Refer to this interview when hiring a developer

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In our last post, we shared with you an action guide for hiring developers.

We’ve gotten some wicked feedback on it already over the weekend, through the blog and email.

Thank YOU!

Tony left us a rather thoughtful comment a few days ago :-)…

devtr

Thanks Tony. You’re the bomb.

As a follow-up to the guide, I wanna introduce you to the founders of GliderPath, a project management software for companies in the translation industry.

Lubos and Romina are a badass couple from the Czech Republic who went through The Foundation over the past 10 months.

  • They didn’t code the software themselves.
  • They didn’t hire any developers through friends or referral.
  • And they didn’t know anything about how to hire high quality developers when they first started.

Despite all that, they’ve been able to lockdown “A player” developers to work with them.

We thought they’d be the perfect follow up to the last action guide.

You can read the interview we did with them below.

You’ll see their honest and truthful answers to questions that people have been leaving on our blog about hiring developers.

Questions like…

  • What’s the best way to filter out “bad” developers?
  • How do you evaluate a developer if you have no coding experience?
  • Can you provide a frame of reference for cost when hiring a developer? How do you know what’s reasonable?
  • How do you protect yourself from getting screwed over by a developer?
  • How do you set and hold to a production timetable? What’s the best way to estimate how long things will take to build?

What I love about this interview is their answers are so fresh.

They literally just went through the process of searching for a developer within the past six months or so.

Maybe even more recent.

They started from a clean slate, of having no experience before in hiring developers.

I find their insights so valuable, since they know exactly what it’s like to start from scratch.

Sometimes advice can be tainted when it’s coming from experienced experts, because they might forget what it’s like to to be at ground zero.

Check it out below, you’ll love it.

It’s in text, and we kept it pretty raw and conversational so you could get a feel for Lubos and Romina.

They’re amazing. I love ‘em.

They had so much energy, positivity, and care while doing this interview.

I wish you could hear their voices.

We would’ve shared the audio interview, but the quality was a bit spotty.

I’ve heard that most of us read faster than we listen anyway, because a lot of us can skim and pick up more than we think in the process.

Anyway… here it is! :-)…

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In a nutshell, what is your software business? What does it do?
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Romina:

GliderPath is a project management software.

It’s specifically tailored for the translation and localization industry.

Our edge is that it’s very simple, easy to use and easy to learn. It’s very user-friendly.

Lubos:

To give more background about the industry… there’s a ton of software out there.

And the users are very savvy with the technology.

It was difficult to come up with something interesting they hadn’t seen before.

We thought the best approach that we could take was to keep things simple.

This is what they love about the software.

They’re able to get what they want in just a few clicks.

Since the industry is so saturated with software, I guess nobody really did what they teach in The Foundation… which is to listen to your customer.

A lot of the existing software out there is a bit complicated, because it was all developed from the developer’s point of view.

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What was your background before starting GliderPath? What skills did you have for business?
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Romina:

I come from the industry actually.

I was a project manager for a very long time, in companies of different sizes, and in translation companies of different sizes. Before that I was a translator.

Later I began to focus on business development for the translation industry. And then I got tired… and tried to find something else :-).

So my background is mainly project management, with a little bit of business development there. But everything within the translation industry.

Outside of my experience here, I had no other skills for business. Not in entrepreneurship either.

I enjoyed the corporate world, but got tired of not being my own boss.

Lubos:

I studied civil engineering, but right after university, it was tough to find job here related to that, so I found a job in the corporate world.

In the meantime, I started to create websites mainly for me and for my friends, and started doing it full time because I liked it. It was fun.

So yeah… I was Civil Engineer who never actually practiced engineering :-).

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Why did you want to start a software business?
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Romina:

We wanted to create something meaningful. Also, we wanted to be our own bosses.

We wanted to be mobile. We both have families in different parts of the world that we both love to travel.

We didn’t want to restrict seeing them to two weeks every year when our boss’ give us vacation time.

We wanted to make sure that we would be able to travel all over the world.

At the same we wanted to give something back or contribute with what we were doing.

We wanted to create something that would help people – business owners in this case. But people in general – to also live the life of their dreams.

Every time we present GliderPath, we let business owners know we want to help them streamline their processes and save time, so they can do what they love most. It can be anything.

It can be to have more time to in your business, or more time to spend with your family. We want to help in some way.

Lubos:

I guess when everything started, one or maybe two years ago… we knew that we wanted something else other than our jobs.

Romina:

We also ran heard about Dane and Andy at AwesomenessFest. It’s like a mixture of Burning man and TED talks…

Lubos:

Amazing people, mostly entrepreneurs. We were there as corporate workers at the time.

It was so funny because we were like looking at everyone like they were superheroes.

Romina:

We saw that there was a possibility of something else that we were not seeing before.

We saw that it was possible to be an entrepreneur, and enjoy your work, and do what you love.

It was possible to make tons of money doing what you love. It was also possible to be rich and to be helpful and contribute to the world.

This was November last year.

Lubos:

Yeah, it was one month before the launch of the 2013 class of The Foundation.

So we had heard about The Foundation because of Awesomenessfest, and from there we wanted to start a software company.

We followed the blog and stayed up to date through emails to find out about enrollment.

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Can you share the high-level story on your journey and experience with finding a developer?
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Romina:

Okay. I can give the high level, and then Lubos can give you the details.

Everything related to developers involved a lot of trial and error.

We were following the steps in The Foundation.

We decided to try oDesk, and started getting lots of back and forth conversations with developers.

It was a matter of talking to them individually, and trying to see if they’d be a good match for the software AND to us as people.

We interviewed a lot of people. We were between two or three at the end.

We decided to go for the guys who were freelancers.

But they were sort of like a group of freelancers… so we knew that they’d have each other’s backs in case of issues came up or someone got sick.

They were also in the same time zone as us. That was important for us, because we wanted less friction for communication.

So that’s the high level. It’s a story with a happy ending. But there were a lot of phases in between. I guess Lubos will give you more details on that :-)

Lubos:

Yeah that pretty much sums it up.

In the beginning we were pretty specific with our instructions for the developers. But then we started using user stories to give an idea of how the customer would use the software.

That worked a lot better because developers are smart. By giving them specific things to do, and limiting their creativity, we actually capped off the potential of the software.

So user stories have been very helpful.

Romina:

I guess there are a couple of big lessons learned for us in relation to managing developers.

The most important, at least for us, is that developers do what you tell them to do, which is very logical.

Usually when there’s a problem with development, it’s not developer’s fault.

It’s incorrect instructions or incorrect assumptions, or some misunderstanding or miscommunication on our side.

The second lesson learned is that developers are super smart and they like to figure out things. That’s why they are developers. So if we give them instructions we sometimes limit creativity.

By giving them user stories, we let them brainstorm the best way to solve the issue for the customer.

And the third lesson learned is that agile development is great. Managing by “sprints” is good.

Sprints should be short enough that we’re in control. This is so that we know that they are working, and that they are meeting the priorities exactly how we need them.

If you just give them a very long timeline, they might just use a lot of it as free time, and do the work at the end, close to the deadline.

It’s best to know what your priorities are and work with them on short sprints.

For us, week-long sprints work well.

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What’s the best way to filter out “bad” developers?
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Romina:

It depends what you mean by bad developers. If by bad developers you mean those who can’t make what you visualize happen, you can try having them do a small test job that takes a week or so to do.

It’s important that the instructions you give them are very clear, and you aren’t jumping any steps. Communication has to be very clear from your side in order to get a developer to respond.

We find that the best developers that we interviewed are the ones who communicated the most, and have their own ideas and suggestions on how to do things.

If someone just accepts your instructions without having a suggestion, comment, or way to do it better, you might want to be be a little skeptical of how experienced they are.

Lubos:

Also, you should feel comfortable hanging out with your developer, because you’re going to have to talk to them for a very long time, and very often.

So if you don’t feel comfortable with the way they are, or the way that they interact with you, just discard them, because it’s not going to be fun working with them.

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How do you evaluate a developer if you have no coding experience?
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Romina:

A great question, and it’s related to what we were saying before.

There are a couple of things that you can do, but it’s mainly related to whether this person delivers, and delivers something that makes sense for you.

You may have no coding experience, but you know what your software is supposed to do, and how it’s supposed to look and function.

You may not be able to evaluate how clean is their code is while they are writing it, but definitely you’re able to evaluate performance, communication, and whether they deliver what you asked them or not.

If you really, really want to make sure the code is good and high quality, you can hire somebody to check for you.

Lubos:

Yeah. Also check their portfolio.

That was also a way we evaluated.

If they’ve done something with some features we were going to have, or similar, I was interested.

I didn’t want to hire somebody who had a lot of experience in developing, but never did any kind of SaaS.

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Can you provide a frame of reference for cost when hiring a developer? How do you know what’s reasonable?
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Romina:

It depends which part of the world you’re working from.

Within certain limits, everything is reasonable, lol.

It also has to do a lot with your budget.

Particularly with our project, we had a set budget with the pre-sales we had. We approached the three runner-up developers, and asked them for a quote.

It ended up being within the parameters we were expecting.

But before, that we had been talking with a couple of other developers, like friends from The Foundation, and friends from life which gave us an idea of how much a minimum viable product would cost.

I don’t know if we could could throw an actual number out, because there are so many variables that you would have to consider.

Depends where they are in the world, what language they speak, what language they code in, what your software requires… everyone has different rates. There’s a lot of variables to consider.

