Inflection as a Success Metric

Here are the last 2 weeks of my life:

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Not a single appointment was my idea. They belong to clients, prospects, acquaintances.

Most of us are on the outbound for a long time. To hang with friends we call them first, never the other way around.

The same applies to sales. Outbound, outbound outbound…

Until your life goes inbound. That’s when it gets interesting.

Your Product Voice

In real life the active voice is direct, clear, pointed.

I will kill you. I love you. Your eyes are green.

But in products, passive voice usually wins.

Your account was deleted. The pricing has changed. Unfortunately your application was not accepted.

In real life you take credit for the things you say. In products the blame vanishes into thin air.

So if you want to be different, let your product take responsibility for its actions.

What’s your budget?

There’s a special kind of hell for people who quote projects with this question.

Most often the professional who uses it is a designer, videographer, or writer.

The yield is either:

  1. My budget is large, and you’ll ask for all of it
  2. My budget is small, and you’ll do shitty work.

There is no in-between, because the creative person always says “yes.” Perhaps it’s the creativity in them, forcing them to think they can make it work.

Which begs a question — what’s a creative person worth, anyway?

If they keep asking clients, everyone loses. If they divide the income they need by the actual hours they work per week, the client loses.

A filmmaker can count the views on a client’s how-to video. A writer can compare social shares, or increased rank authority, or longer time spent on a pricing page.

Designers, though. That’s a tough one.

A designer’s job is to solve problems. Should a designer promise faster click-through rates on your application? More event attendees because the flyer was kickass?

I think it’s hard for designers to price their work is because most designers don’t understand their value-add. All they know is how to produce pretty pixels, and to spend twice as long on a project than they estimated.

To all the creative folks out there, don’t ask about my budget. Ask yourself, what’s my purpose?

Because if you don’t understand your value, then you might not be adding any.

Build Grow Scale

Conferences are deadly.

The last one I attended was Growth Hackers in November 2013, which changed my life as a startup marketer. (Some of my notes from that are here).

Within 6 weeks I quit my job and spent the following year living between NYC and San Francisco. Now, after quitting my job again I think it’s time for another conference.

Enter: Build Grow Scale, this May in Orlando.

Startup masterminds Neil Patel and Los Silva (among others) will be speaking at the 2-day retreat about digital sales funnels, building inbound authority on Amazon, content strategy, and more.

So basically all the things I do for a living, but better. Just watch the endless testimonials.

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But beyond learning, I look forward to meeting other entrepreneurs.

The startup scene in NYC is all right, but it isn’t everything. In fact, startups aren’t everything.

Small businesses of all types, from brick/mortar to lawyers to car washes, can benefit from a digital marketing edge. Too often in tech we get consumed with active users and downtime and sprints that it can be easy to lose sight of what’s most important — providing something people want and creating jobs by selling it.

Build Grow Scale should be an awesome way to get out of the “we’re crushing it” scene and into the realm of small business peers, helping each other grow.

Will I see you there?

My first month as a Startup CEO

I hate calling myself a CEO.

Last month after quitting my dream job I launched ArtSpot, a marketplace platform that connects emerging artists with local exhibition venues.

But it didn’t all happen in a month.

Believe it or not I spent 1.5 years recruiting a killer team, learning Rails, and buying enough Chinese takeout to feed an African village.

As for our first month? We’re pretty happy with the #’s.

But besides traction / product / user problems, what I’ve learned:

Sleep

I didn’t get a lot of sleep before ArtSpot, but I get even less now. It’s not that I’m always “working” but that I literally can’t sleep. When investors ask “what keeps you up at night?” they’re speaking directly to my soul.

Anxiety

No matter how close I was to a company before ArtSpot, I never understood what it meant to have ‘founder’s burden’ until now. There is simply no one else on the planet who cares more about your project than you do (in the early days, anyway) and that takes an incredible toll on your health if not monitored.

Love

My girlfriend is half the reason I’m still alive. The other half is iced coffee. Having a strong support system, romantic or platonic, is a must-have when you start a startup. Even though I’ve spent years on and off as a full-time entrepreneur (mostly freelancing, one small company) I was never as passionate about a vision as I am with ArtSpot.

Exercise

Thanks to a friend I now work out regularly (albeit early) with like-minded entrepreneurs. We meet at 8a a few times per week, take fitness classes, then network over chocolate protein.

Spending time with this group keeps me accountable with personal health and forces me to maintain a somewhat consistent routine. This is especially helpful for when you don’t have a “boss” telling you what to do all day.

Sales

I always thought I was a marketing guy; I was wrong. I’m now a sales machine, and last week I got my first batch of business cards since 2010.

Management

Great managers a) surround themselves with people smarter than them and then b) get out of the way. It wasn’t difficult to achieve this rule of thumb and I’m learning how to manage ‘up’ to folks who are more talented than me in X,Y,Z arenas.

As we grow ArtSpot I hope I can continue getting out of the way while also being an enabler for progress.

Goals

One of the first sentiments I embraced before going full-time on ArtSpot was the 98% chance that we’ll fail. Whether failure is a mix of bad luck, market timing, or just plain incompetence, I’m prepared to fail fast, learn from my mistakes, and move on.

Opportunity

There are unlimited jobs, unlimited sources of income. But after a few years in the ‘real world’ I no longer find it interesting to sacrifice my own dreams just to chase someone else’s.

So while technology, founder-ship, and quitting great jobs isn’t the right move for everyone, I’m grateful that I’ve been surrounded by people and opportunities that make it the right move for me.

For better or worse, ArtSpot will be the highlight of my 25th year and I can’t wait to share the rest of our story as it unfolds.

Onwards and upwards,

Ryan