31: SaaS Is A Marathon, Not A Sprint

It can be hard when running your SaaS to keep focused on the long game, that it's a marathon for success and not a sprint. While there are daily and weekly items that need attention, it's important to see how they fit into the big picture.

[INTRO music]

0:00:11.4 Aaron Weiche: Episode 31, SaaS is a marathon, not a sprint.

0:00:16.2 INTRO: Welcome to the SaaS Venture Podcast. Sharing the adventure of leading and growing a bootstrapped SaaS company. Hear the experiences, challenges, wins and losses shared in each episode from Aaron Weiche of Leadferno, and Darren Shaw of Whitespark. Let's go.

0:00:42.2 AW: Welcome to the SaaS Venture Podcast. I'm Aaron.

0:00:45.4 Darren Shaw: And I'm Darren.

0:00:47.0 AW: And if SaaS was a sprint, I would just already be collapsed at the finish line. And I probably wouldn't have finished first in my heat anyway Darren just...

0:00:58.4 DS: Yeah, me too.


0:01:00.6 AW: COVID has taken its toll on my physical well-being. I need to keep working on getting that back under control, so... How have you been?

0:01:10.9 DS: Oh, I've been so busy. I've been...

0:01:14.6 AW: Yes you have.

0:01:15.4 DS: It's... The last few days have been nice 'cause I'm like, "Oh, just got so much free time now." But the summit, yeah, so we put on another local search summit, 30 speakers, three days, Holly, that is an endeavor. It's a lot of work to put on a virtual conference like that. And so it was all-consuming for the last couple of months, for sure. And all consuming for Jessie Low our marketing manager for the past six to eight months, for sure. And it was very successful. So I thought it was great. We had 3000 registered attendees. Lots of fantastic feedback. I think we did an even better job this year than we did last year, incredible speakers, an incredible talk. So I thought it was great. We came out profitable in the end. So, we're happy to break even because it's more of a marketing play than a money-making thing.

0:02:13.2 DS: And a brand exercise, and we're really just trying to build our brand with the summit. And so we definitely got that and we didn't lose money on it. So there was some profit in the end so that was good. We're all a success. I have a post-mortem call scheduled with Jessie this afternoon and Sydney to discuss what went well, what didn't go well, and what changes we'd make for next year. That's what's going on with me. That's it.

0:02:40.8 AW: Yeah, no, and I totally get... And you and I were texting a little bit last week during it, and even inside of those three days you had highs and lows, right?

0:02:51.6 DS: Oh man, it's the roller coaster of emotion. It's just like, yeah, I felt kind of low on the second day. I was like, "Oh, why are we doing this? My life is a failure."


0:03:05.7 DS: And then like day three, at the end of it, I just felt like just so elated with how well it went. That's just the life of a founder.

0:03:15.0 AW: Yep, no. Same roller coaster as being a founder, right. I probably should have just taken a screenshot where one of your text was like the low, like, "Oh I'm second guessing everything." And then a couple of texts later was the next day and you're like, "Everything is awesome."


0:03:34.1 DS: Totally. Yeah, that's how I felt about the summit. Now I've kinda settled somewhere in the middle. Just trying to evaluate it logically and think about like, alright, is this a valuable thing for us to do and do we wanna invest so much effort into it next year?

0:03:48.6 AW: Well, one thing that I definitely noticed from the sales side of me is you put in a lot more calls to action for your products and services and things like that, and the breaks and slides and different things like that. Do you have zero visibility... Right, we're on the couple of work days outside of the event ending, do you have any visibility to... If that's made an impact or will it be something that you'll let run a little bit and then evaluate?

0:04:23.0 DS: Yeah, we've had a couple of really big days since the summit. And so I do think like I could tell just straight up finances being like, "Well, that was a good day." And then a couple days later, "Well, that's another good day." And so seeing that and noticing how close that was to the close of the summit feels definitely like there is a direct business boost. More sign-ups that kind of stuff. And so I wanna give it a bit more time because a lot of people don't take immediate action.

They're like, "Oh, I saw the summit, I learned about this thing at Whitespark summit." And a week or two, or three or four later, they finally get around to signing up for the thing or trying our software. And so I'm gonna give it a month and then I wanna do a comparison of our accounts, like new accounts and new sign-ups from that period... From the last period and cross-reference it with attendees at the summit and then we'll see. Yeah.