The best way that you could estimate is to run it through a friend who knows some coding, or just get in touch with a developer, no strings attached, asking what a reasonable estimate would be.

Do that several times so that you have several points of references.

We ran it by two or three people before actually asking for a quote. So when the quote came, it was more or less what we expected.

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How do you protect yourself from getting screwed over by a developer?
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Lubos:

Yeah, this was discussed in The Foundation, and we were recommended to have our own server, and have the developer deploy the coding there. We also had NDA agreements signed.

We just asked them, “Okay, are you able to sign NDA?”

And they had no problem with it.

Romina:

The reason why we signed the NDA actually had more to do with the fact that we wanted to protect sensitive information from our end customers.

Lubos:

Yup yup. The developer should be able to deploy the code or everything they do at the end of the day.

Using something like GitHub is good. That way you have everything on your site.

Our developers — they directly told us, “okay, just get this server and get GitHub. We will deploy here, we will be writing code here.”

That’s how it was.

I knew from The Foundation that this is the best way, so it was kind of plus for the developers in gaining brownie points with us because they suggested it themselves.

We didn’t have to ask them for this.

So far it works. We see what they are doing exactly on GitHub, and everything gets deployed to our server.

Romina:

The thing also is that developers love being developers. They love to develop.

They’re not so much into business. So they are okay with developing for us and we take care of the business part.

At least the developers we’re working with… it wouldn’t occur to them to do a bootleg or copy of our software and try to market it themselves. They love to develop and create things.

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How do you set and hold to a production timetable? What’s the best way to estimate how long things will take to build?
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Romina:

The way that we’re doing it now, is we decided to do it by “sprints”. We have a weekly schedule that we have shared with them. It’s basically a document in Google Drive.

Lubos:

Yeah, where we have different tabs within the spreadsheets for different weeks.

Romina:

We discuss it every Monday, and we adjust the priorities for the week based on what’s realistic.

So it’s something that we discuss together developers. We include an estimated time and delivery date in the schedule.

Lubos:

So for example, if we want to put in a certain feature, we load it into the document in Google Drive. They can break it into smaller pieces or like smaller features depending on what they think is most feasible. Then they can give us an estimate on time.

Romina:

Having everything documented helps because it allows us to see the estimates and what gets done. So if we need a similar feature done in the future, we already know how long it should take, approximately.

It was hard to get to this point! :-)

We didn’t know much about agile development, so we actually had a call with Carl Mattiola.

He had some experience with this, and suggested a unique approach that we modeled for ourselves.

Basically, we discuss features every Monday, making sure that we are on the priorities for that week.

Every Friday we just make sure that everything has been done. And if it hasn’t been done, we discuss why and we just move to the next week.

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How can you ensure the code is “clean” so that other developers can take over if you stop working together?
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Romina:

We didn’t really do this ourselves, so we can just try to give the best answer we have! :-)

The easiest way, but the most expensive way is to hire someone to check the code.

For us, we just made sure that the developers wrote a guideline of what they were doing.

Also, we have them run test cases to make sure features run smoothly, and have them document everything along the way.

So in case we break up with these guys, we can bring somebody else.

Hopefully that won’t happen. We love our developers.

We’re thinking of bringing on someone else in the future… so they can be brought up to speed with the documentation our current developers have already prepared.

So, you can either hire a third party to do a quality assurance check, or ask your developers to document what they are doing.

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Did being in The Foundation help you get to where you are today? Could you have done it without? (more of a “quality control” question for us)
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Romina:

Yes, totally helped us. No, we couldn’t have done without, lol.

Lubos:

Even if we had had all the knowledge already, we couldn’t have done it. I mean, not in the time we did it, at least.

Romina:

I mean we’re talking less than a year. Just a year ago, we were completely unhappy and trying to find some meaning to our lives, and hoping that if went to Awesomeness Fest we would get some inspiration.

We were really trying to look for some “out” of the corporate world, and trying to find something for us.

We didn’t know what, and getting into The Foundation… it’s a cliche what I’m going to say, but it changed our lives.

I don’t know how to put it in any other way. But basically… it’s not only that we learned a lot.

We got a lot of confidence on the things that we thought we would never do… and we did.

We faced a lot of challenge and we conquered them. And we felt like rock stars many times.

Sometimes we felt horrible. But that was part of the process as well :-).

I can say that we grew up a lot as people in general. And as business people.

And between the two of us also, because our relationship is on a completely different level as well, because we have a different kind of interaction.

Definitely it changed our lives. I don’t know if you want to add something else Lubos.

Lubos:

Not really. You say it like perfectly :-).

Romina:

Yeah man!

Lubos:

This interview is like perfect for us to reflect what we’ve done. Because as Romina said, sometimes we don’t have time, or we forget to reflect.

One year ago we were completely unhappy. Like really. Just going through the motions.

Romina:

Yeah. Now, it’s not that every day is happy rainbows, happy days…

We have tough days that are tough for us. But for every tough day, we have a huge lesson learned.

It’s not that everything is perfect and happy, but what we are doing is for US… and we’re enjoying it, and it’s ours and it’s our adventure.

It’s an awesome feeling :-).

Lubos:

Yes :-).

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Did anything hold you back from joining? Has that been defused now?
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Lubos:

I followed Dane and Andy’s stuff for a while after AwesomenessFest, and knew I had to join. I wasn’t questioning money or the price.

I was questioning myself more, and knew I had a lot of limiting beliefs to crush.

I remember asking myself if I’d be able to do it.

And I also asked myself, “one year from now, would you regret if you didn’t join?”.

Joining Foundation was kind of no brainer. When we got accepted it was like… wahhoooo.

Romina:

I wasn’t questioning anything actually.

I like adventures, so for me it was like… it was a perfect opportunity to have one.

And the fact that we could have it together with Lubos was like an added bonus to the adventure.

It was a great learning experience for us as a couple. It was surprisingly cool.

I didn’t have anything that was stopping me from joining.

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How’s GliderPath doin’ today? What does the next year hold GliderPath?
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Romina:

We haven’t launched to the public yet. We’re in beta, and we have a group of eleven founding members.

We were going to close it at nine, but then we had so many people interested in trying out the software. We are going to launch a second version of our beta …

Lubos:

In one week.

Romina:

… in one week. That’s going to be pretty awesome because it actually has many fixes and feedback the early adopters gave us.

We are planning to do a soft launch in early January. And then like a launch to the public with all the bells and whistles around mid-January. That’s the plan.

So many really cool things are happening even before launching.

We have people on a waiting list to get the software as soon as it’s launched.

We have people who ask us to participate with them in conferences… like to do presentations in conferences.

Some of our founding members want us to present at one of the biggest industry conferences in March next year. We of course said yes!

We have people that just come to us from referrals and from comments that people make in LinkedIn. People we don’t even know. They are just coming to check what’s going on with GliderPath.

It looks great for now. We have really good feelings :-).

Lubos:

Since the market is kind of saturated by software, we still have a long way to go.

Even though our founding members really like GliderPath so far, we still have to develop more features.

Romina:

We’re planning to have the core of the software developed by the end of Q1 next year.

We have very big plans going into next year. Also because we’re in the translation industry the software will have to be translated and localized, so that’s also part of the plan for next year.

We are looking at some interesting numbers for next year. We’re hoping to close next year with at least a hundred customers… a little bit more actually.

Also, if everything goes well, we’re also looking to explore some partnerships with our founding members.

It’s looking very good. We have some complementary projects related to GliderPath. Also we have GliderPath Academy which basically…

Lubos:

It’s like learning platform for project managers.

It was kind of funny, because we just asked our founding members what would be cool, what we can do for them, and they saw that Romina has experience as a proejct manager. So they asked us to give them some training.

Then we thought, “maybe we could give this training to everybody”.

So we’re creating a learning platform.

Hopefully, within the next week or two, I’ll put together a website with the first two courses.

Romina:

Yeah. So we are planning to have some free courses, some paid courses. It’ll be another source of income.

Many things are happening, and we’re getting to know a lot of people, and we’re making tons of very valuable connections within the industry.

And also, we received some news that that our competitors that are worried, which is very funny for us, because we’re not even aware of them. So it’s looking good.

Lubos:

Yeah, we just have to stay on track.

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What’s a piece of advice you’d give to yourself if you went back in time 12 months?
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Lubos:

Only one? Lol.

Us:

You can give more if you want :-).

Romina:

Yeah. There’s a couple. For me, it would be just take the first step.

And then the next one. And then the next one.

But don’t worry about the rest of the steps.

Just take the first one. Once you are done with that, then worry about the next.

That would be one.

The second piece of advice is, fear is a good thing, because once you overcome it, you feel very powerful.

Don’t let fear stop you from having the adventure of your life.

And for you, Lubos?

Lubos:

I would say to myself don’t be afraid.

Even if you’re the only one who thinks that something is going to work, don’t be afraid.

Romina:

Yeah. And at the end of the day, we realize that it’s kind of a good feeling to be a little bit different from the rest of the world.

I would also tell myself, just go for it.

What’s the worst that can happen? You can go back to whatever you were doing.

Lubos:

I’d also tell myself to enjoy it more.

Romina:

Yeah. That’s true.

Lubos:

Since this was the first time doing anything like this, we got really stressed, and wondering what we were gonna do. The stress kind of takes away from the experience.

Romina:

We have to remind ourselves like “Hey … it’s good.”

Lubos:

Yeah. Even our founding members are saying “Guys, you should enjoy because what you’re doing is cool. So enjoying it is another piece of advice.

