In this episode of Startups For The Rest Of US, Rob does a Founder Hotseat interview with Matt Wensing of SimSaaS. They talk about how to develop a strong cadence of work as a one person company.
Items mentioned in this episode:
Rob: Welcome to this week’s episode of Startups For The Rest Of Us. I’m your host Rob Walling. On the show, we talk about building startups in an organic, sustainable fashion, in a way that allows you to build yourself a better life. I think that startup should provide you with freedom, and purpose, and help you maintain healthy relationships. That’s what we talk about on Startups For The Rest Of Us, that’s why we call it, “For the rest of us.” It’s not the traditional Silicon Valley venture-backed startup path. We have several different formats for our shows. Sometimes we do a lot of tactics, and we teach ideas and thoughts that we’re thinking about; sometimes we interview interesting founders, we answer a lot of listener questions.
One format that we’ve only done a handful of times, and it’s been a few years since we have, is one called the founder hot seat. The founder hot seat is where we bring a founder, live on the show, and we talk through an issue that they’re thinking about or that they’re facing in their business. Sometimes, this is a marketing approach. It’s something they’re wondering, whether they should do this approach or that, whether they should hire this person, this role, or whether they shouldn’t, and to just keep going on their way. There tend to be no easy answers to these questions, and that’s why we can spend 20, 30, 35 minutes talking through the pros and cons of it. Hopefully, the founder leaves with food for thought and perhaps an answer to what they’re looking for; hopefully, you as a listener, just hear two smart people trying to talk through an issue, and troubleshoot it, and think about the best way to proceed.
I’ve long said that being a founder is more than 50% mental. It’s managing your own psychology, and much of this is about making decisions with incomplete information. Today is episode 450 of the podcast. I’m doing a founder hot seat with Matt Wensing of SimSaaS. We’re going to be talking through how to make consistent, needle-moving progress on your startup. Welcome to the show, Matt.
Matt: Thanks, Rob. Great to be here.
Rob: Matt is the founder and former CEO of Riskpulse. Matt, this has the sexiest tagline I think I’ve ever heard for startup, “Multi factor, prescriptive analytics for supply chain performance.” Did you come up with that yourself?
Matt: I did not.
Rob: Some copywriter? No. It totally describes exactly what it does. Anyone who knows that they need it, I bet is like, “Yes, have some.” For someone like me, when I read it, I’m like, “I’m not sure what that actually means.”
Matt: You’re going to qualify out.
Rob: Yeah, no, that’s exactly right, that’s what you want in your subtitle, especially when you’re focused on such a tight niche. In plain English, do you want to describe what Riskpulse does?
Matt: Riskpulse really started out as a forecasting company focused on weather, and really over the last five or six years developed expertise in how trucks, and trains, and even ships, get products from manufacturing sites to market, so supply chain, broadly speaking, but transportation, and logistics more specifically. What we created—right about the same time as data science and machine learning were coming in vogue in the enterprise space—is a way for companies like Unilever, Anheuser-Busch, especially food and beverage, to essentially predict and decide much farther in advance than they used to be able to, how and when they want to ship their products.
If you can imagine manufacturing Hellmann’s Mayonnaise literally by the truckload, then asking yourself the question of, “What’s the best way to ship this from Chicago to Los Angeles?” That’s what Riskpulse helps those companies do now. It’s serving hundreds of companies like that, and actually doing that kind of forecasting days in advance for millions of shipments per year.
Rob: Does it use machine learning, artificial intelligence, whatever the buzz words are these days, you were kind of doing it before was in vogue, it sounded like.
Matt: Yeah, we were doing it before it was in vogue and really didn’t call it those things; we just called it forecasting, and in some cases just bringing two things together. But yes, it does use machine learning. Think of it like, if I go on Google Maps right now as a consumer, and I’m about to actually have a pretty long road trip this summer, if I punched in right now, “How long is it going to take me to get from here to Yellowstone National Park?” It’ll give me a time to get there, but it’s assuming that I never stop, that’s also assuming that it doesn’t really know what the traffic is going to be like a day from now, two days from now.
What Riskpulse does for those companies is that it lets them put in, “I’m shipping Chicago to Los Angeles next week.” It does try to look at all of the external factors like stops, and traffic, and weather, and congestion, and all those things that are outside of people’s control and give them a realistic estimate of when they’re going to arrive.
Rob: Love it. I love these vertical plays where—I guess you’re a horizontal, across industries—but I mean it’s very tight knit shift, it’s a successful SaaS app, and employs, how many folks work there?