0:05:21.1 AW: Awesome. Well, I can only think or feel that it will be stronger than other things you've done just because I have either been a part or have watched other things that you've done all the way from your weekly videos to things like that. And this by far in a way was your most sophisticated or visual call to actions with what Whitespark offers and does. So I think that's a really good step forward, as you and I have discussed in some of our conversations like, "Man, you crush at education, you crush it, putting stuff out there." You have a lot of opportunity in the trade. I'll give you all these great things. Please just listen to how our tools and services can support you in some of these things that you're doing. And just being a little more firm in asking them to do a free trial or to look into your services and tools. I felt like you really... I was looking at that and part of me was like, "Oh, this is good. This is good, do those things Darren." So good job.

0:06:30.5 DS: Yeah, calls to action. You gotta call them to action, if you want them to take action, you should give them a call.

0:06:36.3 AW: Yes, it's great, it's great to be top of mind because of all the goodwill and how you've positioned yourself as an expert... Yeah, those things are totally great. And so in six months, if they have a customer that needs something specific that folds into that. Yes, you will likely be top of mind because of how you've established yourself. But there's a lot of people that you can get to take a next step, while they're also feeling that euphoria and feeling like, "Oh, I'm learning new things, it's time to do new things, it's time to change a tool I'm using or to start using something like this, and now I have trust and I have excitement and I wanna do it right now." So just make that road really... Or that bridge really easy for them to cross.

0:07:19.4 DS: Totally. Well, you're a master at all of that, so I always appreciate your advice and yeah, I agree that that's a key thing that I'm really trying to get better at, and I appreciate you pushing me on some of that.

0:07:32.3 AW: Yeah, well, like I said, if you look at the world of like, you can only get what you give, you give. So I totally think you asking for a little get, that's no problem at all. And speaking of that, you had to compile and put out the local search ranking factors report as well, which is a massive undertaking.

0:07:56.1 DS: That... Yeah, so that was a big part of what consumed me leading up to the conference, 'cause not only did I have to deal with some organization. Jessie, of course, took care of most of it. But it was really just compiling the data and analyzing the data and putting my own presentation together. That was a ton of work for sure, and so now that that's off my back, I just feel very light right now, but I do have to get around to writing up my findings into a blog post and get it published.

0:08:26.3 AW: Yeah. When do you exhale harder? When you log off the summit on the last day? Or when you wake up the next day and you just don't have all of that hanging on you?

0:08:38.7 DS: Yeah. I felt pretty relaxed after the moment the summit ended, I was like, "Yeah cool, I don't have it, I don't have to do a anything." And then the next day, actually, I had a bunch of wrap-ups stuff I had to deal with, so... Yeah.

0:08:55.1 AW: So you clicked close and then you're just like, "Joe, get me a beer." [chuckle]

0:09:01.3 DS: Well, I would have gotten my own beer. I would never... I would never do that, that would not go over very well. So I'm very capable of fetching my own beer.

0:09:11.1 AW: I just meant in a celebratory way, right?

0:09:14.4 DS: Yes, I definitely did go down to the beer fridge, yes, immediately.

0:09:18.8 AW: And just possibly being passed out in your chair. Like nonstop, three days, all of the emotions, everything else, you might have just been tapped out, so.

0:09:29.2 DS: I was very tapped out. Absolutely.

0:09:31.3 AW: Oh, awesome.

0:09:31.3 DS: How about you? What's up with you these days?

0:09:34.7 AW: Since we talked just the week before we were launching, so Leadferno has launched, and it's gone okay, there hasn't been any part of it where I'm like, "Oh my gosh." We talked before, I wanted to hit 50 trials, and you said 10. And yeah, we were closer to 10 than 50, so you were spot on there ...

0:10:04.3 DS: Wait, didn't I say the opposite? You said 10, and I was like, "No way, you can get like 700."

0:10:09.8 AW: No, no, no [laughter] you were more of the voice of reason with it, but it was... It definitely went well. And I look at... Right, it's not like the world was waiting for this, and the fact that news broke, that Leadferno has launched, didn't send people running into the streets and...

0:10:31.4 DS: Yeah. I did see it on CNN actually, that was huge. That was huge.

0:10:35.6 AW: That would be bad. I can't imagine a scenario where I get that kind of press of something great, it would be like, Leadferno took down the internet, everyone is mad. I don't know what else.

0:10:47.5 DS: That's right. Weren't you responsible for that Facebook outage? That was you guys, right? Just so much traffic, you just ruined the servers.

