Jon Ewalt on When to Grow Beyond Yourself
For the next 2 weeks, I’ll be releasing an episode on Tuesdays and Thursdays, to gear up for MicroConf on April 9th. These episodes will be focused on self-funded, often solo-founders. Some are on the smaller side, while others have ARRs over 7-figures, but they all have valuable lessons to share for any founder.
In our chat, we cover everything from how Jon used his experience running a roastery to launch a SaaS app to the struggles he had getting the product developed as a non-technical founder.
What I think is most valuable for you, though, is hearing about Jon’s struggles as a solo founder and his plans to grow his team beyond himself.
If you’re thinking it may be time to expand your team but aren’t sure where to get started, this is the episode for you.
Never miss an episode
Be the first to get new episodes of the Early Stage Founder
01:24 – Jon describes why he created RoasterTools, who it’s for, and how he got to know his market
- 1:40 – Previously owned a roastery
- 2:45 – External influences that made him realize he could capitalize on his success and sell his method to others
- 4:00 – Jon talks about the key elements of holding on to customers
- 5:39 – The final straw, and then deciding to move from a physical to a software service
7:15 – Jon describes the process of finding a first developer and getting the software off the ground
- 7:29 – Asking the community for advice
- 8:08 – Discusses shifting role to become a project manager
- 10:00 – Firing the first few contractors to find the best fit
- 10:40 – Choosing whether to hire locally or remotely
- 13:40 – Choosing where and when to launch your MVP
- 14:50 – Jon tells his launch story, and how he won a prize for best new product
- 16:20 – Planning what to do immediately upon / after launch to capture customers
17:07 – Jon talks about persuading customers to join up at launch
- 18:10 – The nuances and complexities of onboarding
- 19:10 – Filling in gaps in the product to keep those customers
- 20:32 – Changes in momentum over the next 3-6 months
- 21:20 – Shifting to a customer success / management phase
23:20 – Persuading yourself to stop developing the product and just get more customers
- 24:13 – What it’s like as a solo founder with no-one to stand back and tell you what needs to be done next
- 25:53 – Capitalizing on your network’s skillsets and advice
28:14 – Jon describes his next few hires
- 28:30 – Moving from using contracting programmers to someone who can work full-time in your company
- 29:35 – Bringing in a co-founder
- 31:05 – How and where to find those people
- 31:42 – Using your extended network to find local people
- 32:15 – Persuading people they belong on your team
33:35 – Jon describes what he wants to happen next
- 33:44 – The difficulties of over-dedicating yourself to a project
- 34:19 – Setting deadlines for hiring the next few people
- Henry Poydar on Escaping Notification Hell
- Startups for the Rest of Us
- Pivotal Tracker – A project management tool Jon used to make sure everyone on his team knew what stages each part of the product were at, and what deadline dates they were all working towards.
Where to learn more:
To see what Jon is up to, check out RoasterTools.com or tune into the interview to get his email address so you can reach out to him directly.
ANDY: Jon, thanks so much for coming on the show.
JON: Hey! Thanks, Andy, for having me on. I really appreciate it.
ANDY: Yeah, so let’s just get right into things. What is RoasterTools, and where did the idea come from?
JON: So, RoasterTools is software for coffee roasters. We help wholesale copy roasters manage production and sales, and it came from the idea that I was… I’m a former coffee roaster myself. I owned a coffee roaster for about 8 years with my wife, and we basically scaled that business up to about 50,000 pounds a year – close to £1,000,000 in revenue, and over that process, yeah… Over that process we needed to systemize, you know, what we were doing in terms of production, and so one of the key things around that was trying to get myself out of the role of actually producing the coffee, fulfilling orders, you know, and actually doing the job around the coffee side of things. And so I kept on tweaking with the processes, studying lean manufacturing processes, and trying to apply things from outside of our industry, and I basically kept on focusing on, ‘How do I remove myself from the process, but still make it super-efficient and accountable?’
So, over a span of about 3 to 4 years I did that. I achieved where I didn’t need to be involved with my team, and they were able to produce a ton of coffee in a small amount of time without making mistakes. So, we basically kept on tweaking and tweaking, and then I’d have a lot of friends who’d come to our small, little town – we were in a tourist community up in northern Wisconsin – and they kept on saying, ‘Jon, what are you doing that you’re not involved in the process but your team’s producing a lot of coffee in a very small amount of space, and not making mistakes?’ You know? And not having me have to micromanage the team.
