Thinking to Win in the Modern Economy
You need to be doing the most important things - not everything
In my second to last tour as a Navy SEAL a friend had recommended to me a book that was on the SECNAV's reading list - this was one of those game changing moments for me - where I learned to think differently about how the world was now operating.
In his 2013 book Average is Over: Powering the World Beyond the Age of Great Stagnation Tyler Cowen outlines the realities of the modern economy: The most valuable skills in today’s marketplace revolve around creating, leading, innovating and solving hard problems; and the value provided by these skills will reap outsized benefits to those skills that are rapidly being taken over by software and automation.
For those that have taken the entrepreneurial leap you’re probably existentially deep into realizing there’s a good reason successful entrepreneurs reap outsize rewards - because they’re taking on hard problems - lots of them - that computers and machines will never be able to solve.
The question is, how exactly will you tilt the deck in your favor? How will you maximize the time you spend leveraging your most valuable skills?
No one wants to be a failed startup founder that has to admit you spent too much time designing your business cards, ordering t-shirts, scrutinizing your headshot, and flailing to create a marketing video for something that doesn’t yet exist. And yet we do these things. Seems like we all do them from what I’ve seen - I know we certainly did. We’ll cut a hell of a deal on a few dozen CrowdCrunch t-shirts and stickers if anyone is looking to buy before we toss them in the dumpster behind our co-working space.
The basic problem here is that none of these things required any real hard work - specifically creating, innovating, leading, or problem solving. And yet we did them and felt at least marginally satisfied, as if we were making some progress. Sadly we spent one of our most precious resources - Time! - doing these things instead of attacking the hard problems at hand.
So how should we think to win in the modern economy?
For every task on your to-do list you need to ask yourself if 1. Does this add value to my business? and 2. Is there a software service you can pay to handle it for you?
The decision process goes something like this.
Do you need to run payroll, file reports with the state, prep your tax forms, pay taxes at three levels of government, handle W-2&4s, I-9s, figure out what a draw is vs. a salary? Of course you do. What a time-consuming pain in the ass that provides absolutely no value to your business.
So what are your options:
1. Hire someone to handle this for you. Good luck with that young startup - see Why You Can't Hire For Your Startup.
2. Figure it out yourself. Enjoy spinning your wheels burning time and money while making no progress on your product or sales - see Go Build Something - Just Not a Dick Pic Filter
3. Hire a SaaS product to do it for you. Thank you, gusto.
When I have 100 taskers on my to-do list I’ll happily pay $100/mo just to have one less thing to think about.
The good news here for an entrepreneur is that Tyler Cowen’s 2013 predictions are dead right. I don’t need to look any further than our credit card statement to verify his basic assertions.
We pay for 15 SaaS or similar products and services. More accurately we “hire” 15 SaaS products to do things we would otherwise have to hire for or spend more time on ourselves.
Here’s the list:
Gusto- for payroll management
Zendesk- for customer support
Adobe- for Design
Zoom- for virtual meetings
1Password- to keep all our secrets really secret
Mailchimp- to organize our marketing efforts
Sendgrid- for customer notifications
Dockerhub- repo for our containers
Gsuite- for email and file store
Slack- for online collaboration
Trello- for online To-Do tracking
Mailtrap- for email testing
Sentry- for error handling
Gitlab- code repo
Github- code repo
We gladly pay these other companies because we are trading $10s to $100s of dollars a month to buy back our time. Time which we can use creating, innovating, leading, and problem solving.
For a founder who can exit with $10million in 10 years you can look back at all the hours they put in over those ten years and see that they made about $500/hour. From there it’s easy math. Would you pay $100/month for a service that would give you back a full day a month or cost you approximately $4000 (8hrs x $500/hr) in your valuable time?
Just every time the software option turns out to be the best option. You can hire it immediately - no scrolling through online applications that amazingly lots of people fail to fill out correctly. It’s reliable - it won’t call in drunk. It doesn’t talk back - it won’t call you the “CEO of stickers” when they get pissed at you. It’s loyal - it won’t roundly ghost you after “coffee with a friend” that turns out to be the next shiny job offer. And it’s cheap - usually under a few hundred bucks a month depending on what stage you’re at.
So when people ask me why they would use uffizzi cloud I give them the same answer.
Let’s review your options for app hosting.
1. You can hire a DevOps Cloud Expert. That’ll set you back well over six figures annually and takes on average 60 days to find someone. This also assumes a quality candidate will actually accept your position in a highly competitive tech market.
2. You can do it yourself. AWS advertises 120hours of recommended study to get started on your cloud certification. And of course you may be able to cobble something together much faster than that but have you thought about how you’ll set up your full development pipeline - Dev branch, QA branch, Staging, and Production. Of course there’s still Load-balancing, DDoS protection, Security, TLS, and High Availability to consider.
3. You can hire the uffizzi cloud platform to handle it all for you starting well under $100/month. Within minutes of signing up you can have your professional app running in a fully secure, auto-scaling cloud environment that’s load balanced across three availability zones.
The tools are out there and growing by the day. Where do you want to spend your time?