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Escape velocity


#1

So I’ve been starting to worry a lot. It’s kind of weird. I’ve been in the black revenue wise for a few months now and I’ve been full time on my product for a month.

Revenue has been upticking nicely over the past several months. But just recently I’ve started to worry “what if everyone starts to cancel?”. “what if my customer lifetime value turns out to be lower than I think it is?”. what if, what if, what if.

My churn rate so far is really good but I don’t have a statistically significant amount of data to base that off of. So I can’t really say for sure.

But the value prop is solid, new customers every month, customers generally seem very happy, rolling out new features regularly. Everything seems great. For reference here’s my revenue curve:

But I’ve really been worrying like crazy lately. A friend of mine used the term “irrational fear and doubt”. Is that a thing that you should expect to feel in the transition period to being full time self employed?

Having a wife and two daughters, I feel a lot of stress about being able to support them obviously.

So I guess what I wonder is - how do you know, as a bootstrapper, when you’ve reached escape velocity?

I’d imagine 99.9% of bootstrappers fail b/c they never really get traction for one reason or another. But once you’ve gotten traction, what are the chances that something else can knock you off course?

Do I have cause to still be uncertain at the stage that I’m at? Or is this purely irrational fear and doubt?


#2

For future visitors, there is some good discussion here in this thread you started: Working too much

Can you turn your fear into motivation to enhance your business in a sensible way (i.e. not contacting customers and begging them to renew immediately at a huge discount)?

IIRC, Microsoft early on socked away money so they could pay everyone’s salaries for a year or two in case sales suddenly dried up; would putting away money help with your concerns?


#3

Practice fiscal discipline and extend your runway so that bumps in the road (even large ones) have no chance of truly hitting you where it hurts. If you are like me, a natural worrier, you will find those stresses become less pronounce. While still in the back of your mind, knowing that at worst you have to go dig ditches but the house, kids, wife, lifestyle will all be okay… it makes all the difference.

There are two ways to extend your runway, make more or spend less. People (IMO) typically have spending problems over earning problems. Not always the case, but examining my own lifestyle to strip out the excess has lead to a richer and more fulfilling lifestyle while spending less.


#4

BTW, your revenue trajectory looks lovely. I’d, at least, pat yourself on the back for getting that far!


#5

I think you have the right attitude but don’t lose sleep over it. I mean, sure, you’ve achieved some solid success here demonstrating traction but it’s not the end of the race for you just yet. You still have to keep food on the table so I think while you have some “irrational” fear that things could go south on the flip of a switch - It’s exactly not a bad thing. If you can use your fear for the betterment of the company - I think you’ll be fine… From my experience, the moment you start resting on your laurels is the moment your laurels get snatched away from you.

Congrats on the traction - It’s a great thing. Keep at it and use your fear as fuel…


#6

Thanks for the feedback guys.

@steve, yes that working too much thread is kind of along a similar vain as this question.

Can you turn your fear into motivation to enhance your business in a sensible way

I tend to not work super well under pressure. Never really have. I’m kind of the opposite - I tend to be pretty disciplined at working at a regular pace regardless of outside pressure. I think that pressure tends to be counterproductive for me.

contacting customers and begging them to renew immediately at a huge discount

Ya I’ve never been in love with that idea personally either.

If you are like me, a natural worrier

Yes! Exactly - a very natural worrier. That’s kind of the thing - my gut is telling me that any normal human being would be quite relaxed right now.

Practice fiscal discipline and extend your runway so that bumps in the road (even large ones) have no chance of truly hitting you where it hurts

Ya I’m guessing that as things continue to ramp up, I’ll be less and less concerned. In general we’re pretty frugal. Actually I think sometimes to a fault. There are some marketing channels that I should probably be outsourcing and investing more in but I’m hesitant to do so because I don’t like to spend money and also am a bit worried about outsourcing (separate issue entirely).

BTW, your revenue trajectory looks lovely. I’d, at least, pat yourself on the back for getting that far

Thanks! I try to remind myself of that from time to time :slight_smile: It’s certainly the most success I’ve had in my life in business before (and I’ve tried a bunch of different random business ideas in the past), so that’s good!

