This month signalled the start of my 13th year as an entrepreneur. In that time I have had one hell of a journey. From buying a whole garage full of Chinese balance bikes I couldn’t sell, to spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on failed software apps. Starting a business on a whim out of desperation late at night and going on to sell it to one of the biggest Internet companies in the world. Turning a passion home brew project with my mates into Australia’s Champion Small Brewery and an insanely fast-growing 7-figure business in the process. Losing a house and 100% of my net worth from failing at one particular business in my early 30’s. Entrepreneurship is such a crazy ride that I’d never say I’ve seen it all, but let’s just say I’ve seen a bit.
I’ve also done a lot. I’ve done a lot of ‘work’. Early on I worked tirelessly on my business plan and idea. I documented my competitive advantage and slaved over a marketing plan. I’ve built hundreds of websites, just for myself! At one point I owned 200+ domains all with live websites that I held for ‘SEO purposes’.
I’ve scrapped 50+ business ideas and names, and hundreds of logos and design ideas. I’ve written hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of words on my blogs and in my books. I’ve spent so much goddamn time on Facebook it should be considered an addiction, spent hundreds on automated SEO software and automated Twitter follower software, years posting and trying to grow my Instagram following and even more trying to grow my email list of 17,000 (which I recently scrapped).
I’ve lived in entrepreneurship forums, and attended events and meetups. I’ve done hundreds of podcast interviews and been in some sort of press hundreds of times, tried and failed to get into hundreds more.
I’ve never really stopped to think how much of this ‘work’ was actually useful.
I’m active in the entrepreneurship space, particularly among new business owners, so I see entrepreneurs every single day doing the same things. It’s a constant barrage of ‘what should I call my business?’, ‘how do I get more followers on Instagram?’, ‘which design do you like better?’, “how do I rank in Google?’ and the list goes on.
Out of all the work I’ve done, and all the ideas I’ve come up with and businesses I’ve started, I’ve only done 2 things that have ever worked. I started a WordPress support business offering unlimited support to people struggling with their website for a fixed monthly fee. No such service existed in the world and it took off.
I then started a business making beer that wins national trophies for its quality.
Those 2 acts of creating a business off the back of a great product have transformed my life and turned around my otherwise extremely successful career as an entrepreneur. Almost everything else did not matter.
Out of interest just for this post, I dug into one Facebook group and pulled out the first 5 first questions I saw:
- What gets more reach on Facebook, pages or groups?
- What accounting software should I use?
- What’s a free / cheap way to manage leads in your business?
- What software should I use for invoicing?
- Does anyone know of how I can find some more information on financial planning?
I guarantee I could continue on scrolling for hours and hours and get more and more questions like these. ‘Which design is better?’, ‘Which name is better?’, ‘How do you get leads on LinkedIn?’ ‘Should I be on Facebook or Instagram?’ ‘How do I rank higher in Google?’ ‘Which colour should I choose?’.
Yes these “Entrepreneurs” are a bunch of permission-seeking pussies and it really troubles me. I will cover that in a future post but for now, someone needs to have the courage to say this. It doesn’t fucking matter!
None of these questions relate to the one problem that I would guess every single one of these entrepreneurs have and the only thing that is going to make a significant dent in the trajectory of their business — a great product.
Uber did not take off because they chose the right invoicing software. It took off because there were millions of people frustrated with a shitty Taxi service, and Uber did it cheaper, more reliably, more efficiently and more elegantly.
Netflix didn’t replace Blockbuster because they had a better logo. The Netflix logo is shit, it’s red letters. It took off because it provided a much better product. More convenient, more engaging, cheaper, higher quality the list goes on.
The same is true on a smaller scale. I ran my agency for 7 years and it failed every year. I had hundreds of websites and at least 5 or 6 brand names for it. It did not matter. The agency failed because it offered a shit product. I built websites for people. Big deal. So did 1,000 other agencies in my city. It wasn’t until I re-thought the agency model from scratch and came up with the unlimited support idea, I all of a sudden had a better product. It was interesting, safe like insurance, no one else was doing it. It became newsworthy and simple and scalable and it took off. In hindsight the name meant nothing, the logo meant nothing, the design meant nothing. It grew because it was a great product and customers raved about it.
You can go back as far in history as you like and every successful business had this one thing in common. Yet now we have all the technology in the world and no one wants to use it to figure out how to make a great product. They all just want more likes on their Instagram post.
No business ever failed to take off because they used Quickbooks instead of Xero, or because they chose the wrong free CRM or because they chose chose logo A instead of logo B. The reason your business is not taking off is because your product is not good enough. Period.
It’s not interesting enough, or it’s not cheap enough (yes this obsession with raising prices is a huge pitfall), it’s not different enough, it’s not useful enough, it doesn’t solve a big enough problem for enough people (niching down is another huge mistake), it’s just not good enough.
Focus on making a better product for your customers. All the other problems you’ve distracted yourself with DO NOT FUCKING MATTER.
p.s. If you are interested in more like this and to keep up to date with a book I’m writing, you can join my new email list of a few hundred here.