0:10:56.2 AW: I was... That was interesting, between the... When the whistle blower interview happened, and then the next day they have that outage, it's hard to believe like, "Oh, maybe someone inside was also like, yeah, I'm not gonna go that far, but I'll sabotage something on the inside to make an outage."

0:11:09.4 DS: I know. That would get me wondering.

0:11:11.9 AW: Yeah, very interesting situation. So things have been progressing well as we get more into our topic, I can talk about some of my early learnings and then just the actions you have to take off of those learnings and conversations and things like that. But mostly working really hard on just any amount of publicity, trying to do as many podcast interviews, webinars, presentations like mine at the local search summit. So just trying to get as many mentions, shares, links, all of those things. Because it takes a lot to get that ball rolling. I'm just starting to see some of it now, where we're getting this past week, where I'm getting some inbound leads, that it's like, "Okay, great." And without... It isn't any one of those things, it's just knowing like, "Okay, I now have 10 of those things out in the universe, and a month ago I had only two or three."

0:12:19.9 AW: So continuing to work on those and then lastly, I spent all last week in San Francisco and was at the SaaStr Annual, which is probably the largest SaaS conference. Normally, it's like a 10,000 plus person event, they limited it to 5000, it was all outdoors, it was at a fair grounds in San Mateo, just south of San Francisco. And yeah, it was really, really well done, you had to be vaxxed to attend, you had to have a negative test within 72 hours, and they provided test there, so like the day before the event, we went there to pick up our badges and got a COVID test there, and that all worked out well, and yeah, you were just... You were always outdoors.

0:13:17.5 AW: And yeah, just felt... I felt really easy. It was great, it was great to be around people and energy, it was nice to have in-person learning, and then also be able to network and talk with people. It was just so great to talk shop with vendors that were there, or talk shop with other people running other SaaS businesses in between. So it was definitely like an uplifting week for sure. It was one of those like, "Oh man, I've missed a bunch of these things and I don't have another one on my calendar again," but it felt really good for three, four days to do all that.

0:14:00.5 DS: That's amazing. I can't imagine the state of our particular province in Canada is really bad, our COVID situation is worse it's ever been. And so I dream of one day getting back to this, like being able to go to an in-person conference over here, I just... I miss everybody, I miss seeing people, I don't see anybody, to my immediate family.

0:14:23.3 AW: Yeah, no, definitely. It's definitely tricky, but like I said, this one I looked at, alright, from all the measures that are there and everything else, I'm like for the state that things are right now, I couldn't ask them to go through too many other precautions and...

0:14:43.8 DS: Sounds like they did a great job with all the... Being careful with things and trying to be as safe as possible at it. Do people wear masks outside or not really?

0:14:55.4 AW: I would say maybe 5%.

0:14:58.0 DS: Sure.

0:14:58.7 AW: I mean it was really very little. People... They could if you wanted to, when we went to check-in, we were masked the first day until we tested, and were tested negative. But yeah, once we were then at the event, and it does feel where you're like, "Okay, all of these people," yes, we all have different interactions and who we've been around, and how we conduct our personal choices on our own time. But when you... It definitely felt a little bit of like, "Alright, everybody here is vaccinated, everybody here has been tested within a few days of being here." So... I don't know, it felt as secure as it could, I guess.

0:15:41.1 DS: Any mind-blowing take-aways? Where you're like, "Oh my God, that's the greatest idea. I'm definitely gonna do that at Leadferno," you just went to a three day SaaS conference.

0:15:49.3 AW: I know, I mean, the short answer to that is no. And I think there's some interesting things in... And this is kind of the segue, this came up like, this is what I wanted to talk about in the phrase of marathon not a sprint. One, I look at in prior years, this is the fourth or fifth SaaStr that I've been to, and I usually have had one of those like... Just something more probably tactical to help bring back to the business or put into it. I think two things, my current state, one, I've spent a good amount of time and have done a lot of things in SaaS where... And heard a lot of, read a lot of... So you have all of those aspects. So you're coming at it from a different position, and in Leadferno being so new, there's also what we have in front of us for next steps and biggest needs are really known, and really the only things we should be focusing on.

0:16:57.1 DS: Sure.

0:16:57.6 AW: So there's a little bit of... There are plenty of things that I looked at, especially when you're looking at software solutions and things like that. And I found myself just saying, "I can't wait until I need a solution for that."

0:17:09.5 DS: Yeah, totally.

