena, wasn’t it?
Rob [05:06]: I worked there and then I worked for a credit card company in Los Angeles for a couple of years.
Mike [05:10]: Yeah, that sounds fun. No offense there but –
Rob [05:13]: Yeah. For sure.
Mike [05:15]: Looking objectively at both of those and, granted, in at a very, very cursory level it sounds to me like you probably weren’t necessarily working with people who inspired you to do better and were working on things that were extremely interesting. So, I would almost attribute that to where you came from and what your background was. It feels to me like you would have just changed what your viewpoint was based on “Oh, now I’ve got this team, and I’ve liked them, and I hired them, and we fit together well.” Versus, you know, you come out of this environment where you either don’t enjoy the job or the management and you’re just not having a good time. And you’re like, “Oh, I hate people. I want out and I want to go do my own thing.”
Rob [05:54]: Right. I realized that it’s not that I hate working with people. It’s that I hate working with the wrong people.
Mike [05:59]: Yeah.
Rob [06:00]: You know? And finding the right people really changed the game for me.
Mike [06:02]: I was trying to put it in a very polite way.
Rob [06:05]: Yeah. How about you? Anything else you’ve been up to this week?
Mike [06:08]: Well, I ran a last minute cyber Monday sale for my book and sold quite a few copies. I shipped out a lot of the physical copies of the book several days ago. And one of the things I found out was I was looking through the people who bought it because I had to go through and fulfill the orders for the physical copies because I have them printed on demand through CreateSpace. And one of the people who bought it actually lives right in my town. I have to reach out to him at one point.
Rob [06:33]: Yeah, that’s cool.
Mike [06:34]: It was interesting. I was kind of shocked because I was going through and was like, “Oh, I’ve got to send one to -“ wait. He’s like five minutes from my house.
Rob [06:41]: Yeah, totally. Got to get together for lunch.
Mike [06:43]: Yep. The one thing I have started to run into if anyone knows of a print on demand service for printing and sending out books that allows you to just upload a spreadsheet of those – because when a bunch of them come in it’s kind of a pain in the neck to actually go through so if anyone knows of something like that definitely let me know. I sent an email into CreateSpace’s customer support to see if I could just upload a spreadsheet but it’s kind of a pain in the neck.
Rob [07:05]: Yeah. I agree. Or something that integrates with Gumroad. Because I ran into the same issue with – my 10-year-old wrote the ‘Parent’s Guide to Minecraft’ book and whenever a new order comes in one of us has to go and manually enter it into CreateSpace to print it out and it seems like there should just be a better way. Like an API or something.
Mike [07:22]: Yeah. Like I said, I emailed them and asked them if they had any information on how to do that but it would be nice if there were other options out there that just kind of integrated, as you said, directly into Gumroad so that it’s all completely hands-off so I didn’t even have to worry about it.
Rob [07:33]: Right. And to be honest, when copies of my book ‘Start Small, Stay Small’ come through, I actually do have a VA who does that for me. And basically when I get the purchase conformation I forward it over to the VA and say, “Please send this book.” And you know the address is right in there so. It’s human automation. It’s not ideal but it could save you some time if you get 10, 20 orders like that again.
Mike [07:52]: Yep.
Rob [07:53]: So, what are we talking about this week?
Mike [07:54]: Well, we are going to be, I think, revisiting our goals from 2016 and looking to see how we did on them. And then discussing a little bit about our 2017 goals.
Rob [08:02]: Yeah. We’ve done a goals episode, what do you think? Four, five years in a row?
Mike [08:06]: I think so. Something like that.
Rob [08:08]: The podcast started in 2010, if I recall. So I think we’ve done it most of the years. It would actually be interesting to kind of look back at all the goals we’ve had over the years. Do you think it would be happy or like the Boulevard of Broken Dreams to look back over those goals?
Mike [08:21]: It depends on whether it’s you or me looking at them.
Rob [08:25]: Yeah. You want to kick us off with a couple of your goals? Looks like you had four goals from 2016 and I had three.
Mike [08:33]: On that list, there were two kind of major goals and the two other ones were more strategy related in terms of how I was going to accomplish them. I look back at them now and it’s probably a little more difficult to quantify some of these. But the first one was to launch my new product by early next year. My goal was to have early access by April 1st and then email my launch list by July 1st. I was able to get it, I’ll say, the MVP ready by April 1st but it certainly wasn’t ready for prime time. And in fact, it probably took four to five months after that in order for it to get to the point where it was not even minimally useable, but useable enough to start providing value. We’ve spent the last couple of months just trying to clean up a bunch of stuff and make it so that we can iterate faster on different features.
[09:17]: I’ll be honest, I’m kind of disappointed at how long it has taken to get some of these things done. But at the same time, I also feel that, right now, the product is actually in a reasonably good position and it’s looking better. And when I’m talking to people they seem excited by it. I was talking to somebody from Microsoft the other day and they just kind of called me out of the loo and said, “Hey, can we talk about how you’re using this [?]?” And I said, “Sure.” And I got on the phone and was talking to them. I was telling them about what my product does that runs on their platform and he was like, “This isn’t a discussion for now, but I’d love to hear more about it.” So, it’s nice to get that kind of feedback. And I’m getting inquiries from people and walking through what it is that they need and how it can best serve them. But it’s hard because I still get a lot of support requests as well. So, trying to balance between all of the different things and just juggle. That’s been, I’d say, the hardest challenge over the past couple of months.
Rob [10:07]: And so, your goal was to hit early access by April 1 and you kind of got there. We give you maybe an 8 out of 10 on that.
Mike [10:11]: Yeah.
Rob [10:13]: And your plan was to launch to your email list by July 1, which is about three months after that. When did you launch to your email list?
Mike [10:19]: I, honestly, still haven’t done that.
Rob [10:20]: Oh, wow. Okay.
Mike [10:21]: Yeah. I’ve been individually going to people and kind of picking them off of the email list and following up with them based on their interactions with the emails in there. But I haven’t done like a mass email to them to say, “Hey, come sign up.” So, I’ve gone individually to people who seem like they’re more interested than others. But I’m a little hesitant right now. As I said, Microsoft’s coming in. They’re sending in a couple of consultants to take a look at some stuff. But I have some concerns about scalability. And I think that until those are alleviated – Once they are, I’ll feel better about that but I’m a little gun shy about just dropping about 20, 30, 50 mailboxes on the thing.
Rob [10:59]: Oh, geez. That’s a bummer. That’s a real bummer to have that concern at this early stage. I know that you’ve been kind of cherry picking people out and adding a customer here or a customer week or a few customers a month. But I guess I hadn’t realized it was – what am I not paying attention or something – I hadn’t realized that you hadn’t emailed your list. Scalability, yeah, that’s the concern right now. It’s December 1 right now when we’re recording this. What’s it going to take to fix that? Like how long?
Mike [11:23]: I’m meeting with them next week, so I’ll have a better understanding of it after that. I really just want that second set of eyes looking over my shoulder who’s got some experience scaling out stuff like this. That’s really all it is. I mean, could I start adding one a day for the next 30 days? I probably could. Could I add 30 tomorrow? Probably not. It would probably work but, as I said, there’s a lot of hand holding that kind of goes into the product at the moment just to get people on it, get them using it. You probably ran into this early on with Drip where somebody would sign on, you put them in and then it might have been difficult to get them to add in their email addresses or to write the emails that went with it. And, of course, you can help them out with that. You can write them for them or you can offer to port emails over. But you can’t make them do certain things. You know what I mean?
Rob [12:12]: Right. Yep. To be honest, when we were doing it before where we had our onboarding built out like kind of walked them through it like a guided set up or a wizard, I used Boomerang a ton. I would just email somebody and then Boomerang it three or four days later and check in. I was essentially, I kind of had a poor man’s Bluetick. That’s really what you want. You really want a Bluetick that’s basically pinging people. I think you could [dog food?] your own product certainly for this onboarding. But yeah, that was it. It was a lot of questions and it was a lot of “Can I do this for you?” and it was a lot of “What do you think?” and it was just a bunch of hustle; is how I remember. And then once we knew the sticking points and kind of that minimum path to awesome where people got the dopamine rush from it then we built that into code and we built the actual guided setup with the bar across the top and the trial emails that go out to people and let them know what’s next.
Mike [13:00]: Yeah. Some of that stuff like the onboarding issues that people have run into, those are some of the things that we’ve focused on. So one thing, for example, when an email gets bounced if they send it to an invalid email address, it comes back. And the software previously didn’t know how to handle that. It just kind of ignored it. And it depended on whether or not it came back directly from the server or if it came back delayed in some way, shape or form way after it was sent. Depending on which situation it was in, it might do one thing, it might do another. At this point, it now handles that and it also marks those emails as bounced inside the application. But previously it didn’t do that. So you had not way of telling based on contact in the system how the system treated it. You also didn’t have a way to pause people; you didn’t have a way to just mark it as completed; you didn’t have a way to mark somebody as, “Hey, don’t ever contact this person again.”
[13:48]: There’s a lot of these – I don’t want to call them edge cases – but situations that come up where people are using the software and then they say, “Oh, I would like to be able to do this. Or mark somebody in this way. Or if an email gets bounced, I want to tag them automatically.” And some of that goes in to actual automation and some of it’s just how do you have field in here that captures this piece of information and is that something that lots of people want. So, those are the things I’m still kind of working through. But I am kind of moving in the direction of a public launch. The website itself, I got that ready, I think last week. And there’s still a lot of work to do on it but I, at least, got a new design and some webpages out there and I’m working on putting a full blown signup process in place for that.
Rob [14:29]: Right. And you don’t even need that to launch though, right?
Mike [14:31]: I don’t need that to put somebody onboard. I can manually walk them through but I want to get it to the point where I don’t have to manually do it. That’s really the –
Rob [14:40]: Oh, that’s true. Because when you send them the email, you want them to be able to go and signup on their own.
Mike [14:43]: Exactly. Exactly.
Rob [14:44]: Okay. Yeah. Got it.
Mike [14:45]: I can get somebody on Skype Call and walk them through it but I don’t want to have to do that long-term.
Rob [14:51]: And by the way, you and I have both used the phrase “an email.” What we really mean is “a launch sequence.” You’re not going to send them an email, “Hey, come and sign up.” You’re going to build some anticipation and you’re going to tantalize them and give them a little screenshot, screen cast action. Then you’re going to, boom, drop the hammer on them. Here’s the big discount. Time limited for that – right? It’s the standard?
Mike [15:09]: Um-hmm.
Rob [15:10]: Okay. Just making sure. I would hate to see you make that mistake. I know you –
Mike [15:14]: No, I’m definitely not doing that.
Rob [15:17]: Here you go. Our app is up. Probably once a quarter I just get from some random start-up that I must have signed up here about a year ago and I get this random thing, “Hey, Blaze app has” – I’m just making a name up – “blah-blah app has launched. Come sign up.” And it’s like “A” I don’t even remember what you do. “B” one email’s not going to get me to do it. “C” you didn’t build any anticipation. Just kind of making all the rookie mistakes and, I mean, you can obviously 10x your signups if you do it over a sequence and you build some anticipation.
Mike [15:47]: Yeah. One of the things I’m looking at doing as kind of a marketing tactic for this is setting up stuff inside of Bluetick to more or less just demonstrate how it works. As opposed to having somebody come to the website and go through a tour, say “Hey, why don’t you come over here, enter in your email address and you’ll see exactly how this works. This is what’s going to happen. This is what would look like if one of your customers or one of your prospects was on the other end.” And then just be very blunt and open and honest with them and say, “Look, I’m marketing to you. This is all automated but you wouldn’t know that probably unless I told you. And this is how you can make it look for the people that you are pursuing as leads.”
[16:25]: I did some of that when I was onboarding people and it worked really well. I had the little disclaimer at the bottom, “Hey, by the way, this is completely automated. I’m not touching anything here. And if you don’t respond then you’re going to get another email and here’s the time you’re going to get it.” It would be great to be able to have those things injected in there and use that as more of a demonstration of exactly how it works and what it’s going to look like from the other side. Because that’s one of the concerns that I hear from people is, “How is this going to look to my customers? How do I make sure that it looks like it is personalized and it has that warm fuzzy feeling as opposed to this was some bulk, automated, cold email?” Or what have you. That’s the thing. They want that illusion of personal touch and –
Rob [17:07]: Sure.
Mike [17:08]: – there’s some things that they don’t get that from.
Rob [17:10]: Got it. So when they enter their email and they click submit, they’re actually going to receive an email that says, “Hey, this is a sample.” Or were you going to just show them like a screenshot of a sample?
Mike [17:19]: My intent is to build out, essentially, a series of emails and workflows inside of Bluetick that will walk them through. And if they take certain actions, it will do different things. And at the bottom of the emails I would basically just say, “P.S., if you do this, this is going to happen. If you do this other thing, then that’s going to happen. If you don’t do anything, then this is what will be next.”
Rob [17:38]: Got it. But will they be receiving actual emails in their real inbox –
Mike [17:41]: Yes.
Rob [17:42]: – with this? Yeah. See, I think that’s super cool. I was going to say if not, you should do that. Because that’s the true demo of it is for them to really see what the customer sees.
Mike [17:48]: Exactly.
Rob [17:49]: That’s cool. So we’re 21 minutes in and we’re one bullet of 14. Let’s move on. This may be a little bit of a longer episode. My first goal for 2016 – so the one that I set a year ago – was to 2.5x Drip’s revenue. And at the time that I set this goal we were on pace at our current growth rate to hit 1.8x. I actually think we will hit – it’s going to be very, very close to hitting 2.5x. A lot of that help was Leadpages – the acquisition and then their marketing team. Something interesting that they did is when Leadpages acquired us and then did the $1 plan and then the free plan, is they actually nuked about $22,000, $23,000 in MRR. That actually set us way back on this goal. And this was just a personal goal that I had set up for myself. Leadpages goals for Drip are totally different. So that actually set us back and then we’ve since, of course, caught back up to it. So, anyways. Yeah, 2.5x I think we’ll either hit it or we’ll be really close. Something like 2.4. And given the level of revenue that Drip was at a year ago, this is not too bad. Not too shabby. How about you? What’s your next one?