Matt: 15 full-time.
Rob: I mean it’s non-trivial, it’s a full-on company at this point, and you actually don’t work there anymore, you found a CEO to take over your duties, is that right?
Matt: I did. I certainly have been thinking about—as I call it succession planning, the grandiose description—had been thinking about that. I have a family, enterprise SaaS is a pretty difficult lifestyle, and I’ve done it for five or six years at that point.
I was looking for a sales leader, ended up being introduced to a very experienced enterprise sales executive, who also had built and scaled companies from kind of the 10-50 headcount range, so very much the same year that we were about to hit. He worked as chief strategy officer with me for almost a year and a half, and then I realized, “This would make a really great opportunity to transition.” I told the board, the board was happy that I had come to that conclusion on my own.
There was no pressure or reason for them to tell me to do anything other than me just saying, “From a lifestyle standpoint, I think this would be best and frankly, for the business.” I really think of myself—in all the businesses that I’ve been a part of—as an owner first, as a shareholder first, and not as a, “I’m the CEO or I’m the CTO,” whatever the role is. That’s not actually what’s going to make you rich, and successful, or whatever your goals are; it’s making sure the right people are in the right places. As a shareholder, I just thought to myself, “Wow. I could have this person take over the CEO role.” I can take more of a sidecar seat which is what I did for about six months, and then ultimately, transitioned out to a board member and adviser at this point.
Rob: Yeah. That’s a mature viewpoint that I think a lot of founders don’t necessarily have naturally. It’s nice that you are able to think about it in that respect and to realize that if your lifestyle goals weren’t meeting up with your company that there’s—I’ve said on the podcast in the past—it’s like, “We started our own company so that we can be in control of that, and so that we can help ensure that we are enjoying what we do on a long term basis.” It’s cool that you’re able to transition away from that, and you started your next effort, which is a SaaS app called SimSaaS, and that’s really what we’re here to talk about today. You and I have gotten to know each other because you’re part of the Tiny Seed batch—the first Tiny Seed batch.
Something that really attracted us to what you were doing is the fact that you’re a repeat founder, that you’ve had success already, that you are a developer so you can build your own software early on; you’re good at product, you are really good at partnerships apparently which is what I discovered recently. Your business development skills, your sales skills, and even copy and positioning, you’re like that triple or quadruple threat, and that’s what attracted us to SimSaaS. SimSaaS, for those who don’t know, again, I just pulled your tagline off your side, but your headline says, “Great teams forecast early and often. Upgrade your gut feelings to forward-looking metrics,” and that is for folks running SaaS apps.
Matt: Yeah, that’s right. SimSaaS is an app that’s built for SaaS founders. What it’s really helping them do is take a forward-looking view of their business. Obviously, there are a lot of tools that are available, ProfitWell, ChartMogul, Baremetrics, etc. A lot of people just use Google Sheets to tally up their Stripe account data and figure out what their current MRR, RPU, and LTV, and all those metrics are.
What SimSaaS does is it takes those historical metrics, also puts them into a simulator, and then generates forward-looking trend of what all those numbers are going to be in the future. I built it, originally, as just a python script prototype a couple of years ago while I was running Riskpulse because I had investors asking me questions that were pretty difficult to answer just using Excel. Things like, “I see your MRR now. I see what your pipeline is but what if your sale cycles get longer? What if your receivables don’t come in when you think they’re going to come in? What if your pricing goes down? What if it goes up? How does your business look then?” Those are very fair questions when you’re going out to raise money, especially or even when you’re making decisions like hiring. It was very difficult to answer those just going back to Excel and saying, “Okay, I’m going to delay our revenue by three months because our sales cycles are longer.” It doesn’t really just work that way. It’s a lot more complicated.
Everything’s connected. We all know all these interdependencies in your business are just very complex. I realized that this is something where software could actually help us, “If I could just punch in six months instead of three months on my sales cycles and have it auto-generate a new forecast, that would be really handy,” that’s what it does. It’s connected to those data sets that the founders have. If you have a Baremetrics account, for example, you can connect that in, and it gives you a fresh and live forecast for all of your metrics as often as you need it.
Rob: Very cool. It sounds like you’re taking a machine learning AI stuff that you did and predictive analytics with Riskpulse and applied it to SaaS metrics. Is that a reasonable summary?
