169: Insights and Observations on Starting a Business with Josh Pigford

Alexa

by Alexa on Sep 25, 2018 in Podcast

Caring for yourself as an entrepreneur, ignoring data, and being a painkiller with Josh Pigford.

Welcome to episode 169 of the Food Blogger Pro podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork interviews Josh Pigford from Baremetrics about the lessons he has learned in the 15+ years he’s been building businesses.

Last week on the podcast, we chatted with Mandi Gubler from Vintage Revivals about a new way to organize and report on sponsored content. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.

Insights and Observations on Starting a Business

The life of an entrepreneur is always changing, but after 15+ years in the business, you can expect to learn a thing or two.

Josh is a self-proclaimed “maker” who “can’t stop making things.” As a blogger, you can probably relate. You can’t stop posting, stop photographing, stop social media-ing.

Josh has 50+ projects and businesses under his belt, and he’s here today to share a few of the insights and observations he has learned along the way. From advice about whether you should have a painkiller or a vitamin business to whether or not it makes sense to strive towards perfection, you’ll learn all about the lessons Josh has learned to help him build a $1M+/year business.

Caring for yourself as an entrepreneur, ignoring data, and being a painkiller with Josh Pigford.

In this episode, Josh shares:

  • When he became an entrepreneur
  • What Baremetrics is
  • Why his customers cancel
  • His insights and observations for starting businesses
  • Why you should ignore data early on
  • The difference between a painkiller and a vitamin in business
  • How to care for yourself as an entrepreneur

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Resources:

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Transcript:

Alexa Peduzzi: In this episode, I chat about diversifying your life and Bjork interviews Josh Pigford from Baremetrics about the insights he’s learned by starting his own businesses.

Hi friend, and welcome to the Food Blogger Pro podcast, aka: the podcast created to help you whether you’re an aspiring or seasoned blogger create the blog you’ve always dreamed of. I’m Alexa, the general manager of Food Blogger Pro, and we’re just so excited that you’re here.

Before we hop into the episode today, I’d like to take a second to thank our sponsors, our sister site for WordPress plug-ins, WP Tasty. If you go to WPTasty.com, you’ll see that we offer three different plug-ins under the WP Tasty brand. Tasty recipes, a recipe plug-in, Tasty pins, a Pinterest SEO plug-in, and Tasty links, and affiliate and keyword auto-linking plug-in. All three plug-ins can positively impact your food blog, and I encourage you to check them out on WPTasty.com.

If you’ve been listening to the Food Blogger Pro podcast for a while, you know that with the information about each episode’s sponsor we include a helpful Tasty tip that you can apply to your blog or your business. Today, I want to quickly chat about diversification.

If you’re a food blogger, it’s probably hard to remove yourself from the food blogging world. You know we all need to eat, so food is always a part of our day, every single day. People know that you’re the food guy, or the ‘foodie,’ so they talk about that awesome meal they just had, or a recipe they found in a magazine, or on a TV show; but I encourage you to step outside of the food space every once in a while.

Josh talks about this a bit in this episode of the podcast as well, but I’ve found it incredibly refreshing and inspiring to spend some of my time learning about or just doing other things to broaden my horizons and to turn my focus for a little bit. I encourage you to make a list of questions you’ve been wondering about and start researching and learning about those things.

For example, I realize that I drink a lot of coffee without actually understanding the work or the process that goes into getting the 16 ounces of liquid in my cup in the morning. I decided to research, talk to local roasters, start a coffee subscription, take a coffee class. It’s similar to food, but different enough to refresh my mind and help me focus on something other than food for a little bit. If you’re feeling a little burnt out or uninspired, I encourage you to do the same.

Now, the episode. Josh is the founder of a company called Baremetrics, which helps you understand your business’ metrics, benchmarks, and so much more. Over the years, Josh has started quite a few businesses, and some were successful, and some weren’t so successful; but he has learned a ton about the business of making businesses, and that’s what he’s here to talk about today.

In this episode, Josh talks about things like when you should actually ignore data to whether you want your business to be a pain killer or a vitamin, and just so much more. It’s a really fascinating interview, and I think you’ll learn a lot. Without any further ado, Bjork, take it away.

Bjork Ostrom: A little bit of background here. I’ve been following along with what you’ve been doing for a while, and just really appreciate your voice and how you talk about start-ups, and being a business owner, and everything that comes along with that. For me, it’s just a fun chance to connect and talk to you a little bit about start-up, so a little bit of a selfish podcast interview in that way.

Also, I think that the things that you talked about are so important for other business owners to hear. I was looking through your, for lack of a better word, tweet storm; but the different lists of things that you came up with, insights and observations on starting a business.

Josh Pigford: Sure.