Mike [18:54]: My next one was to rerun some of my, what I called ‘life experiments’ because back in 2015 I hadn’t done so well on them. And this year I’d say I probably did about the same as I did last year where they ran for a while, I was doing a bunch of different things and then things got busy with Bluetick and I kind of took my eye off of that stuff. So early on in the year it was good and then mid to late year I just didn’t do so much. So I kind of focused on Bluetick more than let’s say going to the gym and going to random events and stuff. There’s like a Renaissance fair that is south of Boston that I wanted to get to this year that I just didn’t get to. And then there is a gaming meetup nearby that I’ve been going to meets every week but I don’t go every week. It’s nice to get out and do things like that and just kind of meet new people. You work from home all the time and you don’t get out much so there’s not a whole lot of social interaction. So it’s nice to get out of the house and do other things. I really just want to kind of open my horizons to other stuff, to new things and get me out of my day-to-day.
Rob [19:54]: That’s what you mean by ‘life experiments?” Like the meetup and the Renaissance fair?
Mike [19:58]: Life experiments is more like trying new things and doing things that I wouldn’t normally do is more it than anything else.
Rob [20:04]: All right. My second goal for the previous year was to support Sherry with her ‘ZenFounder’ book. I was planning to be second author on a book that she had outlined and was planning to write. Kind of like a founder of mental health. Like how to stay sane while starting up type of thing. That’s still on the docket. To be honest, the Drip acquisition just decimated any time that I had to be able to contribute to that. And then the relocation and kind of the chaos that that created – planning for a move; planning to sell a house; shut down Sherry’s private practice; pull the kids out of school; find a new place to live; get the mover. Just everything that goes along with that was literally hundreds of person hours and it was all the nights and weekend time that Sherry probably would have spent writing the book. So this did not happen in any way, shape or form – and in fact, I don’t even know – I think she has maybe less than a chapter kind of drafted up. I think this will be on her docket here in the next year. I wouldn’t be surprised if she gets it all or mostly done in 2017.
Mike [21:03]: The third goal on my list was to be a lot more deliberate about where I spent my time. So to kind of draw delineations between work time and family time and then me time. And my intent was to work less and enjoy my off time a little bit more and generally be healthier. That went well for the first few months. And then after I got to that pre-launch beta period for Bluetick, things went downhill for probably four or five months. And then I think things are getting back on track at this point. So the last month or two I’ve been going to bed earlier, turning off all electronics and stuff like that. And just kind of taking it easy in the evenings. So, I don’t know. I’m not sure how to rate this one. Probably 6 or 7 out of 10 as opposed to anything else.
Rob [21:41]: Cool. And my third and final goal for the previous year was to make three to five angel investments in Bootstrapper. These are post-traction B2B SaaS apps. So in essence kind of going after the folks who are building real businesses rather than raising crazy rounds for B2C stuff. And I definitely made two investments and there was a third that is still in the works basically. And they’re having actually – I’ve committed to it but they’re having a delay in getting some paperwork together. So, I’ll say that I’ve mostly made this goal. In retrospect, five is just a little ambitious for me given how little time I have to devote to this and just how few really – I don’t know. I’m trying to say investment worthy companies that there are and that kind of came across my desk at a valuation that made sense. Since I am somewhat a small time angel investor, I’m not going to invest in rounds when people have valuations of $7 million or something. It just doesn’t make sense for me to write a check. It just doesn’t make economic sense. So for a deal to really be a fit for me and my skill-set where I can provide value, which is why I’m investing in things. Not just to get a return or to have a dog in the race, but I want to actually be able to contribute and offer advice, insight and opinions. It’s kind of niched down in terms of opportunities that I think are really a fit for me. I’m going to be moving forward keeping it kind of a more modest goal.
Mike [23:01]: My fourth goal was to be more complete with my planning. And the intent there was to create full plans rather than partial ones because I have a tendency sometimes to have things more in my head as opposed to written down on paper. I’ll scope out the first set of things really well and then after that I won’t drill down and write down a lot of the details until I get near the end of something. And then I kind of thrash a little bit. I did reasonably well with this. I would say that I definitely got to a point with Bluetick last year where things kind of went off the rails for a while and things are, as I said, kind of getting back in the right direction at this point. A lot of the plans that I came up with are starting to look like I can actually go back and pursue them. But some of the plans that I did put together, they basically just got delayed is really what it came down to. I do have a full blown marketing plan for Bluetick set out and I have a road map for the Product for Features and stuff. But even with that product road map things get moved around a lot which I’m not really comfortable with but, at the same time, customers are asking for stuff so I kind of have to slot in what they need versus what I think that the product needs just because they’re using it, they’re running into issues and it’s like those things need to be fixed.
Rob [24:11]: Yeah. And there’s a balance here between having a longer term plan of like, “Over the next 12 months I want to do this to revenue and here’s the general idea of how I’m going to get there” I think is one thing. And even having that in writing is probably good like “here are the tactics I’m going try. Here are the growth sprints or whatever.” I feel like planning product road maps is really difficult. Like we move ours around quite frequently based on customer request; based on response to the market; based on the realization we have of like “Oh my gosh, we shouldn’t have been doing this the whole time. We really need to get that in sooner.” Based on performance; based on someone trying to send spam through your system. There’s all these things that make you respond so my thing has always – we tend to roadmap about 60 to 90 days out. And I think if you’ve planned that out really well and have it written in order 60 to 90 days, I think that’s plenty of time. As early as you are where you’re still getting customers in who are going to find deal breakers for them. I’ll be honest, when we were at your point we were literally planning maybe a week out, sometimes two.
Mike [25:08]: Okay good. That makes me feel so much better because it was like I’m not anywhere close to 60 days.
Rob [25:13]: No, but we’re such a more mature product, you know. And we have more developers and you just have to do things a certain way. But you’re trying to just hammer out little things to keep your people around. And I think that when people have deal breakers and they’re like, “I can’t use your software until it has this,” we would drop everything and just do that. We would build that to get that next customer. It was like, “What can I build to get the next customer in the door.” So, all that to say, yeah, there’s a balance here. I think that having some long term plans but being really flexible with certain other ones at a different phase of your business I think is important. All right, 2017 goals. Looks like you have four, I have three. You want to kick us off with your first?
Mike [25:47]: Sure. So the first one is to log at least 100 days of exercises coming here. And under the umbrella of exercise I’m including both going to the gym and doing things around the house that are more physical exertion related. If I’m going out in the yard and clearing a bunch of brush and stuff like that. Moving rocks and stuff around. I kind of log that as a checkmark under the box of exercise for the day. Obviously, if I just walk up the stairs and back down or something like that I’m not going to count it. Because there’s certain things that you can do around the house that really should count as getting out of your chair and doing a little bit more than you probably would on a regular day.
Rob [26:23]: Is that why “exercise” is in quotes in the outline?
Mike [26:26]: Yes.
Rob [26:27]: Is that your case of exercising? That’s funny.
Mike [26:29]: Thanks for calling me out on that.
Rob [26:32]: Totally. My first goal is – it’s an interesting one. And it’s one that I’ve kind of struggled with and really had to think about. But you know I went on my retreat where I got strep throat a couple of weeks ago. And one thing I realized is that I really don’t want to start anything new in 2017. I don’t know if I can unequivocally say that I will not for the next 12 months start anything new but that’s kind of how it feels right now where basically you and I have the podcast, we run three MicroConfs now – two in Vegas, one in Europe – I have a podcast with Sherry and I’m still all in running Drip. And I’m still at the point where I’m kind of recovering from this year. Even the past couple years of just pushing hard, growing Drip and then the acquisition and kind of all the chaos and stress that created. And so, as I sit here today, I don’t really have the desire to do anything new. I’m talking like stuff that I might do and say, “Hey, launch a new app. Hey, write a book, start a new podcast.”
[27:25]: Whatever I might do with free time. It’s an interesting non-goal almost. It’s something that I want to – I don’t know that I’ve ever done this. You know what, last time I did this was in 2010 when our second son was born and I really kind of worked kind of the four-hour work week. I was working about maybe 10 to 12, 10 to 16 hours a week. That was when I had that whole portfolio of Micropreneur businesses – DotNetInvoice and stuff. It was right before HitTail. And that was a great time and I eventually got really bored and felt like what am I doing with my life. And that’s when I geared up and acquired HitTail and kind of 10x’d all my previous efforts. I think the one exception to this non-goal may be that if Sherry decides to really write the ZenFounder book, I want to do that with her. But I wouldn’t be, you know, the driving force. I would be probably adding my voice to it and helping her think through some stuff.
Mike [28:12]: I think there’s something to be said for intentionally doing nothing, so to speak. There’s times when you’ll go through like a rough patch or things are just really, really busy and you kind of need a break at that point. And you’ve been heads down on Drip for so long that running a startup is not necessarily the easiest thing in the world to do. It takes a lot of time, dedication and focus and it becomes something that you’re so focused on and you’re devoting so much of your energy to that there comes a point where you just kind of need a break I think. So it sounds to me like you’re probably close to that point or, you know, and it’s not to say that you’re just going to walk away and just go off and do something else as opposed to Leadpages. But coasting is not a bad thing.
Rob [28:54]: Yeah.
Mike [28:55]: You know you can’t always have a goal every single week. It’s hard to maintain that level of exertion for years on end. You can do it for a little while but you can’t do it forever.
Rob [29:05]: Yeah and it’s interesting. You use the word “coasting” and I guess I feel like I don’t think of it as much as coasting as just not starting anything new. I still want to be all in on the stuff that we’re doing, you know. I don’t want to coast on MicroConf; I don’t want to coast on the podcasts; and I don’t want to coast on Drip. I just don’t want to add anything new. Because it’s the new stuff, right. Like you’re going through right now. Just the tremendous amount of energy that that takes to get something from a standing stop to any type of worthwhile point, it’s a lot of effort. I genuinely do see this as a temporary thing. I do not think I’m done for life. But it’s almost like if you’ve ever burned out, it just takes a while to recover from that. I don’t know if I burned out or not. I just know that looking back on this year- there was obviously a lot of good that came out of it – but it was a very exhausting year. I’m looking ahead and think about just kind of being all in on what I have and not adding anything to that plate, it feels like a good thing to strive for.
Mike [29:59]: My next goal for 2017 is to make Bluetick profitable. And by profitable I also mean including my time.
Rob [30:05]: Woo hoo! So not ramen profitable?
Mike [30:06]: Yes, not ramen profitable. Something that if there was nothing else that I could make a fulltime living doing it. And I think that there’s definitely some challenges with this. I’m sure we’ll talk about them at length in some other episode, I don’t think we should do it here because we’ve talked at length about it very early on just the challenges of this past year. But I feel like it’s in a good spot at the moment. And even with some of the concerns I have about scalability, I still feel like a lot of the stuff is well written enough that it can be broken out and it can be made to work better without nearly as much effort as it took to get there. So we can talk about that some other episode. I’m sure we will. But that’s kind of my goal for the next year is to make sure that it is a profitable product moving forward.
Rob [30:48]: That’s a good goal, man. To me this is the number one thing that you could be focused on all year. And I think it’s really measurable. I think it could be a really good win for you. So, glad you have that in here. My second goal is to do between one and three angel investments this year. I’ve really enjoyed this process of getting to know founders and of, like I said, being able to offer advice and to be able to contribute financially and help their business get to the next level. I would think that even without trying too hard, I’ll probably just stumble upon one over the next year and I think top end might be three angel investments. And this is a way for me to feel like I’m really still in the game with these startups because I am invested and I’m seeing the monthly revenue growth and I’m seeing the struggles they’re going through but I don’t have to go through them first hand. And I can still do a 30-minute call or an hour call and I feel like dispense, “Here’s what I’d do in this situation.” But I don’t have to then go do it. This is probably my way of really staying in the thick of things without perhaps really staying in the thick of things.
Mike [31:53]: It gives you a layer of abstraction between you and the actual problems. My third goal is to blog publicly at least every two weeks. So that comes out to 26 total blog posts over the next year or so. But I’ve got a lot of ideas that I’ve written down that I just haven’t sat down and allocated the time to write those things out. But there’s still a lot of things that are just kind of jumbled up in my head so I kind of want to get those out. Somebody asked me before if I was going to write another book and I don’t see that in the near future. But I definitely see that, for me at least, writing about or documenting some of the things that I’ve been running into helps me get it, not just out of my system, but helps me think through it a little bit better and gives me a little bit more objectivity. I kind of want to make an effort to set aside the time to make that a priority and, not so much to get it out there so that people can read it, but more to get it out of my head and become more objective about certain things.
Rob [32:46]: This one’s interesting. I like the ambition of it. Are you like me where a blog post for you is like maybe between two and eight hours depending on how much time you invest in it?
Mike [32:57]: It could be. I actually thought a little bit more about this and – I didn’t write it down on the notes here – but my thought process behind this was to allocate between one and two hours per week to writing. And if it’s done at that point then it gets published and if it’s not done it still gets published. I’m really going to be working with hard deadlines in terms of the time that I’m allocating to it. So, it’s not going to be stuff that’s highly polished; it’s not going to be stuff that is extremely well thought through but it helps me get things out of my head. Because I write on a regular basis anyway, I just don’t publish it. So I think that by doing that it will give me that outlet to just put it out there and give people an opportunity to comment on it or talk about it or give it as points that could go up in discussions or what have you. I see it as just a way to get that stuff out of my head really, like I said. I’m doing a lot of that stuff now anyway, I’m just not publishing it. That’s not helpful for other people and that’s one of those things that I like doing is I like helping other people. And because the stuff that I write for the most part now isn’t published, it doesn’t do that.
