Building In Public - 3 Recent LessonsNov 13, 2022
Firstly, please accept my apologies for the radio silence over the last number of months. It’s been quite a summer and autumn/fall. One of reflection and iteration.
Building any business is soul searching, and when your business is You, productising your knowledge and experience is a particularly interesting challenge - a new one for me!
I’ve spent the last 6 months or so reflecting on the lessons learned of the previous 12 months, and I’ve been able to successfully iterate both my product offerings and my ICP - the deep work was definitely worth it.
My consulting practice is now fast approaching product-market fit, and I’m excited to report a result of this deep work is confirmation that writing this newsletter is a critical piece of the strategy ongoing.
Before I share some startup lessons with you I want to share a few updates about this newsletter:
All paid subscriptions were paused many months ago, so none of you should have been charged during this “fallowing” period.
I will be re-starting writing from Thursday, November 24th, and have an exciting weekly content calendar that is already scheduled well into Q1 of 2023. Here are some examples of what we’ve got coming up:
The Power of Documentation
Value Exchange Anti-Patterns
How to make Value Exchange part of your SOPs
Customer Cohort Analysis
Finding your next CRO/VP of Sales Gig
The Importance of Downtime
Creating Product Feedback Loops
Saas Metrics 101…
…..and much more
The newsletter will be 100% FREE from November 22nd, no more paid subscriptions. All outstanding annual subscriptions will receive a pro-rated refund within the next week.
Going forwards I will be re-platforming this newsletter away from Substack to Kajabi on my new look website so the look and feel will be slightly different but the content should be just as, if not more, informative than you are used to. You DO NOT need to resubscribe.
OK, now onto the lessons…
Customer Development Lessons
The first thing I want to be clear about is this… …I drink my own champagne. I don’t go around advising founders to follow my growth process and then not follow it myself in my own business. The best businesses drink their own champagne/eat their own dogfood. It’s always been a red flag to me when I see a business not using their own tools. For those of you that are not familiar with the broad phases and stages of startup growth that I live by, the image below is a reminder:
When I first launched this newsletter I was in the hypothesis phase, and I validated the consulting practice fairly quickly, however proving the value of my minimal viable products was bumpy, to say the least.
Proving the value of my knowledge wasn’t bumpy, but packaging it has been. It took me a while to meet my own exit criteria and I was determined not to let any anti-patterns get the better of me - a mistake founders make to their peril every day.
Whilst I wasn’t wedded to a method of value delivery, I was wedded to delivering the highest quality work and will always be.
Whilst I care about scale, I don’t care about scale if it’s at the expense of quality, and never will. “Cookie Cutter Consulting LLC” is the antithesis of what we’re trying to create here.
Scaling consulting practices is tough though because you’re scaling knowledge of unique and complex experiences and scenarios that is typically tied to a single individual - today that’s me. However, my goal has always been to broadcast my knowledge as far and wide as possible and to create frameworks that would allow me to bring other high-quality, detail and data-oriented CROs into the fold when the time was right. So, I always have half an eye on scale, and if you’re a great SaaS CRO, I always have half an eye on you too ;)
The value and risk of “heroics”
In early-stage startup land when we refer to “heroics” it’s the act of not making assumptions and just putting yourself out there, right by the side of as many prospective customers as possible and seeing and feeling the problem for yourself.
That’s what I did, both virtually and in real life, and it was a blast! I learned so much and met so many great founders, and it gave me an authentic view of the market opportunity. It helped me feel and see the actual opportunity for myself.
However, the nature of how I do heroics is somewhat chaotic and unstructured and whilst I believe that’s the way it has to be, to ensure I see everything in as short a time as possible, the risk of burnout is high.
Whilst I didn’t burnout, the journey between hypothesis and “prove the value” was non-linear and had a number of false dawns for me, which is natural at this stage of growth. The lessons enabled me to make multiple mini-pivots in my approach and now I feel very confident that our products and approaches will stand the test of time - albeit with continuous iteration.
I’m grateful I had the runway to be able to make multiple pivots - again another mistake founders make that I had budgeted carefully for. However, there was a point when I was out of gas, and needed a break. That was mid-late summer, and the time I took to reflect was priceless.
The value of letting fires burn
Over the summer I decided to take a break from writing the newsletter and posting on social media to focus on doing the deep work of strategy and building.
I had worries about my emerging mini personal brand fading into obscurity, worries about my pipeline stagnating and a whole load of other worries, but I knew those were the fires I had to let burn so I could focus on the deep work required in the business.
The pause allowed me to be present and think very clearly. I feel like it was a brave and unselfish (I like writing) decision to pull back from writing, but it was definitely the right one.
The value of hiring a coach
As I reflected, one of the major conclusions I came to was that I needed a coach who had built a consulting practice in the same high-quality mould in which I am building my practice.
I had all the core knowledge to deliver value, but I was finding productising myself challenging.
I needed help from someone who had built a business with very similar characteristics to my own, and was open to sharing their experiences and knowledge with me in an unadulterated fashion.
I landed on one of Justin Welsh’s students Ray J. Green. I knew how Justin thought about building businesses because I'd taken one of his excellent courses, so I wanted someone in his mould, but someone who had built a business that was a very solid proxy to my own.
I knew Ray had built a high-quality sales consulting practice, so I bought his Online Customer Acquisition System course as a test. Some of his frameworks in that course immediately got me thinking slightly differently about how I might adjust my outlook and execution, and things began to unlock, and I liked his style and approach, so I leaned in.
As fate would have it, Ray launched a coaching program soon after I completed the course and I didn’t hesitate to snag a place in his inaugural cohort.
The unlock of Ray’s advice and insight have been invaluable, and definitely accelerated my thinking and opened up pathways for what comes next. I highly recommend all leaders have a coach. That third eye is super valuable but you make the time to act upon their recommendations, there are no silver bullets. And if you’re building a consulting practice, look up Ray, he’s excellent.
To Sum Up
It’s been quite a 6 months of reflection and deep work, and although it would be easy to convince myself that I’ve successfully graduated into the GTM Fit phase of my consultancy’s growth curve, (multiple paying customers, fast growth etc) I’m focusing on ensuring we nail the “value realisation phase” before leaning into stress-testing sales repeatability, although we’re not far off.
However, I am pumped to get back to writing and helping you all on your own journey!
The next newsletter “The Power of Documentation” drops on 22nd November, keep an eye on your inboxes, until then… ...keep it rolling folks!
You’ve got this 👊🏼
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