Startup Therapy Podcast

Episode #30

Ryan Rutan: yeah, mm hmm. Yeah, as founders, we

Wil Schroter: spend a lot of time thinking about what we want to accomplish, setting goals for things we want to do, that we want to achieve. But have you ever sat down and really given thought to using the freedom that comes with being a founder to say, here's some things I never want to do again. Here's some things that I hate or aggravate me or trigger anxiety that I'm going to eliminate from my life on today's startup therapy podcast will and I will talk about the power of reducing stress by building a startup we love in an environment intentionally designed to avoid the things we loathe. Welcome back for another episode of the startup therapy podcast. This is Ryan Rutan from startups dot com joined as always by Wil schroder Ceo startups dot com. So we talk a lot about setting goals and objectives, things that we want to achieve and that's all well and good and really important within the startup context. But sometimes it's pretty important to talk about things we don't want to do, isn't it?

Ryan Rutan: I wish more people had that conversation. I mean, I gotta tell you Ryan, every single time I've sat across from a founder and I've said, okay, cool, tell me things you want to do. Everybody gets that. And I said great, now tell me the things you don't ever want to do again, Silence every single time. And it's not that they don't know, it's that no one really ever put it to them like that. And the older you get, the more important that question becomes, because you've seen a lot of shit

Wil Schroter: hit your head on enough bars to know you don't want to do it anymore.

Ryan Rutan: Just while I'm on it and talking to founders about this question that actually wound up becoming one of my most powerful interview questions. I sit across from somebody and we go through all the stuff that they're into. I said, got to ask you, what don't you ever want to do again?

Wil Schroter: And very telling,

Ryan Rutan: very telling because there's a whole bunch of ways that can go if it gets into the wall. I don't want to work with stupid management anymore. Okay. Probably see where that was going. But I think it gives people in this case the founders, but certainly interview candidates a bit of an agency to gripe a little bit and I think that's okay. Again, it can go the wrong direction. It can get a little too telling sure. But I think when you say to somebody more or less, what is all this sh it you don't want to take any more. That's a very emotional response. You know what I mean?

Wil Schroter: It is and and it's it's it's very loaded. I think, you know, when we at first blush this question can seem pretty obvious, right. But I think that it is really important to dig into. And so I think today we can talk about some of the things that we never wanted to do again and talk about how truly important this is, right. Because there's this trend that I've noticed over the last couple of years and talking to people that compromise seems to be an expectation. That's a good point. I started to hear more and more of this. I started to get almost sad about it, right, That kind of no matter who I was talking to and no matter what the context was that they'd find something to be happy about, right. I think that, you know, by and large, especially in the founder population, we tend to be optimistic, right? We're we're realists were practical people, but we also tend to be optimistic. And so there was always an optimistic to it, right? Like they were always talking about something. They were, you know, well, this part's going great, but right. And there was always there was this long list of butts that came along with the with the good and it seemed like that was taken as an expectation, right? And I think, you know, you said it before, but as we get older, this becomes more important. Um, and I think I'm just becoming less willing to tolerate and less willing to compromise. And I think that that's one of the most amazing things about the startup space and being a founder is that you don't have to, you really don't have to

Ryan Rutan: put your own constitution. And I don't I don't think we talked about this enough. And so I'm actually really excited to talk about this today. I'll give an example because this was my moment in time, years ago when we were first starting startups dot com. I wasn't sure what type of business this would be right. I know I wanted to do something with helping startups and and being a part of the startup community and I've done nothing but startups and I felt like we had a lot to give, but I didn't exactly know what the business would be. And so initially I just sat down and I was jotting down all these notes and one day I had this bizarre idea where today I just, I'm just going to write down notes of all this stuff I don't want to do and try to maybe use some of the negatives to find some guardrails and whoa, that became a big discussion because it was really emotional all of a sudden all of the, and I don't have a better way to say all of the ship that I took for what was really the past Call it almost 20 years prior to that all came to the surface and it was, we'll dig into these things. But it was things like, you know, I had to work with so many jerks and I'm sure I was a jerk to other people too. So again, I, I'm pretty self realizing in this capacity, but I really hated it. I really don't want to do that again. And other things like I really hate being told what to do. That's what exactly. It's not one of my defining qualities, traits, not equality. And I started to come up with his list and if folks are listening and if they're either laughing or groaning saying, yeah, that actually kind of sounds like me too. I want you to listen closer to this episode than any other episode we've done because this exercise and Ryan, what you and I and the team have done since then is easily one of the most liberating things I think we've ever done in our careers.

