Last year, I posted on social media about how we thought we would be much faster in developing appointmed than we actually were. It turns out this resonated with quite a few people, so for this Slow & Steady issue, I want to dive a little deeper into this topic.
As a small bootstrapped business, the challenge we face every day is deciding on what to spend our precious time on. Apart from receiving feedback from hundreds of customers on a daily basis, we also have a gazillion ideas of our own. Striking a balance here is hard enough, but the harsh reality is that even if you manage that, there is not enough time to work on everything you or your customers would love to see in the product.
Looking back at pitch decks (yes, we did those for a while… that’s a story for another time) from our early days is an incredibly humbling experience. Today, the feature-set of our application is very close to what we thought we would be able to implement by the end of 2018… That’s not a typo. That’s actually four years ago. Some of the stuff is not even released and only in beta for select customers.
It. Just. Takes. Time.
We knew it would take time to get a business off the ground, but we did not realize just how much time. How long it would take to build the first real usable version of our product, find a go-to-market strategy that works, hire the right people, or even find internal processes that worked for us. Everything took way longer than we initially thought it would.
This can be an incredibly frustrating situation for the entire team. We thought about closing down the business more than once in the early days. Partly due to running out of money, but also because we did not feel we were going anywhere.
Over time, and by talking to other founders, I realized this is pretty much the norm. I needed to accept the fact that we don’t have an army of developers (by choice), or the big-budget of VC backed competitors (by choice), nor the luxury to be able to work on five cool things at once (which can be a good thing, but I wasn’t able to see that yet).
I needed to stop comparing our small, independent business to the hyper-growth startups, burning more money each week than we made in a year. Without realizing it at first, we made a choice to run our business in stark contrast to what most consider the typical startup way…
Calm means — at least to me — that the focus is doing your best work without the constant need to burn the midnight oil in order to outperform everyone around you. In hindsight, I’m very happy that we took our time and grew the business the way we did. Slow, but steady. Each month we added a little bit.
A few more paying customers.
A few more features.
A few more minor improvements.
A few more fixed bugs.
It works a bit like compound interest when investing in the stock market. While they seemed insignificant at the time, those tiny increments turned our almost failing business into something that allows the entire team to live a very comfortable life.
John O'Nolan once wrote:
“Even if you haven’t yet reached the summit of the mountain, try to pause every so often and look around to enjoy the view from where you are right now.”
I was doing precisely that when I posted about it on social media. It took us longer than we thought to get to where we are today – and that is perfectly fine. At the end of the day, I’d choose our approach over running a stressful hyper-growth venture-backed business any day.
I would love to hear your thoughts and stories on Twitter! What about you? Team hyper-growth, or team Slow & Steady?