Rob [34:04]: Yeah. I like the one to two-hour timeline for you. Or kind of a time box because otherwise I think – I do believe your focus should be Bluetick. And that if this goal distracts you from that that I should not basically. I think if you can set yourself a two-hour time limit every two weeks that’s perfectly reasonably.
Mike [34:22]: Yeah. And I think some of the topics are going to be related to things that I’m running into for Bluetick as well. I have some experiments that I want to run in terms of pricing plans and that will probably be turned into a blog post about what I’m doing and why. And other people might find it useful. They might say, “Yeah, that sounds great but it wouldn’t work for us and here’s why.” And that’s fine. But the idea is more for me to think about those things a little bit more objectively and by putting that tight time box on it then it forces me to finish in that time. Because you said that it could take you anywhere from four to eight hours to write a blog post. I could easily do the same thing because there’s not real end date for writing a blog post. It may take you an hour, it may take you 25 but if you don’t put that cap on it, it could easily go forever.
Rob [35:08]: My third and final goal for the next year is to exercise two days per week. I have typically been exercising about one day a week, one and half days a week. Kind of finding it hard to really carve out the time. But since moving to Minneapolis I have found since we live right next to a lake that it is so much easier to just get out for 20 minutes and just run. In our neighborhood back in Fresno, it just wasn’t really feasible. There were no sidewalks and there were all these busy streets and it just didn’t make a lot of sense. So I found this a lot easier. I think the challenge will be in the winter. I’ve run a few days when it’s in the 20’s and the low 30’s. I have kind of the proper gear for that at this point I think. So we’ll see if I’m disciplined enough to really carve out the time. But I’ve just found that the more I do that kind of the better I feel overall. It’s funny, I looked at this goal, you know, two days a week is about 104 days of exercise a year and you basically have a very similar goal of 100 days. So, I think both of us are looking to stay in shape now that we’re as old as we are, huh?
Mike [36:07]: Yeah. I mean, you look at the raw number of 100 and it’s like, wow, that’s a lot. When you break it down like you just said, two days a week is actually not that much when you look at it across the entire year.
Rob [36:19]: No, it’s not. And to be honest, I would love for it to be three days. I’d love for it to be every other day. But those just aren’t realities for me these days given what’s going on. So I don’t think this is overly ambitious. I think it’s very realistic. But certainly an ambitious one would be a three day a week exercise plan. And for my fourth – it’s somewhat of an honorable mention because I just can’t be as specific as I would like to be on the podcast – but I have goals for Drip basically. And these days there are some secret revenue goals, although I’m not as in charge of that as I used to be given that Leadpages handles the marketing so well. I have more product goals about giving certain features out and just making it basically the best marketing automation tool available. I’m not going to sit here and lay out the roadmap of everything we’re going to build but I definitely have some very specific things that in the next 12 months if we don’t build I will be displeased. Maybe by the time we get back here next year, I should be able to point backwards and say, “Hey, that’s when we launched this, this and that. Those are the three components that I was trying to get out.” I apologize for the vagueness in advance. But in retrospect, I’ll be able to talk a little more about it.
Mike [37:24]: Awesome. Well, I think that about wraps us up. I’m sure we’ll be revisiting some of these throughout the year. And it probably makes sense to take a look at these in April or May or so and just make sure that we’re at least on target for some of these. And if we’re not we can start revisiting that.
Rob [37:38]: I agree. And as a listener, if you have a question for us, call our voicemail number at 888-801-9690 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our theme music is an excerpt from ‘We’re Outta Control’ by MoOt used under creative comments. Subscribe to us in iTunes by searching for “startups” and visit startupsfortherestofus.com for a full transcript of each episode. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next time.
In this episode of Startups For The Rest Of Us, Rob and Mike review their 2015 goals and talk about whether or not they were able to achieve them and the reasons to why they were successful or not. They also set their new goals for the upcoming year.
Items mentioned in this episode:
Rob [00:00]: In this episode of Startups For the Rest of Us, Mike and I look at our goals for 2016, and we review the goals we set in December of last year. This is Startups For the Rest of Us, Episode 269.
Welcome to Startups For the Rest of Us, the podcast that helps developers, designers, and entrepreneurs be awesome at launching software products. Whether you’ve built your first product or you’re just thinking about it. I’m Rob.
Mike [00:29]: And I’m Mike.
Rob [00:29]: And we’re here to share our experiences to help you avoid the same mistakes we’ve made. So where are this week’s, sir?
Mike [00:34]: Well, we have an email here from Simon who is referring to Episode 267 where we talked about scaling SaaS support. And he says, “Hi, guys. I’m a single founder, and practically speaking, the only employee, developer, support staff, etc. In that episode, Rob mentioned how the early days of DRIP involved a lot of hands-on support especially by the technical staff and Rob. I don’t have any employees, and I’m still looking to scale things up so that I can leave my day job. What suggestions do you have for a solopreneur such as me?”
Rob [00:59]: Well, you don’t want to hire a full-timer right out of the gate. You want to hire someone basically hourly, and that’s how I’ve been doing it since 2008 maybe, 8 or 9, which is when I hired my first support VA, they call themselves. But really it was just Tier 1 email support. And I’ve had folks supporting info products. We have someone who helps us with support for the Micropreneur Academy. And of course, SaaS apps, just help for products I’ve run. And frankly, until Drip, none of my support people ever worked full-time. It was always purely on an hourly basis. They would basically check the support queue once or twice a day as needed and respond, and they just build based on the hours that they worked. And it’s nice to do that through something like Upwork. Or if you don’t want to use Upwork, you can use Hubstaff to track their time because then they click the button when they working, and you’re really only paying for the hours they worked. But it’s a no-brainer. I don’t think it’s feasible if you’re still growing your app and you haven’t even quit your job yet to try to hire someone full-time. The economics just don’t work out at this stage.
Mike [01:56]: Simon doesn’t say it outright, and I definitely felt like this at one point as well, but it feels in many ways like support requests can’t really wait and you want them to be taken care of as quickly as possible. But I don’t think that most people have that expectation. When they send an email into support, they typically expect a 24- or 48-hour turnaround. And if you get back to them within 12 hours, awesome. But if not, then they weren’t really expecting it anyway. And a lot of times, those support tickets can wait probably significantly longer than you think that they probably could anyway. So that’s something else to keep in mind if you’re a little leery of going down the hourly support route just to have somebody essentially on-call for answering tickets that may or may not be coming in.
Rob [02:38]: Yeah. It really depends on your volume of tickets and how urgent they are. With most knowledge products as well as software products, there isn’t as much urgency as you probably think. And so if you need to hire someone, one thing I would advise, even if you’re going to hire someone part-time, is hire someone who is basically a full-time VA or a full-time freelancer so that they do have flexibility of schedule and they’re not just working in the weekends and the evenings. I had a couple of people like that, and it was a bit of a drag that boy, if they miss one evening because they had something, then it was like a two-day span until they checked in. That really, in my opinion, is unacceptable.
But there’s a lot of ways to make this work. I don’t like it when people come back and say, “Well, no. All the support is just really too technical,” or, “Well, I really need to get back to these people within an hour or two.” It’s like, “Pretty much no. If you’re a solopreneur, it’s probably neither of those is the case.” I know that it feels like that, but there are ways to do this. There are ways to set up a document with the process that people need to troubleshoot. Hire someone who’s intelligent, somewhat technical. I found a guy who was an old helpdesk guy, and so he doesn’t know how to code, but he was able to do some minor troubleshooting of people’s systems.
And it’s not a matter of, “Oh, this will or it won’t work.” It’s how much you’re willing to invest in terms of time to find someone and budget to pay. If you’re paying someone $10 to $15 an hour, you can get someone pretty good probably within your time zone who speaks your language. And they’re going to be pretty sharp, and they’re going to save you buckets of time. And it’s pretty valuable at this point to A, learn the skill of delegating this, but also to buy back that time.
So the other thing I wanted to mention before we dive into our 2015-2016 goals is that the first game from Patrick McKenzie’s Starfighter has launched. And if you listen to this podcast regularly, I’m sure you know who Patrick McKenzie is, formerly of Bingo Card Creator and the Appointment Reminder. He’s been a speaker at MicroConf several years in a row, and he’s launched his new app. It’s Stockfighter.io, and this involves some pretty in-depth programming challenges, and folks can play the game for free. And then certain programmers, as they rise to the top, I’m assuming they’re eligible for really high-end coding jobs in, kind of, a lot of the best employers or most technically oriented employers, in the Bay Area and then other places are looking to hire out of this pool of people who are scoring high on these games.
So it’s a cool freemium model in a way, right? It’s like a two-sided marketplace where you need to find developers, and you need to find people to hire. And they were able to quickly find people to hire, because everybody’s looking to hire high-end developers. But getting the developers in is always the hard part. And so Starfighters is basically doing it by building games that would interest programmers, and that have really difficult programming challenges. So if you’re interested in this type of thing, Stockighter.io looks pretty cool.
Mike [05:17]: Yeah, and definitely congratulations to Patrick for getting this out there. And it looks like it’s pretty involved. And I’m sure there was a huge amount of work that went on behind the scenes behind it.
Rob [05:26]: Yeah, and this is a long time in the making. They spent the last year plus developing it, and I know there’s been a lot of long nights. So it’s cool to see Patrick and his crew get this out into the wild.
Mike [05:36]: Well, I guess we’re going to dive right into our goals, huh?
Rob [05:39]: Yeah. So in Episode 214, we talked about our 2015 goals. And so those were the goals we were hoping to achieve over the past 12 months. And it looks like we each had five goals. And so we’re going to run through those briefly, talk about whether or not we achieve them or not, and why or why not. And then we’re going to look at our 2016 goals, something that we can look ahead and probably review again in 12 months.
So my first goal for 2015 was to 2.5X Drip, so to basically grow revenue by 250%. And we did achieve that. In fact, we achieved it a few months back. You know how I’m really bad at celebrating victories? I didn’t even notice that it had happened. It’s definitely a win for me. But in the sense of recognizing that it was a win, I think I need to work on that for next year. We actually 3.5Xed. There’s still eight more days left in the year here. But assuming that happens, then we’ll be at 350% growth for the year. So far, so good.
Mike [06:37]: Well, congratulations on that.
My first goal was to run a series of what I was calling life experiments. So that included things like going to the gym every day for a month, and getting up early, and eating differently, and various other things. And I would say this is probably about 30% to 40% successful. What happened was I had this list of things that I wanted to do, and the things I just listed were on that short list, along with one or two other things. And I got through that list and then saw that there was nothing else. And I said, “Oh, I need to think of something else to do for the next month.” And then I just didn’t do it, and I fell off the bandwagon at that point. So I ran out of stuff on the list and then stopped. But while it was going on, I stuck with it. So I would say that’s a partial win, and I’m not sure how to count that.
Rob [07:19]: Yeah. This was a tough one because it’s not easily measurable. We talked about the SMART last time, the, what is it, sustainable and measurable and attainable whatever. I think this one doesn’t necessarily qualify for all that. I think you probably want to make it more specific this year if you’re going to return to it and actually have 12 things, one per month, written out in advance. And then you can easily measure it.
Mike [07:41]: I think I had four or five. I think I started out with four, and then I added a fifth one, and then I just didn’t add any after that. And I think that was my problem is I just didn’t have enough to start with and I didn’t dedicate the time to following up on it and adding more to the list.
Rob [07:56]: So my second goal for 2015 was to return to the point where I could choose what I wanted to work on. Because especially towards the latter half of 2015, I was doing a bunch of work that was not enjoyable for me, and I had gotten away from this whole “I’ve run my own show and I can do what I want and have fun while I work,” and I just was not enjoying it in the latter half of 2014. And so this is one of those that is tough to measure, right? Because I had specifics in my head, but it’s hard to communicate them on the podcast without getting into the weeds. But the bottom line is yes, I achieved that.
And I was able to do it through two ways. One is I hired someone who, I don’t know what you call her, but, kind of, an executive assistant, I guess, you’d call. She’s remote. She goes through my email inbox and catalogs stuff, and handles some minor tasks like appointment setting and that kind of stuff. And that helped get me out of the weeds in terms of that stuff. The other thing I did is hired Anna, who runs customer success at DRIP, and has been helping with growth for the past, what, six, eight months. Both of those things allowed me to step a little bit higher up in terms of setting vision and setting direction, and thinking more strategically about things. And so within probably the first four to six months of 2015 I felt like I had returned to the point where I could choose what I wanted to work on again.
The interesting thing is towards the end of 2015, we spun DRIP off as its own corporation, which required a bunch of legal stuff because we have to deal with lawyers, and then move payroll and health insurance. All the stuff had to transfer. And so as I was back to the very same spot of returning to the point where I was working on stuff I didn’t want to. But it was a very defined season, and I already feel like I’ve been coming out of that in December. So I’m hoping that heading into 2016, I’m able to stick to that.
Mike [09:37]: My second goal was to spend some dedicated time each month figuring out how to systemize more of the things that are going on. And I would chalk this up to a complete and utter failure. I just didn’t do it. And I didn’t really have any reminders in place or mechanisms or [forcing?] functions that would remind me that I needed to do that. But I’m using Teamwork.com, which has the ability to schedule tasks, and I have a scheduled task in there now to do that on a monthly basis. So near the end of the month, I think it’s set for the 28th, to essentially go through and start reviewing everything that’s happened over the past month and where there are things that need to be done better. So I’m hoping that now that I have a system in place to systemize stuff, it’ll help out with that. That’s a little bit meta, but I think that’ll help.