Bjork Ostrom: And just so many good things wrapped up in that, and kind of a base of like self care as being a part of that, too. I just think you bring a really unique combination to … You’re able to combine that in a really unique way. We were talking about business and start-ups, and working on things, and building something, and growing things, and scaling things. Also, it’s like hey, there’s this human element that is so critically important to it. Anyways, that was kind of the reason for saying, ‘Hey would you be up for coming on the podcast?’

Josh Pigford: Well, cool. Well, I appreciate it, man.

Bjork Ostrom: I would love to kick things off by just hearing a little bit about your story, and kind of the origin story of Josh. Then, jumping into some of those takeaways that I feel like would be important to surface.

Josh Pigford: Okay.

Bjork Ostrom: Sound okay?

Josh Pigford: Yeah, it all sounds great.

Bjork Ostrom: Cool.

Josh Pigford: I guess I mean for me, I would say I was like typical entrepreneurial kid. I mean like I was the kid who was always … “Hey, I’m gonna put a sign out in the front yard offering to cut your grass.” Or looking for ways to make or sell things, even when I was a child. That’s always been in my DNA on some level and I’ve always been the kind of person who’s just wanting to make or build or create things. I don’t consider myself an artist. I went to school for graphic design, but to me it’s just like, I just enjoy creating things. And so that’s sort of where anything I do is sort of based or rooted in is my desire or pull to make something out of nothing.

So that’s just influenced everything I’ve done. When we talk about careers or jobs or anything, I’ve really only had a couple of them at all over the past, since I could be employed. I worked in retail when I was in high school, but the past that I had one job where I was a designer at an interactive design firm and I had that job for seven weeks and that was the end of me as an employee. And that was 2005. I joke that I would be a terrible employee and I was. I’m not … I have to be making things, and it’s really hard for me to fit inside an employee box.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, it’s interesting to see … I feel that’s one the characteristics that I see with you as I observe who you are from a distance, is this “maker” and not just maker of digital things but also physical things and I notice that … So Baremetrics, which is a lot of people know you as, you’re founder of Baremetrics, which is Sass Analytics, Sass Metrics, what would your elevator pitch be for Baremetrics?

Josh Pigford: My cheesy, buzzword-y title for it is, Baremetrics is a revenue-analytics platform. It just means that we tell you what’s happening with your money.

Bjork Ostrom: Yep. And there was a time before we had a couple different products than we have now, where I was like, “What type of Sass Metrics kind of business could we create, ’cause I just wanna use Baremetrics? It just looks so good, it feels so good.” And then we finally launched one, which is a WordPress-plugins site, it has recurring revenue, it’s called WPKC, we talk about it a lot on the podcast. But I was like, “Okay, finally we have one so now we can use Baremetrics.”

I would like to, in a small sense, credit you for encouraging me to start a recurring revenue business so I could use Baremetrics.

Josh Pigford: I appreciate that. I think in a lot of ways Baremetrics is this … Can be a thorn in my side ’cause it’s this thing that can deliver really great news or it can also be terrible, sure. Hey, you’re doing amazing and you’re on the top of the world, otherwise it can also tell you things are going awful. I get the same … Baremetrics is a business, it has the same ups and downs. There are days that I just loathe looking at our own product.

Bjork Ostrom: Yes.

Josh Pigford: I appreciate the compliment.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, sure, sure. And the interesting thing, though, is that I’ve noticed you being a maker, and so Baremetrics was something that you founded. You made Baremetrics. You created a digital product. But I’ve also noticed that you’ve … You’re a maker in other places and with physical goods as well. I was actually just watching a video of you sanding and it was this video of you putting these glasses on and this protective mask and … One of the things I find so interesting is you hear people so often say, “Hey, if you’re gonna do this, this being build a business, create a company, you have to be 70 hours a week, you gotta sacrifice time with your family, you have to at all ends make sure the only focus is business.”

But for you it seems like you have a successful business, you have a team. You’ve been able to grow Baremetrics and you also are doing things on the side that are kind of these creative endeavors. I find that so admirable. How do you … In the startup ecosystem and the business building ecosystem, how do you resist the urge to give everything you have to your business?

Josh Pigford: So I think that it comes down to what’s the driving force behind your … What you do with your time, so for me, this is the reason why I was a terrible employee in my seven weeks of employment was that it was someone else dictating sort of how I spent my time. I need to have control over that, in that I want to be able to choose to do things that require me to learn something new. So, I can’t keep doing the same thing over and over every day. It’ll just drive me crazy. What’s great about building a company and being the person who starts it is you have to do a thousand different things and you’re constantly thrown into the deep end of, “Hey, here’s some marketing stuff, figure it out. Or, ”Here’s this customer support thing, figure it out."

Every single day I … It’s sort of this, “I don’t know what I’m doing, at all.” And that’s exactly where I thrive. I need to be in those situations. What I think happens is people get all in on a given thing, which you know, some people would call “focus,” which on some level, yes, it’s good to have some focus, but I also think that if you focus on something too long what you end up in is this echo chamber of building a company where you can’t … It takes you longer to figure out solutions to problems and you just start thinking, “Well this is the way we have to do things ’cause that’s how everybody does it.” And you don’t ever get some sort of other perspective on it.

