Are you running your business strictly for the money?
Let me put it this way: If we’re building a business for financial freedom that affords us the opportunity to enjoy life — should we focus on the money?
Why not, right?
Money pays off the mortgage, which in turn allows us to spend more money on travel. While we’re traveling we need money to eat, so I better start making more money. Oh and also, we’ll need money to buy new clothes or flip flops for all of these vacations we’re going on. Maybe a new laptop bag?
It’s an honest way of looking at things and it’s fairly black and white to me.
Until I met “Suzanne.” (That’s the name I’ll give her for the rest of this post).
See, Suzanne does it strictly for the money. Like, “I’m in this market because I can exploit the high margins and they don’t know any better” kind of scenario. Her words, not mine.
5 minutes into my chat with her I knew my “doing it for the money” was different than hers.
That moment when you meet someone you can’t stand
From time to time, I’ll stumble upon other “tech startups” in my small hometown.
When I do it’s exciting to find someone else living the dream. I’ll reach out to them to talk shop, see if there’s anyway we can align services and generally get to know my fellow colleague. The game isn’t easy, so let’s see how we can help one another.
Heck, it’s what I do all day long on the Matt Report right?
I usually find like minded entrepreneurs, but meeting Suzanne was a whole new experience.
You would think I would be decencitized to this behavior coming from the car industry. I guess I perceive tech entrepreneurs as people who are out there trying to make a difference and change the world with their product/service. Doing it for the passion that fuels the creative engine of our industry.
I guess I was wrong.
One day a colleague sent me a link, “Hey, did you know about this place?” Linking me to the website that Suzanne operates.
Never did, so I did my normal introduction e-mail, that went like this:
I operate a WordPress design and development shop just down the road from you. Nice to find someone else in the same relative “space” in our hometown!
Wondering if you would be interested in chatting over coffee sometime? Hope to talk to you soon.
The response I received:
“Can you explain what you mean?”
I should have hit the eject button here.
1. I thought I was pretty clear with my opening e-mail. If you think I’m out to pitch you some ridiculous service, think how many cold calls you get from Premium WordPress agencies. Not many right?
2. You’re a startup. I assume you consider yourself an entrepreneur. Have you never reached out to someone to aide in developing your business or to discover new opportunity?
Maybe I’m overreacting, but at any rate, I respond with my intents and a bit more about me. We schedule a meeting for the following week at her business because “she’s really busy during the day” — so am I and the rest of the world.
She’s located in your typical commercial space with many offices, floors and doors to knock on.
Couldn’t find a clear sign so I had e-mailed her 5 minutes before the meeting and received a response about 15 minutes later. Don’t worry, I found it.
I walk in and there’s folks moving about the offices. The place is busy. Legit I’d say, good for her.
I arrive at her office door and knock but she’s meeting with someone. I get the half smile and index finger to the sky as to instruct me to hold my position.
They’re discussing what seems to be some employee issue, so I wait. I wait some more and then a bit more.
Finally she flags me in.
“Hey Matt, sorry I totally forgot about our meeting.”
She’s in her yoga outfit and sipping on what looks to be a freshly squeezed cucumber and kale juice mix. It’s 10:45 AM. Yummy.
Hey you’re the boss, that’s a perfectly respectable time to get your day started!
The meeting begins.
The exploitable business
So I’ll save you the boring details of our talk that lasted 30 minutes and I won’t expose her industry to save any reverse social engineering one could do to pinpoint her.
Either way, she explained her super fast growth in this space because it’s a high margin business and her client’s don’t know any better.
We went into other specifics of the products and services she offers and it was clear she had no intention of doing things “right” — because she didn’t care and apparenty neither did the customers.
I couldn’t help but think she really doesn’t care like I care.
We put a lot of effort into our work and we want client’s to succeed. I don’t know if I should have been offended or scared of the blatant unconcern she had for her customers and her reputation.
Again, I come from the auto industry where I saw some places with some serious lack in customer relations.
But as I looked around and listened to her story, I couldn’t help but think, “It’s working for her.”
Is money freedom?
Maybe I could do things differently with my business?
Perhaps I shouldn’t go that extra mile because it doesn’t pay. Maybe we shouldn’t offer consulting to businesses that need web marketing help. I should just spin up a WordPress assembly line whipping together website after website.
More customers, higher volume, faster growth.
Let’s be honest with ourselves. Not every client fits our perfect mold of the service process. They ask questions, they can’t produce content, miss evaluation milestones and pay invoices late.
It’s the nature of the beast.
On this very podcast, we talk about how to manage these scenarios and prepare for the ebbs and flows of the business.
So at the end of the day, are we limited in our growth because of this?
Is the WordPress service industry always going to drag the proverbial anchor. Ultimately, can you build your WordPress business to the scale of Suzanne’s and her 10AM arrival after yoga class?
Do you want to?
I had those thoughts, just like we all have.
“I could just outsource this stuff and charge my client’s US rates.”
But I enjoy my client’s as hard as it is for some of them to fully embrace technology. I love the tight-knit team I’ve recruited over the years all working with the passion to be the best and produce awesome software.
I enjoy organic growth because it allows me to make mistakes I can recover from, learn from and ultimately become a more well rounded human being.
“Those who die with the most toys still die.”
…as my friend Brian Gardner reminded me.
So maybe this post was just one big rant and I probably lost most readers at the headline, but if you’re still with me, why do you do what you do?
Tell us in the comments, I look forward to the conversation.
image: Mark Wilson/Getty Images/AFP