Matt: That is a reasonable summary. I have a friend of mine that’s at Riskpulse that teases me that I’m kind of a one trick pony. You take things, and you forecast. You rinse, wash, and repeat. It was amazing to me when I went out there and looked at the landscape, and I looked at the forecasting components because each of those tools that I mentioned does have some forecasting component to it, but they’re all really simple linear extrapolations of where you’re going to be next month based on this month.
I was kind of surprised that there was nothing more sophisticated than that and just as a quick beside my background, pretty deep involvement with weather forecasting. I actually gave a lightning talk at Business of Software last year, and one of the examples I used was hurricane forecasting. There is a forecast that says, “If the hurricane keeps moving exactly this much North and exactly this much West each day, this is where it will be,” but we all know now based on physics that the real world doesn’t work that way. I think SaaS companies also don’t work that way. There’s all kinds of chaos, and complexities, and sudden changes, that is why so oftentimes, our forecast end-up being wrong which is really frustrating for a founder, that’s what I’m addressing, and you’re right, I took a lot of my domain expertise, and I was able to apply it here.
Rob: Very cool. Today, we’re talking in the Tiny Seed Slack. I was asking, “Are you interested in coming on the show? Is there anything you’re kind of struggling with or really thinking about top-of-mind that we could try to think through to give you some clarity?” In your message, you said, “One thing I could talk about,” with some real conviction, “is how to develop a strong cadence of work as a company of one person managing a huge amount of context switching required to make consistent and needle moving progress on every front over a 12-month period.” In other words, the length of the Tiny Seed Accelerator. “How can I find that groove and sustain it?”
I like a couple of phrases in there, “Consistent needle moving progress,” I think that’s a powerful kind of statement. “On every front,” because we know there’s product, there’s marketing, and there’s sales, and there’s support, and there’s all these things over a 12-month period which is an extended period of time. Do you want to talk a little more about that? That was your summary of it, but what are you thinking about?
Matt: Going back to what you said earlier, which I’m very flattered that I’m capable of making some progress on a lot of different areas whether it’s business development, or marketing, or coding. The double-edged sword of that is that you can end up feeling like, “Am I supposed to just take it as it comes?” Meaning, “This week, these are the urgent and important things. Clearly, that’s the most important box to focus on, and I’m just going to tackle one item from each of those categories of work each week.”
What I’d like to do—I’m leading myself into this—but what I’d love to discover is, “You know what, I’m going to treat weeks or two weeks or months as my unit of work.” I hesitate to say sprint but if you want to think of it that way we can. I’m going to be a little bit more disciplined about, not just my daily routine but maybe even a week over week routine, or maybe even within a month that I set aside a week to work on a product that’s meeting-free because I can’t have that luxury. If I have a week where I know I’m going to have a bunch of meetings anyway, that’s my week to do sales, and business development, or partnerships.
It’s an awesome opportunity to have a year of a fun way to work on your startup, thanks to the Tiny Seed program. Just thinking about as a company of one especially—I can’t parallelize very well, there’s only one of me—How do I sort of acknowledge my own natural rhythms, my own lifestyle, but then also, just kind of the nature of each of these kinds of work and start trying some structures that could help me maybe on a one month view?
Rob: I think that’s important. I like that you’re asking the question of yourself. It shows that you have like an insight into how you work. Obviously, each of us has strengths and weaknesses, and until you identify those strengths, especially when you’re a company of one, I think that you’re at a disadvantage until you know yourself pretty well, until you know yourself as someone who either is that, I’d say, the more impulsive context switching founder who likes to bounce around and get a lot of work and a lot of things all at once.
I’ve worked with founders who do that. I’ve worked with founders who tend to focus too hard on one thing and get stuck on it. Whether it’s a mental perseveration or whether it’s, “I am going to work on this email. I’m going to work on this code until it’s done,” and then like 12 hours later they’re done and they’re like, “That was the whole work day,” and they got stuck on it. You strike me more as someone who moves around a lot; works on a lot of different things as they come up. Do you think that’s an accurate assessment?
Matt: I think that is. I think that’s probably what’s natural for me. People that know me from the Tiny Seed context are probably—I’m in the Slack a lot asking questions. I’m just naturally, a very curious person. I get a lot of enjoyment out of just knowledge; sometimes for knowledge’s sake, sometimes I just want to store it away and say, “That might come in handy later.” I do have a habit—I was about to qualify it as a bad habit—I’m just going to call it a habit for now. A natural habit to want to bounce around, look at a lot of things, have a lot of tabs open at the same time.