I think you have the right attitude but don’t lose sleep over it…Keep at it and use your fear as fuel…

I think it might be my personality type but this is kind of the problem - I am “losing sleep over it”. Well not literally but the stress is counterproductive. To the point where I’m writing on a forum about it instead of actually doing work - haha.

I mean sometimes I physically feel the stress - like my heart racing or just having to take deep breaths. Like it’s a lot more stress than I would normally feel in the normal course of life / healthy stress. That’s the problem.

I’ve never really thrived under pressure. I know a lot of people are like that but I’ve never really been that way.

Anyhoo, thanks for the feedback guys - appreciate it.


#7

That’s not good. If you are going to last in this game, you need to look after yourself. Are you getting any exercise?


#8

Right exactly :slight_smile: I mean there’s stress and there’s stress. I know that being self employed means you’re probably signing up for some higher highs and lower lows, which may just be par for the course.

Yes, I get out usually a couple times of day to exercise, and I take breaks regularly.


#9

I don’t know about the rest of folks out there, but I’ve found starting a business with a family to support is an insanely stressful venture. I’ve also found that I can’t really release that stress by talking about it with the family, mostly because I feel like it’s my job to protect them from that stress. I know that I should probably involve them more, but it’s definitely hard. And besides, it’s difficult to have a conversation that starts with “I’m afraid my churn rate is going to jump up and I’m going to lose all of my customers and we’l be in the poor house.” because in general, your family isn’t qualified to understand that that’s a ridiculous statement and that your stress is overshadowing reality.

I try to combat that with two things. One, finding a mentor that runs a similar business that you can bounce those worries off of, and to generally talk you off the ledge with their experience. I imagine posting on this forum provides some facsimile of that, but I would still try to find someone you can talk to about the finer details of your business.

And the second, is, if the stress is really affecting quality of life… go see a professional licensed mental health counselor (LMHC). I’d have to say it’s been my biggest “level-up” life wise in the last decade. Helps give me tools to manage the stress and the perspective to understand that stress is ok, and expected, and more importantly, manageable.

With regards to exercise, that’s definitely one way to help manage stress, but it’s only one tool in the belt. If you’re exercising regularly and still feel like stress is holding you back (for example causing productivity paralysis, which is one symptom I experience), then I would definitely recommend talking to a professional about other tools you can employ. For example, diet, routines, mindfulness training, meditation, etc are all just examples of things you can try. YMMV on each of those.

Oh, and check out @robwalling’s Zenfounder podcast as well. Rob and Sherry are addressing the mental side of starting a business and I’d definitely recommend it.


#10

I’ve found starting a business with a family to support is an insanely stressful venture

Yes! Sometimes it seems like it’s just very stressful, but I think insanely stressful is actually more accurate!

in general, your family isn’t qualified to understand that that’s a ridiculous statement and that your stress is overshadowing reality

Right, totally. And it’s tough because I like to discuss things with my wife and get her thoughts on things. But whether because she’s not qualified or because it’s just an anxiety-producing conversation, it just never goes very well at all.

Finding a mentor - absolutely. I’ve been sort of working on that for a while now - those types of relationships are obviously not always easy to find but this is a good reminder that I need to continue focusing on that.

Counselor - good call. Have found counseling to be awesome in the past. Hadn’t thought of getting individual counseling just for myself but that’s a great idea. It’s a bit hard to get beyond the stigma, but it’s good that people in tech in general are beginning to bring this out into the open more.

Zenfounder - I’ve definitely been enjoying this podcast and getting some great nuggets out of it.


#11

If its any consolation, I have found it does get easier. You become a bit more philosopical about the ups and downs. Also once you start getting a decent volume of sales, you are less subject to random statistical fluctuation.

Also I have structured my business to be as stress free as possible:
-its not a SAAS, so my server going down is an annoyance, not a disaster
-I never promise release dates, its ready when its ready
-I don’t do new releases for several weeks before I go on holiday
-I don’t have any employees
-I don’t have any debt
-my monthly business expenses are low
-I don’t take any big financial risks

If I were ‘swinging for the fences’ with big offices, employees, debt/funding etc then I’m sure it would be very different.


#12

Thanks Andy, yes that’s encouraging. And I’m actually structuring things pretty similarly to you, aside from the SaaS part.