Rob [10:18]: My third goal for 2015 was to host two MicroConfs. And my intent here was to host two MicroConfs that were as good as, or better than, previous years’. That’s what I really wanted to do, was maintain the quality and really impact other entrepreneurs and founders. And while this one’s a little bit of a gimme, and it’s a little bit hard to measure, I would give it a thumbs up. Because we put a lot of thought and care into running these conferences, and so I wanted it to be prominent last year because it’s something that takes enough mental space that I wanted it to be listed as a goal. And I feel like we had two really good MicroConfs in 2015. It may have been the best Europe conference we’ve ever thrown actually, in Barcelona, and the one in Vegas was among the top as well, in terms of the Vegas ones we’ve thrown. So I consider this one a success. Although, as I said, it was a little bit of a gimme, so it’s not as if it was some big stretch that I was concerned about hitting.
Rob [11:11]: My next goal was to build a system for maintaining an inbox zero, and I’d say I did really well with that. I hit inbox zero on a very regular basis. Obviously emails come in all the time, but I have, I don’t know, between 50 and 100 rules set up inside of my Gmail account that mark things as read or move them to different places so that I can review them as needed. And then I also go through my email once in the morning and then periodically throughout the day to make sure that if there’s anything important that’s coming in, I can deal with it right away. But at the same time there will be things that I will let sit there until I get a chance to take those things and either deal with them or put them on a to-do list someplace. So I would chalk this up to a success. And it’s interesting that maintaining that inbox really close to zero also frees up my brain to focus on other things because it’s not remembering, “Oh, I got to go back and I got to deal with this in some point in the future.”
Rob [11:59]: Yeah. inbox zero is surprisingly productive for me as well. I was always, kind of, [pooh-poohing?] it thinking that it wasn’t going to be valuable to do. But when I do it, it definitely releases a mental weight.
My fourth goal for 2015 was to launch another podcast, and that was a success. So that’s ZenFounder over at ZenFounder.com. I launched it with Sherry, and we talk about startup, family, and life, and the balance between the three. And so far, so good. The podcast is growing really well, and we’ve put out I think 48 episodes, or a few more than that. So we’re just about to hit 50 and we’ve had some good series going on over there. So I consider this one a success.
Mike [12:36]: My next one was to do a better job of systemizing my different revenue streams. And I have a tendency to jump around sometimes, and it’s a little bit haphazard at times. And I recognize that I needed to be a little bit more calculating with what I did. And over the course of the past year, I’ve come to realize that it’s not just about me jumping around. It’s about not necessarily taking a plan – and I’m good at putting the plans together, at least starting to put plans together – but what I have a tendency to do is start working on the work before that plan is finished. So what will happen is that I will have this half-finished plan, and I will get through that entire half-finished plan, but I don’t have the rest of it in place, or I haven’t really thought all of it through. So because of that, I get to the end of that and I don’t really have a good idea of what I should be doing next because I haven’t planned it out. And I don’t necessarily put together the time to plan out the rest of it. So I’d say I probably did a 50-50 job on that. There’s definitely places where I made really good progress. And then there’s other places where it just didn’t go so well. But I think that the recognition that those plans need to be taken just that much further is really going to be helpful this coming year.
Rob [13:42]: And before I talk about my fifth goal for 2015 I wanted to circle back and talk about how I do a retreat every year and that’s when I typically set and solidify my goals. And we set these goals before I did the retreat last year. And I think within a month after setting them, I went on the retreat and I actually decided not to do this fifth one right away, and I came back and mentioned it on the podcast. But it was essentially an honorable mention, and it was to write another book. Maybe that would be the second addition of Start Small, Stay Small. I didn’t know at the time what it was going to be. But I basically said it on the podcast, and then a month later, said, “Yeah, not going to do that.” So that’s what this one is, is to write another book. Obviously, didn’t do that. And I knew relatively early in the year that I didn’t want to take the time away from the other things from the second podcast, from the two MicroConfs, from growing DRIP, to sacrifice those things in order to write that second book. And so that’s where that one is. So definitely not a win there, but it is something that I realized early on in the year.
Mike [14:36]: My last goal was to keep up my writing habit. And at the time I set this goal it was because I knew that I was going to start through that process of writing The Single Founder Handbook. And I was able to push that out. I finished it, and I forget, it was March or April of last year. After the book was out, I didn’t do so well in keeping up that habit, but the first several months of the year it was good enough to be able to publish that book.
It’s a fairly lengthy book. It comes in at 327 pages. So it was quite an undertaking, I’ll say. So I don’t know how I would count this one as well. Maybe half or three-quarters. But I’m pleased with how the book went, and I’m pleased that I was able to finish writing it.
Rob [15:13]: I think if we were to go back to that episode a year ago, I would probably have asked you to make this one more specific, because keeping up the writing habit is a little vague. I think a better goal would have been to launch your book, because then it’s very measurable. And maybe even launch your book in the first six months or something, first six months of the year, because you achieved that. But keeping up your writing habit, it feels to me like you didn’t achieve that, even though you had a success along the way, in essence getting your book live.
Mike [15:37]: Yeah. I don’t recall whether I had come out and said, “Hey, I’m going to be launching a book,” at the time. I don’t know if I had said that on the podcast yet, but I distinctly remember having that in mind at the end of the year. It’s like, “Hey, I want to buckle down and get a lot of good writing done on this.” But you’re right. I should have probably been a little bit more specific about that.
Rob [15:53]: So I got to be honest, Mike. You had five goals. I think you achieved like one or two of them. Pretty shaky record for you this year, man.
Mike [16:01]: Yeah. As I said it comes down to the planning aspect of it. And I think the other part of it is that I don’t really go back and look at my goals. Or at least I haven’t historically gone back and looked at them and stayed on top of them very closely month over month or anything like that. I think that with the reminders and stuff that I’ve put in place this time, I think that I’ll do better. But obviously time will tell.
Rob [16:26]: I think something else you could do is put it in your mastermind outline every week. Have that be some part of it so that you can check in, “How am I doing on these goals for 2016?”
Mike [16:36]: Yeah. I think we put something in there to review them on a quarterly basis. It was either a quarterly or monthly basis, I forget which, but that’s something else. We’ve actually discussed this a little bit in our mastermind group to try and figure out a better way of tracking our progress towards our [?] goals, because I don’t think any of us do it very well. And it’s easy to let things slide through the cracks because you’re focused on the low level stuff, and you’re not really paying attention to the macro goals.
Rob [17:02]: All right. So that was 2015. Let’s dive into what we’re looking to do in 2016.
Mike [17:06]: I put together my list, and I spent, I don’t know, it was probably like a day or two thinking about what I wanted to do for the coming year, and came up with a couple of really high level goals, and then some milestones to reach along the way, and some sub-goals that fit into those overarching goals. So I have two major goals that I want to achieve this coming year, and the first one is to launch my new product, ideally by early next year. And by early, I mean by April at the latest. I want to have people onboarded and using the products in March or April, and then be able to do essentially a full blown public launch by mid-year, mid-year being June or July.
Rob [17:43]: Okay. So hold on. You named many different months there.
Mike [17:46]: Sorry.
Rob [17:47]: So launching your new product by early next year is too vague. So I’m going to hold you to it. Let’s talk about a date. That is when you email your launch list. What is your goal in terms of a date for that?
Mike [17:59]: Well, I want to have people using it early on because I don’t know how much system resources it’s going to take, and a lot of things are up in the air. So I want to have the 10 people who’ve prepaid me using it by April 1st.
Rob [18:12]: Okay. So then how long do you think from there it’ll take you to launch? A couple of months?
Mike [18:17]: Yeah, I think so. Maybe two months. Possibly three. Probably three.
Rob [18:20]: Okay. So April, May, June, so July 1 then is a reasonably conservative view, assuming it takes you three months from the time you get your 10 early access people in there.
Mike [18:31]: Yup. I think so.
Rob [18:32]: Cool. So I’m going to note that down, July 1.
Mike [18:34]: Hold me to that one [?]
Rob [18:35]: Or at least holding you to it or not, I think it’s just good to have an actual date in mind. And I’m noting down early access by April 1, and then email the launch list by July 1, because I think it’s good. The July 1 is the one that I actually think has more flexibility either way. Because you remember with DRIP, it took us months to do the slow launch to build the features people needed, and iterate on that. And that’s stuff that is hard to rush. The April 1 deadline is one that at this point, since that one’s only, what, essentially 90 days out, and it’s really just you building software, that’s when you have much more control over is that you know what features you have to build. And you have to get the code out there. I feel like hitting that April 1 deadline should be much more in your control.
Mike [19:17]: Yup. Totally agree with that.
Rob [19:19]: Exciting. And when do you plan on starting to mention it on the podcast, in terms of what it is and what it does?
Mike [19:23]: I’m going to give it a couple of more weeks. I’ve got quite a bit of planning that I need to do for it to figure out how long different pieces of it are going to take, and prioritize some of the things that need to be done. There’s also some stuff that I need to learn about, because there’s pieces of it that I technically don’t know exactly how it will need to be done. So there’s a little bit of a research component there. And I don’t know how long some of those things are going to take. But I want to get through those before I start talking too much about it.
Rob [19:48]: You also need to get a landing page up.
Mike [19:49]: That, too.
Rob [19:51]: You got it.
Mike [19:51]: I’ll start a landing page up, too. [?]
Rob [19:52]: You got to start collecting emails, yeah. All right. So my first goal for 2016 is to 2.5X DRIP. So it’s basically the same goal I had last year. To grow by 250%. I’m going to need to focus heavily on this and get all my team on board and all that, because it feels like an ambitious goal. We’re on pace right now, given our current growth rate, to grow by about 1.7 or 1.8X. And to go to 2.5, it doesn’t sound like that much more, but when you actually look at how many more trials and how many more conversions we need throughout the year, just how many more people we need to use it, it’s a substantial amount. And so I feel like this is certainly measurable. It’s definitely attainable, but it feels like I’m really going to have to focus and pull some new levers this year, some new traction channels we’re going to have to find in order to hit this mark. Because we’re talking substantial numbers at this point, right, to 2.5. We’re not 2.5Xing from $10,000 a month anymore. It’s a lot more than that. It’s, sort of, finding that many more people to grow the app is going to be both a lot of work and also a lot of fun, I think.
Mike [20:53]: So my second major goal is to re-run some of the different experiments that I was running last year. And as I said before or earlier in the episode, I feel like I fell off the wagon a little bit mid-year just because I didn’t have the rest of them scoped out. So what I’m doing over the next week or so is writing down 12 different things that’ll essentially keep me busy for the next 12 months, just doing one per month, and focusing really hard on that, just that one thing, in order to see what happens. Part of it’s just about combating boredom. Part of it’s about trying new things. But I just want to try a bunch of different things, see what works, what doesn’t, what resonates, what’s fun, what’s not, and see how things turn out. But the first step is to put together that list of 12 things in the next week or so.
Rob [21:34]: All right. So I have a challenge for you. On next week’s episode, I would love to see your 12 things and which month each of them is going to be done in.
Mike [21:44]: Okay.
Rob [21:46]: A, I think it’ll make it better for you because then it’s super easy to be accountable to it. And you can review it with your mastermind group, or you can review it here on the podcast every month if you feel comfortable. And then I also think that one of the few reasons you said you weren’t able to achieve it last time was that you only had three or four of them, and then you wandered off after that. So if you think you’ll get it done in the next week, I think that’ll be a really good thing to just revisit quickly on next week’s episode.
Mike [22:05]: Sure.
Rob [22:05]: So my second goal for 2016 is to support Sherry with her ZenFounder book. She’s starting work on a book about startup, family, and life. And I think my role is going to be helping her shape the outline, reading drafts of it, helping contribute to it, and adding anecdotes and stories to help beef them out. Because she has a lot of research background, and she has done consulting with founders. But obviously I have more reach into the community and stories of my own. And so I think, technically, I’ll be listed as a second author on the book. That’d be my role, but I really want to help support her to get it out.
I found that over the years, I love being involved in a lot of projects. And in the past, I’ve done too many of them myself, right? I want to write the second book. I want to start the startup. I want to run the conference. I’m going to do all these things. But I’m finding now that the more I focus on running DRIP and just doing only a few things, but if I have a little bit of input into other things like advising startups or doing some angel investments here and there, being able to talk to entrepreneurs, that I get that same endorphin rush and that same feeling that I am involved in a lot of things. And so this is one of those ways where I feel like I can be involved in a book, but the weight of it and the vast majority of the work will not be on my shoulders. But it will still allow me to learn and be interested and to be involved in something exciting that’s happening. So Sherry’s goal is to get it out before the end of the year. To be honest, I don’t know if she has a particular month in mind yet, but we’re working out the details. And so my goal is to basically support her and help her get that out the door.
Mike [23:37]: Very cool. That’s, kind of, exciting.
So the next things I have in my list are essentially sub-goals, and they fit into the two that I just talked about. And the first one is to be much more deliberate about where I spend my time. And that involves separating things out into work time, family time, and then me time. And my intent is really to work less and enjoy my off time more, and essentially be overall healthier, both physically and mentally. Because I have a tendency to think about work when I’m not working, and I really need to start drawing walls of separation between those things so that when I start working, I’m essentially more fresh on it. I can just sit down, and with a clear mind, start working on things that need to get done, and then draw that line on the sand that just says, “Okay, this is family time,” or “This is alone time,” or “This is time I’m spending with my wife,” and I’m not going to be thinking about work, or thinking about other things that are going on.
Rob [24:25]: Do you know how you’re going to measure this one?
Mike [24:27]: I have some ideas about it. It’s a little difficult because I think that if you start thinking about work, for example, in the middle of the evening while you’re eating dinner, it’s a little difficult to just turn that off. But part of it’s going to involve time-boxing a little bit and saying, “Look, these are the hours that I’m going to be working on this. And these are the hours that I’m going to be spending doing that.” I think that’ll help me to put things in perspective a little bit. And I’ve also found that just putting that added pressure on myself of saying, “Oh, I’ve only got these hours to work on something,” that really, really helps me.