I mean, there was … I certainly go through phases of that. But I find that having other interests prevents that from happening as frequently because I’ve got this projects I’m in the middle of that involve … Yeah, it’s like making these concrete home décor things or building something out of wood or coding some fun, random project about discovering new music or whatever. It’s something that just uses a part of my brain that I’ve never, ever have to use with Baremetrics and it lets me come back to Baremetrics with fresh perspective.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. In a way it’s almost saying the thing that isn’t a thing … This is gonna be a terrible way to say this, let me know if you’re tracking. The thing that isn’t the thing helps you build the thing. Even though you’re not focusing on, in your case Baremetrics, it’s the act of stepping away from it and focusing on something else, like Cedar and Sail, which is what you’re talking about, kind of these beautiful little designed … It’s concrete, is that what it is?

Josh Pigford: Yep.

Bjork Ostrom: Coasters and planters and things like that, allows you to look at and approach Baremetrics differently, which I think is so valuable. The analogy that I can … The comparison that I would have is just the … Last night, oh no, it was Monday, so we’re recording this on a Wednesday, it was just on Monday. My friend invited me to this once-a-month sea-shanty sing-a-long at the Dubliner in Saint Paul. Everybody sings shanty sea songs, like sailor songs. It’s like 50 people in this bar and they all know the songs and there’s part of my brain that was activated where it’s like, it felt so good to exposed to something so foreign and unfamiliar. And while doing that, for whatever reason, I start to think about and process other things that are related to it, but it’s almost like I’m looking at it from a window that I didn’t even know existed until I had this experience, and what a valuable thing that is.

Josh Pigford: Absolutely. It’s … You know, you ask an artist or a musician or whatever, “Where do you get your inspiration from or whatever?” It’s just all the things, right? The tiniest things that you observe around you can influence how you think about some sort of problem in some other completely unrelated field. I think one the biggest mistakes or one the worst sort of outcomes of the entrepreneurship, sort of start-up gold rush, is that people think that they have to dedicate every ounce of time that they have available and that sort of gets worshipped.

And it’s really just an insane way to one, just to build a company and two, to even have an existence because that’s not much of an existence to approach building a company as this all-encompassing … You know, you dedicate every single ounce of energy that you have at it. And I don’t know, I think a lot of that comes out of people who’ve never built a business before or this is their first time to approach building even a product or anything, where they think … I don’t know, whether it’s just these visions of cashing out and making a ton of money or something, they think, “Well after I’ve made bank, I’ll go back to doing whatever I want.”

I’ve been doing this for 15 years and I’m gonna do it as long as I can function in some capacity where I’m making something, whether that’s digital or otherwise. This has to be sustainable. I can’t go all in to the point where I’m burnt out on it and I don’t ever wanna do it again. I have to figure out a way to make it work long-term. That’s what really drives me: having lots of interests and building a company.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Do you feel like … So Baremetrics, it’s a company where you get exposed to lots of other different entrepreneurs, people starting businesses, in some ways you get a small little peek, not just like “numbers” peek, but interacting with the struggles of the day-to-day for people that are building a business. Do you think that’s influenced the decisions that then you make on how you’re building your business?

Josh Pigford: I think … Probably one of the most influential things is … So we track why people cancel and a significant portion of that is … The reason that they select is that they are shutting the business down. And to me it’s like, “Okay.” It drives home the fact that so many businesses just don’t work out and we have these benchmarks that we can see internally and we even have like a public benchmarks page of all the Sass companies or subscription companies that use us. You see that most companies are not doing that great.

So it’s for me, what influences that is the fact that it just drives home that for most people it’s a struggle and that all the … You know, it’s easy to kinda get caught up in X company gets 100 million in funding or Y company sells for a billion dollars, whatever it is. It’s just that these extremes that you read about, which are not the daily thing for most companies. Most companies it’s a slog and it’s so much work and the needle hardly ever gets moved and there’s not these amazing things that are happening every day. It’s just trying to make it work, you know?

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah and it never gets reported on ’cause it’s not interesting.

Josh Pigford: That’s boring, right? Because that’s like the thing, building a business is mostly boring.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. For sure. We’ll link to this in the show notes so people can check it out as well, but there’s some great pages on Baremetrics’ open benchmarks, which is kind of these … An average or kind of snapshot look at different companies within Baremetrics, which is really interesting to see and to say, “Okay, on average, if a company, let’s say, charges $10 to $25 a month, what’s the lower quartile or the median MRR?” MRR for those that aren’t familiar is the monthly recurring revenue for that business, what does that land at.

And then there’s also this open startups page which is interesting, where it just shows companies that are open and saying, “Here’s exactly how much we’re making and what it looks like.”