0:17:11.2 AW: I don't have the volume or the complexity or any of these things to even worry about that or need that, I have my own fish to fry right now. So yeah, it was kind of a combo of those two things. But really the big thing for me... And that's again, what led to the title of this is I walked away just really realizing that, no matter if you're where I'm at like me, where it's like, "Hey, we have a $1000 in MRR right now, and we got a long way to go to get us where we need to be." And then you're talking to someone else at the conference that's at $250,000 ARR, and they wanna be... They wanna get to half a million by the end of the year, or someone who's at half a million and they can't wait till they're a million or someone at a million, and they wanna be five or 10.

Everyone is at a stage in their company, and that stage has its challenges and things to figure out, and some of them might be specific to the company and the founders and what they're good at and what they lack experience in or have as a challenge, and others are just systematic of the stage that you're at.

0:18:24.8 AW: Maybe it sounds weird, but I like... The biggest thing I got was some calm out of it. Because at the stage I'm at right now, it's like you feel like every day matters so much to get something done and accomplish and to talk to a handful of prospects and do whatever else. And the conference just really made me zoom out and realize everything I do in these days is important, it is all contributing. What this really is, it's a long-term game of survival, it's running the long race, even though every day is like a sprint, you're pealing 100 yards off the marathon that you're trying to... To try run with it. So that was probably my biggest take away, and that's what led me... That's why I texted you, I'm like, "Yeah, we need to record. This is what I'd like to talk about." And it was really helping me with that frame of mind, and so that's where I just thought us talking about, what is... What is your... What is what. "What's keeping you up at night right now? That feels like a super short-term thing, but solving, doing that short-term thing is what allows you to stay in the game, to run the marathon to be long-term."

0:19:39.0 DS: Yeah. If I was to answer that question for myself, it's really like every day we're sprinting on our existing applications, which is frustrating because it slows progress on the bigger vision of building a new product. So if I think about our long-term or two years, five years, then I know exactly what we're gonna have at that point, but it just feels painful to get there, it's just like... I have to find some calm because it feels like it's just taking forever. And so something that I thought was gonna be launched by the end of September is now looking more like the end of October, and then it just everything gets longer and longer.

I understand the reasons for it when I talk to the Dev team and then I'm like, "Oh hey, how come were so behind?" It's like, "Well, because we just spent three weeks fixing that problem on our other product." So what do you do? It's really tough to get there, and I think you just gotta recognize that it's the way it's gonna be. It's always gonna take longer than you think.

0:20:49.8 AW: Yeah. Unfortunately. Some of the decisions to not make it take longer end up being just really hard decisions where... We've had these conversations before where you have to say no to something else because it's getting in the way of being able to accomplish those other things. And when you're weighing out what's the priority, what's the impact, and sometimes just really... Who's this decision for? Is this so I sleep easier at night? Or will this actually cost us something? Do we gain something in doing this? Does it cost us something in not doing it?

There's just so many strands to it, and as founders and leaders, we can just be so emotional about those decisions where maybe they're not an emotional decision sometimes, but because we're so invested, we can't separate ourselves from those at the same time.

0:21:48.8 DS: Yeah, totally. What's keeping you up at night? What are the things that you're struggling with?

0:21:57.5 AW: Yeah. I have two just big items right now, one was a known is like, I knew this was gonna be what people were saying, I need this, you're missing this, whatever else, and that was our mobile apps. So one, we made the decision in being a communication service and around text messaging, that we weren't gonna build... When we built our web app first for power users more than anything else, that we weren't going to build it responsive.

Because if they were able to use a responsive version of it in web, from snappiness of it, access of it, push notifications, there's a bunch of different things and when we outline our technical scope and where users were interact, it was like, yes, it would allow them to use it on mobile. But then if we had users that didn't download the app and just kept using it on mobile, like that experience was gonna fall short, it was gonna degrade over time because we were... Once we have native apps, we weren't gonna put anything into that.

0:23:11.8 AW: So, we always clearly knew we were gonna build a web app first because that was gonna be more difficult based on our approach and our build, and it would allow us the easier way to do some of the settings and account-based things and whatever else. So that then when we did a fast follow and we built the mobile apps, they would be streamlined only focused on the communication back and forth with the customer and contacts and things like that, and be lightweight and be around, centered on productivity with it.