Something else I’ve found is that earlier in the week I’m much more productive than I am at the end of the week. So Mondays and Tuesdays, I can put in 12-hour days very easily and I don’t really get interrupted by the kids who are coming home from school, and I don’t have to watch them when they get home because my wife’s around. And what I find is that later in the week, on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, I don’t have that – I’ll call it a luxury – but it affects me more. It gets me out of the zone much, much quicker when they walk in the door. So I think that focusing on the Mondays and Tuesdays as being my highly productive days will help with that, and then blocking off Thursdays and Fridays and saying, “Yeah, I know for a fact I’m just not going to get as much work done. So I’m just going to, rather than try and fight it and try and get things done anyway, I’ll just accept it and say, “Look, I’m just going to push these things off and not worry about it until Monday because I’m not going to be as productive on it anyway.””
Rob [25:45]: This is one that I think you’ll need to review on probably a twice monthly or monthly basis or else you’ll forget it, I think.
Mike [25:51]: Yeah, I agree with that. I wouldn’t call it so much as a goal, as more of a strategy of trying to get to some of the other things.
Rob [25:58]: Yeah. That’s what it seems like. It’s like a behavior change rather than an actual goal that you’re striving for.
Mike [26:03]: Yeah, I guess that’s probably a better way to put it. Maybe calling it a goal was a misnomer, but that’s the way I was thinking of it. It’s like what has to happen, or what do I need to do in order to be able to achieve those other goals that I set forth.
Rob [26:14]: Very cool. So my third and final goal for 2016 is to make another handful of angel investments, and I’m thinking probably three to five in 2016. And what I found is, in total I’ve made about nine small angel investments – about six of them I’m a little more involved in, where I’m actually helping and advising, and they’re a little more substantial. And I found that my sweet spot is, not surprisingly, helping folks with B2B SaaS. Hopefully if they’re at product market fit, post traction, that kind of stuff. So folks who are at $5000, $10,000, $15,000 a month in revenue, and there’s some type of path to start getting this thing going.
And frankly, as weird as this sounds, it’s like investing in bootstrappers. And that doesn’t make a ton of sense, right? Because typically bootstrapping means that you’re doing without funding. But it’s this new model of “fun-strapping”, as Colin from Customer.io talked about, where essentially folks have the intent of raising a single seed round to grow quickly, get to profitability, and then that’s it. They don’t plan to go the venture-funded route. And those are the businesses that I like. And I’ve made a couple of investments recently that I’m very excited about because A, there’s a lot of value that I can bring. But B, they’re not trended to grow hundred million dollar businesses, and they have a very high likelihood of becoming seven-figure businesses and potentially even low eight-figure businesses. And that’s where I’m looking to be.
So that’s where I really enjoy it, and where I have some insight and value to add. And this again comes back to I don’t want to start other things because I really want to focus. But just being involved in a little way with these founders who are getting stuff done is exciting and it keeps me learning. And it keeps me, kind of, interested in knowing what’s going on. And so I guess if you are a bootstrapper and you hit that point where you start getting some traction and you’re thinking about raising this small, single round, certainly drop me a line because I’ve been talking to several folks lately.
Mike [28:09]: The last thing I have on my list, as you pointed out earlier, is more of a strategy than a goal, but is to be more complete with my planning. And essentially that involves creating a full plan rather than a partial one, essentially walking the process of the projects that I’m working on all the way to completion and mapping out everything that needs to be done, as opposed to getting it 70%, 80% of the way and then stopping and saying, “Oh, that’s enough of a plan. Let me dive right in and start getting things done.” So, as I said before, I have a tendency to get to near the end of those plans and then I’ll start thrashing because I don’t really know what I should be working on because I haven’t planned it.
Rob [28:43]: Yeah, that makes sense. Again, like you said, this is a strategy or a behavior change. It seems like launching your new app by April 1 to early access, and then July 1 to your launch list, is probably your main goal, and that’s where you listed it, as number one. And so, if I were in your shoes, that is what I would totally be focusing on and getting weekly milestones nailed down and planned out. Especially if you know you have that tendency to not follow through in the end; to get to the point where, like you said, you start thrashing, I think that you need to be keenly aware that around March or April, your lizard brain is going to start finding reasons why you shouldn’t be working on it, or why you should wander off and try to start something else. Or other stuff is just going to magically come up because it always does. So I think it’s good to be aware of this in yourself, and I think that as you go through the year, it’s something to review on a monthly basis of like, “Am I letting this one get the best of me like it has in the past.”?
Mike [29:45]: Yeah. I noticed that I’m for thrashing a lot because my productivity just plummets. I spend more time looking at my ever-growing list of things to do that there’s things that just get added to it. And I’m like, “Oh, I’m not sure what I should be working on.” So what ends up happening is I don’t work on anything. And I’ve already started putting together the weekly milestones like you just pointed out, and finding ways to hold myself accountable to those different milestones, and making sure that things aren’t getting pushed off, and making sure that I’m also assigning a reasonable number of tasks to each of those milestones so that I don’t get so far behind that things just go completely sideways, and then I’m in a position where I’ll never catch up.
I don’t know about you, but I think this coming year it’ll be pretty exciting.
Rob [30:24]: Yeah, I’m stoked to get started with it.
Mike [30:25]: Well, I think that about wraps us up for the day. If you have a question for us, you can call it into our voicemail number at 1-888-801-9690, or you can email it to us at email@example.com. Our theme music is an excerpt from We’re Outta Control by MoOt used under Creative Commons. Subscribe to us on iTunes by searching for “startups” and visit startupsfortherestofus.com for a full transcript of each episode. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next time.
In this episode of Startups For The Rest Of Us, Rob and Mike talk about setting your yearly goals and some processes to use in order to make sure you meet those goals.
Items mentioned in this episode:
Mike [00:00]: In this episode of Startups For the Rest of Us, Rob and I are going to be talking about how to set annual goals. This is Startups For the Rest of Us, Episode 268.
Welcome to Startups For the Rest of Us, the podcast that helps developers, designers, and entrepreneurs be awesome at launching software products, whether you’ve built your first product or you’re just thinking about it. I’m Mike.
Rob [00:23]: And I’m Rob.
Mike [00:23]: And we’re here to share our experiences to help you avoid the same mistakes we’ve made. How are you doing this week, Rob?
Rob [00:27]: Doing pretty good. I’m gearing up/down for the holidays, gearing up to hunker down. I want to do some reading, some thinking, and some high-level plotting of next year. I don’t know if I’ll be able to take my retreat in the next two weeks, but it’s getting to be that time, because I really need to nail down how I want 2016 to shake out, the goals that I want to achieve, and frankly taking an in-depth look at how 2015 went and measure it up to the goals that I set last year. And we’re going to do that in an upcoming episode. I think it’s next week where we actually revisit the goals we set last year, talk about whether or not we achieved them, and then look at our 2016 goals. So I’m hoping to take some time in the next couple of weeks, and then go on my retreat hopefully to nail everything down. How about you?
Mike [01:09]: Well, I’ve been recovering from about two weeks’ worth of major back inflammation. My back’s been acting up on me again, so there were several days where I literally just could not even sit down.
Rob [01:19]: That’s a bummer.
Mike [01:19]: So I basically just laid in bed and read the entire time, because I literally couldn’t do anything else. So five chiropractor visits later and a ton of Aleve, I’m feeling better, but there’s still lingering issues to get over.
Rob [01:32]: Yeah. It’s really hard to get work done when you’re debilitated like that.
Mike [01:36]: Well, when you can’t even sit at your desk. Literally I was just sitting there. It was painful.
Rob [01:40]: Yeah, it’s a real issue. So MicroConf sold out pretty quickly.
Mike [01:43]: Yeah, what was it? Do we have official time on that? Was it seven minutes, or was it six?
Rob [01:48]: Yeah. It was pretty bad. So we did it in waves this year where we sold through Academy members first, then returning attendees, and then the early bird list. And each year it has sold out faster and faster. So we’re having some internal discussions of what we want to do next year in terms of there’s a lot of possibilities, right? You could throw a third conference. You could expand this conference, which is something we haven’t really wanted to do in terms of the size. There’s a lot of alternatives. I think as [Xander?] said, it’s a success problem. It’s a good problem to have, but it’s definitely a problem that we need to think about ways to work around.
Mike [02:18]: Yeah. As you said, there’s a bunch of different potential solutions, but every single one of them also comes with its own set of problems. So trying to figure out what the lesser of two evils is – or the lesser five evils, I guess in some cases – is a little bit difficult.
Rob [02:33]: Right. Because is MicroConf still MicroConf if there are 325 people there?
Mike [02:37]: Yeah. I don’t know. The thing is it’ll change no matter what. I mean, if you’re just adding people it will it make it change? But I also think that much of it is the factor of how much year-over-year growth there is. So if you go from, let’s say, 250 to 400, obviously that’s a much bigger difference than 250 to 325. But even that doesn’t necessarily solve the problems. So tough call, tough call.
Hey, we’ve got all good listener question here come in from [Jeremy Vot?], and he says, “Hi, Rob and Mike. Love the show. I’m curious about something I’ve seen, and recently I’ve seen Rob do it with DRIP, which is to giveaway e-books and video courses for a limited time, and then charge for them. I assume they’re free for things like webinars as gifts. So in all reality, these are free items. So my question is about the strategy of putting a cost to them. Do people actually buy them? Is it simply to give them more value in their minds? Thanks, Jeremy.”
Rob [03:24]: Yeah, that’s a good question. The bottom line is the reason we put a price on them is to communicate the value of what they would be worth if they were not subsidized by the main business, which is obviously the software business – the email marketing software known as DRIP. What we did is we literally sat down in the office and said, “What would this be worth if we were running an info product business, and how much would we sell this for?” And we released a set of three e-books a few weeks ago on email marketing, beginners’ guides, and we released a 20-part video series. It’s an interview series with Patrick McKenzie on DRIP email marketing and tactics and things like that. In both cases, we set it less than I think I would have if we were really trying to turn a profit.
But the idea was, A, to communicate the value, and B, yeah, we have actually sold several copies. It was funny, several hundred dollars’ worth of the e-books, and I was surprised that that happened. But it’s a nice little perk. We were joking that it’s our espresso/snack fund for the office, because it’s not any real revenue compared to what the main product is driving. But it does, A, make these things worth it. So it’s not like we’re giving away a free e-book on XYZ, because instantly that makes you think that this thing’s probably not very good. And they are good. We spent literally thousands and thousands of dollars across writing, editing, and the design and the layout and all that stuff. And we packaged something that is worthwhile, and so we wanted to put a value on it. And there’s also a nice thing. We give it away free for seven days, so there is a little bit of time urgency for people to download the thing. And it’s not something that is going to be free forever, and so you’re able to get it into more people’s hands sooner.
But coming back to it again, I don’t think you can just put a price tag on some white paper that you crank out that’s not actually valuable or not worth it, because that will come back to bite you. It negatively impacts the brand. People start thinking, “Well, they’re putting out crap and putting a price on it just to try to fool people,” and that’s not a good way to go. And so we’ve been very careful that any of these things we do put out are what I consider very high quality. They are production-level, things that I have no qualms about selling. And the people who have purchased them, no one has asked for a refund. So they’re obviously worth that to these folks.
Mike [05:22]: Yeah. The first thing that jumped into my mind when I saw this question was part of it was to set that time urgency so that people would pick it up sooner rather than putting it on the back burner. And that would also, I assume, drive people to your email list so that you can then do marketing to them afterwards.
Rob [05:37]: So what are we talking about today?
Mike [05:38]: Today, what we’re going to talk about is how to set your annual goals. And we’ve talked in the past about goal-setting in general and using a system that’s commonly known as SMART. It’s setting goals that are specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and time-bound. And in this episode, what we you want to do is we want to focus specifically on how to set your yearly goals. Because this is essentially a timeboxed set of goals that you are going to have for a one-year period, and the idea here is that you want to be able to meet all of those goals. So obviously, in setting your annual goals, we’re going to conform to that SMART system. But this is going to talk through the process of how to go about setting those goals and some other things that should go along with it that are associated with that process, but not necessarily part of the goals themselves.
Rob [06:23]: Right. So we’re not going to rehash SMART here. We have talked about it in the past. A lot of folks have talked about it, and it’s. kind of, the elementary thing that you may have heard a little too much about at this point. Really we’re going to talk about seven ways to set goals that are meaningful and that are worth setting.
Mike [06:39]: And to make sure that you’re achieving them throughout the year, because obviously I think that there’s a lot of people who set their yearly goals and then they just don’t look at them for the rest of the year. They’ll maybe revisit them in September or October or November timeframe and say, “Oh, yeah. I haven’t even started on that yet.” So this process is really about not just setting those annual goals, but making sure that you’re putting systems in place, or forcing functions in place, that will help you to meet those goals throughout the year with various milestones.
So we’re going to walk through the seven different steps in this process, and the first step is to make the time to set your annual goals. And the problem I’ve been guilty of in the past on occasion is to set goals when I have time. Or I’ll think about them and say, “Oh, I should do this” or “I should do that.” And what I’m not doing is I’m not really dedicating time to sit down and really give some serious thought to it and making sure that those things are a priority rather than an afterthought.
Rob [07:33]: Yeah. And I typically do this in an annual retreat. We’ve mentioned it here before. And we did spend a whole episode of ZenFounder — if you go back to the ZenFounder Episode 2, we talk all through founder retreats. And this has been an impactful part of my entrepreneurial journey for the past, I think it’s three years, maybe four. And it’s a bit of a learned skill, but the more you do it, the more addicting it becomes to do it because you realize the value of it. I, kind of, view like It’s like an annual meditation where you go off by yourself and you carve out this time to review the past year and look at the future. And I use it as my goal-setting device. My goal of coming out of that two-day retreat that I do is that all my goals are set, and my vision for the next 12 months is secure.