And a familiar one would be ConvertKit, so we’ve talked to Nathan on the podcast before and we have some listeners that use ConvertKit. They’re one of those companies that says, “Hey, we’re gonna expose our data and our revenue information”, and there would maybe be an outlier in kinda the top one or two percent of companies that grew really, really quickly and are at a really substantial amount, but then you see other companies where … Hey, it’s a thousand, two thousand, four thousand dollars a month, which is still really incredible, but like you said it’s not the massive growth of the 10 million dollar funded company that’s hiring like crazy and building at a ridiculous pace.

Josh Pigford: Exactly. Well, that was a big motivation for us, even opening up that stuff was to surface the mundane, on some level, obviously you mentioned Nathan and ConvertKit. They were an open startup before they were doing really well. They were an open startup when he was doing … basically it was essentially just him and maybe one or two other people doing a few thousand dollars a month, and just staying there for a year. They chose to be open and it just also happened to be that they figured out what knobs to twist and all of a sudden over the course of a few months they go from making a few thousand a month to 100 thousand, 500 thousand, a million dollars a month. For most though it’s just all sorts of boring, and it’s good to surface and show how boring it really is, because it takes away some of the shiny object that comes from building a company.

Bjork Ostrom: And I think the other thing that’s important to point out that maybe if you get to caught up in it, is just the reality of revenue versus profit, and all of these companies also have either man hours that they’re putting in on the side, or it could be their main thing and a lot of times teams too. Whether it be the open startups page or looking at anybody that does any type of reporting and saying like, “Hey, heres how much we’re earning.” Always remember there’s many different components that go into that, and that need to be factored in. But nonetheless really interesting to see, and I would say an important page for people to check out because it’s insightful and a lot of takeaways on that.

One of the things that you had mentioned you’ve been doing business, or business building, or creating for 15 plus years and you had this … Recently it was maybe at the beginning-ish of the summer, kind of went through this observation insights on what it’s looked like two start companies, build companies, and I would love to pull some of those out, we’ll link to that as well so people can check out all of those. But there’s a couple of different elements that I thought would be so good to talk about, and really important for people to know. I’ll just kind of go in order, but we won’t do all … I think there’s like 29, so we won’t do all 29. But I’ll pull some out that I feel like were really important and interesting observations.

One of the first things that you talked about was this idea of hiring or outsourcing finances immediately. And I know there’s actually a story that goes along with that for Baremetrics that was a really pivotal point in your story, so can you talk about what that means and how people do that?

Josh Pigford: Yes. A couple of years into Baremetrics we had taken on a little bit of money, and that started the cycle of hiring ahead of revenue, and when you’ve got a little bit of funding you can hire quite a deal ahead of revenue. So you end up with what’s essentially a burn rate, where you’re spending more than you’re making, but that’s okay because you’ve got a lot of money in the bank. The idea is you raise some money, hire some people, which helps you grow faster, and then eventually you are able to outpace the money that you’re burning and you can actually turn profitable pretty quickly. But that usually does not happen, and that was still the case for us, we had hired a bunch of people and we could not catch up with growth. We were growing, but not fast enough to catch up to our burn rate, so we were going to run out of money, and then you can’t pay people, that’s a problem.

We realized this with about six, seven, eight weeks of cash left in the bank, that we did not have much money left. And we realized that because I had gotten introduced to a guy who did basically like outsourced finance stuff for companies. I had been doing things manually myself on spreadsheets, and what I lacked was proper forecasting of where we were going to be in the coming weeks and months. When he started looking at our numbers he quickly realized, “Hey, man, things are about to get nasty for you, you’ve got to change some stuff.“ We did, and we eventually got profitable, and everything is fine now. But that led to that whole … that takeaway being I should’ve hired this guy from the beginning, and I would’ve just saved myself and the team a world of hurt.

Yes, I think you should hire … Especially if you’re not a finance person, I’m not at all. What’s funny is you start a business, and it’s like you don’t care about the numbers that much, but I’m not a numbers person in that sense. Accounting stuff, bookkeeping, whatever, it makes my eyes glaze over. But you’ve got to have somebody, that stuff is important, so you need somebody who can be the sort of external view for you to give you a dose of pessimism.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. I remember, I would say it was probably two or three consecutive years where tax season would roll around and there would just be a week of me being so frustrated at the lack of systems that we had around finances, and eventually it was like okay this is a recurring pattern and if I don’t change it then this is just going to happen every time. It was one of the first hires that we made was somebody to help with both bookkeeping and then doing the CPA work. Do you have any advice for where you find that person? Whether that be kind of on the more beginning level, kind of bookkeeping versus higher level the person you were talking about was kind of like financing and forecasting.