Wil Schroter: Yeah. Well we, we said, like you said, we set forth the constitution which sort of defined the liberties that we wanted to create and then we went about putting them in place, right? That part of course is is is as hard or maybe harder part of the exercise is actually than living up to it. But yeah, I mean even just the catharsis in going through it and recognizing what aspects of life and work you want to avoid. Only go forward is really important, right? And then listing them out. So let's let's go through, let's go through the list because you had, you had 33 really big ones. There was a long list. There's a lot of little little little details, but there were three big ones.

Ryan Rutan: Okay. Yeah. And so we already talked about

Wil Schroter: never working with jerks not being told what to do and the last one.

Ryan Rutan: Yeah. It was around family, never letting the startup come before family. And this of course was dovetailing into where we're all starting our families. And so this was a very kind of an emotional time at the time and we've talked about this before and I think some of our other podcasts where family is just such a big issue and concern for us. But here's what's interesting. We all kind of go into the startup space, especially if you've never done it before. Kind of maybe assuming that some of these principles have to be foregone. Right. In other words, I have to run myself into the ground. I have to nazi family. I have to work with jerks. I have to put up with other people's ship And just to be clear, there is no shangri la version of this, putting these guardrails in place. Ryan as you know, made our lives 100 times harder because because sticking to them means you're often not able to take the path, the path of least resistance.

Wil Schroter: Yes, that's correct.

Ryan Rutan: The

Wil Schroter: payoffs are worth it. Right. Going back to what I said at the at the top, right? I think that, you know, we, we come into startup thinking right, I'm going to have to spend less time with my family, less time with my friends. I'm going to have to work with jerks. I'm gonna have to work long hours. Yes, those things will happen. Right? But I don't think that we should approach it from a it's necessary to compromise standpoint. I don't think you have to accept that And I think that you can limit the concessions and the compromises that you make or at least be clear about why you're making them. Think that's the other thing that happens. We take these things as a foregone conclusion rather than seeing how does this compromise that I'm making play into or does it at all play into actually accomplishing something within my, my company or within my life. And I think that's where things can go off the rails really fast.

Ryan Rutan: And I think again, early in our career we're learning how life works. We're learning how this whole business thing works. We're learning how startups work. So we don't understand another path. I'll give you an example when I was first getting started in my business, I had a couple of clients, I was in the agency business sweat clients. People always complain that clients are jerks and I was, I was pretty open minded about it. I was like, yeah, you know, maybe some of jerks but this is our lifeblood, et cetera and what I learned after working that business for a very long time and working in other businesses since then is there are many ways to go about growing up growing your startup and sometimes during that journey, you will run into a jerk. That could be the employee jerk, It could be the customer jerk. It could be the investor jerk, whatever. There are just lots of jerks in life. The difference is, you don't have to work with them. Now, let's be clear. It ain't easy. I'm not saying you don't have to take some crap from people and everything is going to be great. I'm not saying that, what I'm saying is you have to make a conscious decision whether working with jerks is going to be part of your constitution and boy, it's hard, but right again, let me finish this. Here's how it played out for me. Early in my career, a few years in my career, I had this one client, of course I'm not going to name who it is, I'm not sure if I remember, but I distinctly remember this one client was just a jerk. Obnoxious. Always treated me like hell. Talk down to me. I mean that happened a lot to me at the time because I was really young, but just always treated me with an amazing amount of disrespect as if by paying me, I was just this whipping boy that could just take everything. Here's the problem. But at the time I didn't know that it, it could be any other way. I thought that's the way it worked. You know, and I was too young in my career to really understand why sticking up for myself or by not taking that client altogether was okay for the business. I just assumed I need money. He has money. So whatever he's going to tell me that goes, yep, had somebody, had I been listening to this podcast and I listened and I said, wait a minute. You know, there are some things that I really hate that I really don't want to be doing. I think I'm going to build a little bit of my own cultural constitution to say these are things I want to avoid. It's a starting point, right? You may not be able to stick with it, but I think early in the formation of a company or your career, if you can start detecting these things that you hate and start to build some mechanisms around them or away from them. I think that's a positive thing. What do you think?

