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. Success only comes after some failure, because when you start a business of any kind, you risk failure. It’s just the nature of it.

    Sucking at it would be continuing to work on the same thing after you know it’s not going to work. Being smart is doing what you did.

    Seth Godin write about this a lot. That’s probably why I read what he writes. It makes me feel good to know that you have to fail before you succeed, and that not everyone does this well or perfectly the first time. In fact, most don’t. The key is to keep going and keep trying, because the more things you start, the greater the percentage that you’ll succeed.

    I’m glad Trail Wallet is doing well. I’ve actually seen it popping up everywhere. Seems your percentages are pretty damn good, actually.


    • Thanks for the supportive and wise comment Leigh. It’s really hard to get past the failures but you are right—it’s the only way to lead to success.


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