Josh Pigford: Yeah. I mean, as far as finding someone I think … Bookkeeping is just a base level good way to start, and really any bookkeeper that has some references is probably as good as any. That alone is a good first start step, because if you leave the bookkeeping up to yourself you’ll update your books once every quarter if you’re lucky. Just because nobody likes updating all these numbers and balancing stuff. At the base level do that. As far as finding a finance person to help forecast some stuff, I stumbled upon this guy from a referral from a friend. I think it just kind of depends on what industry you’re in, and it’s helpful to find somebody who can do that and is familiar with your type of business. If you can get referrals from other friends who have similar businesses that can make referrals that’s a good way to start.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, for sure. For a reference for those that are listening kind of wondering what does that look like? What we did was there was just like a couple local CPA bookkeeping companies and connected with each one of them, said like essentially heres what we’re looking for. We’re looking for somebody to do our books every month, and we set it up where it’s like read only access to our bank account, access to our … We use Shoeboxed for our receipts, and then access to QuickBooks. It’s kind of like our responsibility will be make sure that every business transaction we use our card for it. That’s what we’re going to do on the bookkeeping side to make sure that it’s really clean, use the business card for it. That’s just been game changing for us, because like you said if it was up to me it wouldn’t be something that I think that I will be diligent enough to keep track of.

One of the things that you talk about in a point that you make is this idea of ignoring data. You’re talking about specifically this idea of launching a product, and kind of doing this AB testing, but I think it’s kind of this universal concept that people could apply to what they’re doing, why is it important to ignore data early on? And if you don’t have data then what do you look at, and what’s important?

Josh Pigford: I think it comes down to figuring out what are the big … I think of it like you’re in a hole and you need a shovel to get out of it. What happens is paying attention to numbers is like using a little hand shovel for gardening to dig out of this massive pit that you’re in, and what you need is a backhoe. Tweaking stuff, and AB testing stuff, and paying attention to these tiny changes in numbers, does nothing for you early on, because it’s just making tiny incremental changes, and early on everything that you do should be a backhoe, like you should be able to just make big dents in things, because you haven’t done anything yet.

That’s kind of what I mean by that is it’s easy to get caught up in tweaking all these little things, and paying attention to all these little things, and convince yourself that you’re making progress, but in early days that’s almost a guaranteed way to get distracted from meaningful work.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, we talk about it in the context of like getting your logo just right when you’re starting. It’s like, that’s important.

Josh Pigford: Yeah, it doesn’t matter.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s something that, logos are important, and they make an impact, but it really matters when there’s 100 thousand people seeing it as opposed to 100 people. Not that it’s bad to have a good logo, but it’s bad if you are using a limited amount of time that you have to fine tune and tweak those things that aren’t as big. If you’re looking to level up your little garden shovel, even to a regular shovel, or heavy machinery, what is the equivalent of heavy machinery? What are the things that really make a difference?

Josh Pigford: This is extremely dependent on your business. It just comes down to … What ultimately give you the most flexibility and the most opportunity is cash flow. Whatever that takes to bring in a bunch of new customers or maybe that’s an annual plan if you’ve got some sort of subscription-based business, because that gives you a big influx of cash. Changing the headline on your landing page of the marketing site is not going to get you any new customers, it’s just not, because of the whole, like we’ve said, where you don’t have enough people looking at it for it to matter. Maybe that’s the sort of Silicon Valley term is to do things that don’t scale.

And so maybe that’s calling a bunch of places to try to find new customers or sending some cold emails. Stuff that you’re not going to keep doing long-term, but they get you some momentum. Momentum is underrated, where you need to get something to get the ball rolling, and just the act of getting the ball rolling many times will spark new ideas or just give you new opportunities because you made contact with some person who ends up being this like great contact who can introduce you to 100 new customers, whatever, but you just got to get out there and try to do larger things that don’t involve just … It’s basically do anything other than make tiny tweaks to things.

Bjork Ostrom: Right. And one of the things that you say is this, and you mentioned this, talking to customers, and then you say you follow up. For those that aren’t familiar with what that looks like with words out of your mouth. And that such a hard thing to do, but can you talk about why that’s important to do early on? That people really understand who their customers are, or who their readers are, or who their audience is, and how do you go about doing that? And for somebody who’s used to being behind a computer, like I am, it’s kind of a scary thing to think about. Even doing a podcast, it’s like okay we’ve been doing a podcast for a while, we feel comfortable with that, but then it’s like, ooh how do you talk to your customers, what does that look like?

Josh Pigford: Right. The problem is with people who do any sort of digital work, or work on the internet, is you have all these tools at your disposal that on the surface they promise all these things like systematizing X, Y, and Z, and so you get more feedback for instance. Like take a subscription company where there’s a cancellation process, or you’ve produced some book, or some course or something, and you’re just wanting feedback. What’s really the easiest thing, the thing with the least amount of friction is to throw a form up, just a typical form, drop in your name and a comment, and then you’re like, “Hey I’m going to get some feedback from this.” And again it feels like you’ve done something meaningful by adding a form to your cancellation process or someplace on your website for people to give feedback about the book or whatever.

