Everybody’s winging it

Josh Pigford on August 16, 2017

Last week I hit some sort of boiling point with life and work. July was an incredibly stressful month for me both, personally and with work. Just lots of extremes, and it wore me down.

We were buying and selling a house at the same time, and it turned in to a huge distracting ordeal. Then, Baremetrics growth dropped from 10% month-over-month to around 2% for no real identifiable reason. Then, in the middle of those things, we had a team retreat in Whistler, BC and the week after that I took my family on vacation to the beach. After the week at the beach, I said good riddance to July, but then we kicked August off with a number of larger cancellations, and frankly, I’d just had enough.

Actually, my wife and I went on a date during our beach vacation, and while we should have been enjoying some casual, kid-free time, I was mentally vomiting about how I felt like I was about to have a panic attack.

In business and in life in general, there are always ups and downs. I’m fully aware of this. But it doesn’t change the psychological toll that comes from all the fluctuations of running a business or the external influences of, you know…life.

Finally, the personal stuff was settling down. We got moved into our new house, the kids got back to school, and we were able to get back in to our little normal family routine. So that allowed me to get some focus back on the business.

I reached out to a group of founders that I trust and discuss this sort of thing with regularly. I wasn’t even asking for advice but what I got in return after venting was priceless.

I wanted to share some of their responses to convey something I’ve said time and time again (but that I clearly have trouble remembering myself): everybody’s winging it.

Every single founder is struggling with something. Maybe it’s big, maybe it’s not. But there’s always something. Even the most successful founders deal with this stuff and don’t know what to do.

My hope is this provides some encouragement to you…maybe not on an actionable level but at least psychologically and emotionally, understand that every single one of us has highs and lows.

Mild paranoia

I’m 10 years in and it’s just how it is from time to time. That you have mild paranoia in wondering if this is the end is a good thing. Consider it one of the personality traits that will increase your chances of success. I’m at the point now where if I haven’t experienced similar paranoia at least once a quarter I start questioning my commitment to the business, which usually gets me thinking deeply enough to arrive at some state of paranoia. 🙂

Control what you can

Definitely, something we face as well…almost like clockwork every 6-7 months. Never had a true down month, but when you simply don’t move the needle (1-2% net growth randomly), even while meeting/exceeding revenue goals, it can be incredibly frustrating. Mostly due to completely random/unpredictable churn. We’re very good at seeing this too due to the nature of our product, naturally, but sometimes things just hit you out of left field.

The timing of these months is almost always in line with something else that only exacerbates the frustration. Competitor ships something you didn’t see coming or grabs a fresh round of funding, etc. Amazing how these events seem to happen more or less at the same time.

But just sit tight/stand fast and control what you can. We’ve always come out of these random bad months.

Huge long-term growth just isn’t true

This all sounds totally normal! We’re in a flat growth period too and it’s soooo frustrating. But then I remember that 1-2% growth per month is actually considered normal or even good growth in a lot of industries!! Doesn’t mean I’m happy with it, but we have to remember that all the shit we read making us think that everyone else is growing 20% MoM every single month, years into it just isn’t true.

Like others said, perspective is what helps me. I know you’re a dad and your family is super important to you. I try to remember that while my company is my dream job, it’s still just work. It’s not my whole life. If my company dies tomorrow I will have given a bunch of employees and customers a great experience, and my family will not starve.

It’s always solvable

I feel this way A LOT too. Always seems to be the way that someone on the team is fed up and quits, some other competitor gets a huge wallop of cash, and you start feeling ill all in the same month.

I always remember one of the first days we started working on our business full time in a coworking space in London and someone who had done it for a while came up to me and said “be prepared to find out what it’s like being bipolar” — it’s always stuck with me as a reminder that it always gets bad, but you’re on the journey because the highs make up for the lows, and it’s rarely a life or death (like, actual life or death) scenario — it’s always solvable.

Identity crisis

Definitely not perfect over here. Today I’m having a bit of an identity crisis as to whether I’m capable of getting our marketing to where it needs to be…. growth is like 1-2% MoM at the moment due to churn and we have a product team which isn’t shipping fast enough (tech debt). Ugh. I have some cool partnership meetings on Monday though so I’m sure I’ll be positively beaming after those and everything will return to normal. Also doesn’t help when the 2 year old gets up for 2 hours in the night and refuses to go back to sleep—especially after an evening of drinking! Highs and lows as usual…I always try to remind myself that every previous low has been overcome and think about those sweet sweet highs.

Wake up every day and try to do your best

I’ve been going through the same emotions myself. These past 6 months have been insanely hard for me because I’m doing some scary shit (for me) and along the way I’m being hit with challenges I still can’t believe. And often my expectations don’t match my outcomes. I then feel like I’m not winning.

Then something that really matters happens. My mother-in-law gets the news she has melanoma. It’s early and she will be fine.

I realize what is important. Health, family, being a human being with a life.

I realize I’m digging my own grave with the stress of biz and I’m lacking perspective on what really matters in life. And without my health (mental, emotional, physical) I can’t build shit. I can’t do shit. I can drive for Uber if it came to that.

And I’m left with one thought. Just keep waking up everyday and try to do my best. That’s all I can do. I try to remember to not let the business bully me around and set my priorities.

It’s a business. It’s a means to an end. Sometimes I forget that.

Remember, we’re all winging it.

Josh Pigford

Josh is most famous as the founder of Baremetrics. However, long before Baremetrics and until today, Josh has been a maker, builder, and entrepreneur. His career set off in 2003 building a pair of link directories, ReallyDumbStuff and ReallyFunArcade. Before he sold those for profits, he had already started his next set of projects. As a design major, he began consulting on web design projects. That company eventually morphed into Sabotage Media, which has been the shell company for many of his projects since. Some of his biggest projects before Baremetrics were TrackThePack, Deck Foundry, PopSurvey, and Temper. The pain points he experienced as PopSurvey and Temper took off were the reason he created Baremetrics. Currently, he's dedicated to Maybe, the OS for your personal finances.