Mike [08:20]: Exactly. And the first part of this process is making sure that you’re setting aside the time to do that. Because if you don’t set aside the time, you’re not really planning it out. You’re thinking about it, it’s, kind of, on your mind, but it’s not really a main focus. And I think if you’re going to do something as serious as setting these annual goals, you really need to make it a priority and make it your main focus for whether it’s several hours or a couple of days with a weekend retreat, something like that. It needs to be the primary focus of what you’re looking at, not just something you do a couple of hours here or a couple of hours there, or even just when 20 or 30 minutes here or there.
Rob [08:51]: Yeah, I agree. And you may have to do some trading. If you have kids, and your spouse needs to watch the kids for that weekend, then you may have to trade and work something out to where this is possible. If you want to do an overnight somewhere, it’s not always straightforward, and there may be some sacrifice involved. But I think there’s a lot of value in taking the time to set these goals.
Mike [09:08]: So once you’ve set aside that time to do it, Step 2 of the process is to recap the current year. And you have to give some thoughts on what went well, why did it go well, or what are the things that you didn’t accomplish that you wanted to, or are there things that you want to happen in the current year that you just weren’t able to fit into the schedule? I also think that what you want to do is you want to make sure that on your list for the following year, you want to keep in mind what it is that you want to be celebrating the following year. So at this time in December of next year, what is it that you want to be looking back on and saying, “Yeah, I’m really proud of that. I set this goal and I was able to achieve it.”? What is that? It might just be one thing. It might be two things. But you have to give some thought to what that is, in advance.
Rob [09:46]: Yeah, and this is a loose outline and, kind of, a high level. It doesn’t cover all elements of basically the outline of what I used for my retreat. And I took that, of course, from Sherry and adapted it for my purposes. And then she had also taken it from some monk from the 1300s who had a meditation and looked back and said, “What gave me life in the past year? What took life? What do I want to do more of? What do I want to do less of?”
There’s a brainstorming element of it. I always use my Moleskin notebook and I write a bunch of stuff, just page after page of notes. Sherry has a big sheet of butcher paper, sketches ideas out, thoughts, and she keeps the butcher paper from year-to-year. And, of course, I keep the Moleskine notebook. You can do it whatever. You can do it on your computer if you want. I find that the computer tends to tempt me to go check email, or go screw around on the internet, and so I like the feel of pen and paper because it is just so different. It doesn’t make me think of work like the computer does. But to each their own, and you want to figure out which way you do it. But I think recapping the current year and really looking at what you want to do more and less of ,and how you’re going to get there is your first step to setting these goals.
Mike [10:46]: And if you go over to ZenFounder.com or look it up in iTunes or whatever your favorite podcasting app is, there’s a really good episode. I think it’s Episode 2 in ZenFounder where it discusses how to go about a personal retreat. And I think we’ve talked a little bit about it on this podcast before as well.
So moving on, Step 3 in the process is to limit yourself to one or two major goals. And the thought behind this is that these goals are going to take quite a while to reach, and it might take you four to six months to even reach one of them. But you also have to allot some time for essentially a little bit of extra padding in case things go wrong, or you get sick, or some family emergency comes up and it’s going to set you back several weeks or a couple of months. There’s always other things are going to come up, and you have to make sure that you take those into account. But once you’ve got your one or two major goals set then you start doing backwards planning in order to set your quarterly, monthly, and weekly goals. And along with this, you can start setting milestone goals that will give you specific feedback about what your progress is along the way. What you don’t want to do is you don’t want to have this big, fat, hairy audacious goal that you’ve set, and no real way to track how far along you are on that goal. So if it’s writing a book, for example, you don’t want to just say, “Hey, I’m going to write a book.” You want to be able to spell out how far along you’re going to be at different points to be able to make sure you are on track to finish that goal.
Rob [12:04]: I think that especially if you’re not totally in control of your time yet – meaning you have a full-time job, or consulting, or things where you’re not just working on your own products – I think one to two goals is where you want to be. And I think one goal can be, “I want to have quit my job by the end of the year.” Or it might be, “I want to only be doing 10 hours of consulting a week, or zero consulting.” That, for me, was my goal for several years in a row. I didn’t go through this process at that point. I wasn’t doing retreats. This is, let’s say, back in 2006, 2007, and 2008. But I knew that that was my one goal, and then I work backwards from that. And I have just focused all my energy on growing my apps, or acquiring apps, or building apps, or doing whatever in order to hit that revenue mark, and there was a number that I needed to make.
And so if you don’t have your “freedom” yet from your job, or from contracting, that, I think, has to be a goal of yours, assuming that you want to do the entrepreneurial life. If you already have products or you’re already working full-time for yourself in essence on your own products, and you’re making a full-time living from them, I think you can have more than one or two goals. I think you’re in a position where you have more control over it, and I think that having a revenue goal and then maybe a goal of launching something new, whether it’s a new, I don’t know, podcast or blog or even a new product or some new major marketing efforts around your existing product, I think all of those could be included in your goals. And it, kind of, depends on how you label the major goals, but I think early on that you’re going to want to keep it to one to two, and then you can maybe expand it a little later as you get a better feel for how much you can actually get done in a year. Because I think most of us early on overestimate how much you can get done. And then you become more and more pessimistic as you set these goals and you review at the end of each year, and you realize, “Boy I really didn’t get that much done.” And you start pushing stuff off to the next year. You become a bit more realistic about it.
Mike [13:58]: Step 4 in the process is to identify specific ways that you can hold yourself accountable through the various milestones that you’ve set up. And the idea here is that you want to set up an automated system that will essentially ensure that you don’t forget about the milestones along the way, or that you aren’t letting things slide. And you can do this through a variety of different ways. You can use a mastermind group. You can use an accountability partner. Your spouse or significant other is also a good one, or a fellow business owner. If you meet up for drinks, or lunch, or dinner, or something like that on a regular basis with anyone else who is doing the same types of things as you are, you can use them to essentially to bounce ideas off of, and essentially just put together an outline and say, “Hey, every week or every two weeks, this is what we’re going to talk about.”
And you have to schedule this time. One of the things that I’ve found is that if I don’t set aside the time for this, if I don’t actually schedule these periodic check-ins to go back and look at that, it’ll be three or four months before I even go back and look at my goals. So you have to schedule the time and make sure that in some way, shape, or form, that you are paying attention to that moving forward. Because it’s very easy, as Rob said, to just push things off. I find that if you have an automated email that comes in to you every week or every two weeks – this is one of the things that we do in our mastermind group – is we have a link that just gets emailed to us every Monday morning that points to the Google Doc, and that tends to work really well just by drawing attention to it. But at the same time, it’s also fairly easy to almost ignore that, or bypass it, just because it comes in on a Monday and we don’t meet until Tuesday night. So depending on the timing or scheduling of that, it might be a factor. But if you schedule it very close to a particular meeting, it’s going to pop into your email and you’ll see it shortly before the meeting. It’ll be essentially a trigger to remind you, “Hey, we need to discuss this.”
So again, any of those things – mastermind group, accountability partner, all of those things – if there are triggers that you can set in place, especially if they’re automated to remind you that hey, you need to review this on this periodic basis, that will help you to hold yourself accountable to those milestones.
Rob [16:01]: I pretty much always have a revenue goal for the main product I’m working on, which has been DRIP for the past few years and was HitTail before that. And what I have found as extremely helpful for me in the mastermind groups that I’m in is at the end of every month, the next mastermind that I have, I say what the revenue was. And just forcing myself to calculate it to the penny and report it in the mastermind group, even though people aren’t necessarily holding me super accountable to anything in the meetings, it really helps me visualize where I am on the path to that goal. And the nice part is your mastermind folks aren’t going to remember your revenue from month to month, so it forces you to basically say, “Hey, two months ago, I was at this. Last month, we were at this. And now, we’re at this.” And it makes you actively think, “Oh boy, we only grew by a thousand each of the last two months. I’m not going to get there if I grow that slowly.” Or if you can say, “Well, last month we grew by 5000, like the month before,” then suddenly you just become more aware of it because you have to explain it to another person. It’s like the concept of how you really know something once you can teach it. I think that, for me, I’ve always calculated monthly revenue. I’ve always looked at it. But something that helps me absorb it and process it is to then explain it to the folks in my groups. And it really helps solidify that, and it adds this level of a recurring accountability milestone.
Mike [17:21]: The fifth step in the process is to identify your motivational triggers, and these motivational triggers can be either positive or negative. So a positive motivational trigger would encourage you to do more work, or to be more productive, while a negative one would essentially hold you back from that, whether it’s making you procrastinate or just doing some form of work avoidance, or spending too much time on certain things because you feel like maybe they’re ultra important and they need to be just perfect. Those are the types of things that you need to identify so that you can implement additional ways to make sure that those things are not holding you back, or that you are encouraging those motivational triggers that are positive. And these are essentially feedback loops that you want to set up.
Everyone has a different motivational trigger. Some people are positively reinforced by money or fame. Or other people who just say, “Hey, I just want to be healthy.” They don’t necessarily have these giant, grandiose goals, but they just want to concentrate on their family, or they want to concentrate on personal learning. Each of these things, there’s nothing right or wrong with any of them, but you have to recognize what your own motivational triggers are and then set up feedback loops so that you can make sure that you positively reinforce and double-down on those ones that are positive and reduce or eliminate the ones that are negative.
Rob [18:34]: Recently with DRIP, we’ve launched those two knowledge products; that e-book that I mentioned that we gave away for free for a week and then started selling, and then the video series with Patrick McKenzie. And what I’ve noticed is the motivational trigger during that time was that the positive feedback of doing something risky and doing something scary in public, right, because you launch it, you email the list, and you’re wondering, “Boy, are people are going to like this? Is it going to go well? Or is all this time and money we spent just going to go out to crickets?” And I saw excitement in the team as we were reporting the numbers and the number of downloads, and the number of uploads on product time, and the number of comments and all that stuff. And so for me, doing things in public and getting positive or negative feedback has always been a trigger of one kind. And I think the further I’ve gotten away from that, You know, I blog less than I used to due to time constraints. Luckily, I still have the podcast and the conference and stuff. But I think that getting back to the things that really matter to you, and push you in a virtuous cycle, I think, is important. I know that I’ve just recently rediscovered that and remember it. I published just a couple of blogs posts in the past few months. And the feedback, and just knowing that I pushed something out into the world again, and writing – it was something I don’t do often – was really a motivational trigger for me. And so I think that learning that about yourself, and then noting it down and not forgetting – which is frankly what I’ve done as I’ve stepped away from that – I think it’s a positive thing.
Mike [19:57]: And some of those things you just talked about lead us into Step 6 of the process, which is to identify the patterns that indicate that you’re demotivated. And some of these things just boil down to a basic sense of procrastination, but sometimes you can recognize certain patterns. So, for example, maybe you wake up later than you usually do because you lack focus, or clarity, or lack a sense of drive to just get out of bed and start working on your product. And this is especially true if you own your own time and you aren’t sure what you should be doing. And it’s very difficult to motivate yourself to get out of bed and sit down and be motivated to be productive if you’re not really sure what it is that you’re driving for, or what you’re trying to do, or you’re not sure what to do.
Another symptom, or a pattern that you might be able to recognize, is if you’re playing an excessive amount of video games, or watching a lot of TV or movies, or you’re just making a general lack of progress towards your milestones. Any of the activities that you typically do that are essentially time-wasters tend to fall into this category of patterns where you can recognize that you’re demotivated. And I think the recognition piece of it is really important, because if you don’t even recognize that this is a problem there’s nothing that you can do about it because you don’t even know where to start because you don’t know that there is a problem. So recognizing that the patterns that you undertake during those situations is really important. And it warrants writing them down so that you have it in your mind that, “Hey, these symptoms, or these things that I do, or these things that go on in my environment, are demotivational to me, and will hold me back.” So as long as you have that in mind and you’ve written it down, you can use that as essentially a trigger to recognize them. And again, going back to identifying specific ways to hold yourself accountable, these are things that you should review on a periodic basis to make sure that you’re not falling into any of those traps that are going to hold you back.
Rob [21:44]: We’re all going to become demotivated at one point or another throughout a year. The key is, as you said, to identify it, and then to figure out if it’s a short-term or a long-term dip. And if it’s short-term, you can often pull yourself out using tactics, or making small adjustments. And the tactics I tend to use are music, getting a playlist together that matches the mood and that I start to loop and, kind of, puts me in the zone. I will up my caffeine intake for the short term and do it at really key times or about 20 minutes before I’m going to start working. I’ll also change my work environment. If I haven’t worked from coffee shops in a while, I will go work in a coffee shop. Right now, I’m actually working at our house – that’s currently on the market – that we’re not living in, so there’s no one here. And I’m here maybe once a week. It feels like a new environment, and that is extremely motivational to me. And I think to most people, to be in a new environment, it tends to spark creativity and ignite something in your brain, because you feel like you’re in a new place.
I think something else to think about is if you find yourself being demotivated for longer periods of time, it might be that the work is just crappy. Or you’re doing the wrong thing? It’s not a good fit for you. If you feel like you’ve wandered off and you’re, I don’t know, writing an e-book or an info product because everyone’s saying you should, and you’re really, really struggling with it and hating it, then maybe that’s not for you. Maybe you’re more of someone who should launch software. Or vice versa. If you’re sitting there just toiling away at your SaaS apps for months and months and months and you haven’t launched it, and it’s demotivational, maybe that’s not the right path for you. Maybe you should take some expertise and put it into an e-book instead and do something in public, get that virtuous cycle started and go off in another direction.
