It's rare for me to pick out individuals but Mike McDerment CEO of FreshBooks deserves attention by anyone in the startup game and especially those trying to develop business applications. I first came across Mike some two years ago when FreshBooks had about 70,000 registrants. That number is now over 400,000. That's some growth.
Running a startup isn't easy, there's often a lot of incumbent competition and as for word of mouth/viral growth - ferget it. At least right now. For as much as we talk about the consumerization of business applications, it takes a LOT of persuading business people there is a different, disruptive and ultimately better way to do things. Heck - getting our attention here is bad enough. So why is Mike a hero?
Check his post entitled 7 ways I've almost killed FreshBooks. Some choice cuts:
...whatever numbers come out of your Excel jockeying, they’re wrong.
We like to try things and look for “signs of life” with our marketing before we increase our spend in any medium. It’s always the right approach because there is no silver bullets, so don’t kid yourself into thinking there are.
Nobody cares about your business as much as you do, and frankly people who are smart - consultant/MBA smart - don’t know your business as well as you do despite the fancy words and references to past success.
It takes *years* to generate word of mouth - it’s a slow build, but slow burning fires burn the hottest.
I’ve learned to spend 80% of my time thinking about what not to do, instead of all of my time thinking about what we can do.
Doubt is born out of fatigue and loneliness, and there is a lot of both when you are running a start up. Hang in there and keep your feet moving - there’s still a lot of time for you to change the world.
I've advised many startups over the years so fall into Mike's 'consultants' camp. I've offered some (but not all) of these points in one way or another. The problem I find is that even when startups are seeking advice they're often so wrapped up in their belief in what they're doing, they develop a form of tunnel vision that prevents them from seeing what's in front of them. The obvious is often the thing to do but somehow innovation breeds a need to see the whole world differently.
Mike will be on one of the panels at the upcoming Office 2.0 gig. If you're attending then say hello. A person who has enough humility to realize the mistakes that can be made and is prepared to share them deserves your attention.