JON: And so I kind of knew there was something that I’d done that was unique, and that people would probably pay for, and I kept on listening to Rob and Mike’s podcast, ‘Startups For The Rest Of Us’, other things… I kind of got involved with, like… I really wanted to build software. I loved the idea from kind of an early age about being a software developer even though I’ve never learned to code professionally, and I said, ‘Okay, I’ve got this idea, I’ve got this concept that people are pretty excited about. Why don’t I take that and build it into something that people can pay for on a monthly basis?’ So, that was the genesis. Basically, RoasterTools version 1.0 was working in my roastery. We knew that it was effective.
ANDY: Were you using software at that point, or was it just developing the processes? What was in place at that point?
JON: Yeah, great… It was definitely the processes and refinement. Our goal every week was to get down to increasing production and capacity, basically with the tools that we had, and then we were trying to solve for the fact that we didn’t want to make any mistakes. So, one of the things about being a coffee roaster is you’re dealing with the same customers week after week after week because, hopefully, they use your coffee, they drink it, and then they have to order more.
JON: And so you have this… Every opportunity… Every interaction is an opportunity to provide either great service, or to fail with making mistakes on sending the wrong coffee, not grinding it properly, delivering not on time… You know, all of these issues can build up and basically produce churn. Now, I didn’t know what ‘churn’ was back then, but that’s the bane of the industry, is that you get a relationship – which is hard-fought – and you’re doing training, you’re doing a lot of education around your products, you have to get them to select from a product line-up, and so once you've built that customer base, you don’t want to lose it. And so I looked at that as, like, ‘How do we provide great service that people can depend upon, and also provide great coffee, but that’ll allow my business to grow?’ and that’s exactly what happened.
JON: And that was all around process, I should say.
ANDY: Right, and so as you’re building out these processes, and truly building a successful business, you realize that you’re onto something and you do have these kind of entrepreneurial aspirations beyond the brick-and-mortar business. You want to get into software. And so how do you make that jump from having the physical business to, like, ‘Alright, I’m going to launch a SaaS startup’?
JON: Yeah, well, as I said, we were in a small town which had its plusses and minuses – the town was literally 500 people.
JON: On the edge of Lake Superior. It was a great place to live. Great people, but my wife and I were getting a little bit burned out about being in a small community and wanting to have some other things in life, and so we looked at our business and we said, ‘We could sell this, but what would we do next?’ So it was basically from that decision that we wanted to move back to Portland, which is where I am now – Portland, Oregon – and so we did sell that business pretty quickly after we decided to sell, and I knew that I was going to build RoasterTools. You know, that was my dream that I had been working probably… I talked to my first developer maybe 2 or 3 years before that, about doing this, but I just didn't have the capital, and I didn’t have the time, and so everything fell into my lap all at once when we sold the business.
ANDY: And what time was that? What year was that where you did sell the business and move to Portland?
JON: Yeah, so that was 2015. So we sold in March of 2015 and we’d been running the business since 2007, so for 8 years.
JON: A long 8 years!
ANDY: Yeah! So you now have a bit of capital, and you know what you want to pursue, and you have a good idea of roughly how that looks, and so you’re not technical yourself. What is this process like, of working with a developer to get that MVP out there?
JON: That’s a great question. You know, I definitely… I think my process begins by surrounding myself with really smart people that have already been through this, you know, so number 1… My first goal was to reach out to the community, to people that I could trust to give me advice about how to go through that process. So, whether that's listening to podcasts, or… I went to MicroConf and surrounded myself with a mastermind, with people who had already done what i wanted to do, and so I could basically lean on those folks. But, you know, the first part of the process was to find the developer. I went to the community, I found a developer, I spent a lot of money within the first couple months not really knowing what kind of return I should be getting on that capital, on that investment, and I think that was probably one of the bigger things. I didn’t know how to be a product manager. I didn’t know what to do in this context, because even though I built this other business to a pretty successful level – I could manage, like, a build-out of a new roastery, or I could manage projects – but I didn't know how software worked. And so, literally it was trial by fire. I jumped in, and I was super excited, and we started to get, you know… The first screen came up and I could see things interacting, and I guess I got really excited, but then I realized, ‘Well, I don’t have enough capital to go at this rate and actually launch something.’