0:23:44.7 AW: And we even made the choices right in using Flutter for development, so it's like right now, we're a couple of weeks into work on the mobile apps, and that work is just going 6X faster than if we have built in one language and then we say, "Alright, now we're gonna go and build in these others," and if anything, we're just removing things only related to mobile or only related to the web. So that one was the known and we knew it and it's on the road map and we knew that there would just be... We're gonna launch and then there's gonna be four to six, eight weeks max, where people are like, "Oh, I love this, but I want it on my phone." And then we just have to say, alright, we have to wait for this time.

0:24:29.7 DS: Do you feel particularly happy with the 10 sign-ups that you have right now, considering you don't have some of these things? Like, you know like, "Hey, this is our entry level experience and we're already meeting your needs, and so we're doing pretty good, we don't have the mobile app, we don't have integrations, we don't have some of these things that you feel like you need." And so does that make you feel pretty good about where you're at already?

0:25:00.2 AW: A little bit. I would definitely be worried if I had no one, then I'd be like, "Oh boy, we got a problem here." But yeah, I would probably... I would feel better if I was at two to three times where we're at with paying customers right now. That would just... A little bit more statistical but I'm happy we're slowly working our way out of counting customers on two hands. That's great that we're moving on to toes now.

0:25:31.1 DS: That's right.

0:25:32.7 AW: So I would love to exceed fingers and toes, I'd feel a little bit better on that side. It does affect... Especially the way I am like, I am a little bit apprehensive on sales calls and demos, just 'cause I'm like, "I know this is gonna get asked." I've done enough of these now, I've done somewhere between 50-75 demos, and it's almost every time. So it's easy to understand and yeah, the entire time I've always had an answer that like, "That mobile would be a fast follow," all of those kind of things.

0:26:07.9 AW: And then we discussed, and I played out the scenario in my head, if we did things the opposite, if we would have done just mobile only, the load of what we would have had to build for some of the settings things and things like all the saved replies and stuff like that, would have been a lot trickier.

So we wouldn't have gotten to market as fast with our initial product, then developing the web would be a little bit... So it's like doing things the other way, so to say like, "Oh, well to get rid of your mobile objection, you should have just built mobile first." That would have caused some other problems and issues and elongated the process a little bit, so... I feel good with the way that we approached it and what we bit off first with what's there. And it's just living through the frustration of the next handful of weeks where it's like, "I'm gonna get the question, I don't have an immediate yes. It's coming. Here's what we're predicting right now, as far as the date."

0:27:10.1 DS: I often think of like building a SaaS company and a SaaS product, sort of like building a high-rise tower in the middle of the city, and it's like you build the first floor and you're like, "Move on in!" "Yeah, we're already leasing the first floor." "I know we're still building like the next 100 floors on top of it, but, hey, we're ready for you to move in. Don't mind the construction."

0:27:37.5 AW: It's only gonna get better.

0:27:39.2 DS: Exactly. Yeah. Believe we're putting a pool in on the third floor, we're putting in a fitness center on the fifth floor. It's gonna be great.

0:27:49.8 AW: No, I mean you're totally... I hear that. And that fits in with the marathon, not a sprint analogy as well.

0:27:57.2 DS: Totally, yeah.

0:27:57.4 AW: Where it's like, yeah, you're not just building a single story building, and you're done and whatever else. It's like, "No, you're trying to get this thing to exponentially add floors continually to what's there. And even on that side, I think I can comment on some of that like, messaging and the evolution of those things too, but, the second item that's of main focus is just integrations, and this is the one where I knew this would come up, I didn't know it would come up so strongly and repeatedly.

0:28:34.3 DS: Right.

0:28:34.9 AW: And I think that being a blind spot is kind of a couple of things. One is just maturity in time, where, you know the last time I had this immature of a product was five years ago, and the world of software is a lot different, and the expectation has become that your software can talk to others. And then I hadn't built something that was so ingrained in the sales and communication process as you know, what GatherUp was and sending surveys afterwards and things like that, like the integration needs there were very light and some very straightforward things.

We get asked instead of, I thought, "Oh, I bet about 25%, 30% of the time we're gonna get asked about integrations, we know what we need to do, they're more on our medium plan timeframe instead of short-term." But yeah, it became super clear to me in the first two weeks after launch, like this needs to be on our short-term plan. We have to get something accomplished here, because this is also being brought up 80%, 90% of the time.

0:29:47.5 DS: Are you able to identify based off of your initial calls, like, "What is the number one we have to integrate with this as soon as possible because it's so common, and it's like you're getting a lot of people saying, "This is the thing."

0:29:58.4 AW: Yeah, absolutely.

0:30:01.1 DS: What is the thing?