You put this form up and then you think that you’re going to get some sort of feedback back that’s useful. Then when you don’t get any feedback you’re like, “Oh, people just don’t use the form.” Okay fine whatever. But what happens is when people do use those forms for instance, they’re giving you this surface level sort of feedback, because nobody wants to type out a bunch of stuff. Whereas when you talk to someone, as humans do, you find out all sorts of things that you would have never ever gotten from a form. Even something as simple as being able to pick up on the tone while they’re giving you feedback, like are they angry? Or are they actually pretty excited? Or are they bummed that this didn’t work out? You can tell that stuff by talking to people, and then infer a whole lot more than you ever could have by reading a couple of sentences in feedback from a form.

When you have a conversation it’s able to be those two way thing and not just them throwing some feedback at you, but instead it’s this dynamic conversation where you can ask follow-up questions you just get so much better feedback. Talking to two customers is more valuable than probably the feedback that you received from people filling out a form 100 times. Having a conversation is infinitely more useful, but it’s also much scarier, right? Because you don’t know what questions to ask, or maybe you’re not great at making conversation, or you just stumble over your words, or whatever. That stuff goes away with practice, and you just have to start doing it.

Bjork Ostrom: This is at really ground level, but how do you go about doing that? If somebody says, “Okay, I can imagine myself having a conversation with somebody to ask them feedback on the business that I’m building. I can maybe even imagine some of the questions that I would ask, but what does it look like to do that on a consistent basis, and to kind of fold it in as part of your routine?”

Josh Pigford: You pinpoint user interaction that maybe you want to change or maybe that you want more of. Say it’s something where … Probably a lot of people listening have something that they’re publishing, I presume right?

Bjork Ostrom: Mm-hmm

. Yep.

Josh Pigford: Whether that’s a podcast, a book, a newsletter, whatever.

Bjork Ostrom: Yep.

Josh Pigford: Say you want more people to buy a book, well you almost certainly have a list of people who have purchased your book. You’ve got an email list or whatever from when they purchased the book. Reach out to them, send them an email and say, “Hey can we hop on a phone call and talk about your experience? One, how you found the book. And then two, what’s your feedback on the book itself? Is the content even good?” That’s how you just reach out to them, and you just do that consistently. You could automate that if you wanted, if you’ve got some sort of newsletter or email software, CRM, or whatever it is that you’re storing this stuff, you could automate following up with people a week after they’ve bought the book or something to try to hop on a call.

The majority won’t respond or won’t necessarily want to schedule something, but some will, maybe 10% will or something, or 20%, and then you’ll quickly end up with a bunch of calls that you can make, and feedback that you can get. And you’ll figure out a lot of the common things that are coming up in those conversations, and it can lead to new content, or can lead to changes in the book, or lead to ways that you can find new customers or whatever, but you have to start making having these conversations to surface the commonalities.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, it’s interesting even we’re going through the process of hiring a new Member Success Agent, we’re calling the position, for Food Blogger Pro, and one of the questions that we ask in the interviews is what feedback would you have on Food Blogger Pro? What would your feedback be? The purpose of it isn’t to like get insights and to how it could be better, it’s just to have a conversations with people around how familiar they are with the product. But I’ve noticed like, oh my gosh, there’s really valuable things that are kind of consistent that people bring up like, “It would be really nice if you had a system for moving through the content.” And it’s like a couple of people have mentioned that, that would be really nice wouldn’t it? And being able to then respond to that in a way where we wouldn’t, like you said, if we just kind of have a form when somebody cancels a plan, so it makes sense.

One of the things that you talk about that I think is such an important concept is this idea of selling a pain killer not a vitamin, and the difference between nice to have, or how nice to have isn’t necessarily enough to really build a business, or build a strong business. Can you talk about the difference between a pain killer and a vitamin, and how do people know if what they have is a pain killer or a vitamin?

Josh Pigford: The first caveat there is, are you building a consumer business, or a consumer focused business, or a business focused business? Who are your customers? That changes that a little bit, but at the end of the day, people spend money on things that save them time, that save them money, or that create value, that create some new way to make money. So those are the three ways that people … Three things that people are willing to pay for. You can build a product that can do … As long as it touches on one of those nerves you can find some customers, but the only way that you’re gonna really be able to make a decent amount of money from it is to be solving something that’s a significant …

The bigger the pain is for them the more likely they are, the easier it will be to build a business that people will want to give you money for. ’Cause if you’re just solving this, “You know this is an inconvenience for me, but I’d rather do than fork over 100 bucks a month for it,” then at that point it’s just a vitamin and not a real painful issue.

Bjork Ostrom: Mm-hmm

, yeah. I think important for people to think about that even if it’s on the content end of things, is your focus on providing something that is a nice to have? Or what would it look like if you are producing something, product, content, or information around something that is a crucial pain point for people? And for a lot of people that listen to the podcast, it could literally be something that is a pain point. It could be something that somebody’s processing through whether that be … Not everybody that listens to this has content or businesses in the food space, but a lot of people do and so often there are people that have these really specific skill sets that they offer, or help that they can give to a specific pain point for people. So something to think about especially in the early stages for getting that traction.