JON: And so that was a big wake-up moment for me. ‘Okay, I need to have some systems and processes in place. The same way that I run a roastery, I need to think about that process with how to run this… you know… running RoasterTools.’ And so I backed up and I again went to my network, and I went to my friends, and I said, ‘Hey guys, here’s my trouble. We’re not actually moving the business forward. We’re spending a lot of time on conversation, but not on actually shipping features,’ and so luckily, actually, one of your other guests, [Henry Portard? 9:12] said, ‘Well, why don’t you try Pivotal Tracker?’ and I had no idea what that was, but it’s basically software to help you manage your stories and actually build out your MVP, and little things like that fell into place where I had systems and tools to basically check things off in a list that was systematic, and everybody could be on the same page, and we could set expectations about what we think we’re going to get done in a week. And that’s the big thing that really gave me traction on just the development side, was learning how software is made.
ANDY: At that point, were you still working with the same group of developers?
JON: No, so, within 2 or 3 months I realized the first developer wasn’t a great fit. I don't think that I maybe communicated how fast I needed to go and how… You know… I wanted something tos how customers, to be that MVP, to really get me those first couple sales. So, I ended that relationship, and that’s one of the things that I’ve done from time to time. I’ve been very quick to… If it’s not a great fit, if we don’t have a similar vision for where this should go and how fast it should go, let’s move on. So, since then I’ve had 3 other key developers come and go. One, I’ve been using for the last 15 months or so, and he’s been great. He’s based in Russia, off of Upwork. So I did a mix of finding some remote developers overseas and then also I’ve had a couple developers here in Portland, which has been really, really useful as well. So, I’ve done the blend, I guess.
JON: I was going to say – and one of the things that I learned also is that while remote work is great, for someone who didn’t know the process to jump into that was really difficult, and so finding someone locally, for me, was another key point in having traction, and building the product, because that person, we could have a planning session with a whiteboard in front of us and we could actually sit down in the same room. So, that was useful for a period, too.
ANDY: Yeah, I feel that the more you have to collaborate – and in the early stages there’s a ton of that – while there’s good tools, while Slack is getting better, while there are different options for video conferencing, there’s still only so much you really can do remotely, at least as it stands now, in that for me, personally, I’m the same way where it’s like sometimes I just need to be in the same room with someone else when I am trying to plan everything out.
JON: Definitely. Definitely, and I think – let’s be honest – 99.9% of the developers out there have no idea what I’m talking about around coffee.
JON: So, like, the domain is just so weird, and so at one point one of my developers said, like, ‘I don’t know why coffee roasters think the way that they do, but I’ll just trust you, Jon,’ because literally their engineer’s logic and how the actual user would think? Completely different. So, that’s where being in the same room has definitely been pretty useful.
ANDY: Yeah, and I know Hiten Shah has said before that going remote is really tough to do right from the beginning, that if you don’t know… if your team isn’t all on the same page, if they’re not all understanding the problem, the domain, all of that at the same level, then it’s going to be really hard to build that remotely, but if you can start in the same place, if you can sort of get everyone up to speed earlier on, then it’s like, alright, down the road, then if people need to work remotely, if they’re going to have to do some more work-from-home days or just be fully remote, then it becomes an easier adjustment. But it’s like, in those early stages, it’s crucial that you're all on the same page and being physically in the same room, or at least in the same town makes that a lot easier. At what point did you get that MVP out there? When was that?
JON: Well, once I implemented Pivotal Tracker and really started to lay out the stores, and set my vision, we moved pretty quickly. [Edit: And so we actually launched less than… So, let’s say it’s October as things kind of shake up… 13:31]. So we started development, I should say, in August 2015, and I had an internal deadline that I wanted to launch in April 2016 because there’s a major conference for coffee because the Specialty Coffee Association’s Global Expo, and so this is THE event where people can gather and learn about coffee. It’s a trade show. You know, it’s basically THE place. They also have a ‘Best New Product’ award, and my goal was to win that. So that left me with about 6 months to develop this project to the point where I was not even MVPing it, but I was launching it. And that’s what we did. So we worked really hard, and we really focused just on the core features, you know, didn’t have onboarding, didn’t have a lot of the things that people would say make, maybe, a fully functional app, but in my opinion, I could go back in the back end and get those people set up. I didn’t need that process to be automated.