0:30:02.0 AW: Yeah, top is CRMs. It's all updating the conversation into the contacts or having the contact created because the conversation is created, so that by far. The action that we've taken from that is we immediately started to look and talk to a couple of freelancers and then a vendor that's all they do is build apps, Zapier apps and integration, so we talked to a couple of those and we selected a vendor, and then we just started work this week on our Zapier app.

0:30:40.7 DS: That's interesting. So you're outsourcing. You're like, we gotta get this to market quick, this is necessary, and so you don't have the dev resources, so you're like, "We're going to hire this outside team to start building our integrations right now."

0:30:53.6 AW: Yeah, so one, having built a Zapier app before, I know that it's right, its own kind of nomenclature for how they want things done, and any developer can read up on it, study it, do whatever else, but I'd be asking... I looked at it, I'd be taking one of our small team and saying, "Okay, none of you have ever done this before, but within a few days, you'll get it."

"You'll have some blind spots and some pitfalls and whatever else, but I'm also pulling you off of something you know how to do really well and asking you to learn that new thing." And this is kind of a shorter term like a get it done type thing. So, when I weigh those things out, it's like, "Alright, I can take it to these guys, have delivery of this within 20 working days, and I'm not sacrificing someone else from the team, taking them from a strength and putting them into having to learn something new." So yeah, it was just really pretty easy to say like, "Okay, I would love if we weren't paying on top of till I get this accomplished," but this is gonna be... It's gonna be faster, quicker.

0:32:03.6 AW: We're also getting their expertise because my last Zapier app we weren't integrating with CRMs, so I was able to say like, "Okay, here's similar products. What do you guys think we should be creating for triggers and actions and the integrations in the Zapier ecosystem?" And you know they have experience in doing this, so they're able to outline it and you know make it pretty clear on us what we needed to do, and also outline a couple of things like... Our product is built API-driven, the back-end is node, so we have all the APIs and everything else, but there's a few things for how a customer might wanna set up an integration and handle something that they're like, "You might wanna create variances of this or you might wanna make this more real-time and build a web hook off it," so they were able to outline some of those things that we can pick apart over to... We won't do all of them right away, but they have recommendations where we can say like, "Okay, we wanna try to get these one to two done while you're building, but then these other ones we know that they'll probably come up based on your experience and they're at least on our radar to start creating them."

0:33:13.6 DS: Yeah, it makes me think about like it's like another aspect of that marathon is limited development resources. It's like you can only build so much. And so it's that constant prioritizing and pushing things to next month and pushing things to next quarter and this will be something that we're gonna tackle next year, and if I had double my dev team, triple, quadruple. I see some companies, they have like 100 developers and they have 100 developers, and I'm like, "How are you not pumping out incredible stuff every week?" It's like you have 100 developers, but your product looks like it hasn't done anything exciting for months. So, it blows my mind. I don't know how companies... I can't imagine. How does that happen when you get to that scale of a huge company and you're still not innovating? That's really bizarre.

0:34:07.3 AW: Well, you end up with technical debt.

0:34:10.9 DS: Yeah.

0:34:11.2 AW: You end up with a lot of dependencies, you've likely built so much that there's no... And we got to this point six years in at GatherUp. There wasn't anything that was like a yes, no. It was all if or maybe or also was it attached to everything, 'cause it's not like, "Yeah, it just can't be this because and how we did this or how we built this other feature and this also interacts with that, it's now competing, or it just has to be... Or now we have to build something that controls this, so these two things can be handled separately." You definitely get a lot of that every time, right? The same analogy of building the building up, once you get to the 60th floor, there are things like, "Okay well, we put a pool in on the 20th floor, and because of the weight of that, we can't do that how we want to... How much higher we wanna build, so we gotta go back and rip the pool out or fortify that more like... " All those things build up for sure, so.

0:35:16.4 DS: Yeah, I guess that's how it happens as you just keep building it gets more complicated. Everything has to talk to each other and I'm facing that right now. And it's like I like your outsourcing idea. I have this one thing as a founder, every week I got some new thing I wanna build, but we don't have dev resources to do it, and so I'm like, I just pinged my lead developer this morning being like, "Hey, I wanna build this thing. How about I get it done over in Upwork?" I made the mistake last time of building something in Upwork and then it being completely useless. We'd love to integrate it with our software eventually, and so it's that tricky balance of building something in a way with the right technology so that we can still use it and integrate it into our larger software vision for later.

0:36:02.4 AW: That's where the Zapier app makes sense because it is kind of on an island, right?

