Customer (not Competitor) Focused

I was recently speaking with an entrepreneur whose company is in the same space as my previous company, Performable (which was acquired by Hubspot). He was asking how I thought they should compete with a particular competitor. This competitor is good at producing software quickly and extremely adept at copying its competitors -- they went as far as copying much of Performable's copy and product names after we were acquired.

The situation this entrepreneur is in is not unique -- this happens to most companies in competitive markets every single day. If you are doing something worthwhile, others are going to try to do it too.

At HubSpot we have competitors who copy-n-paste our copy and messaging daily. But the thing that none of these cloners understand is the thought that goes into each message and product -- the reasoning behind why we use the words we used and why we built the features that we built.

It's the why that is important, and it is the why that they are missing.

The why comes from genuine interest in solving your customers problems. Not knowing why is something you can't fake for long. Sooner or later, customers catch on and move out.

My advice to this entrepreneur was the same advice I gave my team every day at Performable: "Focus on customers, not competitors. If we do that, we'll win.” Writing software is the how, not the why.

Always focus on that why. Always focus on solving customer pain and good things will follow.

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Your Priorities

"Truth be told, the idea of everything being in balance on a daily basis is a myth." - Dave Ramsey

Based on what I've learned from talking to people over the past decade, there is no clearer path to misery than attempting to live the lie that is work/life balance.

Achieving perfect work/life balance is impossible -- for starters, there simply are not enough hours in the day for us to exercise, walk the dog, have meaningful interactions with our kids, read a book, learn something new, eat good food, help others, meditate, nurture our relationship with our spouse, be sexy, drink a good wine, watch a great TV show -- oh, and do our full-time work. You won't ever be in perfect balance and you're going to drive yourself, and the people around you, nuts if you're always trying to get there.

Recently I was talking to a founder about being out of balance.

Business is going well for this guy, but he is frustrated about one thing: his success is causing him to be so busy that he doesn't have time to do the very thing, his passion, which led him to start his company in the first place (his company makes software for CrossFit gym owners & athletes).

I don't think anyone can achieve perfect work/life balance, especially if you're running a startup. Stop trying. Think of it this way: if you even have the luxury of contemplating work/life balance in the first place, you're ahead of 90% of the world's population. Maybe 95%.

Is there a middle ground between the guy who decides that "life is too short" and moves to Brazil to surf full-time, and the guy who works 20-hours days? I think there is but it starts with killing the work/life balance myth.

So how about this: instead of aiming for perfect balance, try prioritizing your days based on the top 3 things you care about.  

My top 3 priorities are cliché, but true. They are:

  1. Family
  2. Me + Friends 
  3. Work

Using these priorities to guide my daily decisions has really helped me feel like I could better pay attention to all the areas in my life that need to be nurtured without feeling guilty that I was letting someone down or something slip.

Free yourself from the myth of work/life balance and focus on what matters most to you.

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What Matters

It's easy to get caught up reading about the startup that codes from the beach, or the other startup that was featured  in [insert name here], or that other startup that raised a bunch of money and was valued at a billion dollars (in make believe money that is).

Blah blah blah. Those are not accomplishments that matter. Raising money and getting a high valuation is not a milestone worth celebrating -- it's a reason to get to work. Don't waste your time reading about them. Don't waste your time trying to emulate them.

What matters is creating something that people love. What matters is solving a customer's problem.

What matters is:

    • Shipping,  not talking or reading or dreaming. #shipit
    • Learning every single day, no exceptions.
    • Becoming a craftsman -- always trying to make the thing you made just a little bit better; never saying "It's good enough."
    • Building a team you love.
    • Changing people's lives for the better, making a positive difference, making someone smile when they use that thing you built.

And who matters most are the people you do it alongside: the friends, the colleagues and, most importantly, your family.

I hope you're focused on what really matters. I know I could not do what I do without the endless support and encouragement from my friend, partner, and wife, who also happens to be an amazing mother to our children.

Remember to routinely thank those who matter most to you and to focus on what really matters.

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