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What does a day in the life look like now?
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Romina:

It looks a little bit different from day-to-day. So a day in the life for me basically is morning meditation to make sure that I enjoy the day.

And then I just get together with Lubos, as if I have never seen him before, and we see that one and write the priorities.

If it’s a Monday, we do it for the whole week. If it’s another day of the week, we just make sure that we’re remembering that we’re on track for the goals of the week.

And then we write the priorities for the day.

As I’m mostly in charge of interacting with clients and sales, I try to get pre-sales, send cold emails, answer emails, get in touch with the founding members and make sure they are all well taken care of.

Then at the end of the day, we see if we have done what we set out to do in the morning.

If not, we figure out what happened, and make it better for the next day. If it’s a Monday or a Friday we have calls with the developers.

Lubos:

Yeah. For me I’m trying to get into this meditation stuff.

Romina:

Slowly.

Lubos:

Slowly. Because we found out that like it’s really important to start the day on a positive note.

Romina:

When we don’t do it, or let’s say for some reason we get bad news early in the morning, it’s a horrible day after.

Lubos:

Yeah. No matter what positive news comes afterwards, it becomes a horrible day.

Romina:

So getting in the right mindset in the morning is super important.

Lubos:

So yeah, for me I’m trying to create a knowledge base, so we don’t have to answer all the emails for support on the software.

I’m also preparing stuff for developers at the moment. And also finishing the learning platform. That’s the main priority at the moment.

Romina:

Something really good that we learned not so long ago that helps us with our objectives and the actions that we take day to day, is mapping our objectives.

We learned this with our mastermind group, Sterling Assembly, right after The Foundation.

Basically what we do is we set up outcome objectives for the quarter, and then we divide those outcome objectives into performance objectives.

Lubos:

Yeah, we break the outcome into actionable steps we can take every day.

Romina:

So that takes all the guessing work out of it.

We don’t have to worry about “what are we gonna do today?” or “what’s the most important thing?”… because we already know what’s important in that quarter, and what we really really want to achieve.

Makes it easy to figure out what we should be doing on a day-to-day.

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Any last words you have for people who were in your situation 12 months ago, just getting started?
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Romina:

Do it!

But don’t do it because you think it’s going to be easy. Do it and know that sometimes it’s going to be hard.

You have to want it bad enough so that you can continue when it gets hard.

If you really want an experience that is going to be life changing, this is the right way to go.

Lubos:

Yeah.

Romina:

It’s going to change your life completely. Your life isn’t going to be the same as it is now, and that’s so cool.

You need to be committed to change, and you need to be committed to yourself and to what you want, and forget about what other people say.

If this is really what you want just go for it and do it. You won’t regret it.

Lubos:

No, you won’t regret it.

Just do it.

It may seem easy for us to say at this moment, like “just do it”… but yeah, just take it one step at a time.

If you are thinking about joining, join. Then you will take a next step, and then the next step, and then again.

Take small steps, you will be awesome in the end. You will achieve amazing results.

Romina:

There’s a saying that goes “a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step” or something like that.

That’s the way I feel about it :-)

A word of warning is that it’s not easy. It’s not easy.

If it was, we wouldn’t have had so many breakthroughs on the limiting beliefs that we had.

And we had a lot.

We still have some, but at least worked out the toughest ones… and that’s not easy, but it’s oh so cool.

###

And that’s a wrap!

You can ask more questions below that you have about hiring a developer.

Or, you can also just say thanks to Lubos and Romina, if you want :-).

Thank YOU for checking out this post.

Dane Maxwell

P.S. Lubos and Romina joined The Foundation as a couple. We allow couples or business partners to enroll together.

If you’re interested in enrolling, you can apply here. We’ll review your application and then get back to you about enrollment details.

You’ll meet lots of entrepreneurs like Lubos and Romina on the inside :-).

By Yelena Reese on 28/10/14

How to hire a rockstar developer without any connections

9 comments

This is gonna be a short post, because there’s lots to read in the download we have for you today.

It’s the Action Guide for Hiring An “A Player” Developer.

devv

Enter your email below and click “Get Access” to get the guide.

Inside, you’ll see:

  • Where to look for developers when you don’t have any connections.
  • The exact email message AND subject line I used to find Rajesh, one of my long-time developers.
  • The “A Player Developer Manifesto”. Model this to develop your own “developer’s manifesto”, which allows you to hit the ground running with a developer you can trust and depend on.
  • How Ruben Gamez, founder of BidSketch, hires developers off oDesk: sample emails, “filtration criteria”, and the “3 stages of hiring” he uses to find high quality developers.You’ll save hours of trial and error working with the wrong people, after learning Ruben’s simple but effective process.
  • And more…

Enter your email below and click “Get Access” to get the guide.

Some entrepreneurs, like our friend Mike from the blog comments may be under the impression rockstar developers are in short supply:

dev1

Thank you, Mike, for sharing. You’re amazing.

(He shared on this post, where we asked you to post your burning questions about building a SaaS business. You can still post there. We’re keeping an eye on the comments for future Q&As)

We don’t believe good developers are in short supply.

We feel there’s an abundance of talent out there.

We feel you haven’t “missed the boat”.

You just have to know where to look. And what to look for.

Check out the guide by entering your email below and clicking “Get Access”. It’ll give you some clarity :-).

Keeping this short, so you can have lots of time to read the guide.

Leave a comment below. Tell us what questions you still have after reading the guide. We keep an eye on all of them.

Thank YOU for reading this post,

Dane Maxwell

P.S. enrollment details are comin’ out sooper dooper soon for accepted applicants to The Foundation.

Apply here, if you wanna build a SaaS biz like Jennifer, who had 10 customers on launch day, or Sandy, who has $12,000 in pre-sales so far.

Both have had their success manifest within past the 10 months.

By Yelena Reese on 23/10/14

How Sandy got $12,000 in pre-sales without selling

19 comments

In our last post, we shared the Action Guide to Pre-Selling.

It was short and concise. But we really feel it was enough to take action with.

There was more advice inside there than Andy and I had when we both started.

Over the weekend, we’ve gotten some emails from people with a few doubts about pre-selling.

  • Some think there’s no way it works.
  • Some think it’s too good to be true.
  • Some think it’ll only work for people who get lucky.

So, to follow-up, we wanna share an interview we did with an entrepreneur who went through The Foundation recently.

She put pre-selling in action over the past half year or so.

You can read the entire conversation we had with Sandy below.

She started a unique SaaS business in a tiny micro niche.

It’s called Connectable.

The software helps lead-based networking groups and associations streamline their communication.

Sounded complicated to me at first, but the way she explained it below, I was able to get it easily.

It’s a text-based interview, and took up over 13 pages in Google Docs.

She went really deep.

Especially in her experience with pre-selling.

When you check out the interview, you’ll see:

  • A copy of the presentation she used to get $12,000 in pre-sales so far. You can keep it on hand to model yourself.
  • Why she decided to leave her business of 12 years to start a software company instead.
  • How she found her micro niche, and exactly why she chose to stick with it.
  • How she was able to get her customers to say “How much? I want it now.” during pre-selling calls.
  • What she would do if she had to start pre-selling all over again.
  • The “tools” you should have when pre-selling.
  • How she got $12,000 in pre-sales without using scripts, phrases, or clever sales psychology.
  • Important words of wisdom for entrepreneurs starting from scratch, having been in the business world for over a decade.

Hope you get lots of out of it.

She was open, honest, and completely transparent about everything.

So strong.

Here’s the full interview we did with Sandy.

Read it below:

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What is your SaaS business? Gimme the elevator pitch, as if we just met.

My SaaS business is called Connectable.

It’s built for lead-based networking groups, a very small micro-niche.

Every major city in North America and the UK has an “Executive’s Association”.

My product helps each of the members of the associations communicate throughout the week.

It’s a little hard for people to understand my business if they’re not in the niche.

The best way to understand the software is to talk about how the members communicate. It’ll become obvious what my product does:

The executives meet weekly, and their whole purpose is to network and to help each others’ businesses grow. And they do that by sharing leads.

(Executives = business owners who have met a criteria to be a part of the Executives’ Association. It’s very demanding, as they look at your revenue, experience, and other stuff.)

At the weekly meeting, they come together and write their leads on a piece of paper, and share the info with another business owner.

Then the Executive Director of the association takes ALLLLLLLLL the papers back to his office, types in each of the leads, and then sends out a newsletter to all the members.

My software helps associations digitize this tedious process, as well as many other activities that take place in these associations.

In a nutshell, it helps these executives communicate seamlessly without the lag time and paper hassles of the past.

What was your background before starting Connectable?  What skills did you have for business? What was life like just 12 months ago?

I have a BSc in Kinesiology and Biomechanics, and I’m a Certified Pedorthist (C) — so I specialize in posture, gait analysis, creating custom orthotics, and more.

I was doing that for about 20 years, and was getting a little bored.

Over the past 12 years, I owned my own company with a partner. We had brick and mortar stores — shoe stores and clinics, at each of our locations.

Seventeen total staff, two locations.

I had always been a business owner, an entrepreneur of some sort — whether as a sole proprietor as a clinician, or an owner and partner in the brick and mortar stores.

I had a lot of business skill, lots of marketing, staff management, financial statement literacy, and all that jazz… but the problem was, I wasn’t very happy doing it.

I had been doing it for so long, I just became very bored and frustrated… and became very sick the two years prior to leaving the business.

I ended up selling my shares back to my partner.

It was a wonderful 12 years and I loved everyone I worked with, but I knew I had to change something.