ANDY: You could make it work for now.
JON: Yeah, exactly, and the key was showing roasters that we understood what they needed, and that we could provide them with a lot of value. And so my goal was to make that happen by mid-April. So, that’s what we did. We went there and I had a crappy little booth in the corner, the cheap seats where no-one wants to be because it’s not in the center of everything, and there’s 10 to 15 thousand people mulling around the conference hall in Atlanta, and I hucked it. I just went out there and started talking to roasters and trying to pull them in, and I think for 3 days straight I had standing room only around my booth, and people were just amazed at what we had done, and it was because we had built around all this background. The domain was second nature to us, so I knew what roasters needed, so in that process… I’m sitting there for 3 days talking to everybody that obviously comes up to the booth, and they don’t tell you but one of those people, or a lot of those people, were judges for this Best New Product competition.
JON: Yeah, it’s all blind. You have no idea what’s going on. And so, at the end, I see this camera crew coming over and there’s a guy who’s, you know, the Executive Director for the Association, and he’s shaking my hand and he’s handing me a Best New Product award! So it was quite the thrill to launch and win an award all in a weekend, basically.
ANDY: Yeah, so first, did you have much of a plan going into the conference? Was it just ‘set up a booth and wing it’? What were your plans, going into it?
JON: You know, I probably should have talked to you, Andy, because I… That’s probably one of my biggest regrets, was that I didn’t have a great launch plan and post-conference plan. You know, we had hundreds and hundreds of people that came through and I’ve got email addresses… I signed up the people, and I had a lot of interest, but beyond that I was just drinking from the fire hose and just trying to stay alive. And so, in hindsight, you know, that probably was a missed opportunity to really build up momentum and get people to actually sign up.
ANDY: But, so afterwards, were you actually getting sign-ups there at the booth?
JON: No, and that’s… Yeah, so that’s what I plan on doing here in April for this next version. I’m going to actually do sign-ups at the booth with some time-sensitive offers and some things like that to get people to actually pull the trigger. I went there with a few beta customers who were big names in the industry, and people that other folks were excited to be associated with, and so I had some cachet, I had some people that were already using the system, but there was nothing that was… There was no incentive to actually do anything right then, and that was probably my biggest failure.
ANDY: But with that said, you still did, I’m assuming, pick up a good amount of customers from that event. Is that true?
JON: That's true, definitely. Definitely. And one of the things that – as I mentioned – we handle all of the sales as well as the production, so really that’s the entirety of their business for their wholesale roastery, so we know all the customers, we know all the products. It takes a bit to set up an account, and so that was probably my other big revelation about this process, is that it’s not going to be a quick and easy sales cycle. While I did pick up people from the booth, from the show, there was… the onboarding process was a new one to me, right? So that takes a bit to learn. So I had to get better at that and get more efficient, and that’s just a process that we’re continuing even to today.
ANDY: And so, after the conference ends, you have a good amount of momentum going. What is your day-to-day like afterwards? Because you said you’re still figuring out all of the processes for onboarding. There’s still a lot of you have to learn. So what do things look like in the months after the conference?
JON: You know, I think we got our next 5 or 10 customers signed up within the next 30 days, and that was super exciting, and we basically got those people on board and, like any new or young product, we found that there were gaps in the product that we needed to fill in. And so one of the things that we did was I spent a lot more time on product over the next, probably, 90 days, head down trying to fill in those gaps, even though I came from a background of knowing what coffee roasters… how I ran my business, I found out that there’s different opinions about how they run their business, and I needed to incorporate some of that into my pretty opinionated software! And so I had to double-down on some product work while still… I think that I spent… I’d averaged 10 demos a week, so I was hustling on the sales side while also spending a lot of time with my product team and trying to build out the missing features that people were asking for. So it was just hustle!
ANDY: Yeah, and then over time, like, as things start settling down a bit, what happened? Did the momentum stay up? Were you able to capitalize on what happened? Where did things go from there, in terms of growth, in terms of sales, in terms of all of that?