I’ve got to write real code. I’ve also got to think deeply about copying it. I think one thing that’s caused me to think about this more is just the deep work, I was going to say mantra, but that theme that’s come up quite a bit lately in the circles. I listen to podcasts, a lot, etc. where it was hard to actually get deep work done in a company of 15 people that were all on Slack at Riskpulse sometimes. Now, I can have this luxury of saying, “Okay, how would I do it differently knowing what I know now? How can I get myself into those groups without ignoring anything that might catch on fire.”
Rob: Yeah, totally. I think you have the luxury right now of, not only being a team of one, but you are still early enough that you don’t have 1000 customers all asking for things, things that are on fire per se. I think there’s a couple of things that come to mind right away. As much as I like Slack for the community, I’m only in may be in two or three Slack groups including that the Tiny Seed one that you and I are in together. I do not disturb Slack multiple times during the day kind of almost premeditated.
I know that my best times of day to work tend to be in the morning until about 11:00 AM or 11:30 PM, then I get really hungry because I don’t tend to eat breakfast. I eat and then I get a little sleepy, so then I will tend to do Slack in the early afternoon, and then I get this second wind. I either do not disturb Slack or I use email a lot more than I think some other people do these days because Slack has given us that. It gives us the instant communication and feedback. I think you could certainly have a team. We had a team at Drip with Slack and it wasn’t super noisy because we only used it for things that needed realtime.
If you didn’t need it realtime, as new people would start I would tell them “Hey, we value maker time,” like that’s a big thing. We’re a software company with three or four engineers out of this full-time team of eight, and then we have a couple of contractors. We were engineer-heavy because the product was such a focus. The way I communicated it was like, “Look, if you need to interrupt a developer, that’s fine. If you need to interrupt someone, that’s okay. But if you don’t need to, if you don’t need an answer within 20 or 30 minutes, send an email.” That was like an intro thing and that was the culture that I had set up at the company. How does that resonate with you? Does that seem crazy or does that seem like something that would be interesting?
Matt: Definitely interesting. I probably over estimate. I’m probably bad at judging whether or not things need to be real time just because of some of those habits. We signed up for HipChat first before Slack was a thing at Riskpulse. It was basically pretty noisy and pretty engaged. We, as a company, culturally had to try to enforce those maker times. Now, I’m self managing. Does that make sense? One crazy admission here is, I don’t think I’ve ever used Do Not Disturb on Slack. I think you’re probably just thinking I’m probably just a bad citizen where I’m ignoring people’s messages and they’re wondering, “You’ve got the green dot.” But certainly, that’s a great little tip.
One thing I wanted to jump off of as well is, I have a similar kind of natural rhythm in terms of my work. I am a very early riser. It’s been tough this Summer since the kids are out of school, everyone is staying up late. Typically, I get up at 4:45 AM or 4:55 AM and I’m at my desk with a cup of coffee after drinking some water by 5:00 AM or 5:15 AM. I have found that my coding abilities and my deep analytical work abilities are really that 5:00-10:00 AM period, which is five hours. It sounds like not much of a work day, but that is one thing I’ve noticed too. I can probably do myself a favor and hide from Slack during those times.
Rob: Yeah, I mean, I can see that five hours of straight work, that sounds like a tremendous amount of time. Think of all the people working at startups or companies, for that matter, that are running Slack and how often developers get interrupted. To have four or five hours of uninterrupted focus time to me, you can get two days of development done in that. Two days compared to just being part of a 20-person development team where stuff is flying all over the place, every minute you’re getting interrupted.
I think that’s plenty of time to get almost a full day’s worth of deep work done from 5:00-10:00 AM. If I were in your shoes, the fact that you’re online at 5:00 AM is awesome. I would say I’m the opposite. I wake up later and I’m tired when I wake up. I’m groggy for 30-40 minutes. I’m typically, at my computer by nine if I’m lucky. This isn’t about my habits, but it’s definitely not—I think you have a distinct advantage is what I’m saying.
One of the things I was going to talk about or wanted to bring up is, when you’re a single-person company or a very small team, I mentioned it earlier, but it’s so important to know your strengths, and to know your weaknesses. One of your strengths is deep work. It sounds like it or being able to write your own code I think is a big deal. Another one is that you’re online at five in the morning. That is a strength whether you realize it or not because I couldn’t do that. I would be trucked, I would get no work done, I would be worthless, I’d just be too tired.