Wil Schroter: I think so. Alright. No, absolutely. I know it is and I think that one of the, one of the challenges particularly early on, as you said, we don't, we don't necessarily know there's another path. And if we strictly look at the objective data in front of us, we might say, okay, here's the situation where I've got a jerk that I have to work with. Let's just let's use your example to the client and I can justify that because client pays me, right? Very simple data to analyze, right? Need money. Have client is jerk, will tolerate, get money right? Okay, that's fine. I think it's a lot harder, especially at the early stages to play that out the other way and say because we can, we can see the benefit in saying yes to the jerk client. I think it's a lot harder to see the benefit in saying no to the jerk client. Now. You and I both know there are significant benefits to that. Having now said no to enough jerks that we see what the other side of this looks like and we know how it makes us feel. We know how it changes the company culture, so many other benefits, but they're not nearly as obvious. And so I think that early on particularly it's really, really easy. Again, path of least resistance is to say yes because revenue or yes because this employee has a skill set that we need or yes because my partner who's acting like a total jerk happens to have a network that we need to tap into right. There's so many really easy reasons to say yes to these negative situations and the payoff is typically more obvious right? When we start to look at what happens when we say no and we play the longer game we play the holistic game, the payoffs aren't nearly as is obvious or manifest themselves quickly until we get to the point where we just start to have knee jerk reactions to like, you know really, really crappy jerk clients. Um and we just can't handle it anymore. Then, you know, the impacts are obvious. Like my blood pressure stays where it should be, right. I don't have to go home and shot into my pillow at the end of the day and things like that. But I think early on it is really, really

Ryan Rutan: hard. I think when you're going against these constitutional things, I think you feel it whether you express it or not, whether or not you sit down and write down these are the things I never want to do again, which by the way, I would recommend every single person at any stage in their career do. If nothing else, it'll start to map back to exactly what's stressing you out at night because the moment that you forgo these, it starts to tear away at you and what I'm proud of and what we've built at startups dot com. We've we've done some interesting things but we've done a pretty good job of sticking to our guns and some stuff that honestly was really hard. And what I've noticed so distinctly between this startup and the eight other startups that I've done before is I don't go to bed at night with that same stinging, regretful kind of I can't I can't put my finger on it, but I know it's there in the agency business. I grew to start resenting the clients, which is a dangerous path right there. They are your lifeblood when they are the life. Yes. Right? And in the agency business you get into this weird thing where your clients or your lifeblood, you then staff, you're your own staff to service those clients. And then whenever a client has a problem, it's not just you at stake. It's all of those people you care about. Yes, the client calls up and it's a big contract and they start acting like a jerk you're in this position because they're the ones that are paying their making payroll for your company. And if you say the wrong thing or act like the way you you really want to or heaven forbid separated from the client to get this jerk out of your life, you've just lost all those people, their jobs has real consequences, does

Wil Schroter: real consequences.

Ryan Rutan: And I feel like for a lot of these items and again, whatever your your anti goals are if you will the things you want to stay away from whatever these are, I think the moment you start for going them, you begin to get in a position where you're planting seeds, the sea of despair. This I'm sorry the seed of despair, this seed of, of consternation and anxiety that starts to grow every day in the earlier you do it, the worse it gets.

Wil Schroter: Yeah man, I couldn't agree more and you know like you know I think and this is related, right? So this is related, you know jerk clients, it's, it's one type of, it's one type of pressure coming out and the other one is, is being told what to do and this could certainly come from a jerk client, right or somebody else. But, but often, but often you know this, this could be an investor, could be somebody well intentioned. It doesn't have to be a jerk, but this is somebody having control, having leverage in the situation that makes you act counter to your own instincts, intuition, experience, whatever. When you're put into a position where you now feel like you can't make the decision you want to make or know that you should make because of somebody else's influence and we've, we've all been through this. But this was a particularly important one for you.

Ryan Rutan: Well, I think it's because at the time when we were forming the company, I just come off three different venture funded companies and I'm not anti funding. Again, we were in a funding platform. I'm not anti investors who have worked with tons of great investors and, and they were all fairly good people. So no bone to pick here. But here's what, here's what got to be at the end of the day. I was not in control of my own destiny. I had a hand on the wheel, but it wasn't the only hand on the wheel and the moment you take other people's money, it's just the nature of how it works, you know, when the board forms, when the bylaws are changed, when you've got different voting controls, etcetera or just when people want to call you and give you their opinion every damn day, you're not really really in control anymore and control for me wasn't about being this control freak as much and maybe it was maybe part of it was it was more about I just, I want to feel like wherever I'm going, good or bad, it's on my terms. That's right. And