0:36:08.4 DS: Totally, it's perfect.

0:36:09.4 AW: Yes, they have to use their API, but it has to follow the rules and the structure of how you build the Zapier app. So in that case, it isn't something like, "Oh well, yeah, we had this person build it, but now it's in a different language. We can't just mold it into ours at any time. And we need them forever in the Upkeep," like our team can learn and pick apart how it works, and we can do our own Upkeep as we get on the road if we need to, or we can make the decision again that, "No, we'll have them update it 'cause it'll be faster and we're focused on other things."

0:36:49.2 DS: Yeah.

0:36:49.4 AW: But yeah, so much of it comes out at the end of the day is like, when you're small and you need efficiency, the most efficient thing is people doing what they do best. I even know it for myself, the things that I'm good at, I can get more done than anyone I know with the things I'm good at. The things that I suck at, those take 10 times longer, right? It's just like, oh my God, this is never gonna end because I stink at it. I'm teaching it to myself at the same time. I don't enjoy it, so I'm like putting it off or...

0:37:21.1 DS: Yes.

0:37:21.5 AW: Procrastinating.

0:37:22.6 DS: Procrastinating. Oh, totally. I know that feeling, like big projects where you're like, "Oh I hate doing this work," and then it just takes 10 times longer because you just pick away at it here and there, you'll work for a little bit and not enjoy it, but yeah 100% I agree.

0:37:36.9 AW: Yeah. And I can see that even with one of our developers, he was stuck on our Stripe and billing and that wasn't his favorite thing, and it was hard at points and had to re-factor some stuff really quickly and whatever else. And now that he's working on the mobile app, in his work patterns and what he's sharing, in just the time and effort being put into it, I can tell totally this excites him.

0:38:06.0 DS: Yeah.

0:38:06.9 AW: He's excited to work on it, and the output is so much different than, "Oh, course, another dead-end on this and having to figure out this, like, 'Oh, I got a challenge, but hey, I'm gonna get it solved 'cause I wanna see this work at its next stage.'" So.

0:38:20.0 DS: Sure. Yeah. Just thinking about that floors analogy is just you're just slowly putting on one floor at a time, just stepping through it and it takes a long time to build a company and going back to what you said about companies at those different stages. Everyone's looking to grow, even when you get to $10million, $50 million ARR, you just have more stuff to sort out and you've got the next mile to complete of your marathon, the next floor to put on your building.

0:39:00.1 AW: Yeah. No, absolutely correct and even the last thing that it sparked in my mind and then it led me to just doing some of it last night is like going back and aligning web copy to the types of conversations that I'm having with customers, right? So it's like some of the web copy I wrote in February and March when we launched the marketing site and got that up there. Well, I've had hundreds of conversations with prospects and friends and people in the space. Everything else since then and my story has evolved like I've... It's allowed me to craft it better and realize what are people interested in?

0:39:40.9 DS: Right.

0:39:41.6 AW: Where do we better align with those things, and so it's like going down that and it brought me to like, "Oh, I need to go back and look at those things, right?" I put in a sprint before, I'm getting content up and getting out there like what we are, but I've run further now, so I need to re-analyze it and go back on it and know, yeah this... There's a better version of it and one that's more succinct to what I'm seeing resonate with customers and the types of things they're asking about, my content should be answering. So from that standpoint, it just really made me realize like, "Oh, don't just leave that stale content out there," because you've evolved a bunch since you wrote that, you need to go back and bring that back up and do something new with it one way or the other.

0:40:35.0 DS: Yeah. It's constant evolution, constant revision, tweaking, changing, progressing, growing, it's like... I don't know if you wanna call it a marathon that never ends? Or is it just one marathon after another?

0:40:48.5 AW: An ultra marathon. [laughter]

0:40:50.6 DS: Yeah. Ironman.  You just keep doing all these different marathons, and so I don't know if it's like each product launch, each phase of your product launch, is that a marathon? And then you start another one? I don't know what the best analogy is.

0:41:05.7 AW: Sounds like it, but I think it points out, Darren the reason... Then I also think like the emotional and the personal aspect sides of it as founders. And I think... You and I do in this podcast, it has multiple benefits, it's important for us to be able to talk about things out loud, it makes us reflect on things, it allows us to hear what the other person is going through, so you don't feel like you're alone with it. So I just think those things are really important inside of it too, is like, as you're going through this because it is so grueling, because it's long-term, because... Sometimes at certain points, you're just trying to survive, you're not even trying... You're not even trying to run your best time in mile 13, you're just trying to freaking get through it, so you can get to the next part of it is like, you have to think about those kind of things for yourselves too.