JON: Yeah, you know, things were pretty hot and heavy for the next 3 to 6 months, where I had a lot of conversations, I had more sign-ups, and things were going pretty well, and then there was this post-conference drop-off that I knew was going to happen, but I wasn’t prepared for, in terms of, like, ‘Oh, I actually need to do some outbound,’ or ‘I need to have some marketing,’ and so things got up to a pretty stable level where my time wasn’t being spent with 10 demos, but I was then having to manage customer success and more of the support issues, which wouldn’t necessarily be feature requests, but it was, like, ‘How do I do this?’
JON: So there was this other phase of the business which I didn’t expect, which was I needed to build out a help desk, and I needed to build out knowledgebase articles, and so all of these things, I guess, as a first-time founder, I kind of got… It was only when I entered that new phase did I realize, ‘Oh, this is the period I’m in right now. People love the product, but now they have questions, and I can’t answer every single question as a solo founder,’ and so I actually have my set way of doing this, document that, and point people to it. So I spent probably a good month or two starting that process, and then we were also planning some pretty big features, and so I was… My inclination, which I’m only realizing in hindsight, is when sales were good but I wanted more, instead of going to marketing and sales, what I did was, like, ‘Oh, I think I need to improve the product.’ In hindsight I’m like, ‘No, get out and hustle!’ right? And so that’s something I’ve been rectifying for the last 90 days, is I’ve been more organized building out the CRM, building out my process, trying to have 25 to 30 conversations a week, because that’s actually what turns those people into customers, and my product is stable now. I’ve got a knowledgebase. But I had to go through those phases of thinking I could solve it spending more time on development. Well, you know, that was okay, but that wasn’t the solution. Then I thought I had to improve customer success, and yes, that helped, but that wasn’t really the solution. What actually drives the business forward is sales and marketing.
ANDY: Do you think there was a reason why you resisted jumping into sales and marketing for so long?
JON: I think… I should get my wife on this and she could probably tell you! You know, I think that I really enjoy building the product, and so if I had… I think I’m good at it, to be honest. Once I went through that trial-by-fire, that first developer and the trials of trying to figure out how to actually manage the process, I think I was like, ‘Oh, I’m actually pretty good at this!’ because we built this working version that we launched within 6 months of pretty hardcore activity, but still on a self-funded budget, and so I was, ‘Oh, I’m good at that. I’m good at that; let's stick to that,’ and I think as a solo founder you… I didn’t have anybody else to call out me and hold me accountable, to say, like, ‘Well, there's this other part of the business that you’re ignoring and you need to spend more time on it,’ and so my head was down on one side, and I think I just… it was stuck in the sand for a while, and I think that I just didn’t have perspective, you know? And I think that that’s… It all became really crystal clear when all of that momentum that I had from the initial launch was worn off. Once I realized that there wasn’t necessarily that mojo carrying me forward, it was clear that I had to change what I was doing in order to continue to build the business. And so that’s when I.. yeah.
ANDY: Yeah, and I think hearing you talk about this is something that a lot of… almost every other solo founder out there can relate to, because it’s not as though you're sitting down and saying, ‘Alright, marketing and sales – those don’t matter. Let me figure out my priorities and then let me clearly just execute this very well-defined plan.’ It’s like, no! There’s so much going on every day. You have new customers coming in, you have emails coming in, you have to manage your development team… There’s so much going on in a startup when it’s just practically you and a small team around you. It’s very difficult to get that kind of higher-level perspective on things because day-to-day you are just so busy holding it all together.
JON: Yeah, and I think that exactly, and I think that’s where you need accountability and mentors to kind of look at it from the higher level and say, ‘Hold on!’ That’s the other thing that I… That network has been immensely valuable for me, and I when I started to realize I don’t know what I don’t know, whether that’s how this process unfolds, and I need to have someone who’s been through it before who could provide that advice, so in the fall – so here we are in the spring of 2017 – in the fall of last year, I started to actively look out to say, ‘Who could I have as advisors and who could I have as mentors, especially here in Portland, who can give me that perspective? Because obviously I’m not bringing that to the table.’ And so that was one of my big, big business decisions. And so I started networking more than I ever have here in town, and that’s landed me one mentor who I don’t know how big his company is, but it’s one of the top 5 software companies here in Portland, and he was the co-founder, Chief Product Officer, but then he also built out their sales team, their customer success team, you know, he was kind of the jack-of-all-trades, and I obviously… he’s a super smart guy, very humble, and he basically looked at me and he said, ‘Jon, you’ve got a great product here; you don’t need to build more product! And since you don’t have someone who’s paid on staff on the tech side,’ you know, I have contractors, he’s like, ‘it’s time to wind those guys down and probably focus just on the sales and marketing,’ and it was that outside perspective, that mentor's viewpoint, that said, ‘Oh yeah, I see what he’s saying. My churn’s low, people are happy with the product, I’m literally getting unsolicited emails from folks saying ‘this is amazing’,’ so that told me that yes, it is time that I focused on this last part of the business that I had been ignoring.