A couple things that at the end, you have these 29 things that you go through, and these couple here are, I think there’s four of ’em that I wanted to mention and I think these are the human experience, holistically are you as an individual taking care of yourself and good perspective pieces and I thought it’d be good to talk through each one of these as a way to close out here on the podcast. So one of the things that you say is get friends who aren’t entrepreneurs. Why is it so important to have people that aren’t in kind of your echo chamber?

Josh Pigford: So it’s sort of the same reason that I think you should do lots of the things and not just focus 100% all in on one specific thing because you need the other perspective to help you make good decisions, or at the very least to give your brain a break from thinking about the thing that you are mostly consumed by, right? So, when you surround yourself by people who are just like you and doing the same things as you, you end up, in your downtime talking about the things like, you talk about your business and they’re talking about their business. You just keep talking about business, right? So, you need people who are gonna … You talk to them about other things, right? It’s like, I’ve got friends, they’ll come over and we’ll go fishing and talk about anything but building a tech company. It doesn’t come up, and you have to have that or otherwise again, your brain just never gets a break from it and you’ll go crazy.

Bjork Ostrom: Mm-hmm

. How do you know if you’re in the echo chamber? Is that something where you’re in the there and you’re like, “Wait a minute, it’s super echoy, I need to get out of here.” What are the signs that your in the echo chamber?

Josh Pigford: I think it requires … It’s just being self aware and taking stock of am I constantly doing and thinking about the business at every hour of the day?

Bjork Ostrom: Mm-hmm

.

Josh Pigford: And when I’m around other people, am I still talking about and thinking about the business?

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Josh Pigford: And if you are, if you’re out at dinner with random people who are not a part of your business or an employee of your business, or whatever and you’re just talking about and thinking about the business …

Bjork Ostrom: Mm-hmm

.

Josh Pigford: … you need to make some changes.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. One of the things that could help with that is the next thing you talk about is this idea of vacations of being so important, being crucial in taking time off and time away, and I remember there was a blog post you published about kinda switching at Baremetrics from this unlimited vacation policy to having, it was a reverse mandatory vacation policy, can you talk about why vacations are so important and what that looks like?

Josh Pigford: Yes. So, I think what happens … There’s so many startups that one of their big benefits that they sell is unlimited vacation, or a loose vacation policy. What they mean, they’re saying, you can take as much time as you want but ultimately, it means nobody takes any time off because you just don’t know what the actual line is there.

Bjork Ostrom: Mm-hmm

.

Josh Pigford: So instead we say that there’s a minimum vacation you have to take, ultimately at least about four weeks off throughout the year. You could take more if you want but we expect you to do that and we expect at least, for there to be at least a full week off vacation somewhere in there. More would be fine or even encouraged. The reason that’s so important is again, for all the other reasons talking about giving your brain a break from something. Where you have to be able to let your mind sit on something, it’s like when you sleep at night, while you’re sleeping, your brain’s doing some work filing things away.

That’s how long term memory gets stored. That’s a crucial component to being good at what you do is letting your brain take a break from trying to chew on the same problem over and over again. Vacation’s a great way to step away from that and to come back with some new ideas and some fresh perspective that you haven’t been able to get by just taking the Friday off or something like that. You need these big breaks so that you kind of take stock of things and really approach problems from a new perspective.

Bjork Ostrom: And attend a Sea Shanty sing along every night, that would be my addition to …

Josh Pigford: Right, and you may find that you’re actually really good at that and for that…

Bjork Ostrom: That’s where we would do an interview around career change.

Josh Pigford: We could do an interview where we just sing these responses.

Bjork Ostrom: Where each response is about business but is delivered through a Sea Shanty melody.

Josh Pigford: Lots of arghs.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Two last points here to wrap up. One of the things, and I think this is so critical is that you don’t attach your self worth to your company and I think especially for people that have a either personality driven business or their personality is the business that to remove yourself from that is really difficult so, how do people go about detaching if they are attached to their company in terms of their self worth?

Josh Pigford: I mean that requires lots of this sort of introspection. I mean, I’m a big fan of going to therapy. So getting somebody else, you can just sort of vent and get all this stuff out and they can help you sort of take stock of things and just learn how to practically not attach yourself. I mean that’s a hard thing, it’s easy to say, really hard thing to do because so much of that is a mental thing, right? It’s really, really difficult to be like, “You know what? That person who just called me all sorts of names and was really angry in their support ticket, they’re probably having a bad day and just taking it out on me but I feel like they’re personally attacking me.”