It’s something to think about and reevaluate, and not just take things at face value that what you’ve decided to do is what you have to do. Because if two, three months down the line you’re still feeling this way, something is probably wrong, either chemically with you – which is certainly a possibility. Wintertime is definitely tough when it’s dark and cold and you don’t go outside. Or it may be that the work is just not a good fit for you and that you’re not going to be happy even once you launch. That’s the thing. If you’re not enjoying the journey along the way, for the most part, then you’re not going to enjoy the destination when you get there.
They’ve done studies and such with doctors, or folks in med school actually. And the people who are really unhappy and just grinding it out, trying to get through, and they’re saying, “Well, as soon as I’m a doctor, everything will be great,” it doesn’t tend to be great for them when they get to be a doctor, right? Because they really didn’t love the work and the journey. And it tends to be the folks who are enjoying themselves along the way. Even though they know it’s hard work, they are enjoying it along the way. And then when they get to their destination, now they can look ahead at the next destination. And it’s not like, “Oh no, I need to grind it out for four more years.” It’s like, “I’m going to enjoy the journey to the next destination as well.”
Mike [24:23]: And a little addendum to that is that if you recognize that you are in those situations, it might be a good time to reevaluate what your yearly goal is. Just because you’ve set those yearly goals, it doesn’t mean that halfway through you might change your mind and decide that it’s not something that you actually want to achieve. You shouldn’t just grind it through just to make sure that you meet that goal if it’s not ultimately going to make you happy. So keep those types of things in mind as well.
Step 7 in the process is to set up a reward system for meeting your milestones and major goals. Know what it is that you’re working for, both in the short and the long term, and use those motivational triggers to help push through some of the hard times. And some of the different rewards that you can give yourself — they don’t even have to be very big. You might just treat yourself out to lunch at Qdoba or something like that. I mean, just go to a taco place in the middle of the day for no other reason than it’s a Thursday afternoon and you decided that one of your milestones was to get to a thousand subscribers, for example, and that you just recently met that goal. So treat yourself.
And there’s a lot of different ways that you can treat yourself in small ways that will help with that positive reinforcement. And it’s great to be able to hit those milestones, but tacking on additional rewards to those things can be really helpful as well. And it could just be a dinner and a movie out with your spouse or your significant other. It could be a new video game. It could be some new music. It could be a new album, a new book, for example, or it could just be a short trip, or even just a day trip out to a museum or a theme park or something like that. Everyone’s is going to be different. Everyone wants different things. And some of those rewards are going to be more appealing to you than others, but make sure that you’ve attached some of those rewards to some of the different milestones that you’ve set up in order to make sure that you’re getting that closed feedback loop that is going to help reinforce you moving forward.
Rob [26:05]: I’m actually really bad at this, and I’m trying to get better. You know who’s really good at this, is Phil Derks. And he has his WordPress Simple Play plugin and a couple of others over at Moonstone Media. He did an attendee talk last year at MicroConf and he lives here in Fresno. And all along the way, he had these great milestones set up when he hit a thousand in revenue and X thousand in revenue. And it was fitting, too. They got bigger along the way. It was like, “Oh, it’s a nice dinner with my wife.” Then it’s a, I think, wine club membership was another one that I thought was a great reward for yourself, because that’s a non-trivial cost each year. But if you’re thinking to yourself, “Boy, when we hit five grand a month in revenue, it’s a big milestone for me,” then do something worthy of that. Go out of town for a night without the kids, or do a really nice dinner, and spend more than you typically would. Or do any of the things you said, or set up a wine club membership, something that you wouldn’t normally do, and that is really icing on the cake to give yourself the payback for all the work that you’ve done.
Because although the journey should be fun, and the goal should be worth doing just for itself, I do think there’s a lot of value in celebrating with some other people around you, and then just having that cool thing that then reminds you of the goals that you’ve achieved, right? Because then when the wine arrives in the fall, then you can think to yourself, “You know, I earned this. I built a business that supported this, and that goal paid it back.” And it’ll remind you of achieving that goal, which I think is something to relish. Because as entrepreneurs, I think oftentimes we are trained to be a little more pessimistic. Maybe it’s just me, but we can tend to look at the dark side of things or look at what’s not going right rather than what’s going right. And so I think we need as many reminders as we can.
And speaking of going and seeing a movie, opening night, Star Wars Episode 7, baby. I’m going to see it with my kid.
Mike [27:55]: We’ve threatened the kids with leaving them home or going to see it while they’re at school.
Rob [27:59]: Nice. That’s great. I love it. That’s a great punishment. Yeah, I wish I had a goal that I had achieved recently and I could attribute it to this, but alas, it’s just I want to see it. And it’s weird that they’re selling tickets Thursday nights. Are you seeing it Thursday? Because it’s supposed to open Friday, but then they have a bunch of Thursday showings.
Mike [28:16]: I didn’t know that they were doing it Thursday before midnight. Usually I like doing it on opening night for a movie. Like if it’s a big movie, they’ll do it at midnight, and so they’ll have midnight showings. I haven’t heard of anybody showing it before midnight on Thursday though. But I haven’t looked either. We haven’t really set aside the time to figure out when we’re going to go.
Rob [28:31]: Yeah, there’s a bazillion showings here starting at 6 or 7 p.m. on Thursday night.
Mike [28:35]: You could just say that your reward is for your lifetime achievement of being the oldest today that you’ve ever been in your life.
Rob [28:41]: Boom. That’s it. So to recap what we said in today’s episode, we had seven steps for how to set annual goals. The first one was make time to set the goals. The second one was to recap the current year and then look ahead. The third was to limit yourself to one to two major goals. Fourth was identify specific ways to hold yourself accountable. The fifth was identify your motivational triggers, both positive and negative. The sixth was to identify patterns that indicate you’re demotivated. And the seventh was to set up a reward system.
If you have a question for us, call our voicemail number at 888-801-9690, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our theme music is an excerpt from We’re Outta Control by MoOt used under Creative Commons. Subscribe to us on iTunes by searching for “startups,” and visit startupsfortherestofus.com for a full transcript of each episode. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next time.
In this episode of Startups For The Rest Of Us, Rob and Mike talk about of the biggest roadblocks to your success. After 5 years of additional knowledge and experience they revisit the topic and share some new insights.
Items mentioned in this episode:
Rob [00:00]: In this episode of Startups For the Rest of Us, Mike and I revisit a topic we covered back in episode 3 in April of 2010. We’re going to talk about the biggest roadblocks to your success. This is Startups For the Rest of Us episode 237.
Welcome to Startups For The Rest Of Us, the podcast that helps developers, designers, and entrepreneurs be awesome at launching software products, whether you’ve built your first product or you’re just thinking about it. I’m Rob.
Mike [00:31]: And I’m Mike.
Rob [00:31]: And we’re here to share our experiences to help you avoid the same mistakes we’ve made. What’s the word this week, Mike?
Mike [00:36]: Well, Tom Fakes wrote to us about his new service called fhrnews.com, which is for helping American Express Platinum members make better use of their hotel benefits for the respective free night and the special offers that are often available. And, it’s interesting because Tom was at MicroConf Vegas, and it was him and me and Rich Buggy and I think Ken Wallace as well, but there were several of us sitting there talking to him, wee hours of the morning. It was probably 3:00 in the morning when we were sitting there talking about it and trying to help him figure out which direction to go with the products and figure out a monetization strategy. So, it’s good to see that he’s making traction with it. I’ve seen what he’s been talking about on Twitter and just gotten a couple of emails here and there that have said, “Oh, this is how many new subscribers I’ve gotten and it’s actually going somewhere.” So it’s great to see that those late night conversations were actually bearing some fruit.
Rob [01:22]: Yeah. Nice. I like the kind of long form approach although, Tom, I would tone down the yellow highlighter. That has actually become, you know how when people mock old web design, html design, they always say it’s the marquee tag, right, that made everything flash? Well, the same thing said for internet marketing is the yellow highlighter and that’s almost become like a parody of itself. So, I would dial that down and either use italics or bold just so that people give you more credibility, but other than that, looks good.
Mike [01:52]: I’ll have to disagree with you a little bit just because I think his target market might actually like that.
Rob [01:56]: Fair enough. It’s a good point. It’s always a good point to keep in mind who you’re targeting. If you’re targeting more advanced marketers or technical people, then the yellow highlighting is going to be irritating, but most other people who are having American Express Platinum Card, or whatever this is for, could very well may not know that whole meme.
Mike [02:14]: Yeah, I think it’s more for executives, like that’s what the service is aimed at is people who have an American Express Platinum Card using it for the corporate use. And it seems to me like that would actually fly pretty well with them. But I think Rob’s got a good point, something to test.
Rob [02:28]: For sure. So MicroConf Europe is coming together. We almost have dates. We actually signed a contract today, but we have not received the countersign version, so we don’t want to announce dates yet. But it’s looking like it’s going to be in Barcelona, and we’ll have dates hopefully by next week.
Mike [02:44]: You’re a total MicroConf tease.
Rob [02:46]: I know. I do that on purpose. If you might be interested in joining us in Barcelona in the fall, go to microconfeurope.com and enter your email address in the top right, and we’ll be sure to be in touch. Tickets will go on sale in a couple weeks, and there’s a good chance they could sell out, so you definitely want to get on the email list if you think you might want to come.
Mike [03:06]: Anything else going on?
Rob [03:07]: I’m in kind of the good news bad news mode. Drip is ramping up. The marketing is going well and accelerating because I finally hired someone for customer success and to help me with growth, and she’s already cranked out a bunch of KB articles and a blog post and is heading up the launch of our little educational area we’re calling Drip University. So it cleared out a huge backlog from my Trello list, and I feel like that flywheel is starting to spin just a little bit faster with another person helping. That’s the good news. The bad news is I’ve been discouraged about HitTail because I’m not able to spend enough time to grow it because Drip is moving quickly and it really should be my main focus. And so, HitTail’s is kind of sitting there, and I feel like it has potential to grow, but it’s just not working out. So, I’m trying to sort through that and figure out if there’s a way because I had hired someone a couple months ago to help out and within the first trial period, 30-day trial period, he said that he found out he didn’t have enough time to do it, so he backed out. And I haven’t revisited that, but that’s where it stands. So that’s kind of been my week, thinking about those two things.
Mike [04:08]: Cool. So today we’re talking about the biggest roadblocks to your success, right?
Rob [04:11]: That’s right. And way back in episode 3, which went live in April of 2010, we talked about four roadblocks. And so what I did was I put together this outline without looking at the old outline. I wanted to revisit this topic and see what kind of new insights we had, what different thoughts we had on it, and, frankly, most people don’t go back and listen to something five years old. So even if we say some of the same things, it should be a good reminder. What’s interesting is I made this new list and then I looked back and there is a decent amount of overlap, which shows that these are still consistent things like there’s consistent mistakes still being made in the community. The list we had back from 2010, the four roadblocks were choosing a product with no market, having a lack of goals, being inconsistent – meaning having a lack of focus and overcommitting, and believing that you have to do everything yourself. Today we’re going to be covering six roadblocks and to kick us off, we have lack of a clear goal.
And this is the one I always think about when I think about kind of self-sabotage and about people who are not making progress. It’s that not having a clear goal and knowing what you want to do makes it pretty hard for you to decide where you’re headed and what you need to do to get there. And it also decreases motivation if you’re not super motivated to achieve this goal. An example is, I hated consulting and salaried work back in 2005-‘06, as I was moving away from it. And my number one goal, above all else, was to quit that, and I focused on that. And all I needed was 8,000 bucks a month in order to quit that job. And the focus and the motivation of having that single-minded goal really drove me to it. And I think that I got there way faster than if I hadn’t set up that very concrete goal and worked towards it so hard.
Mike [05:58]: Yeah. I can’t agree with this more. I did consulting for a very long time, much longer than you did, and I think part of my problem was that I actually enjoyed consulting for a really long time. It was fun to just kind of drop into an environment that I didn’t know anything about and go in, solve problem, work with different people, and just get things done. Just kind of like you, after a while, I started to get burned out on it, and I got to a point where I started to really despise doing the consulting work. And I don’t know whether it was just about the work itself or the way it was being done or the technologies involved and things like that, but I got to the point where I just didn’t want to do it anymore.
Rob [06:31]: Yeah, and I think it gets old. Once you’ve done something 20, 30, 40 times, it kind of stops being fun.
Mike [06:37]: You’re solving the same problem over and over and over again just because everybody has that problem. It gets boring, and you just don’t want to do it anymore. Honestly, you get to a certain point where you know what the answers are before people even ask the questions, and you want to just give them the answers but you almost have to wait and let them tell you what they’re problem are because if you give them the answer first, they don’t want to hear it because then you don’t understand. It’s like, “No, I’ve seen this problem in 30 other environments. Trust me. You have this problem, and you don’t know it yet. You just can’t verbalize it.” And you have to be very careful about biting your tongue because otherwise if you speak too soon, they don’t want to hear whatever it is that you have to say.
Rob [07:11]: Right. Because you’re a few steps ahead of them, because you’ve seen this scenario over and over and over and you know how it’s going to play out.
Mike [07:16]: Right. But then it gets boring because then you have to listen to the same things over and over.
Rob [07:20]: It’s like Groundhog Day, right, Bill Murray in Groundhog Day where you’re so tired of it. If you’re listening to this episode and you have no product and you have no idea that your number one goal, I think, should be to validate a product idea and start working on it. And then, once you have that, your focus should be on getting that product out the door – that should be your number one goal. Then it should change to getting revenue for that product. And then it should change to a dollar amount like, “I want to get to 2,000 a month in revenue,” to pick an arbitrary example. And then once you have that, you should try to multiply that if you’re going to do the stair-step approach, just to try to get two or three more out, hit your revenue goal, and quit your job should become your goal. And then from there, it goes on and on and on. But that’s kind of the succession of steps that I would attack and the goals that I would have in mind if I were doing this all over again.