I kept getting sick.

I’d go through cycles of illnesses with pneumonia, anemia, bronchitis, kidney infections, and even had a kidney stone.

The business was stressing me out. I had to start taking care of myself.

I made the huge decision of leaving the company and selling my shares, and I had planned to start learning holistic nutrition.

I started a blog and a podcast called “Feed The Human”, which I was gonna focus on, and then do orthotics on the side.

I’m still working on the blog and podcast to this day :-).

Then I got the acceptance email from Dane. I had forgotten I even applied because I did it way back in February.

It was like the universe was speaking to me again.

I realized I had the space for The Foundation, and even though I didn’t know too much about it, Dane had intrigued me on the Smart Passive Income podcast.

I thought I need to follow this because I’d never have this much space in my life to take a course like this.

So I enrolled and got onto the Facebook page of The Foundation, and I remember not knowing what ANYBODY was talking about.

I had no IT background other than Outlook, Facebook, and Excel spreadsheets.

I didn’t know what API meant.

I didn’t even know what SaaS meant. I had to wiki it.

I was sooooo intimidated by everybody, but I just trusted this was something I needed to do.

Why did you want to start a software business?

I remember distinctly listening to Dane’s interview with Pat Flynn on the Smart Passive Income podcast.

At first, my hand was hovering over the “stop” button, because at the time I thought, “Who cares about software? It’s boring.”

But when Dane started speaking, I began to see software in a different way.

I realized in my life how many places I use software that someone out there had to create.

With the stories and examples and everything he talked about on the podcast, he showed me there could be freedom in my life.

Because before, I felt like I was caged.

I knew I couldn’t be free.

My ideas were being squashed.

I wasn’t able to be creative and truly me because I had to conform to old school business models.

When he described the software concept, of recurring monthly payments, my mind just knew it was something I needed to do.

I wanted the freedom to wake up when I want, plan my day how I want, workout if I want, pick up my son early… I wanted the freedom to choose how I use my time.

So I knew I wanted the end goal of passive income, but I didn’t know how to get there.

I just trusted “The Foundation Thing”, whatever it was (at the time), and hoped it would get me there.

How’d you pick your market?

I found that I had to balance what we were taught in The Foundation, and what I felt was right.

The model inside has worked for Dane and Andy, and many people as well, so I followed what we were taught.

I picked some markets that were mostly or all green lights, and did some awkward idea extraction calls…

And then, one day, I was sitting at lunch with the Board of Executives of the Calgary Executives Association.

One of the board directors said  “You know, we really need an app for this.”

And I had totally agreed, as I had been a part of the group for fourteen years.

I said those words myself before.

And there I was… inside The Foundation trying to find a market… and finally put two and two together.

I looked at her and said “Yes we do, and I’m going to build it.”

I knew right then this was the market.

So it was really funny that even though I had said we needed this solution for the longest time, I couldn’t see it when looking for a market to build software in myself.

It was right in front of my face.

I compared it to the green light criteria and realized it wasn’t a good market.

So I went to explore others markets again… but I kept returning to this one for some reason.

Intuitively, there was something very exciting and a very sure feeling there was something to this market.

I knew the pain and problem was so bad, and nobody was paying attention. I felt it would work.

I eventually decided I’d use the market as a tiny little “get my feet wet” project.

It’d be a good way to follow the content along and take it step by step, and use it as a learning experience.

I knew it wasn’t gonna be a Paperless Pipeline. I did the math.

But I told myself it’d be okay. It’d be a good experience, and it’ll make a huge difference for all these associations.

You’re a rockstar with pre-selling. Did you always believe pre-selling was possible? To be able to get money upfront without having anything tangible to exchange…

It wasn’t really until the second sale that I really believed it.

I was still kind of astonished.

I remember thinking… “Why are they giving me $2500?

They don’t know me, they’re not getting anything tangible right now. I have no track record…”

It was a bizarre concept for me, especially coming from the footwear world where I sold goods.

I had inventory. I had to stock hundreds of thousands of dollars of product, AND THEN have my customers come in.

I kept thinking to myself “but why would they pay me?”

Now though, I’ve realized that when you can solve someone’s problem, it doesn’t matter who you are or what your track record is.

They know you and trust you after the idea extraction calls, and are just thinking about themselves and fixing the problem.

And they start thinking about life with your product.

It’s very easy to sell when you’re in that position.

Let’s answer a question everyone wants to know. Plainly and simply… how’d you get them to pay?

To give a bit of background: during the phase of my journey when I did a lot of idea extraction, I had become almost a “central hub” of information for the different associations I was talking with.

We’d often go on tangent conversations during idea extraction calls.

They’d be curious of how an association in a different city or country was handling X struggle or Y problem… and I had this information because of having so many conversations with different associations.

I was able to build up very strong rapport with them, before ever “pitching” anything.

Eventually, when I was ready for the “pre-selling” step, I brought my info pack back to everyone I had done idea extraction calls with.

(The “info pack” is a badass sales tool entrepreneurs inside The Foundation create for pre-selling. It shows customers how kickass your software is, what it can do for them, and how they can get it. You can download Sandy’s info pack by clicking here.)

They wanted to know what my findings were.

They wanted to know what I could do for them.

I showed them everything I had, with some visual concepts of the software crafted on PowerPoint.

While showing them, I remember a couple times they had just stopped me and said “I get it. How much is this? I want it.”

I didn’t really have to sell because I could identify with who they are, how they operate, and what their problems are.

I cared. I had a solution. They trusted me by this point because of our previous calls.

The fact that had no track record in building software was irrelevant because they had so much faith and trust in me.

That’s what comes out from being so real with them, so honest with them…. and just listening to them.

It wasn’t about me, it was all about them and caring about their problems.

It was never a matter of being nervous about the sale.

The info pack did a lot of the work. I did it exactly like Carl, and just presented it to them.

(You can download Sandy’s info pack by clicking here.)

If you can find a problem, as Dane says… that “hell yes” problem, your product ends up selling itself.

There’s no “selling” involved.

I didn’t have to convince them, ever.

Sandy’s Bonus: Sandy was delighted to share the one time she “failed” with pre-selling.

I had gotten quite comfortable with presenting the info pack to a lot of associations, and I had the chance to present to the first ever executives association: San Francisco.

I was really excited, because they were the FIRST association created, and it’d be cool.

I did the initial presentation with the executive directors, and then they asked me to present to the board as well, since the board makes the decisions.

So I ended up doing a conference call over the phone. I couldn’t see any faces.

I ran through the presentation… and they beat me up.

I hung up.

If it wasn’t for the mindset training from The Foundation, I would’ve been a wreck. On the floor in tears, I think.

They criticised me for not dealing with confidentiality, not having a website (they were like,”Who are you?”), and my lack of track record.

They voted no to the software.

But recently, just a few weeks ago, I ended up seeing them at a conference in person.

I was doing demonstrations live with the actual product.

The San Francisco board ended up seeing it and were like… “Wow Sandy, we can’t believe what you’ve done. We can’t believe you’ve come this far. We didn’t think you could do it.”

So now they’re back on the table with a lot of interest in the product.

What I want to express from this experience is that you WILL get feedback from some of your pre-selling calls.

Maybe a lot.

And it’s important to take the feedback from a place of “How can I use this feedback to grow my business?”, instead of from a place of “They don’t like it. I should give up.”

Now, whenever I’m on pre-selling calls, I almost always look for people to question the product.

In my experience, it means they’re interested.

The people who have nothing to say at all, and are just going with the flow, are often the ones who don’t end up signing on.

What mistakes did you make early on in your pre-selling attempts?

Nothing big really. I don’t feel like I made a whole bunch of mistakes.

It was a wonderful journey, and still is… all “struggles” included.

If I had to say, one thing is I wish I had gotten a website up earlier.

That way, if they looked me up, there’d at least be something.

At least a landing page or some kind of splash page, to get a little bit of online credibility.

What do you think people need to “have” to start doing pre-selling?

I think you should have a strong presentation using a good info pack, with a lot of focus on the benefits, and not features.

It’s really easy to focus too much on features because you’re so close to the product when you sketch the solution, after doing idea extraction.

Doing a couple screenshots so they can kinda get a sense of what’ll be built is also a good idea.

I loved using the info pack. It was a great tool for me to get pre-sales with.

Also, using software like GoToWebinar or something that allows you to share your screen is something else to have.

As well… this isn’t tangible, but being really confident you’re solving a big big big pain is very helpful.

Then the selling isn’t selling. THEY just ask for it.

Are there any scripts or phrases you’d share with yourself if you went back in time to when you started?

Nope, not really. Just have a good info pack.

What was the most difficult part of getting a pre-sale?

My difficulty was a bit unique to the niche my software is in.

The most difficult part, was not dealing with the actual decision makers myself.

I would present to the executive directors of the associations, who would have to take it to the board for the final decision.

The directors had influence, but at the end of the day, I had to relinquish control and trust they’d be doing the product justice.

If I had the chance to present to most of the boards, I know I’d have a lot more pre-sales.

I’d be able to answer their questions, objections, and curiosities on the spot.

To solve this problem, I ended up creating a page on my site where the most common objections and questions were answered.

All potential stuff the board might ask.

Now I share this link with the directors who present to their boards.

What advice would you give yourself if you went back in time, and just starting the pre-selling process?

I would say, trust the product.

The product is gonna sell itself.

And I’d remind myself it’s not me selling. The product is doing the selling, it’s not you doing the selling.

