The progressive liberation of a startup founder



by Zach Johnson

No one will tell you that running a business by yourself is easy. Demands on time, competing commitments, having to do literally everything and the limit of time in any given day can feel overwhelming. Good thing it's fun right?

I tell the founders I work with in our incubator program that their job is to make their early customers' experience as close to perfect as possible by sitting by their side either physically or virtually as they use or purchase their product. Then, slowly, over time, back away until that exceptional experience remains the same for the customer even after you've removed yourself from the process. In other words, you progressively liberate yourself from your current product so you can focus on the future of product.

After about 5 months in SPARK BUREAU of testing what works and what doesn't, what's needed and what isn't and what systems, products and services are available to remove me from various tasks I've started the process of liberation. So far, it feels good!

Not too long ago I realised that, while I remain a staunch supporter of Apple hardware, my use of Apple software has dwindled to zero (excluding iOS and OSX). Now, Google Apps is where I spend most of my digital day. Inbox, Calendar, Notes, Docs, Sheets, Slides, Forms are used anywhere from frequently to constantly and have completely replaced my reliance on productivity software from anyone else -- yes, Evernote that sadly includes you. It was great while it lasted...

Square Space is every bit as good as I had hoped it would be. Yes, people can tell that my website is from a template and I've had to get over that but absolutely everything else about their product and experience has made my life easier. From site content updates, blogging, back-end integrations, analytics you name it. Awesome.

Slack is gradually replacing internal email for me. The process will be complete when I get all my members to use it. Most are eager. Some are skeptical. All are willing. We'll get there.

Cobot is currently on probation. I like the member management and their API integration with Mailchimp and Google Calendar but their interface is woeful. I'm still working out how much time it will save me but since the main draw is the room booking feature I'm still on the lookout for something that does that part better. If I find it, I'll likely move on.

My newest addition to the team is Clara, an AI assistant for scheduling meetings. I haven't been this excited about a new productivity technology since IFTTT but, as with their product, the practicality may not yet live up to the promise. I really, really want it to work.

These tools, all relatively affordable (except you Cobot, and you're already on notice) have potential to save me considerable time, work and hassle which, when you're a solo entrepreneur working mostly alone in your business is priceless. I'd love to hear experiences of others who have successfully removed themselves from working in your business to working on your business. Drop me a line and let me know what you've done and what tools you've used (absolutely no sales calls).