Mike [08:06]: And I think that that’s an interesting point that you made there about the fact that your goal changes over time because you’re going to have these different milestones. You may have this grand goal of, “I don’t want to work for somebody else anymore,” but at the same time, there’s these little, tiny milestones along the way that are going to become your mini goals, so that you have to, essentially work towards those first.
Rob [08:25]: That’s right. And every year, I go on a retreat, I talk about it on the podcast, and I find the next maybe three to five goals that I’m going to accomplish in the next year. And then, you and I do an episode, typically in December, where we talk about our goals, what we accomplished in the past year, whether or not we hit goals we set a year prior. And then, we talk about the next year’s goals. And I think if you’re wondering about how to set goals and that kind of stuff, you can go back and listen to any of those episodes to hear the kinds of things that we’re committing to hear. I’ve always been a believer in goals. I’m a goal-oriented person in general, but I think that if you don’t have something that you’re working towards, it really is a roadblock to your success. Second roadblock is something that I see all the time. It’s building a product before finding customers. I think there are some ideas that you’re able to validate in advance. An idea like HitTail or Drip or going around asking people whether they need a service and then building it, I think it is valuable. I think there are products that you can build quickly that you don’t need to pre-validate.
And I think examples of that could be something like Baremetrics where Josh was able to get a version out in a week, and it was just faster to get that out. Dan Norris with WP Curve, that’s more productized consulting if you think about it. You don’t need to validate that. The validation is that you just put up a landing page and start charging people. We have Craig Hewitt over at Podcast Motor, that’s another one where I wouldn’t have gone and asked people. Maybe I would have had a few conversations but getting that landing page up and just trying to start using your network to sell it, is the big step. But the days of going in your basement and coming up with an idea, and then sitting there writing code for six months – those should be gone. I know people continue to make those mistakes, and actually, we’ll see a lot of folks we have to get emails, we see them at MicroConf, they come into FounderCafe, and they say, “Yeah. I made this big mistake, this developer mistake of just coming up with an idea and building it.” And so, if you’re still doing that, you really, really should stop. The odds of it succeeding are like it’s like a crapshoot at that point.
Mike [10:26]: Yeah. I might even take it just a step further and say it’s not just about finding customers but it’s about finding a repeatable way to get those customers. So, if you have a product that you’re thinking of building and maybe it’s a clone of another product that is already successful, just because they’re successful with it doesn’t mean that you can be as well. And, even if you’re going to try to go at a different market segment for example, if you’re going to take a product that targets medium-sized businesses, and you’re going to say, “Well, I’m going to take this to bootstrappers.” Well, do bootstrappers need it? Are they going to pay you for it? Those are types of things that really factor into it that are going to indicate whether or not you’re going to be successful with it. So, don’t necessarily ignore the whole marketing aspect behind the customers as well.
Rob [11:07]: The third roadblock I’ve written down is lack of focus. Once you have this goal that we talked about two roadblocks ago, work backwards and develop a plan to get to that goal. Try to do a timeline. Do whatever it is that you can to make that structured, and then work through the steps. You really want it to be a step-by-step process to getting there, because that’s going to keep you from wandering. I would also take it a step further and really focus the media that you consume. So instead of continuing to listen to a bazillion podcasts, I actually whittle my podcasts down when I’m at a certain point in my sequence, and I will skip over a lot of irrelevant material. So back when Derek and I were first validating building Drip, I stopped listening to stuff that was talking about how to scale and how to grow and all that because it wasn’t relevant to me right at that time. And I was only listening to a lot of info and consuming info about validation. Once we launched, then I started looking more into the growth stuff. And now that we are where we are, I’m looking at topics that are relevant to me. So, I try to focus that media, including both the audio books, the blog posts, and the podcasts that I listen to.
Mike [12:11]: I think you also have to take a look at those in terms of the focus and figure out if you’re being distracted. And if you’re being distracted in any way, shape, or form, figure out why. Is it that you’re not motivated? Is it that you don’t know necessarily what you’re doing? Are you afraid of doing something that you’ve never done before? There’s a lot of reasons why you might not be making progress, and lack of focus is, I’ll say it’s kind of a bucket that people throw a lot of different things in, but there’s not necessarily just one cause for that lack of focus or lack of motivation. So, be cautious about the reasons why you might have a lack of focus in terms of approaching whatever the product is that you’re going after.
Rob [12:48]: I think another cause of lack of focus is that you’re just chasing too many approaches at once, you’re chasing the next shiny approach. You hear about info products, “Oh, I’m going to do those.” You hear about WordPress plugins. You hear about Sass. You hear about productized consulting. Or you hear about marketing on Facebook or on Twitter or on this or on that. You can’t chase all these things at once, and you have to pick one. You have to build a plan. You have to figure out what the goal is, and you have to try to work towards it and not wander all over the place. And so, kind of keeping in mind that the next shiny approach is probably not the best thing for you to do right now, and that sticking to your plan is, that’s going to help you get over this roadblock. Fourth roadblock we’re going to talk about is the unwillingness to move out of your comfort zone. So it’s things like not wanting to learn marketing, not wanting to outsource some development, not being willing to maybe buy an app if one presents itself, not being willing to hire a VA and outsource some basic tasks. It is possible to build and launch and be successful without doing these things. It just becomes way, way harder if you’re going to try to do everything yourself.
Mike [13:50]: Yeah and some of these things just tie into fear of doing the unknown. You have to be willing to try things out, especially when it comes to marketing because there’s always going to be things that you’re wondering about. If you’re not familiar with content marketing, you’re just like, “Is this going to affect my business? Is it going to move the needle for me?” And it could be something that takes your business to the next level, but it could be something that flops. And you won’t necessarily know that until you at least give it a shot. So, those are the risks that you’re going to have to be willing to take even if they’re outside your comfort zone because a lot of people are just afraid of doing things, because they’re afraid they might fail at them. And, you shouldn’t necessarily be afraid of failing at things. You should be afraid of looking back on them in 10 or 15 years and saying, “I wish I’d tried that instead of going down the wrong path.” Because, typically, when you go down the wrong path, you’re going to learn at least something from it. But if you never go down any of those paths at all, you’re probably not going to get anywhere to begin with.
Rob [14:39]: And the next roadblock that I see people hitting is having an unhealthy consumption to production ratio. And this just comes down to consuming too much stuff, the online media, hanging out on Twitter, Facebook, reading blog posts, listening to podcasts instead of working. So whether you use the term entreporn, whether you decide you’re going to go on a media diet, you kind of need to stop reading and start acting at a certain point. And I think this comes back to with lack of focus, this could be part of that. And it also comes back to once you have that goal in place that you’re working towards and you have some kind of timeline, that always helps me stay focused and basically, go on a temporary media diet where I’ll still consume some stuff, but I will back way off when I’m heads down trying to actually hit a short-term goal.
Mike [15:26]: Little historical anecdote here, but do you remember? I think it might have even been before we started this podcast that you and I had had a couple of discussions about this exact topic. And our thoughts at the time were, “We want people to listen to the podcast, but at the same time, we recognize that this is a problem, so we would rather them spend less time listening to our podcasts and more time doing things.” And that was one of the deciding factors that caused us to do heavy editing on the podcasts and offer transcripts and lots of different ways for people to consume the podcast as quickly as possible so they could get in and get out.
Rob [15:59]: I vaguely remember that. I’m glad you brought it up. That totally sounds like something we would say. I mean that’s kind of the digital behind this podcast, right? It’s that we try to maximize your time because we know that you should be building and launching.
Mike [16:10]: Right. And that was the catch-22 we were in is just we want people to learn something, but at the same time, we don’t want them to listen to us too much.
Rob [16:17]: Right. The sixth roadblock I have is ignoring the need for community and accountability. And this was one that was completely not on my radar five years ago when we did this the first time. But since then, having joined two mastermind groups, running the seven MicroConfs that we’ve run, the connections we’ve made through that, going to DCBKK, attending some local meetups, all of these things have had dramatic, dramatic impact on my progress and the people who I see embracing these communities and looking for accountability in them and looking for others who are doing the same so that we can all move in the same direction and help each other get where we’re going.
Mike [16:56]: Yeah. When we did that podcast episode originally, that was back in 2010, and the first MicroConf wasn’t until 2011, and at the time, the Micropreneur Academy was around, but it wasn’t nearly as, I’ll say, well-formed or as well-populated as it is today. And it was all a lot newer, a lot fresher. So, people weren’t interacting as much, and people didn’t really know what to expect. Now, like the bootstrapping community has kind of taken off and has developed legs of its own, and there are lots of different places to go for help and to talk to people and just learn from other people. There’s books and everything. And so you can go to a local meetup, or you can read books or blogs. There’s lots more resources than there were even five years ago. And it’s nice to see that there’s all these different communities around that are available to people regardless of the technology that you’re using, regardless of the marketing strategies you’re using. And, you can learn something from just about every single one of them. And it’s really nice to be able to leverage all the different data points of other people because you can’t possibly learn everything by yourself. It’s great to be able to leverage the experiences of other people and, quite frankly, the failures that other people have encountered and be able to use those to your advantage so that when you go out and try something, you’ve learned from other people’s mistakes, and you can do them better.
Rob [18:10]: And if you’re looking to join a mastermind group, check out Ken Wallace’s service. He’s a FounderCafe member. He started a service called Mastermind Jam, and he’s trying to link people up. It’s at mastermindjam.com. The last roadblock I have has come about because of several talks at MicroConfs, both from you, from my wife Sherry, and this one is working yourself into the ground. It’s basically working so hard that you burnout, that you cause health issues or you encounter them and you continue to try to work through them. It may feel right to work all day and then come home and work until 2:00 in the morning, and I’ll admit I did that back in the day and I do think there’s a time and a place for it, but you can’t do that forever. And you have to do this in sprints, and then back off and give yourself time to recover, both mentally and physically. Entrepreneurship is long ball. You have to play it as a long ball game, and you need to be aware of where you stand emotionally and physically because it can take a toll on you if you push this too hard for too long.
Mike [19:12]: This is something else that was totally not on my radar five years ago. And I’ve had some health issues here and there and talked about them at MicroConf. And it’s interesting how long it can take you to get over certain things. I’ve had some conversations with people at MicroConf who have had either similar issues to mind or have had related issues, and some of them are just hard to get over. You can’t just flip a switch and say, “Oh, this problem is solved.” One thing I realized was that, over the past 10 days or so, I feel like I’ve actually made more progress in the past 10 days than I’ve made in quite a long time primarily because I’ve been able to sit down and focus all day for the entire day. I’ve realized that I’ve got a streak of 10 days going now at this point, and I haven’t had a streak of 10 days where I’ve been able to do that in a very, very long time. And I think a part of it is related to moving my office out of the dungeon of the basement, to be perfectly honest. And having sunlight is actually quite nice.
Rob [20:04]: Well and I think this changing of the seasons is a big one. When I lived down the east coast, I had a really rough time during the winter. It was dark and cold for five and a half months, and when spring came, I remember my productivity shooting up, my mood shooting up, really just becoming more motivated. And that is one perk of being here in Fresno, California where it is sunny, whatever, 10 months of the year or something, and to such a detriment that we actually have a drought. But it makes it easier to stay motivated because you get that vitamin D every day.
Mike [20:33]: Right. I think there’s a seasonal affective disorder that goes along with that, and some people have it and some people don’t. And there’s these special lights that you can buy. They have a little special wavelength of blue light that they shoot out. I’ve got one of those. It never really felt like it helped all that much, but I did use it. But I really felt like moving out of the basement and up into an area where I get natural sunlight every single day now, it was tremendously helpful. And like I said, it could be coincidence. It could be the fact that I was burned out for a long time and now I’m kind of over a lot of that stuff. But, it’s amazing how productive you can be in two weeks when you aren’t distracted constantly and just getting pulled in different directions and able to sit down and just work for four or six, eight hours at a time.
Rob [21:14]: The thing to keep in mind is that, these are very common roadblocks. These are kind of the patterns that we see dealing with thousands and thousands of entrepreneurs as well as I’ve seen these patterns in myself, and I’m constantly figuring out how to stay focused, how to pursue these goals, how to go out of my comfort zone. It’s always going to be an ongoing struggle. You don’t just conquer this and then suddenly you’re successful and you’re not going to hit these roadblocks. But, what happens is, in my experience, the first time you encounter them, you don’t know how to get around them. But once you’ve overcome them, it gets easier and easier each time you face them after that.
Mike [21:48]: And part of that’s just a recognition problem that that is a problem to begin with. You might not necessarily realize that the reason you’re not doing something is because you’re unfamiliar with it and you’re unwilling and uncomfortable going in that direction, or that consuming too much media, so you don’t realize that you’re consuming much more than you’re producing. And just being able to realize that some of those things are a problem is, in itself, part of the solution. But you have to recognize that it’s a problem before you can do anything to solve it.
Rob [22:17]: That’s a huge part of it is I think recognition is got to be more than half of the issue, and then the other half is actually solving it. But, that first time, you don’t tend to recognize that it’s a problem and then once you’ve achieved some modicum of success and you’ve overcome it, you’re able to see it so much faster the next time and identify it, because it’s similar, when we interviewed Ruben from BidSketch, what five, six episodes ago, he talked about being able to now look ahead and see where his next plateau is going to be, and then he can start trying to get around it early. I feel like this is a similar scenario.
Mike [22:50]: I totally agree. And I think on that note, we’re going to wrap up. If you have a question for us, call our voicemail number at 888-801-9690 or you can e-mail us at email@example.com. Our theme music is an excerpt from We‘re Out of Control by MoOt, it’s used under Creative Commons. Subscribe to us on iTunes by searching for startups and visit startupsfortherestofus.com for a full transcript of each episode. Thanks for listening, and we‘ll see you next time.