My partner and I have a favorite expression we use on an almost daily basis – “I’m stupid”. Sometimes we’re gracious enough to include the other with, “we’re stupid”. This signals that we’re about to highlight something we’ve been doing that we probably shouldn’t have been.
Obvious Fact: Everyone screws up. First-timers and startups screw up, a lot.
If you’re ultra stupid, you’ll deny you ever made a mistake. Otherwise, acknowledge your mis-steps and make sure you don’t repeat history. Make a list of your less-than-amazing moments, and how you corrected them. Go back after a year or so and review. Have fun with it. We did …
Stupid thing #1: Some of our clients were claiming they didn’t have any money to pay us, so we were building their websites and apps for free. Hmm, something’s wrong here.
Solution #1: No one said it better than Mike Monteiro. That said, we pushed away the broke, cheap, excuse-stricken nickel and dimers who mistakenly thought we were a charity organization, and replaced them with honest, loyal, deserving clients that not only pay, but pay on time. Who knew?!
Stupid thing #2: We thought if we were ‘nice’ and compromised on every request our clients made, that they’d appreciate us more. Actually, the opposite was true. They walked all over us. And we could have went out of business a dozen times had we continued down that path.
Solution #2: While it’s great playing nicey nice with everyone and their auntie, we reminded ourselves that we’re running a business. Then we started (politely) saying “no” more often (it worked for Fred Wilson). Turns out, as long as you remain pleasant and professional, people (clients are people, too) actually respect you for sticking to your guns.
Stupid thing #3: We let staff stick around that just really needed to go. They complained without solutions. They fought every opportunity for change. They lacked pride and ownership in their work. They never gripped the concept that clients worth fighting for are always right. And most importantly, they forgot that we’re all in this together.
Solution #3: We hit the reset button and rebuilt most of our team from the ground up. We brought in people that love what they do, respect our vision and clients, click with our culture and want to be part of something amazing, from the early days. Today’s team has never been more committed, efficient and tighter knit – even if we’re sprinkled around the planet.
Stupid thing #4: Juggling tendencies of being perfectionists, masochists and control freaks, my partner and I volunteered to do lots of shit ourselves. If there is a level beyond micromanaging (nanomanaging?), we achieved it.
Solution #4: We started by pretending we’d be hit by a truck tomorrow, and from there we reverse-engineered the people we’d need to hire to keep the company humming. Two important takeaways here: Good people are hard to find, so hire slowly. But don’t stall forever because as it turns out, invisible people don’t actually get much work done. Weird, right?
Stupid thing #5: We’d give away the farm to every prospect that came calling. From business analysis and research, to free creative concepts. These people that bleed you dry with zero intention of buying have a name – assholes. The ones that might buy but don’t wanna pay what it’s worth? – cheap assholes (see Stupid thing #1). Avoid them like a bloody syringe in a warm, moist environment.
Solution #5: Offering complimentary, lead-in services to fewer people who respect your craft and are poised to buy allows you to spend even more time on the delivery. This means those deserving few are even more blown away with the outcome. Less free stuff to the ones that deserve it = happy prospects + higher close rates on qualified leads.
Don’t be shy. Share your stupidity in the comments so we can laugh at your expense.