There’s no awkward conversations that need to happen.

Theres no special skills in selling you need to have.

There’s no slimy, sleazy stuff that has to go on.

It’s just a natural occurrence to get sales when you solve a deep pain.

People can’t wait to hear from you about your solution.

In other words, find a deep, deep, level 4 pain to solve that they talk about inside The Foundation.

If you were building your business from scratch again, would you use pre-selling?

Yeah, absolutely. It’s the best form of validation.

I can’t imagine not collecting money first anymore, to make sure what I want to make is what people want.

Did being in The Foundation help you get to where you are today? Could you have done it without? (more of a “quality control” question for us)

No, not at all.

I didn’t have any idea of what a SaaS was.

What I got from The Foundation was the framework and community.

And those two things together have just catapulted me on to a different stratosphere.

I wouldn’t know what to do without.

I actually wrote a post in The Foundation yesterday, because I’m just so overwhelmed with the support inside.

I love this new life. This new freedom. Living on the edge.

It’s exciting to me, and I love it.

I’m just clearing the fog that’s two steps ahead of me and taking a step forward each time.

But there’s no way in hell I would be able to do any of it without The Foundation.

Whenever I’m stumped and have no idea what to do, l just reach out to the community and get so many different answers. So many different suggestions and resources.

It’s a cool feeling to feel this supported.

If I was by myself, the fear would overcome me, and I would stop.

I would be paralyzed.

Almost every next step I take, I always reach out to the community.

On a high level, what I do is say “Here’s where I’m at. Here’s what I’m doing. So what should I do?”

Multiple, multiple, multiple times I’d ask a question, and people would reach out, and I’d be overwhelmed by responses.

Did anything hold you back from joining? Has that been defused now?

Nope. No hesitation.

I was jumping into the unknown.

It’s exactly what I wanted to do. Something completely different from gait analysis and custom orthotics.

So when I got the acceptance message from Dane, there was no hesitation.

Nothing stopped me.

Describe the current state of your business. What does the next year hold for Sandy and Connectable?

Ten months in, I have 5 associations signed on with $12,000 in pre-sales.

Another association wants to pay full price, but doesn’t want to be a founding user at the moment. So they’ll sign on when we fully launch.

I ended up partnering with my developer and we worked out agreements around revenue and stuff.

He’s taken six weeks to build the web-product, which is miraculous. We also have an android app, and an iPhone app too, up and running.

We’re in beta fixing up some UI stuff, and we’ll be putting our first users on in a couple weeks.

In the next four weeks we’ll have 256 users on!

Very scary and exciting.

My plan for the next year or so is to go after remaining associations I haven’t approached yet.

I can probably get 70-80% of them signed on.

Then I’m gonna turn, and pivot, and look at other networking groups the software can be used for, or customized for.

I actually had a call with someone who’s connected with the International Gaming Developers Organization, and it sounds like Connectable would be very useful for them.

They have about 8000 people who could potentially use Connectable. So it’s kind of a big deal :-).

What does a day in the life look like now?

Everyday is different, which I like, and how I want it.

I still see some orthotic clients twice a week at the clinic. And I’m also keeping busy with the Feed The Human podcast and blog.

But the majority of my week is focused on Connectable.

I’m not very good at setting routines that are very stringent. I don’t really decide most of what I do until I wake up.

I’m part of quite a few mastermind groups, so I have a few different calls during the week, some coaching… it’s all over the place.

I love that. I love the scatteredness and messiness of the week.

If I want to take off and go for a run in the afternoon, or if I just wanna go hangout in a coffeeshop, I can do that.

Saying that makes me so happy.

I also work once a week with two other Foundation students here in Calgary.

We meet at a coffee shop here in downtown, get our laptops out, and huddle up and work all day together.

We get SO much done together, it’s fantastic.

I love the freedom.

What last words do you have for entrepreneurs who are just starting?

It sounds kinda cliche, but I think you’ve got to live your passion.

I hope that everybody can have the lines blurred between work and play, or work and your “regular life”.

I want everyone to be able to love their days like I love mine.

I want it so that when you’re working, you love working. And when you’re not working, you love not working.

Joy throughout the day.

I just want everyone to think about what makes them happy, and want them to be doing whatever it is that make them happy.

Running my old brick and mortar business wasn’t making me happy. So I did something about it.

I want others to do the same too. Take action towards taking care of yourself.

Because when you take care of yourself, you can take care of others.

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You can leave a comment below to ask her any questions that come up, or to simply thank her for her time.

I love how generous entrepreneurs inside The Foundation are.

Anyway, talk again soon.

Lots of love,

Dane Maxwell

P.S. Sandy built Connectable from scratch in the past 10 months by going through The Foundation.

If you’re interested, you can apply here. Accepted applicants will be hearing back from us soon with enrollment details.

By Yelena Reese on 20/10/14

How to start a $1000/month business in 2 days

13 comments

The answer: pre-selling.

Andy did it years ago. A quick case study of it is found in the download attached to this post.

Keep reading below to find out more of what’s inside that download.

Before we dive deeper, let’s do a little thought exercise first.

Imagine you’ve selected the market you want to build software in, gotten business owners on the phone, and have done a ton of idea extraction calls.

You have twenty people who are complaining about the exact same problem, and feel you may be onto a great software solution.

You *think* you’re onto a great idea.

But remember, what’s the most dangerous word in business?

Guessing.

At The Foundation, we don’t guess.

That’s why we believe business isn’t risky, like how most people see it.

The whole “the greater the risk, the greater the reward” thing isn’t really our style.

We don’t want you to “hope” your idea is a profitable idea.

We want you to know with a level of certainty it’ll make you money.

And one of the best ways to do this, is to get money from your customers upfront before hiring a developer, getting incorporated, and all that other jazz.

So today, we’re going to dive a little more into the concept of “pre-selling”. The art and science of having your customers pay you without having a product.

We’ve put together The Action Guide to Pre-Selling. 

You can access it by entering your email below and clicking “Get Access”.

Pre-Selling Guide

It’s short, sweet, and way more than what I had when I got started years ago. Inside, you’ll learn:

  • The multi-billion dollar industry that uses pre-selling almost exclusively. Nobody notices it, but they’re doing it right in front of our faces.
  • The 5 elements of creating a Pre-Selling offer. Once you understand these, you’ll have the ability to defuse a bunch of the resistance your customers have for handing over cash.
  • How Andy used the 5 elements to start a $1000/month business in 2 short days. The business later scaled up to five figures per month.
  • The 3 forms of risk beginner entrepreneurs make when they skip pre-selling and go straight to development.
  • And more…

Enter your email below and click “Get Access” to get the guide.

Again, like the action guide to idea extraction, no cost. On the house.

Brief, concise, and punchy.

Why?

Because we want you to take action.

I can’t stress how prevalent the “preparation plague” is.

Ew.

Get the guide below by entering your email and clicking “Get Access”.

After you read it, comment below with what questions you still have.

We’re creating a bank we can use for a Q&A down the road.

Andy and I are stoked to answer your questions.

(Side note: I’m betting you already more than enough get started. Or to move forward wherever you’re at in your business. Even if you don’t think so yourself. I believe in ya.)

Thank YOU for reading this blog post,

Dane Maxwell

P.S. applications have steadily been coming in for the next round of enrollment at The Foundation. We open up next month to a small group.

Click here to apply, if you’re serious about building a business from scratch.

P.P.S. comment below and let us know what questions you have about pre-selling. We’re creating a bank for future Q&As.

By Yelena Reese on 17/10/14

How Jennifer started a SaaS business with 10 paying customers on launch day

29 comments

In our last post, we shared the Intro Guide to Idea Extraction.

Inside, there was info on how to identify profitable markets and extract ideas from them.

It was only five short pages, and we kept it concise on purpose.

We believe in action.

Too many people get stuck getting ready, and we’re here to exterminate “preparation syndrome” — a parasite consuming entrepreneurs worldwide.

Yuck.

Today I wanna share with you an interview we did with Jennifer, who started a SaaS business from scratch in the past 10 months — with 10 paying customers on launch day.

She’s an idea extraction master.

She’s also an incredible human who knew nothing about business or software before starting her SaaS business journey.

A mom.
A wife.
A “regular” person who started with no connections, no business skills, and no edge over anyone else.

She said herself in the interview, “I knew nothing about software or business, and no one in my circle of friends does anything like this.

But she’s an action-taker.

She started Namastream from the ground up, a wicked software that helps yoga studio owners and yoga teachers put their classes online.

Brilliant.

We sat down with her and she gifted us close to two hours of her time.

She answered questions about her journey, the business, and idea extraction.

Thank you Jennifer :-).

When you check out interview below, you’ll find out:

  • How she balanced being a mother, entrepreneur, and the co-founder of a non-profit while starting Namastream.
  • How she picked the yoga market, and the exact reason why. (The longevity of your SaaS business will depend on the market you choose.)
  • Exactly how she first got in touch with people in her market, and the “ninja move” she did to increase cold email response.
  • How she was able to extract ideas without using special scripts or phrases.
  • The “power move” she used to create a bank of idea extraction questions.
  • How she conquered her fear of calling business owners.
  • The simple piece of advice she would tell herself if she was starting over again.
  • Her kind words of wisdom to entrepreneurs starting from scratch. She JUST started her journey 10 months ago, so her perspective is still raw, fresh, and relevant.
  • And more…

I wanted to share this with you because Jennifer inspires me.

I hope she inspires you too.