It’s hard to detach from that and you have to be really intentional about it and there’s so much that’s interconnected with the whole echo chamber thing or not surrounding yourself by the same things over and over again where you’re able to find other things that bring you enjoyment so that when something goes wrong with the business, because something will, you still got other things that you can say, "This thing’s going terrible but this other thing, I’m really excited about working on that this weekend because it’s a way to again, find some or show that you’ve got value outside of just this business that you’re building.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, yeah. I think that idea of having somebody as your go to, to speak out loud the things that are normally in your brain is such a valuable thing and that idea of the therapeutic-ness, if that’s a word, of therapy and what that looks like and one of the things that I’ve been constantly trying to do is build out what I call a personal board of directors, just these people that can weigh in on my life and can say, “Hey are you looking at things from this angle, or even to speak out loud the things that exist,” for somebody who doesn’t exist in the world that I’m in, they can weigh in on that in such a valuable way because they have zero baggage as to the norms in that, whether you call it ecosystem or echo chamber that otherwise people would kind of a stock answer too that sounds familiar and is part of the language of that little culture. So just really, really appreciate that.

Josh Pigford: Yep.

Bjork Ostrom: The last thing here and I think this is so refreshing for people to hear, we found this to be so true and believe it to be true for what it looks like for me day to day is everybody’s winging it. Every single person is winging it in some way. At one point do you feel like you realized that and why do you think it’s important for people to know that?

Josh Pigford: I’ve perpetually felt like I had no clue what I was doing. Yes, I’ve always thought that I was just making stuff up. So there was a realization point but I do think … To me it’s a comforting thing to know that even the guy who seems like they’re doing really well, you talk to ’em and then realize, maybe they know how to do something, like there’s a certain aspect of business for instance that they are really great at and you’re terrible at but they’ve got something that they’re not great at either. And they’re figuring it out on some level too.

Bjork Ostrom: Mm-hmm

, mm-hmm

. I think it’s so refreshing for people to hear that, ’cause from the outside it seems like everybody has things really lined up and knows what they’re doing and is …

Josh Pigford: Well that’s the thing that everybody talks about right? You post about some accomplishment, right? Or just something that’s gone really well and you want to talk about it but you don’t want to talk about, hey I just blew $100000 dollars on this thing, totally screwed it up or we lost the house because we didn’t, nobody talks about it, so it appears everybody’s doing really great when actually most people aren’t doing that great.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, and I think that there are people that talk about it and you were one of those people that’s willing to be transparent in that and for that I really appreciate it and I think that people that listen to this will get a lot of value out of it in hearing those things. So Josh, we talked about Baremetrics, we’ll make sure to link to that. For everybody that has any type of, would you say sass business? Would that be a good way to describe …

Josh Pigford: Subscription based business.

Bjork Ostrom: Got it. Subscription based business, Baremetrics would be a great tool for anybody that has a cute little plant that they want to put in a good container, Cedar and Stone and then you have a couple of other kind of fun little side projects that I know aren’t your main thing but could you talk about what those are because I would love to give those some exposure on the podcast as well.

Josh Pigford: Sure, sure. So there’s Cedar and Sale and then there’s this music game that I’ve been building called Rockburg.

Bjork Ostrom: Okay.

Josh Pigford: Then there’s this new music notification stuff, this little app called Drop Tune.

Bjork Ostrom: Love it.

Josh Pigford: So it’s extremely random.

Bjork Ostrom: Yes, but at the same time I was looking at it, I was like, “Oh, this is very intriguing.” And I know it’s your main thing but I …

Josh Pigford: It’s all just things that I want to see exist and so I just start trying to make them exist quickly realizing that I’m completely, again, I’m winging it. I mean, I don’t know how to build any of this stuff but I’m figuring it out.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, cool. And then how about for you personally? If people want to follow along with you online?

Josh Pigford: So Twitters where I spend too much time, so that’s at shpigford that’s S-H-P-I-G-F-O-R-D.

Bjork Ostrom: Awesome. Josh, thanks so much for coming on the podcast. Really great to connect.

Josh Pigford: Hey thanks for having me.

Alexa Peduzzi: And that’s a wrap. Thanks for tuning into the Food Blogger Pro Podcast today friend, we hope you enjoyed this episode with Josh and I encourage you to check out all of his observations and insights on Twitter. You can find a direct link in our show notes for this episode, there are lots of great lessons outlined there. It’s also time for our reviewer of the week where we look to our iTunes reviews and feature one of them at the end of our podcast episodes. Today’s reviewer of the week comes from Becky Wink and it says, “I love to listen to the Food Blogger Pro Podcast while I’m editing photos for my blog. Bjork manages to interview the top names in blogging and has them share their knowledge and accomplishments in an inspiring, not intimidating way. I highly recommend it for bloggers even if your primary focus isn’t food.”

Thanks so much for the review Becky and if you’d like to be featured on an upcoming episode of the Food Blogger Pro Podcast simply leave a review for us on iTunes. It takes only a few minutes, you can do it straight from your iPhone and it really helps the podcast get in front of more listeners like you. Thanks for tuning in this week friend and from all of us here at FBP HQ, make it a great week.


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