Wil Schroter: there's a lot to be said for that, right? The it does so many things in a positive way when you feel like you're the one in the driver's seat and it also makes you own the decision makes you own the responsibility. It takes away all the excuses it takes away any wiggle room, right? So I've found for me It makes my decision making process very, very different when I know I'm 100% responsible for making a decision for choosing the path and then for seeing it through I have more energy and more power to put into that situation because I know that nothing else is going to get in the way other than me. And if it is me then I'm usually pretty easy to deal with in terms of handling myself or I can get myself out of the way the minute I involve somebody else in those decisions or have to factor in, you know, the feelings or politics or anything else, other methodologies that I may not be comfortable with, whatever that is, it immediately takes some of that energy and momentum away, right, particularly if you don't have full control over when else that can be inserted, right? This isn't to say that I don't like to make decisions with other people that I don't like input, it has nothing to do with it. But I still want to be able to decide and know that you have the freedom to move forward as planned without future roadblocks. I think for me that's the bigger piece, right? It's not the day you sit down and you decide what's going to happen. It's the uncertainty around when will this decision framework come back up again? Like when we're going to have to talk about this again, Alright, Is this going to continuously come up and potentially slow down progress? That's where having somebody else involved, not being in total control bothers me the most and something that you know, I so I think, you know, we've we've talked about the things we don't want to do and we've talked about some of the negative impacts. Well for you, what's the what is this freedom gain you? Right? So like nobody likes to be told what to do, but in your experience, what has it enabled you to do that you don't think you would have been able to do had somebody been calling the shots for you.

Ryan Rutan: Well I think part of it is because I don't like being told what to do. I'm not the easiest person to rule over. I mean when when I've sold a company before, I had to go work for another company for a period of time and we should definitely do a podcast about that. I was a terrible employee. I was just like I the idea that someone else was going to tell me how we should do things just didn't, it didn't work for me and knowing that knowing that I'm going to be a terrible employer, I want to avoid that situation altogether. Taking on investors where investors are going to tell me what to do and these are smart folks, people, I respect people that I care about and people that I want to do well by uh still didn't, it just didn't work well for me, knowing that, knowing that I don't play well in that capacity, putting myself back into that yet again, it was not exactly the top of my choice for me. Sure. And

Wil Schroter: this is something we talked about with the founders a lot, right? Which is to play to your strengths, not that you shouldn't try to work on weaknesses or shortcomings or or you know, or quirks or whatever, but if you know that you operate really well in a certain situation, a certain context, then try to keep yourself in that situation in that context, rather than, you know, try to fix some flaw, whether it's a flaw or not, right? We talked about this a lot in terms of founder skills more so than at this fundamental level that we're talking now. You know, somebody come in and say like, well, you know, I've, I've spent the last, you know, three months really trying to understand are our finances and our financial performance. And I said why I like, is that, is that what you think is you know, holding the business back the most like, no, it's just the part that I'm weakest on. So that's where I want to spend my time. I really want to make sure that I understand that I'm like, why can you farm that out? Can you hire somebody else? Do you need to understand this? Is this fundamentally going to drive the business? No, I just feel like it's my weak point. Okay, what's your strong suit? Oh, selling like I can sell all day long. Okay, good. Get the hell out of here, go sell some. So yes, I think that this is the same advice in a different context, right? If you know that, you know, a certain certain circumstance, a certain situation puts you at a disadvantage or puts you in a position where you're not going to be the best version of a founder, that you can be avoid it? Like the plague. Yeah,

Ryan Rutan: exactly. And in this case, I know that I'm not doing anybody else any favors either. And I remember thinking, Hey, some of the advice that I really the direction let's say that I really, that really bothered me in the past. Let's say at venture funded companies where investors are telling you what to do if the same person, we're not an investor and they were just a friend, just giving advice, giving the same advice and are the same circumstances. But I knew that I had 100% agency to take whatever decision I wanted or make whatever decision I wanted. I would have been fine the moment I'm told that it has to be this answer. Even if I agree with the answer, I don't like it anymore. And so I wanted to avoid a situation like that. But that's only a small part of it. I don't want to make it sound so egotistic. Like this whole thing was about my relationships with people. It's a part of it. Another part of it though. Probably a bigger part of it is I just want to say as a business to do whatever the hell we want to do right. Like you know, Ryan you and I created this podcast. There was no indication whatsoever that this was a good idea. Like we just felt like doing it. If we put it up in an investor deck and say, here are some of our initiatives, Any investor with their assault would be like that seems like a huge waste of time you guys

Wil Schroter: tying the two of you up for hours or

Ryan Rutan: where you can. Yeah, yeah. All of these things right

Wil Schroter: objectively doesn't look

Ryan Rutan: absolutely put that time into your marketing objectives or whatever else you're doing. And that's my point. I don't want to put the time into something else. I want to sit here and bullshit with you about startup issues. Right?