Obviously, I think when you’re this small, you got to focus on strengths and you need to really forget your weaknesses or work around them. Ultimately, you can hire people to take over those or to cover those areas. Again, to come back to me, I don’t enjoy doing demos, I don’t enjoy sales like enterprise sales and all that stuff. It just doesn’t resonate with me and my personality, but it does with you. I would say the fact that you’re a developer who knows how to do sales and how to do these partnerships is another big strength and something that you can leverage over the course of this year.
Matt: Yeah. Two thoughts came to mind. Mikey Trafton, for those who don’t know, he’s one of the founders of Capital Factory here in Austin and he’s a frequent speaker at Business of Software that I’ve gotten to know fairly well. He has these categories of work or strengths and he talks about how you have a super power that is something that you’re insanely good at and for you, it’s kind of effortless. There’s this category of things that everyone has where they are really good at them, but they find it draining. You do it and every else looks at you and says, “Wow, you’re really good at that.” But at the end of the day, or if you do a lot of that, or right after you do that, you’re just kind of exhausted or maybe just worn down.
For me, interestingly enough, I do find that the deep work is that the coding, the design and some of the things I do in isolation are the first kind. They’re the things that I really feel energized afterwards. Enterprise sales, although I’ve done it and I’ve closed 6-figure deals consistently in the past, they are really draining I find. The demos, I can totally relate to that. It’s kind of funny, it’s like one of those things where, “Yes, I can do it, but I do find it to be difficult.” I’ve learned in the past, the one thing I can’t do is I can’t do one of those and then get into any kind of deep work. After I do that, I’m ready to be done.
Rob: That’s really good to know, right? All your demo should be after 10 or 11 in the morning. That’s something so good to know about your daily cadence. That’s what we’re talking about here right? It’s is to bring it back, how do you make consistent needle moving progress on your business, and it’s showing up every day, and having a schedule that is as ideal for you as possible. I feel like if you could not check email—this is very hard to do—but if you could not check email or Slack before you start your 5:00 AM sprint in essence, I’ve never been able to do that I will admit. I always check email first thing in the morning. I always have. I don’t know if I will break that habit.
I think, in a perfect world, you wouldn’t have the distraction, but sometimes you just need to feel—I need to feel okay that nothing’s on fire, or if there’s somebody who needs a quick answer—if they’re relying on me that I get it out to them quickly. But sometimes of course, it takes you off track, you want to do 15-20 minutes of email instead of your deep work. That’s kind of the sacrifice that you have to make if you do that.
Matt: Yeah. I think I’m the same way. I’ll check it first, but I have an incredible ability to unless it’s actually on fire, to just kind of ignore it and wait, but then I get that closure that, “Nah, everything is good.” I think what I would say next is, if we can zoom up one level or going up one level and looking at a week or a month and asking—I’ve got in a program let’s say a 10 months remaining not that anything magical necessarily happens at that time. We’re not working towards a demo day per se, but if those are actually my units, so a daily routine sounds pretty solid. How do you think about juggling or moving between marketing, sales, product development, design, and I can think of one example. You really shouldn’t be building things before you design them. Jumping and writing a bunch of code might not be the best thing to do. If you look at it a week or even a month context, what does that look like?
Rob: Yeah, how do we think through that? It’s fascinating because so many founders at your stage don’t even think about that. I feel like it’s the fact that you have already grown a company to the level of Riskpulse that lead you to think about the longer time frame. I honestly, think it’s less important in these early days, but it will quickly become more important as you get even a couple months down.
Because right now you could literally think just a couple days out or a week out tops and be like, “What are my goals this week? It’s to ship this feature and to get another customer, another five customers,” or whatever the number is, but you’re going to hit a point in the next you know 12 months where you do have to start thinking just a little further. At first, you think two weeks out and then you think four weeks out. Then of course, as you get bigger, you have to think two months out because you have all these people working on things and they need to know where they’re going. When you have 15, 20 people, your horizon has to go out further.
At your stage, I don’t know how much time I would spend thinking about a month out, because it really does feel like a long time given how quickly things are changing right now. I feel like there’s all these friends you can be fighting on, or all these friends you can be switching to and from, there’s development, and there’s design as you said, there’s sales, there’s marketing, there’s kind of internal operations, there’s processes, there’s all this stuff, I feel like right now, just moving the product forward, and doing sales, and/or business development. I almost kind of count that as sales, but I guess technically, it’s more marketing because it’s generating leads that you would sell.
