I’ve been reading quite a bit about enlightenment figures over the last few weeks. I began with Benjamin Franklin, and I’ve since moved on to reading about Isaac Newton.
Who can relate?
Benjamin Franklin is quite a relatable chap – incredibly successful in both business and statesmanship, yes, though a gifted communicator that was able to use his craft (printing) to build an empire. Good old Ben provides a framework that we, as makers, could easily follow.
Isaac Newton? Not so much. He moved home from Cambridge University during the ‘Black Death’ around 1666, and from a study, that he built himself in his mother’s house, became the world’s most gifted mathematician. On his own! At the age of 24!
I’ve taken quite a few lessons from both men. Benjamin Franklin built a printing empire. He published both his own newspapers and was also a printer for hire. For any maker that is also working freelance on client gigs, Benjamin Franklin should be a historical figure that we can relate to. Inspiring, right?
Newton’s Laws of Motion (or laws of shit that will hold you back)
I was thinking about Isaac Newton’s laws of motion. Are there any concepts that are transferable to makers?
Let’s start with the first law! It’s the first one after all, where else would we start?!
“An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.”
I’m going to argue in this article that with goals, you always need to be pushing yourself towards the objective, otherwise you’ll be moving away from it. The forces that move us away from our goals are not the physical forces of the universe, though procrastination and poor time management strategies will be pulling the object (you) away from where you hope to be. We can’t start something, set a project in motion, and expect the project to effortlessly glide towards our objective. There are forces that will always be providing the ‘unbalanced force’
You are either
- Moving towards your goal
- Moving away from your goal
This is certainly true in fitness as well as business. If I’m not getting fitter, I’m getting fatter! Am I right?
A really good example of this being true is with SAAS churn rate. Not all of your customers are going to stick around, so if you ain’t keeping ’em, you’re losing monthly recurring revenue. More on this in the SAAS section below
An area that many makers struggle with is time management. I know that procrastination can be an issue for me, and this is one of the areas that I think firmly falls into the ‘moves you away from your goals’ category.
Procrastination and Focus
The notion of focus has been discussed in some detail, and there are two books that I heartily recommend to anyone that has struggled. The first is ‘Deep Work’ by Cal Newport, and the second is ‘The Ware of Art’ by Steven Pressfield.
I visited a San Francisco a couple of year’s ago, staying at a hostel near the mission district. That trip stood out for so many reasons, though what surprised me the most about the city was the lack of bookshops! Here in the UK, high street bookshops are still thriving. The few bookshops that I did find, asking for ‘The War of Art’, was almost always met with “erm, Sir, I think you mean ‘The Art of War’”. Also, really hard to find good shoes in San Francisco! Dammit, I’ve lost focus!
When you’re a permanent employee, distraction and procrastination is an annoyance. When freelancing or working on building your own products, it is a very real threat to your livelihood.
This is the approach that I took earlier in the year, where I treated procrastination as a very big issue. I can’t say that I have beat procrastination to a pulp, though I feel like I am able to ‘plod on’ towards my goals in a much more methodical way. During my time at university, I would ‘batch’ my work. That’s a fancy way of saying I would do nothing all year, until the last two weeks, where I would knock out an assignment a day. No one should need to drink so much coffee!
Another area where I think this holds true is in client acquisition. This is an area that we have struggled with, and we have two-week sprints every three months or so when we bring clients into the company. This is an issue with a SAAS business for one key reason. Some of your customers will move on at some point. Unless your churn rate (the annual percentage rate at which customers stop subscribing to your service) is zero, then you will by definition be losing money if you cannot replace your churned customers.
What can we do to make it right?
A clear and evergreen customer acquisition strategy. In layman’s terms, I simply mean that you should have an effective and consistent way to get new customers into your business. For solo-entrepreneurs, it is pretty easy to work in cycles. A few weeks of developing a product, a week working on the marketing message. If you work with a high-value product, you might also need to factor in client demonstrations, which means that you need to schedule the time to set up those demonstrations, deliver them, and then follow up to secure the sale.
This is currently an issue for us in our business. We have cycles where we ship product and cycles where we focus on sales. We will be starting with a new product, Bluetick.io, that allows for the initial cold emails to be automated, and for a person to step in once a reply is received from a prospect. This will be ideal for us – our call to action is to set up a client demonstration, and if we can minimise the time it takes to secure a demo, then we’ll be taking a big step in the right direction.
For personal productivity, I heartily recommend that you read ‘Deep Work’ and ‘The War of Art’. I started with ‘The War of Art’ – it can get a bit spiritual(ish) in places, though worth pushing past – it isn’t central to the concept in the book. ‘Deep Work’ is a thoroughly convincing piece of literature about the need for non-distracted working.
This article was supposed to be light-hearted, though hopefully, I leave you slightly convinced that there is no such thing as ‘standing still’ with your business. You’re either moving towards your goal, or you’re letting them slip away.