Wil Schroter: Well, we were going to anyways, let's be

Ryan Rutan: honest, just started pushing record and so knowing that I didn't want any of our decisions, interactions etcetera to be biased by this concept of being told what to do that became part of our constitution. And I think that again, it wasn't specific to just me. I think everyone, everyone on the team feels pretty strongly the same way.

Wil Schroter: Yeah. Yeah. There's, there's definitely a lot of, a lot of autonomy, um, has, has been granted due to that, that that sort of pervasive attitude across the company And I think that's what we wanted to foster, right. We didn't want to build a company of, of yes men, yes women people who just wanted to come in and kind of operating a role. We want people who have opinions, We wanted people who had passion for what they were going to do and you know, of course there is direction given right. Of course there's leadership, but I think we wanted people that not only didn't need, but wouldn't want that type of heavy handed, you know, command laid upon them because they came with much the same attitudes that you and I have, which is that, you know, we know we want to get accomplished, we we align our values and our goals and then we want to just go kick ax and get it done.

Ryan Rutan: And I don't think founders are often in a position where they're giving given this kind of direction, you know, as founders, the whole point of what we do is we get to decide our own fates to create our own destinies. That's the greatest part.

Wil Schroter: Yeah, we have to

Ryan Rutan: and it's it's not limited to just what the business needs. It's it's it also becomes part of what our culture needs, what we need and what's important to us to head toward and away from, you know, another one of those. And again, we might as well put it on the table was this whole concept of making sure that the startup never became became before our family, like, by the way, sorry to cut you off. How how precious did that become at a time we're most of us were just having our first kids like, like we're kids on the way, kind of thing and it became one of our most imperative parts of our business where like changed everything that fundamentally changed our culture. It's like almost every policy we have somehow ties back to that.

Wil Schroter: Yeah, that's absolutely true, right. And I think that the, the timing was really interesting that, you know, is for for those of you that don't know, you know, will Elliott and I all had our our first within what a I mean, you and I had our first within 2.5 months and then Elliot was just a little bit behind, you know, that that following summer. Right. And so we all kind of came into this at the same time as we were just starting the business and talk about talk about timing, but talk about, you know, again, like if you look at this objectively, you'd say like, man, that was horrible timing and in hindsight now we can argue quite the opposite, which is to say that because we were forced to consider those two things inextricably right? Because we were going through the most challenging parts of both parenthood and starting a company at exactly the same time. We had to consider them as one in the same context, right? We could not treat them separately. We didn't have that luxury. And I think in hindsight, that was a huge benefit to us because it forced us to consider them

Ryan Rutan: well. It's interesting too because a lot of folks, it's easy to say, hey, we're very family forward kind of organization or family is important to us, etcetera. And I think that's important. It's super helpful. But it's another thing to say the startup never comes before our family, that's pretty black and white. Yeah,

Wil Schroter: saying we're family first, we send birthday cards to all of our employees, Children. Sweet. I mean not what we're talking about

Ryan Rutan: here and when you're in the formative stages of building both a family and a startup, it is so hard to stick to that now. And look if you're a young young company and let's say nobody has kids, you know, kids and family aren't necessarily the same thing. We're just using a little too interchangeably. But if you're if you're 23 years old and the entire staff, some version of 23 nobody has kids find replace the words family with social life or or friends or whatever is important to you. I think we drew a line in the sand that really, let's face it the hardest time we could have done that and I don't think, you know, it's like anything in life. The rules not complicated until you try to enforce it. And so how hard is it for all of us to get up and go home just for dinner on a random thursday night at six o'clock knowing the house is on fire, it may not be there when you come back, right, That's dude that's so hard to enforce.