Almost all the other fronts can go by the wayside for the next few months, which is hard to do, but that’s how I would mentally prioritize them right now. Because if you’re not building features, or getting new people using the product, everything else is substantially less important. Does it feel that way?
Matt: It does. If I look back the last few months, in the way that I started SimSaaS, is I really did the new classics soft launch on Twitter, sharing it with all my followers, and it got a good amount of interest. What I ended up doing was having this kind of open season where anybody could sign up, and I learned a lot, and then I essentially shut it back down into a private beta where now I have a handful of folks that I really care what their experiences, they’re definitely my target market, and I’m trying to get them signed up, willingness to pay, that’s the focus.
The lead gen part is kind of just doing its own thing right now, people are opening their email address saying, “I’m interested early access,” sometimes filling out a survey. That feels really good to just be automated. I don’t know if those folks are going to get bored of waiting around for me to get back to them, but I agree, for the next few months, I should just be focusing on a bottoms up acquisition of happiness of these handful of people.
If I do put my second time founder hat back on though, I do have an end-in-view, which is half by the end of third quarter of this year, which is I think a quarter, because of the company enterprise faced. By the end of September, I do want to launch self-service, and I’m not self-service now, so I do think about what do I need to do to get to that point. That is an interesting blend of products, and sales.
Rob: Yeah, for sure. I think to touch on SimSaaS, specifically, you’re in a unique position where you just have incoming interest, and you’re in a unique position that—fairly unique—where you don’t have to do a bunch of marketing right now. Because typically, the advice that I would give right now is, you have to be focused on marketing, and product, those to be the two.
The level of inbound interest you have, and how quickly it spreads, because it is this insular SaaS community, it’s like we all talk to one another, and you appear on one podcasts, and then everybody has heard of you, and then you apply it so well to so many of these companies that I do think, I mean, that’s what I was specifically saying its product, because you’re trying to push more features to keep the customers you have a happy, and its sales to land your inbound prospects as folks who are going to use it. But marketing for now is taking care of itself.
You obviously will hit a point where that changes, but I wouldn’t be thinking out that far right now, because I think that’s 6-2 months out. By the time you get there, you’ll be at such a different place product-wise, and revenue-wise, that you can either decide if you want to go attack marketing, you’d do it if you want to hire it out, you’ll do it because you’ll have the budget. But that’s something as you get closer, I think, you’re going to now. I don’t think you need to be preparing for that yet because it’s a way out.
I even think, what month is it, it’s June, and you want self-serve by September, which is three-ish, three-and-half months out. I mean, I would ask two questions about that, one, why do you want to go self-serve by then? And two, what level of planning does that take, given the fact that you had all the code, and do the design, could you hammer that out, literally in the last two weeks of September. If that still the right decision when you get there? It’s like just in time decision making. It sounds a little flippant, again, if you’ve worked at a 60-person company, it’s like, “You can’t possibly make a decision that close to the wire, because you got to get product marketing on board,” you don’t need to do any of that. I would almost push that absolute decision off until the last moment where it’s like, “Yes, now that’s what I have to do. Now, I’m going to build this.” But tell me if that resonates or if that sounds like, “Nope, I think that’s a bad call and here’s why.”
Matt: This is interesting. I have used SimSaaS to forecast SimSaaS. Self-service, what is it? It’s a way to get more, because I’m going to go with trials with credit cards, and if you think about self-service, it’s really just a way to remove all the friction because I’d love to think it’ll be zero percent friction, but it will remove me as a gatekeeper for people to get on board. Interestingly enough, do I need it by then or is that just kind of artificial? That’s a great question, or am I imposing that on myself, because I think I need it.
One thing that is interesting, I’ll say, is that out of the early adopters I already have, there is a fair amount of investors, or mentors, or even just experienced founders who are already referring other folks to it. Lead volume, again, getting back to marketing is not a problem, do I need to undo myself as gatekeeper? Maybe, what I should be thinking is also taking a bottoms up approach to that and saying, “I am on boarding folks manually right now.” Every time I do that, I just get more efficient at it somehow, and let my own sort of irritation with having to do things manually drive me to make it ultimately self-service, but it doesn’t have to be necessarily.
Rob: There are a number of products now, Superhuman is the example everybody brings up, but there aren’t many products of stay invite only for a very long time. Some do it intentionally for the scarcity, but others don’t. I think, as a single founder, you have a pretty good, almost excuse or a reason to. As long as you’re not finding that more of these leads are waiting so long that they’re degrading, and they’re not converting, because they’ve been set in the queue for too long. I think setting in an arbitrary date for it that’s three and a half months out might be premature.