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Tell me about Namastream! If we were in an elevator, and had to part ways soon, what would you say?

Super duper simply put, Namastream is a way to create a virtual yoga studio.

It helps yoga studio owners and yoga teachers put classes online — the ability to create a virtual version of a brick and mortar yoga studio.

What was your background before starting Namastream? What skills did you have for business?

I was trained and groomed as a lawyer, and I also went to grad school for environmental science.

Some people may think that because I’m a lawyer, I must have some business background or acumen — but the truth is… most of the work I did, and still do as a lawyer, is outside business law.

So I was like most people who start off in business: clueless :-).

Before I got into entrepreneurship, I was building a non-profit with a partner focusing on climate change and human rights issues.

Again, even though saying I started a “non-profit” makes me sound like someone familiar with the business world — I was very far from it at the time.

Within the non-profit world, we spend a lot of our effort trying to gather the resources required for actually doing the work we want to do.

As far as life at home — I was, and still am married to my wonderful husband who has been amazing on this journey of entrepreneurship.

Our baby, Kennedy, was just one when I joined The Foundation and got into the whole SaaS business rollercoaster.

Why did you want to start a business?

There were a few reasons!

Primarily, it’s because I’m really passionate about the work I do with my non-profit.

It was frustrating to spend so much of my time focused on fundraising.

I wanted to find a way to spend more time on just the impactful and meaningful work, and less time on the fundraising.

I figured, if I could start a business that could fund me and my non-profit work, I wouldn’t have to spend so much time trying to get funding from donors and foundations.

I’d be able to select the projects I wanted to work on most — and not be governed by the opinions of the donors.

Also, the thought of being able to support my family to survive and thrive was definitely one of the reasons why I wanted to start a business, like for a lot of entrepreneurs..

Were there any hurdles that were stopping you from starting a business?

Funnily, my husband was worried that my “do-gooder” attitude would stop or interfere with my success.

Until the end of last year, the concept of business in my life was essentially non-existent.

Aside from some temp jobs here and there inside businesses, I had absolutely zero relationship with the business world, since most of my work has been in the public sector.

I also had some fear I wouldn’t take it seriously enough, because I’ve always been passionate about “more meaningful stuff” (those are in quotes, because meaningfulness is very relative).

I thought business was just a necessary evil that provided the means for impactful work to happen. So it was never something I was really thrilled about.

How’d you balance work, family, and entrepreneurship? What did a day in the life look like we you first started?

Having been pretty “good” at school my entire life, I took entrepreneurship the same way.

So with regards to balance, when I enrolled into The Foundation, I treated it like school or a job.

I followed all the stuff that Dane and Andy outlined in the program, just like I would in school.

All my work happened early in the morning while my daughter was at half-day pre-school until noon… and then after she went to bed, or whenever I could fit it in throughout the day.

The afternoons and evenings were most often spent with her.

On average, I spent about 8 hours a day doing work, split between my non-profit and going through The Foundation content to eventually build Namastream.

How’d you pick your market?

I knew I’d only be able to give myself fully to building a business if I picked a market I liked, or at least had some familiarity with… or some interest in.

I was confident I’d fizzle out otherwise.

I picked the yoga industry because I had gone through a good part of a yoga teacher program training myself, to deepen my own practice.

I’ve been practicing yoga for about 12 years, and it’s something important to me… and I also felt like it was a good and growing market.

And also, being a “yogi” myself, I felt like I’d be able to relate with the people who’d eventually become my customers.

The industry didn’t meet ALL the “green light criteria” The Foundation teaches to identify profitable markets, so I broke the rules a bit.

But the market did meet most of them.

I thought about lawyers, too, being a lawyer myself… and I still might in the future.

But at the time, I wanted to go with the yoga market because I was most excited about it.

I did some research on Google to see where the industry was going with regards to growth, and it seemed like there was opportunity.

AND… there was a piece of research called the “Yoga in America” study that a lot of blog articles and newswire stories were referencing, which convinced me more that the yoga industry was definitely worth a shot.

I also found a Forbes article that summarized the top Yoga spots in North America by major metropolitan cities.

I figured, if Forbes was writing about it, it must be a big deal.

How’d you first get in touch with people in your market?

Simply put — I emailed them with a version of what we were provided with in The Foundation, for reaching out to business owners.

There wasn’t anything more complicated to it, other than getting the work done.

Something that I think worked really well for me was addressing people by name, when I first got in touch with them.

I really wanted to dignify them from the get go, and show them how much I really respected them and their time.

When they emailed me back, we’d schedule a time to talk, and I’d call them to start doing idea extraction.

I’m not sure how it happened, but I had really amazing responses, and response rates.

Some of the yoga studio owners would give me time on weekends to talk because their weeks were too busy.

I think this is part of why this process was so special to me — because I was amazed at how much people were willing to open themselves up and connect with me.

It was really touching for me, to have them give me their time. Especially because I felt like I was getting the better end of the “deal”, at that point.

What I feel also worked well, further on in my cold email process, was the report I began attaching to cold emails.

(The report is discussed in detail in an interview conducted with Jennifer inside The Foundation content for students who have enrolled. We’d share it here, but it wouldn’t be fair to those inside.)

Also, I tried to build rapport as much as I could in the cold email.

Having gone to school at three different universities, if I found out the owner was an alumni at a mutual school — I’d work that into the email in some way. Or if they practiced the same type of yoga. Or if I used to live in their city.

At the end of the day, for me, it was just about being genuine and authentic about building a connection.

What phrases or scripts did you find worked really well, from doing so many calls?

I didn’t use any phrases or scripts… I don’t think you really can.

I think just need to be yourself, and be a human being connecting to another human being. I think that’s when it works.

I don’t think you’ll really thrive in The Foundation or be able to build a software company if you’re looking for scripts to follow closely during your calls.

Every call is different, and the best way to build a relationship with your customer is to listen to them with intention.

How did you make conversations “not awkward”?

That’s hard for me to answer, because it wasn’t a problem for me :-).

I was scared to call, because you get scared of rejection… but everyone I ended up calling had said they wanted to talk to me.

Out of the 188 people I emailed to do idea extraction, only 2 people said “take me off your list” or “remove”, or something like that.

To make the calls smooth while I was on the phone with them, I’d always double check to make sure it was a good time to chat.

I’d also express how much gratitude I had for them taking the time out of their day to talk.

Then I’d normally give a background, telling them again who I am, about The Foundation program, what I was trying to accomplish.

And then I’d get into asking the questions I had.

In terms of the questions I’d ask — they were pretty specific to the industry, and the software they were currently using.

I took it upon myself to personally try out the software they were already using to get to know it a bit better.

That way I was entering the conversation as someone who knew a little more about the frustrations and pains they were experiencing.

It was hard to really ask good questions and dig deep for pain when I wasn’t experiencing exactly what they felt.

So trying their software out helped.

Also, at first, I started off trying to use the questions they gave us in The Foundation content, but I didn’t feel like I could authentically connect with someone while using a script.

After the first ten or so calls, I came up with some industry-specific questions to use as the same topics of discussion started coming up.

After getting a “bank” of questions to use from doing so many calls, I was able to ask if certain frustrations resonated with them. It helped me get closer and closer to finding out what idea I should run with.

How’d you get over the fear of calling?

Practice.

I forced myself to make the calls. You don’t really get over the fear of it until you’ve done it the first few times.

My heart was always racing picking up the phone, but by the end of the conversations, I’d always feel great because of the amazing connections that would happen.

It’s funny, because I feel like my brain actually started associating getting excited with the calls, since they went so well.

So I’d actually look forward to them, oddly enough.

After I did 10 or 15 calls… there was zero fear. It became something that I just did.

Now, I’m doing demo calls for the software multiple times a day and it comes naturally.

I feel like doing so many idea extraction calls has given me a valuable skill that’s extended to the rest of my business.

Also, I set out to do 75 idea extraction calls and wanted to stay committed to it. Since my identity is around being consistent with what I say, I knew I had to make it happen whether I was afraid or not.

At what point did you know you had a good idea?

I’m gonna be completely honest and transparent, which not all entrepreneurs can be — I still doubt whether I have a good idea or not. I don’t know if you ever know with 100% complete certainty.

There are times when I think my idea’s the best idea in the whole world, and there’s times where I feel like I’m gonna fail and disappoint everyone.

Personally, it’s a challenge for me to know that.

But I knew I was onto something when early on it was validated with 6 or 7 people.

I had several other ideas I could’ve picked as well, but I went with this one because I was most excited about it.

I actually experienced the pain myself, as a student of yoga… because when I moved away from the Pacific Northwest to this small town in North Carolina, I didn’t have access to my teachers anymore who I had a close relationships with.

Also, part of the reason I have doubt is because of the industry itself.

There are some yoga instructors who believe that the relationship between the teacher and the student should be in person only… that it’s a sacred relationship.

I respect that heavily, but I think that it also limits the sustainability of their businesses.

So — knowing that a certain segment of my market doesn’t agree with my idea, gives me some doubt.

But at the same time, there’s the common saying that if your market is everyone, your market is no one.

What’d you do after you validated your idea?

After I got the idea, and validated it, I started wireframing the solution.

I had to learn a lot about what would actually be possible, and how it would work technically.

Lots of looking into API documents… lots of research… and lots of reaching out to people in The Foundation who were familiar with this stuff.

Mid-march to May was spent getting the solution sketched and interviewing potential developers.

My developer started working for me in May, on the full version of the software, and he finished it for release to our early adopters at the beginning of July.