Wil Schroter: It is, it is and I think that you know there are even some incentives to not enforce it, right? Because you know if you're you're struggling at work, you might use your family as an escape. You know, if it's tough at home and by tuff could be anything right, could be an argument, the spouse could be, you know, the baby hasn't slept more than two hours for three weeks in a row, whatever that is. Work may become the the pressure relief out right? You may go there to escape. You may think like oh you know, maybe you're not doing it consciously, but in the back of your mind, staying at work two hours more means two hours less of whatever that pressure at home was. And and so I think that you know, they're they're often incentives to go against this family first policy despite that being a bit counter intuitive, you would think that oh yeah family first, you know, life first, making sure that you know, we've got this good work life balance, our work life blend um that were, you know, satisfied on both sides of that spectrum would be the obvious choice. It isn't always right. Sometimes it's easier to say, well these things are a little bit out of balance right now. And so rather than balance them, I'm just going to spend more time on the one that's already working better, right? Which is a bastardization of my my comment before about focus on what's working when it's between life and family, you got to keep that you gotta make sure they're both working. You can't just say well, you know family is not working at all to spend all my time at work. That'll probably sort itself

Ryan Rutan: out. Yeah. That that it was never wonderful. Yeah. But with all of these, I think that what this comes down to and this may be just as important with making this commitment is sticking to the commitment. You know, saying it's easy doing. It's really, really hard. And and and it's gotten a little bit easier because we've become a bigger organization. So we get a little bit more latitude in what we get to do. But I would say we have to we have to look in the face of these commitments that we've made even now, every day, What day goes by? That we don't think, boy, I sure would be easier if we would raise a bunch of money right now. And if I rewind back for most startups again, we're a little bit further along. But you're in the formative years, your nine months, 12 months into the business and you have an investor that seems to be expressing some interest That can throw $250,000 into the business and you're looking you're looking and then let's just let me add some icing the cake. And this investor also is kind of a jerk wouldn't be that hard to come full circle full circle. But the investor is kind of a jerk and they're going to start telling you what to do. So you're gonna compromise two of these goals, which may not be your goals, by the way,

Wil Schroter: wait a minute. Why? Why doesn't he just go ahead and tell you not your family.

Ryan Rutan: We can just check

Wil Schroter: all the boxes in

Ryan Rutan: one and Hannibal Lecter, Darth, Vader, Frankenstein type character. Yeah. No, it's it's just you know, let's say however it crosses the line. Let's face it, At that very moment we're saying, look, I can either forgo one of my commitments here and I can take the check because let's face it, if I don't, we're going to be out of business in six months anyway. So I have to do it. Here's what I'll say. There is a time when you just have to eat it. You know, as much as I'm saying, stick to your guns, stick to your commitments. I'm also not being completely blind that there may come a time where it doesn't matter what you want. It's what you can get.

Wil Schroter: Yeah, yeah, yeah. If you're if you're if the ship is sinking, time to let go of your guns and start swimming right there. Times where you have to do. You know what's what's what's right and practical. I think that often we can, it's easy to justify things. Again, it's really easy to justify things and to take that path of least resistance. I think that it's what you're talking about isn't the path of least resistance. What you're talking about is the only available route remaining right? When it comes down to that, then yes, that's what you have to do. There are a lot of situations in a startup in life and family anywhere where there are certain things that just have to happen and their choices that aren't really choices, right? Your, your choices too stop and and fail. Um or to take something that may go against the grain of something you wanted to do and hopefully they're not fundamentally different, right? Like, you know, taking on a type of client that you know, has fundamental differences with, with your beliefs in life. That would be tough, right? But sometimes you have to do it. But I also think you need to and I think that's a really

Ryan Rutan: good, you have to register the cost to whenever we've had to compromise one of these goals for a minute, let's say the family goal right? Where I said, hey, you know, I'd like to be with my family right now, but I do need to be at the office getting something done because of whatever this one critical, you know, item is in this case the the startup is coming before the family. When I see that happen in, let's face, it doesn't happen much. But when I see it happen, I am hyper cognizant of it, right? I'm like, okay, I just took something out of the bank, you know? And and if I keep doing that, if I keep saying, oh, you know, I'm just gonna keep kicking it down the line and keep kicking it down the line, I'm gonna hire that jerk employee. But man, they're a good salesperson and they just keep on selling so I'm not gonna do anything about the fact that they just, they're they're the root cause of all my anxiety right now.

Wil Schroter: Right, right, right.