ANDY: And so before we had talked a little bit about how you’re planning to do that, to start expanding your team and really fill up the roles to help complement what you do well. And so, what are you looking to hire for? What roles do you really think you need the most?
JON: You know, I think the two biggest roles that I need is someone who understands how to market effectively, and then how to… And then obviously someone on the tech side. While we managed to grow with just contractors on the tech side, I really want someone who’s as passionate about this product as I am, and who begins to eat, live, breathe what we’re doing, because there’s so much momentum behind the product that we’re ripe for someone to jump on board and join the team. And then, on the marketing side, I’ve never marketed a SaaS app, and so I could tell you how to sell coffee to a cafe or a grocery store, but there’s definitely a skill gap that I have on the other side. And so I know the product – I think that’s what I do really well – and I think I’m great at customer success and just kind of handling that input. Those are the two roles that are really complementary. Understanding what customers are struggling with is a great feeder for helping us build a better product. So I see those as co-existing for a while with me wearing both hats, and that kind of leaves 2, possibly 3 other roles, and I think that… So I’m starting to do a lot of networking around finding that possible co-founder, or a tech lead, who can jump in to do that part, and on the marketing side, you know… I’d love some feedback! I don’t know, Andy! But that’s something that… I’m first checking off the technical side box of the equation.
ANDY: Right. That’s interesting, and, I mean, there’s a few things to unpack. First, is that talking to from the beginning of this, it’s that every single step of the way you’ve had to learn a lot and you’ve done it, and it’s something where, at the time, it can be interesting, but it takes time to learn to ramp up; to get your skills to a point where you can really run with things. And especially now, where you are having some traction, it’s like, ‘Alright, I could keep trying to do everything myself, learn how to do all these things, but at the end of the day I’ve learned in this process there are a few areas that I’m really good at, and that I enjoy doing, and I can see the value that I’m adding to the company, so it’s like I could either double-down on those, or I could try to pick up some other things.’ And I think it's’ really smart of you to start looking to expand so you can focus on what you do best. And what I was going to ask is how you’re planning on finding the people for these roles, so, is it a lot of networking? Finding people locally, introductions… Where are things at with that?
JON: You know, I’ve… I’m reaching out to a lot of folks because I would like to find someone within my extended network. I put a lot of value on relationships, and that's something that’s been important to me whether in business or in personal, and having that context has been huge. The best people that I’ve hired as contractors, you know, have been people that I can meet face-to-face, so there’s a local component if possible. So, that’s been one avenue for me. I literally had 2 conversations yesterday – we’re recording this on a Monday, so on a Sunday I spent over 4 hours talking about these exact issues, one with another founder who knew of some possible leads on the technical side, and the other one was actually a developer that I drove an hour and a half to meet. And so, you know, it all goes back to the ‘hustle’ part.
JON: If you want it, you’ve got to make it happen, and I think that’s a big realization, that no-one’s going to come out of nowhere to say, ‘Jon, I really want to work on RoasterTools!’ You know? I’ve got to make that happen, and I've got to actually solicit that and say, ‘No, you – you! – belong on this team because we're going to do amazing things, and this product’s awesome, and the customers we work with are incredible, and the whole community of coffee is amazing.’ Those are the kind of conversations that I’m having so that people can see the vision and see what’s possible, and then that’s when I think I’ll get someone to join.
ANDY: Usually I ask people for parting advice related to the topic we’ve been discussing, but what you just said seems so perfectly fitted to that. It was like, ‘This is what founders should be concerned about, thinking about, when they're looking to hire.’ It’s like you can’t just assume if you post an ad or a project on some job board that all of these high-quality applicants are going to come in, and really it does come down to hustle; putting yourself out there, meeting as many people as you can to try to find the right fit, but that being said, hiring is still a pain in the ass! Obviously, I think you’re taking the right approach, but are there still any parts of it that concern you? Like, what are you most worried about happening?