Did being in The Foundation help you get to where you are today? Could you have done it without? (more of a “quality control” question for us)

I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today without The Foundation.

I knew nothing about software or business, and no one in my circle of friends does anything like this.

The program and community provided me an “entry” into the world of business and software.

Without The Foundation, I had no point of reference.

Now, just ten months later… I can talk about software development platforms, programming languages, sales funnels, and email marketing campaigns.

I would never have used these phrases before. None of this stuff crossed into my sphere of existence in the past.

A lot of the stuff I learned was from the course material, but just as much, if not more, was because of the community.

In fact, from the first week of the program, I found an accountability partner who lives in my city — and we’ve been checking in with each other twice a week for the past ten months.

We’ve worked through a ton of limiting beliefs together, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without that relationship.

And after going to the live event in June, in Colorado, I grew even stronger relationships with the community — especially the women.

Rarely does a day go by where I’m not talking to someone from The Foundation.

Did anything hold you back from joining? Has that been defused now?

Just a lot of internal chatter and limiting beliefs about where I fit in with business.

Before joining, the dialogue that went on in my head was “people like me don’t do this — this just isn’t what we do.” I had always focused on “making a difference” and it took a lot for me to admit that I could potentially do other things (in addition to public service and social justice work).

Also, financially. It was a large investment.

But now I see more and more customers coming on board, and my monthly revenue growing.

And with a SaaS business, it generally continues to grow — so the financial concerns are getting alleviated over time.

I was never really skeptical about joining — part of me thought “is this real?” — but then I watched the Google hangouts Dane did with Amy, Renata, and Carl, was really impressed and inspired by their stories.

When enrollment opened, it really felt like I was signing up for school again (which was comfortable).

And then I was blown away, from the very beginning.

The program wasn’t without flaws — because nothing is — and I’ve voiced my concerns so the program can continue to reiterate and get better and better…

But the lion’s share of my experience has been phenomenal.

How’s Namastream doin’ today? What does the next year hold for Jennifer and Namastream?

We just launched publicly at the end of the first week of September… and it’s great, it’s growing.

My goal was to have ten new customers by the end of 2014, and we’ve surpassed that within our first few weeks alone.

So a primary goal now is to be in a position so the business can fully support my family.

My next phase is learning to leverage my time better.

I’m doing a lot of demo calls now, showing potential customers the software, and they go on for hours sometimes. They’re great, and I’ve learned a ton from doing them… but I think it’s time to start transitioning into doing things like webinars so I can start scaling better.

Since I reached my goal of ten customers already, I have a much more ambitious target for the end of 2014.

Right now, money is still correlated with effort at the moment.

So it’s not passive yet, but I think it’s because of the phase of the business I’m in.

I’ve learned that you don’t really start off passive. You work towards it, and then it becomes passive.

But I know there’s the potential, because my current customers are paying me on a monthly basis — it’s so real to me now.

What’s a piece of advice you’d give to yourself if you went back in time 12 months?

Nothing big really!

I’m really proud of the journey I took that has led me to where I am today, and the person who I’ve become.

Maybe I would’ve committed to 50 idea extraction calls instead of 75! I put pressure on myself to do a lot more work than I probably needed to do.

I also waited too long to hire my developer. I should’ve done it a little earlier, because looking back now, I think I was ready a lot sooner than when I actually made it happen.

And… when I was pre-selling Namastream, I promised my early adopting customers they’d have exclusive access to the product for the whole summer.

But it wasn’t necessary. We weren’t taught to do that in The Foundation.

When I told Dane I did it — he was like “why did you do that!?” lol.

But I wanted to give special perks for being early customers.

So… I guess I’d be a little more conscious and intentional of what commitments I make to myself and others.

What does a day in the life look like now?

Honestly, it’s nuts, since I’m in the middle of launch mode.

I’m working a lot on the business and the non-profit, and have to almost force myself at night to turn off the computer.

I’m still wearing a lot of hats in the company. Doing market outreach, sales calls, tech support, and everything else that keeps a business running and growing.

So it’s busy.

At the same time — it’s wild and exciting.

We’re getting a lot of partnership opportunities, and people are asking to become affiliates.

It’s awesome.

Any last words you have for people who were in your situation 12 months ago, just getting started?

The journey of entrepreneurship has been so worth it.

I just think of myself as a completely different person — and entrepreneur — and it’s such an empowering identity to have.

I feel like I’m a professional problem solver, and I love that my work is all about helping and serving others.

I have a very powerful sense that no matter what happens, I can figure out how to fix whatever problems come up.

I mean, I entered an industry I knew nothing about, and started a real software company with paying customers. Without having any background in software or business at all!

It’s a cool feeling to have.

I’m beyond excited about what the next year of this journey holds in store…

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Please leave a comment below if you got some “ah ha” moments from the interview.

Or, if you just wanna say thanks to Jennifer for being so open, honest, and vulnerable with her business… that’s cool too :-).

You’re awesome,

Dane Maxwell

P.S. almost forgot — click here to apply and get a chance to join The Foundation. We open up next month. Enrollment maxed out in just 21 hours last time around, so I wanted to make sure you had a heads up.

P.P.S. tell Jennifer she’s awesome below if you liked what she shared :-)

By Yelena Reese on 14/10/14

How To Find Profitable Business Ideas Without Racking Your Brain

22 comments

A frustration we hear a lot from entrepreneurs is, “how do you pick the right market to build a business in?”

Here’s just a few comments we got from our last post, a few days ago.

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(Appreciate the comments. Keep ‘em coming. We wanna do some Q&A posts in the future to address the most common questions.)

A lot of us get paralyzed at this stage, because we’re worried about picking the wrong market, and wasting all our time and effort down the road.

We’re obsessed with getting it perfect the first time.

While I’m an action taker, and a strong proponent of “ready, fire, aim”…

I actually sway on the side of being a bit careful when it comes to choosing a market too.

This is a step you don’t want to gloss over, because it sets the foundation (pun strongly intended) for the future of your business.

The Intro Guide to Idea Extraction helps you pick profitable markets to extract ideas from.

In the guide, you’re gonna find out:

  • 7 criteria to evaluate markets for profitability. You’ll know whether or not a market is worth your time with a quick evaluation.
  • How Trevor Page filled his schedule with 7 idea extraction calls without cold calling. He extracted a few good ideas within the first three calls alone.
  • The 3 phases of idea extraction. You’ll understand the landscape of idea extraction at a high level, so you can sound like a pro on your calls, who knows exactly where the conversation should be going.
  • The exact words I use to start off idea extraction calls. Stick to a similar conversation path, and your calls will start off with momentum most of the time.
  • 5 of my “go-to” questions for idea extraction. You can almost always depend on these questions to get the ball rolling and ideas flowing with business owners.
  • The “state of being” you want the business owner to be in during calls, to help them get “primed” for filling your head with lucrative software ideas.
  • 2 tiny phrases that unlock the gates to profitable software solution ideas, during your idea extraction calls.
  • How to end your idea extraction calls on a good note, so that you can build a wicked relationship… and eventually a long-time customer.

Enter your email below and click “Get Access” to get the guide.


No cost.

On the house :-).

You’ll notice it’s only five short pages.

It was on purpose.

We want you to be an action taker.

We’ve all been soooooo conditioned with “preparation syndrome” — especially from traditional schooling.

Study, study, study.

Get ready, get ready, get ready. THEN we take the test.

This formula doesn’t work in business… because money can only be made through action, not consumption.

If there was more to read, and more to know, we’d be delaying your growth.

That wouldn’t be cool.

Enter your email below and click “Get Access” to get the guide.

Then, tell us what questions you have below about picking markets and idea extraction.

Andy and I wanna do a Q&A down the road to answer the most common questions :-).

We’ve been keeping track of everything you’ve told us so far.

I appreciate you,

Dane Maxwell

P.S. remember — avoid consuming any extra info on building a business in the next few weeks. Be an action MACHINE :-).

P.P.S. just a reminder, we’re opening up enrollment to The Foundation in early November.

Some people got mad at us because we weren’t “loud enough” about enrollment when we opened up back in August.

Last time we filled up all 120 spots within 21 hours, and so far, they’re lovin’ it.

Click here to apply if you’re interested. The community and support inside is kick-ass.

It’s beautiful, and brings a tear to my eye :’-) (<- that’s a tear under my left eye).

By Dane Maxwell on 10/10/14

How To Get A SaaS Business Started This Month

161 comments

We’ve been really busy with stuff inside The Foundation, creating a life-changing experience for the students who’ve enrolled in the past year.

Now that we’ve got a team that’s growing, the bandwidth is available for us to pump out more content like we did in the past.

In the next few weeks, we’re gonna be sharing with you some stuff we’ve been working on behind the scenes.

We’ve talked before about the framework we use inside The Foundation: idea extraction, pre-selling, sketching the solution…

But the thing is, we’ve never gone into that much detail about them.

In the next few weeks, you’ll see us dive deeper into these concepts.

You’re gonna get some actionable stuff to build your SaaS business, right here on the blog.

Here’s three things you should do right now to prepare for the next few weeks:

1) Create a folder on your desktop. Name it “My Business Toolbox”.

Put the downloads you’re gonna see on the blog into this folder.

In the next few weeks, this should be the only content you consume on building a SaaS.

I challenge you to block everything out, and use just what you get from us.

One of the biggest hurdles stopping entrepreneurs from getting started is being stuck in “preparation mode”.

The most common reason it happens is because there’s an infinite amount of books, courses, and blog posts out there.

