Why We Suck At Business

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In a word, Me.

I’m like a gremlin, a tiny imp mischievously uncoupling parts in Erin’s finely oiled machine. I lay waste to her best laid plans. I am forever making her gasp in frustration.

She generously titled this post “Why We Suck At Business”, but the credit is all mine.

Our Previous Mistakes

I am Michael Gerber‘s definition of a technician. I work in my business, not on my business. I like to tinker and play and not worry about how much money I’m not making by all this tinkering and playing.

People often advise us to expand our business by outsourcing the design and it takes everything I have not to scream “but that’s the best part!” (I feel the same when they suggest outsourcing the development).

I have no interest in marketing and barely any interest in the bottom line beyond “can I afford a Frappuccino today?” Our attempts at affiliate marketing are woeful at best because our underlying message is one of less stuff, not more. How can we attempt to sell you things and stay true to our core values? Doesn’t work.

We suck at business because, in the world of commerce and the outsourced Personal Brand, this attitude simply won’t cut it.

Our Devastating Realisation

A few weeks ago, after spending 300 hours developing the responsive framework that is now powering this site, we ditched our WordPress premium themes idea. There were three primary reasons:

  • There would be too much support—people’s websites are mission critical and when something goes wrong, they (quite rightly) want it fixed yesterday. This doesn’t gel well with a life of travel and uncertain internet.
  • It’s a saturated market—Woo Themes, Elegant Themes, Theme Forest. Actually, because this market wasn’t challenging enough, next month I’m going to start building a new search engine.
  • Lots of admin—After I had completed the framework there were still the themes themselves to be designed, sales sites to build, testing to be done, lists to cultivate, blog posts to write. The framework was only the first step.

We suck at business because it took us 300 hours to figure out that this wouldn’t work.

Our New Adventure

Instead of figuring out how we could repackage all of this work or how I could offer my skills in smaller, bite-sized chunks, I’ve decided to pack it all in and go and make iPhone apps.

This requires learning a whole new programming language, navigating my way through a new IDE, figuring out Apple’s selling procedures, and working with compiled, rather than scripted, code.

This is me. I flit. I flicker. Like a moth on crack, I fly full speed into the nearest shiny flame and desperately attempt to understand the thing that is slowly pulling me apart.

I live in constant fascination, to the point of obsession, of how things are built and how they work. I live to create and I want to do it all—write a novel, make a film, build a game, animate a cartoon, write an album! Should the Gods smile on me and I get to live to 80, it still won’t be enough time.

We suck at business because I’m always chasing the Shiny New Thing.

The Future

So, woe is us, right?

It’s true that we suck at business and we’re failing often.

But it’s also true that we’re learning a lot. We have some passive income on the go and we’re constantly exploring new ideas and trying new things. I have a string of satisfied clients and I provide a great service because I’m a lunatic obsessive.

The framework I’ve built is some of my best work yet and can be put to use on building client sites and other, smaller sites that we might want to run (like app information sites).

I’ve finished my first iPhone app and it should be winging its way to the App Store as you read this (pretty sure it won’t sell much, but it’ll be in there).

We have a few new site ideas with definite monetisation models where, not only do I get to indulge my age-old love of the Video Game, but I get to draw little cartoon Assassins in white robes.

We’re throwing that spaghetti against the wall.

One day it’s gonna stick.

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17 Comments (6 pingbacks)

  1. You sound like the very definition of a scanner personality: http://www.scannercentral.co.uk/scanners-night/

    I’m exactly the same – I get obsessed with figuring out how something works, then move on to the next thing as soon as I understand it. It means I’m incapable of outsourcing anything, and I have to learn a couple of unnecessarily complicated new technologies just to motivate myself to build a simple website!

    Unfortunately, given how important it is, marketing seems like the only thing that doesn’t interest me at all :)


  2. I started my career as a backend software developer, and when I heard about iPhones and iPads I was interested in jumping on the bandwagon as a developer too, but I’ve never had a great spark of a (simple) idea to develop. I’m interested to see what you’ve come up with!


  3. iPhone app dev = great residual income idea. UX is everything, and could easily put you above big companies if executed correctly, have faith. Even the simplest ideas can make great apps, and putting a focus on user-generated content is a way to ensure continued adoption. Good luck!



  4. Welcome to the wild world of digital nomadic iOS development – and congrats on having the courage to toss an endeavor to the side after you figured out it wasn’t going to fit the life you want to build. Tis the life of us entrepreneurs :)

    As long time mobile tech geeks, we started dipping our toes in the app world a couple years ago. We decided to create apps that solved problems we encountered in our own US based travels, and maybe others like us would like them too? (You can see them at: http://www.technomadia.com/apps)

    It’s been a combination of a lot of fun, and a lot of frustration. And it remains more of a side business to our core development clients. It could probably be more if we put full on effort into it.

    Yes, you can just develop and put your app in the App Store. It is a great playground for those who don’t want a full on business plan to implement. And you’ll get a trickle of sales that might buy you a coffee or beer now and again.

    But quite honestly, if you don’t follow up with a marketing plan, that’s likely all it’ll ever be (of course, a few get lucky and magically get attention from some source and becomes a hit). Consistently, the apps that we just put up there barely make beer money. And the Apps we do strong marketing pushes with have spikes and plummets of income. With over 1/2 million apps in the store right now, it’s a heavily saturated market – so you have to market outside the App Store too to gain visibility.

    All and all, we stick to creating apps that solve problems we have as digital nomads. At the very least, we have something that benefits our own lifestyle.

    We would be happy to share with you directly more about our experience in playing app-roulette, if you care to. Don’t want to discourage you – as it is a fun business endeavor where you can focus your creative geek energy on. But it’s not really a departure from needing to be good at business if you want for your efforts to be financially worthwhile.


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