Ryan Rutan: You have to recognize that you're taking some out of the bank, your sanity bank, your anxiety bank, whatever this bank looks like that, you're actively reducing the very thing that you wanted to create,

Wil Schroter: yep. Yeah, you're, you're incurring a debt of some sort that will be paid back

Ryan Rutan: when we take on capitol, we understand that our stake in the company gets reduced, right? Everybody gets that, right? Well, you know, we look at it as delusion, there is a delusion in anxiety, in happiness, in all of these other things that absolutely exists when we commit to these decisions, interestingly, and Ryan, I think you can relate to this. There's also that feeling when you unwind that bullshit when you fire that client or fire that person or unwind with that investor where you feel it all come back. Yeah, right? There's nothing more satisfying then making a tough decision that you've been just just agonizing about for months, but you make that decision and that night you sleep the best you've slept in months, that's when you put it back for sure,

Wil Schroter: I even have I have a I have a quick story um where We had made the decision, it was a market research firm and one of our, our biggest clients. And when I say biggest client, this client represented 40% of the revenue for the company and multinational, huge, huge, huge company happened to be a tobacco purveyor, right? And it had been several years in which fundamentally we had decided we no longer wanted this to be the business, but we couldn't figure out how to garner more business to replace this client. Alright. But it was bothering everybody that we were involved with this. We didn't want this to be a client fundamentally. We knew we had to do this. We finally just said after it was wasn't even quite two years, about a year and a half, 18 months. We finally said, look, we're not doing this anymore, right. It was a client that we picked up through an acquisition, a market research firm that we bought in eastern europe had this client and then quickly spread to a bunch of other market operations. So quickly became a very, very important client, much to our dismay. And so we decided to just pull the plug on it. We weren't even going to try to replace the revenue. We just said we're going to take a 40% revenue. And you can imagine what going to bed

Ryan Rutan: that night. Right.

Wil Schroter: On one hand, it felt freeing that we had made the decision. On the other hand, we, I had to assume that they're going to be layoffs. We're gonna have to fire people. Things were going to change. We have to close down market operations. There were a lot of bad things were going to come along with us. But we felt so strongly about that. We decided to do it. Now. We didn't get the immediate relief right. It wasn't, we didn't go to bed that night feeling great. But three weeks later we get a call from from Loreal and Loreal says, hey, we've been wanting to work with you guys for a couple of years, but we did not like the association with the tobacco company and It didn't replace the full 40. But within about nine months we had ramped back up about 30% of the missing revenue. And it turned out there were a lot of companies that wanted to work with us but could not because of that, that that fundamental, you know, stance that they were taking against against tobacco. So yeah, so you know, sometimes, you know making the right decision and you know, this is a very specific anecdote, but sometimes making the right decision can feel terrible at the time. But when you do things for the right reason, things tend to work

Ryan Rutan: out, I agree and I think part of what's given us the power if you will in the resolve to stick to our guns is because we have socialized those tenets, right? We socialize our constitution and it's something that that comes to mind immediately is between me, you and Elliot. Again, neither of us has any desire to go work for someone else. Not a week goes by that. We don't get what one or two calls from private equity companies that want to do some sort of deal. And we say the same thing. We were like, it doesn't matter what the deal is. Like we don't want to work for someone else, right? And they're like, you know, we're not really working for us. You're you're actually working together with us. Like dude, you hold all that, you hold all the keys to the bank account, we're working for you. But the reason I bring that up is because you know, not to disparage p companies that they're fine, they're just not what we're looking for. It's to say that because the group of us all feel strongly about these, these tenants and the foundations of our business. It makes it easy to unilaterally make a decision because we know we're all bought in in the same way. Yeah. You know,

Wil Schroter: I was going to bring this up before when we were talking about family and you mentioned that, you know, it's it's become easier to do. And one of the reasons become easier to do is because we continue to demonstrate that we will live out these principles, right? We have demonstrated repeatedly to to the team that when a family issue comes up and does have to be a big issue. Could be a soccer game, could be a practice, could be whatever that will support that decision to be there. And with the understanding that, you know, you'll you'll make up whatever didn't get done today tomorrow we'll find a way to make it work. Um, but I think that because there have been so many demonstrated examples of this, it's become easier for people to accept it and easier for people to utilize it because I think that's the other the other thing that ends up happening, right? And you and I have both seen this play out in real life and in other companies in our own where you may have a policy, you may say we're family first. And but then there's this underlying current of Yeah, but nobody actually does that right? It's like, Oh, we have two months of paid leave every year. Oh yeah. What does the average person take 2.5 days because everybody's scared to lose their job if they're the one person that takes vacation. And so I think that by by demonstrating these all the way up to the leadership level, right? And we're very open and honest about when we put family first. We're also very open and honest about where we've made those compromises and why, right? Like I missed this thing. I didn't go here. I didn't do this with my family because I felt compelled to do this for this reason here was the cost. I decided not to pay and here's why. And I think that's made it easier to stick to this because there have been so many visible examples of it and because everybody saw that it was truly supported, right? And I think that when you live out those principles on a regular basis, it makes it easier for other people to follow