The truth is… you’ll never make a dollar consuming, but you’ll make all your money producing.

So for the next few weeks, unplug yourself temporarily, and see what it’s like to just take action.

2) Leave a comment below, telling us what you want to know most about building a SaaS business.  

Where are you struggling the most? Finding an idea? Picking a market? Talking to customers?

What burning questions do you have about starting a software company?

Tell us in as much detail as you can, because we’re going to read every single reply.

3) Share this page with any friends or family you want to go on this journey with.

Business opportunities are abundant the way we start businesses, so there’s no reason to keep the info you’re gonna get close to your chest.

In fact, the more people you have on this journey with you, the better.

The most successful entrepreneurs I know always have a rockstar peer group and network.

Talk to you VERY soon :-)

Thank YOU,

Dane Maxwell

P.S. enrollment for The Foundation will be opening up again in early November.

Click here and apply if you’d like a chance to join.

If not, that’s okay too :-).

The info coming your way will be enough for you to take action with.

The perks of enrolling, though, is belonging to a tight-knit community of entrepreneurs, and a super strong support system….

And some more private, “highly-classified” content too ;-).


Anyway, leave a comment below, and we’ll talk soon.

By Yelena Reese on 07/10/14

How to get close to $1M/year in revenue

2 comments

The answer is going to surprise you.

If you take it and run with it, it’ll serve you in more ways than
you can imagine.

Keep reading…

There were four pivotal moments in my life which
uplifted my business in a large way:

1. Reading Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki
2. Reading Power Vs Force by David Hawkins
3. Taking The Enneagram Test (a powerful “personality test”)
4. Hiring Ben Saltzman, who has consulted with Intel, Hewlett
Packard, Levis Strauss, and a bunch of other multi-million
dollar companies.

Among the most powerful of these four, was
taking the Enneagram test, and hiring Ben Saltzman.

The Enneagram taught me the secret mystery
of 9 personality types in a mind blowing way.

It’s not like the Myers-Briggs…

In my opinion, it’s way, way more impactful.

It showed me how my ego was sabotaging
my success… robbing me of connecting
deeply with others… and prolonging my
lack of fulfillment.

As soon as I took the Enneagram, my life and
business transformed.

I stopped chasing multiple business ideas, and
focused on one:

PaperlessPipeline.

Today, Pipeline is approaching a million dollar
per year business.

I have the enneagram to thank for that focus.

This is the “secret sauce”, if there were ever such a thing.

I also paid $12,000 to work with Ben, who understands the
Enneagram better than anyone I know.

He changed my life by revealing my deepest unconscious
desire for achieving everything I have in business.

It wasn’t “success”…
It wasn’t significance…
It wasn’t having nice and expensive stuff to show off…

It was safety.

Behind the layers of passive income, financial freedom, and location
independence… all I really wanted was safety.

This realization blew me away because I had it all wrong.

At The Foundation, we want to uplift humanity.

And I *know* this will help you.

Ben is launching a program right now that’s very affordable,
and I happen to be involved with it.

Even though it’s not chock full of strategies and tactics, I believe
investing in it will be one of the best decisions for your business.

It’s not about making money online…
It’s not about instant success…
It’s not about being a slick business owner.

It’s about how to connect with the heart of who you are.

And when this happens — speaking from experience,
EVERYTHING gets easier in business and life.

If you want to find out more about it, click here
and Ben will send you more information about it.

(We don’t normally promote other peoples’ stuff. But
Ben is THE EXPERT on this. Having worked with
him myself, I really want everyone in the world to experience
his gift.)

You’ll also get a chance to do your own Enneagram
test to find out what type you are.

I love Ben personally, and hope he delivers on this
larger program I’m promoting.

When you register, you’ll get to see me share openly
on a panel… the deepest, darkest parts of myself
based specifically on my personality type from
the Enneagram test.

This is something you don’t want to miss.

Ben is the man.

Again, you can find out more here from Ben.

Thank YOU

Dane Maxwell

P.S. if you already know your Enneagram Type,
you can click here instead, and Ben will send you
more info about the program.

P.P.S. when you find out your Enneagram Type,
can you comment and tell us about it? :-)

By Yelena Reese on 30/09/14

You MUST Learn This To Be A Successful Entrepreneur

30 comments

Recently… I’ve been exploring why “getting what
you want” can be difficult…

When I was 22, I had complete clarity on what I wanted.

Passive income. Recurring revenue, so I wouldn’t have to
trade time for money.

I’d be able to spend my time doing things I wanted to do instead.

Wake up when I want… travel without having to take
“vacation time”… and enjoy everyday without stressing about
bills or debt.

It was a grueling battle, but I eventually made it happen.

My fuel was anger, and it was a very productive force that
helped me get what I wanted.

But at the same time, it was a very destructive and toxic force I
don’t embody or encourage anymore.

And now, 9 years later… after building 7 successful software
companies, and watching 1200 people intimately go after
their dreams through The Foundation…

I believe I’ve discovered a better way.

In order to get what you want from life… you
must learn to _________ yourself.

Click play to get the answer.

***

Please share this post if it resonated with you :-).

We really want this message to reach as many people as possible.

And leave a comment too. Tell us how it’ll impact you moving forward.

Thank YOU,

Dane Maxwell

By Yelena Reese on 18/09/14

Seeking Feedback that Hurts

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From the mobile desk of Andy Drish…

Sunday, August 24, 2014
7:26 PM
Milwaukee Airport

“I think you should always be seeking negative feedback.”
– Elon Musk

Most people won’t be direct with you and tell you where you are falling short.

They will talk around it.

Or not tell you at all.

And what happens to you?

You walk around… blind to what’s really happening.

You are oblivious.

And no one has the guts to say anything.

If no one is telling you where you’ve dropped the ball, you don’t have the opportunity to get better.

Why don’t people tell you?

Often, because it’s uncomfortable to share with someone what they’re doing wrong.

Most people move away from conflict. They feel like it’s offensive or mean. So they quietly ignore it (or talk about it when you’re not around.)

This is why it’s important to constantly SEEK negative (aka constructive) feedback …

A perfect scenario happened to me last week.

Last Friday I had my weekly ‘Man Call’ with Peter Shallard.

(Peter’s an incredible friend who always gives it to me straight, with no BS, which is one of the many reasons I love our calls.)

He told me we upset someone during our launch and she was angry about how we treated her during the launch.

Now that person was reaching out to him for advice on other sources outside of The Foundation where she could learn about building a software company.

My first thought?

“Screw her. She has no reason to be upset.”

(It’s a bit scary to share this… but it’s true. Getting negative feedback rarely feels good. It stung me a bit in the beginning.)

But then I paused… and thought about it… and I got curious.

“I wonder what happened that made her so upset? And if she felt that way… did others, too?”

So I asked Peter to introduce us. Then I emailed her and asked if I could have 15 minutes to chat with her on the phone.

The 15 minutes I spent with her last week were the most valuable 15 minutes of my whole week.

Why?

Because it gave me the feedback to improve as a company. And as a result, we’re going to significantly shift our entire launch process.

Here’s the jist of what happened:

Donna is our perfect customer. She’s brilliant. She has 10+ years of business experience consulting and now she wants to transition to SaaS.

She was ready to sign up and pay for the Foundation when we launched.

But we sold out and she didn’t get to.

When she got accepted to the Foundation, she got an email that says, “You’re In” … which gives details on when people can join.

We used that subject line in the past because we’ve never limited spots before.

So if you got it, you have the chance to join us no matter what.

But now we’ve narrowed our class sizes to 120 people to make the experience more intimate.

So in her mind, she was in… she had a spot waiting for her and there was no need to hurry.

And, after she makes her decision to join, she goes to sign up and sees that it’s sold out and she can’t.

What a terrible experience for her.

Can you imagine being her and how frustrated you’d be?

It’s almost like a sense of betrayal… feeling fully ready to join something big. And then having it taken away from you at the last minute.

I’d be pissed, too.

She explained all of this to me on the call and then, she asked ‘The Money Question’…

“What are you going to do now that you have the feedback?”

I love that question. It’s a question ‘action takers’ ask.

Because of that 15 minutes, we’ve started a project in The Foundation to completely revamp our application and launch process.

We’re rebuilding it all from the ground up, from the moment you sign up to how we accept people to how we invite them into our program.

It’s all changing because of this one 15 minute call. Because she was willing to share the feedback that hurt to hear. And because I was willing to receive it.

(NOTE: If you had a similar experience to Donna, I’m *deeply* sorry. But now I understand what we messed up, the impact it had on people and how we’re going to make it better. Feel free to reach out to me personally <andy@thefoundation.com> if you were upset, too.)

The biggest lesson here is to constantly be seeking the feedback that hurts to hear.

You can’t wait for it to come to you.

Because it won’t come.

You must actively seek it.

You must create space for people to share that feedback with you.

Because if you don’t, you won’t know what’s not working.

— Andy

P.S. – And as I reflect further… the real reason this feedback was possible is because of my weekly Man Call with Peter.

We have a call every Friday to give each other direct feedback, to share our problems and to constantly be upping our game.

This call has nothing to do with The Foundation (although Foundation topics often come up). I do this call because I value having people in my life who I can be real, raw and honest with.

If you don’t have that, I *highly* suggest finding someone or joining a community where you can’t hide and play small.

My favorite friends are the people who call me out on my BS and constantly hold me to a higher standard in every area of my life. 

So Peter, thank you. :-)

By Yelena Reese on 26/08/14