JON: Devoting too much time to the process. I still have a business to run, and we’ve talked about how I’m pulled in many different directions, but there's’ only a small slice of my day where I can do this, and I can focus on this, and so that’s why I’m hustling on a Sunday rather than spending time with my family, because that's the only part that I can do this. So, that’s my biggest concern, is either that the process will take too long, or I’ll spend too long doing it, just on a daily basis.
ANDY: Do you have a sort of timeline where you’re hoping to have at least made that first technical hire? Or at least a co-founder? Finding someone to fill that role?
JON: Yeah, I think that within the next 90 days. I think that we… Here we sit about 5, 6 weeks away from this major conference we’re probably going to, and so there’s a lot of work that I’ll be leading up to that, but I think post-conference for me is when all this will come together. That's what I imagine. So I’m laying the groundwork now, and, you know, with the exception that hey, someone falls in my lap and it’s great fit, we’ll make it happen pretty quickly.
ANDY: And so before we wrap up I like to ask all of my guests just a few rapid-fire questions. So, I go through them pretty quickly, but your answers don't need to be short. And so, the first question is: what do you currently spend too much time doing?
JON: Emailing folks. I need to get better and faster about actually just producing quick emails, because that’s a key way for me to move my business forward.
ANDY: What do you NOT spend enough time doing?
JON: It’s something I’m working on actively right now, but I need to spend 75% of my time on the phone, because that’s actually where I make my money.
ANDY: Like, on the phone with prospects that pretty much…?
JON: Yeah, exactly. I mean, it’s old-school, but you know, establishing relationships and telling my story – that’s where the trust begins and that’s where the process happens… you know, begins.
ANDY: And so, other than finding someone for the technical role in your company, what are you hoping to accomplish in the next quarter?
JON: We have a big push right now for adding quite a few customers. So, I’m looking to add 40 customers in the next 6 weeks with this marketing push around a special introductory offer.
ANDY: Will that be debuted at the conference coming up?
JON: Yeah, so I’m actually previewing the offer and I’m saying it’s going to be good through to the end of the conference, and what’s happening is, instead, people are like, ‘Okay, I’ll just sign up today if you can give me that offer.’ And so that’s been a nice surprise, but it gives me a way to reconnect with people that maybe I’ve dropped off the radar on, is to say, ‘Hey, I just want to let you know about this,’ and a lot of people are like, ‘That takes away a lot of my fears, my risk, and so let’s just get on board today and we’ll see how great this thing is.’
ANDY: This is a different question, but for the people that you’re reaching out to and presenting the software, where are they coming from? Do you have a list that you’ve built up, or is this really just the relationships that you’ve built – you’re reaching back out to people who you know on a more one-to-one level?
JON: You know, we were lucky that we’re getting a lot of organic traffic that's actually converting into demo requests, so we have some inbound that's’ happening anyways. So, that's a component. And then I have this list of hundreds of roasters that I’ve either spoken with or been referred to, and so it’s a mix of following up with people that do requests and then going after some leads that might be cold, or might have come in last week. Yeah.
ANDY: And so, the last one is just: what is the biggest obstacle to you getting those 40 new customers?
JON: Time. Time, you know? Again, I think that’s the biggest thing about being a solo founder. I don’t think most people can do it alone. I know there’s exceptions, but when you look at how to do everything well and still have a life, that's insane, like, that’s really rare, and so whether it's building out my team to solve that, or being more efficient, you know, those are the 2 ways that I can see in the short term to solve that issue.
ANDY: Jon, honestly, you’ve given us a ton today. I’m excited that I get to see you at MicroConf because I already have about 1000 other questions I want to ask you, to really dive into this, because it’s so cool what you have accomplished, and seeing how deliberate you are about the process – about building processes along the way – is really impressive, and I want to say thank you so much for coming on to share this, but if listeners want to follow your journey a little bit, if they want to see what you’re up to, what is the best thing for them to do?
JON: You know, I think it’s probably just to reach out by email. I love to have conversations – as I said, relationships are big to me – so they can email me at [REDACTED] and that’s the best way to connect. I love hearing from folks.
ANDY: Awesome. I appreciate that, Jon, and again, thank you so much for coming on the show today. It wa sa lot of fun catching up.
JON: Yeah, thanks Andy. I really appreciate it!