If you get to the point where it’s like, “No, this is just too much volume,” and you need to automate, then you can do it earlier, or you could do it later. But I don’t feel so strongly about having to have it done by the end of September. I was thinking about it as we’re talking about how the onboarding is somewhat manual, I love the idea of trying to automate a little more each time. Also, hiring a customer success person, if it literally is just light sales, like it’s inbound warm leads who need you to walk them through the product a little bit, give them a little bit of a demo, show them how to use it, get them set up, that’s a customer success role, and that is not that hard to fill, and it’s not that expensive either.
Could that be something that’s a better option, even if it’s a part-time person, you give them 10 or 20 hours a week, starting at a month from now? Does that shape how things happen because now you have someone who’s on your team learning the product, and you’re not in as much of a hurry now to do self-service especially if they’re converting, right?
Matt: Yeah, that’s interesting. I think there’s an open question of how zero-touch any of the stuff can be these days. I mean, I know that there’s 1% say any amount of human touch sales involvement, lifts your ACVs, lift your attention, it’s just a good thing if people want to have a relationship with your company, and that would feed that. I’ve been there, that’s the playbook I’ve run before. I think the other one, which is the company of one, maybe, let’s say to a fault, but even more strict is, now that’s all going to be automated in the product. I don’t know which one’s the right approach.
Rob: I was going to ask you, which one do you want to do? Because the right approach, given that you’re building a company for you, and you want to grow and stuff, but that’s going to come. You have an opportunity here. Does bringing in customer success person on feel like, “No. I’m not interested in it. I’ve already run that playbook. I really do want to try to give it a first crack at spending timing, getting on boarding up, and making it truly self-service.” Is that more interesting to you? Because that certainly could be your first crack at that, and then if it isn’t working out the way you want, you can always backfill it.
Matt: Yeah, I think it’s probably the more, to me, it feels like the more ambitious one. I don’t know that I would say it’s the right one though; I do have my doubts as to whether or not that’s really the right way to do it. I mean, especially when you’re dealing with a financial app, and it’s pretty complex. Having a human there to set you up, and to take you through that, that’s a pretty well-worn path, and we know it works. Maybe that is what I do is, I push as far as I can, and then see if I basically, hit a wall where, “No, there’s that 5% more, but then I can scope that down to exactly what I need.”
Rob: Right, that’s what I was thinking. Because in the early days of Drip, I really want everything to be self-service, and that’s just a lot of apps I had; pretty much all the apps I had before that were almost all self-service, and we built a lot of onboarding, and it worked well, and we had good growth. But I definitely found the people who are willing to pay us more money—the several hundred dollars a month clients—which obviously isn’t even that big. They really wanted to talk to somebody, and that was where I eventually got to a breaking point because I was doing demos, and talking with them.
As I said, I don’t enjoy it, not much like you. I’m good at it, but it wasn’t a thing that gave me life. We eventually did hire someone, and it was the right decision, but I had to give it a shot as the self-service first because we wanted to see if we could truly make that work. Again, it did work, it’s just the larger customers benefited a lot more from having that high touch.
Matt: I think that maybe the reality. I could see self-service, it does work for so many apps, and instances where the product’s a little bit more, category especially, I think that’s actually something I keep coming back to, and that might be just the reality is that this is a new product, metrics is the category. But the idea that you’re connecting all the state, and you’re doing all these forecastings, not having a human at all to explain what this is, how it works, and when to use it, it might not be realistic, and actually might create some glue and loyalty to have that involvement, which is what I’m providing right now. I think this is a good kind of re-scoping of where I want to be by the end of September.
Rob: Yeah, and it’s good to have goals. I know you’re driven and trying to think out a few months because you’re thinking where you want to be, and you don’t want to stand still. Some folks are super goal-oriented and motivated, and then for others, I think it de-motivates them. It sounds like you want to know where the puck is going, and where you’re headed, at your stage, I feel like dates might not be helpful. Unless it really is motivating to you. I should probably state that differently, for me one, when I’m that early in an app, or that early in the company’s development, there are too many variables for me to possibly throw a day out of when something should happen.
Matt: There’s kind of two ways to get to that date: you either change the definition of success or you move the dates, and you know you can timebox things. I’ll change the definition of self-service, not to the point of cheating, but I’ll change it to mean, “They can sell service, but that’s not what I want them to do, maybe there’s a way around that.” But yeah, I think I am pretty driven from the standpoint of reverse engineering, kind of where I want to be.