Ryan Rutan: them. You know, I think to your point we've seen it at such extreme in such extreme cases where there has just been extraordinary examples of where there's, you know, unfortunately been a jerk in the organization. Everyone saw it and it's like if we didn't do something about it and really it almost always came at some sort of cost to the organization, you know, kind of losing that continuity of that skill set or whatever. But every time the organization saw and I think we talked about this when we did the podcast about toxic employees when the organization saw that, that, that we're not going to work with jerks no matter what the cost policy was, not only upheld, but but even there was a cost to doing it. I think that's when people look at and go okay, yeah, this is serious business and I think that that speaks louder than anything. I think there's been multiple occasions where again we don't want to be told what to do. Again, I use the private equity example, talk to investors and everybody else. And, or even in some cases folks that, you know, could potentially be an acquisition target. And we're like, we're not against being acquired, but we don't want to work for that company. And so I think when people see that these policies are taken, even in the extreme, it's easy to do them, you know, when they're all, um, when it's all on lightweight stuff. We talked about the family first stuff. You know, we've had some, some pretty significant life and family emergencies with our team. And, and our answer is always the same when sh it happens, you drop everything. Family is all that matter will be here when you get back. And a lot of people think that that's just a nice thing to say. But we've had, you know, situations that have gone up to six months where somebody had to be out right. You know, unforeseen situation. It was a family situation. And I think, you know, folks on our team were shocked that that were, that, you know, understanding and it was like, look, we're pretty serious, pretty serious about these things. And I think that it

Wil Schroter: has so many benefits, right for, for people to feel that supported know that they have that security is really important. And it doesn't, it isn't just about not working with jerks isn't just about family policy. I think that there's a real power you have as a founder when you do set forth principles of any sort regardless of how few they are. But then you do show people that you live up to those and then you stick to those, it gives them a lot of confidence in your decision making. It gives them a lot of confidence in the future of the company. Um, because they sort of know what they can

Ryan Rutan: expect

Wil Schroter: even if you haven't laid out every possible scenario when you prove that you're a person of principle and that you do care about these things and you will stick to them. It tells a lot, right? And this is as important at as an early stage companies, it is later stage company because there's a lot of uncertainty and I think that having principles like these, um even if they're very simple goes a long way in helping to define that stability for the team because uncertainty and growth go hand in hand, right? So if you're trying to grow that business, you're trying to accelerate growth. You're trying to build the team, doing all these things in tandem, then having those principles, they're not only helps to guide you as the founder, right? But I think it helps to provide the team a framework for understanding what the future can look like. I think that's super

Ryan Rutan: important and I think, I agree man and I think when we all go home and we kind of think about how our day's going, how our life's going, we're laying in bed staring at the ceiling. I don't think for me personally and maybe you feel the same way. I don't think all of my wins anymore are the things that we've done. You know, the milestones, we've hit et cetera. I think a lot of my winds very consciously are all of the things that I didn't have to do today because I haven't forgotten about any of them. I haven't forgotten about all the ship that I took in the past and how today, like yesterday, I didn't have to do it again today and I will have to do it again tomorrow. That's the biggest one.

Wil Schroter: That's a wrap for this episode of the startup therapy podcast. This is Ryan Rutan on behalf of my partner Wil Schroder and all the startups dot com. Family thanking you for joining us and we hope you'll continue to join us. Be sure to subscribe rate and comment on itunes or wherever you love to listen to startup therapy, you can find all of our episodes at startups dot com slash podcast. If you're looking for more amazing resources to launch or grow your startup, be sure to head to startups dot com and check out startups unlimited. It's everything we have to offer from our online university to our amazing community of experts and founders and even all the tools we've built like biz plan, fungible and launch rock. It's everything a founder needs visit startups dot com slash begin that startups dot com slash b e G i N. You'll thank me later.

Copyright © 2024 LLC. All rights reserved.