Do you have the right outlets, taking care of yourself, especially the mental side. I don't know, as we opened with this, like the physical side, I need to get better at lately, like I spend way too much time just on my computer. I need to do a little bit more on the health side of things, but all of those things are so important so that you can make the long-term. You just can't crush yourself in some of these cycles of, this is do or die, this has to happen now, I need to get this done. Those can take their toll.

0:42:31.7 DS: Yeah. That constant as a founder there's just stuff, that never-ending to-do list, that weight of all of the things that need to get done, that you wanna get done in order to progress and grow the company is just... It's pretty heavy, it's a lot to carry.

0:42:47.3 AW: Yep. So make sure you have an outlet, make sure you're talking about it, or just even... Listen, listen to others, to know you're not alone in it, right?

0:42:58.0 DS: Yeah. And I hope that some of our listeners are feeling the benefits of that too, you're not alone, we're all in this together.

0:43:04.4 AW: No. Darren and I... I struggle every day with certain aspects and just gotta keep pushing ahead so you can make it tomorrow to figure out the things tomorrow.

0:43:15.0 DS: Yep, every day... The struggle.

0:43:18.6 AW: Alright. Well, hey, let's call it a wrap, great to catch up with you. Happy that your load is hopefully lightened and hopefully you guys can finish the year strong and heads down on getting platform to its next steps. I know that's just such a big evolution for you guys. I really hope that can be your singular focus as you close out the end of the year.

0:43:44.5 DS: Thank you, it is coming together and good luck with your mobile app and your integrations and the next phase of Leadferno. I'm excited to watch you grow through the rest of this year too.

0:43:54.8 AW: No. I would love for our next episode... Or maybe we shouldn't get ahead of ourselves. One of our episodes, the end of the year will be like, "We did it," and we've accomplished these bigger things and then we'll still have a bunch of other problems. But sometimes I'd rather have a bunch of small problems than a couple of the big ones, 'cause it's a lot to push that boulder up hill.

0:44:18.1 DS: Yeah. One marathon after another one, so once we get... Once we finish the marathon that we're currently on, then we can announce that we did it and discuss what our next one is.

0:44:29.3 AW: There you go, you nailed it.

0:44:31.0 DS: Alright, thank you, Aaron. Great to talk to you as always.

0:44:34.4 AW: Great to catch up, Darren. Thanks everyone for listening, we always appreciate comments or questions via Twitter or email. And hopefully we'll see you again soon. Hopefully we hit record in a tighter cycle than six weeks this time again.

0:44:52.3 DS: Yeah. I would really appreciate any reviews on the iTunes store, those are really helpful.

0:45:00.9 AW: There you go, then others can find us. We appreciate new listeners, alright. Thanks everybody, talk to you soon, Darren.

0:45:05.6 DS: Talk to you soon. Bye.

[OUTRO music]

Creators and Guests

Aaron Weiche
Aaron Weiche
I'm the Co-founder and CEO of Leadferno, a business messaging app. Leadferno creates delightful connections at speed through SMS and messaging platforms centralized in one app to close more leads faster. I designed my first website in 1998 and never looked back. I have co-founded and been in executive roles in multiple digital marketing agencies and SaaS companies. I speak frequenty at conferences of all types on digital marketing, customer experience, mobile and local SEO. I'm part of Local University and a founding board member of MnSearch. Outside of work I'm a sports fan, love Nebraska college football, Minnesota Twins baseball, snowboarding, boating, BBQ and anything with my 4 kids and amazing wife. I live to the west of Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Darren Shaw
Darren Shaw
I'm the founder and president of Whitespark, a local search company with software and services that help businesses improve their rankings in Google. I started developing websites back in 1996 during my first year of university. I failed plenty of courses because I was skipping class to work on my HTML, CSS, and Javascript projects in the lab. Fortunately, people wanted to pay me to build websites, and in 2005 I started Whitespark as a web design and development company. In 2010 we stopped doing web development projects so we could focus on local search, and we launched our first SaaS software, the Local Citation Finder. We now offer multiple SaaS applications and services. When I'm not speaking at conferences, researching the latest in local search, or designing the next best local search application, I like to spend time travelling, skiiing, and dining with my wife and daughter in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
31: SaaS Is A Marathon, Not A Sprint
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