I think that you’re right. It’s like I’m trying to connect lightning from two sides here, I mean, that’s where I’m at. I think it creates a mental frame for me to just go, “Okay, it’s bottoms up, bottoms up. It’s the people I’m working with right now.” That’s why I knew last week was going to be sales and marketing heavy week. I scheduled a lot of meetings for that, and essentially, knew that I wasn’t going to get a lot of deep work done. But I kept the slate clean for this week and knowing that I needed to shift gears. Then that’s the other skill I want to develop is just getting myself in a mode, and being able to say no to things that are going to knock me off.
Rob: Yeah, I was going to bring that up, maybe as a last point a conversation because we’re running long on time, but I was coming back to cadence, which I believe you mentioned or at least—in your Slack, I was thinking cadence, and I was going to ask, “Do you do better with a one day on one day off cadence?” Or, “Would a one week on, one week off cadence work?” It sounds like that’s what you tried recently is kind of like the BD sales a week, and then a development week. Because I feel like most of us tend to bounce around, and handle whatever is the next thing that we think is most important.
But if you are able to say no, whether it’s just for that one work day, like I’m going to say no to everything that is not pushing the product forward in some form or fashion, and then the next day, “I’m going to push it—I didn’t say no to everything that’s not pushing the sales, like revenue forward in some form or fashion,” whether that’s one day or one week, I think that most of us are helped by that.
I’m surprised that you did it for a whole week, or I’m impressed, I should say, that you were able to do that for a whole week because that would be hard for me to do. Do you feel like that was successful, and that’s something you want to continue to do? Or was it like, “It was too long. I should probably only do three-day sprint,” so to speak?
Matt: Yeah, I think it will shorten naturally to three or four days a week to focus on something, and then you’ve got your bonus day to catch all the stuff where somebody just says, “Look, I can’t meet with you next week.” I think I’d like to keep trying that. That would be a good way to kind of follow up here and see, “This is the product development week for me then I’m going on vacation.” That’ll naturally lend itself to maybe just checking email, and following up on sales related things, and then we’ll have to see which mode I fall into when I get back, or maybe I shouldn’t fall into one, I should pick one.
Rob: YYeah, that’s right. You sent me a tweet from James Clear, and many people may know James Clear as an author, and blogger about kind of forming good habits, and motivation, and stuff. His tweet said, “Most people need consistency more than they need intensity,” and he says, “Intensity is running a marathon, writing a book in 30 days, or a silent meditation retreat. Consistency is not missing workout for two years, writing every week, or daily silence. Intensity makes a good story; consistency makes progress.” I really like that tweet, and I’m glad you sent over.
It reminds me of a quote that I’ve used over and over, I’ve written a blog post on it, there’s an episode of this podcast titled this, but it’s a quote from Steve Martin. He wrote it in his autobiography. The quote is, “It’s easy to be great, it’s hard to be consistent.” He’s a standup comedian, and he said, he would come to the shows, and he would watch a comedian just kill it one night, just blow the doors off, but that comedian couldn’t do it every night and that was the challenge. He said, “It is easy to be good once in awhile,” and that’s what James Clear is talk about with intensity, it’s easy to be great, but how do you show every day, how do not have the splashy tech-crunch launch or this big one time hit, where it’s not a sustainable thing.
We see a lot in the startup space, we see it in pop culture, where things come and go quickly in this place of glory, that’s not what we’re here to build. We’re here to build these longer-term, these sustainable, these 5-year, 10-year, 20-year companies, and whether we run them for 20 years or not, it doesn’t matter. But is it this something that can be around for the long term? I believe that the way that happens is—with what we’re talking about today—it’s this consistent needle moving progress, that you show up every day, or you show up every week for years, and that’s the thing that most people have the hardest time doing. I think it was helpful for me. I hope it was helpful for you to know you as a listener. Thanks so much, Matt, for agreeing to come on the show.
Matt: Thanks a lot, Rob.
Rob: Again, if you want to catch up with what Matt is doing, you can head to simsaas.co. If you have a question for the podcast, call our voice mail number at 888-880-19690, or email us at email@example.com. We’re in iTunes, and all the other places you would imagine, just search for startups. We’ll have a full transcript of this episode on our website startupsfortherestofus.com. Thank you for listening. We’ll see you next time.