Pulling The Pin Quickly

I’ve spoken to you before about the internet startup fanboys and their love affair with the idea of “failing fast”.  That’s just a great way to allow yourself off the hook for being unwilling to put the work in to be successful, for having crappy ideas and for executing badly.  It’s also pretty easy to fail fast when some VC douche is handing you over some poor schlubs pension plan and you’ve not really had to work for it.

But today I’m going to share with you a couple of real-life stories of people who’ve had success with their idea and decided to “quit quickly”.

A few weeks back, my internet buddy Ben Settle launched a new membership program to his audience.  This was no ordinary membership you see Ben had a successful podcast on iTunes with over a hundred episodes and he decided to take that down and put it behind his membership paywall.  He also tossed in an assortment of goodies and bonuses that were exceptionally good value.

The whole launch process was fascinating.  Ben created scarcity by removing his podcasts from public access and restricting access to his members and he also said that all future episodes of the show would only be available on his membership site.

With the scarcity and exclusivity pieces in play, he “stacked the cool” by offering up some good bonuses including a monthly live Q&A call and an exclusive members-only Facebook group.  His audience is pretty keen on what he offers, so the lead up to the offer had them in a bit of a frenzy.

The thing about this launch that blew me away though was the price – the offer was just seven bucks a month.  I was honestly expecting something around the thirty dollar mark based on what was being offered and the perceived value.  That price point made it an absolute no-brainer to join.

And plenty of people did join – over 800 people in fact in the first week or so.

For those of you keeping score at home, it’s pretty easy to see how that could have become a good six-figure business very quickly.  After the initial week the price went up to just under twenty bucks per month (which was still an insanely low price) and more people joined.  It would not have taken much to get it over the six figures of annual revenue mark.

But then a funny thing happened the other day on the repeat performance of the first live Q&A call, Ben announced he was shutting down the membership.  Not that silly internet marketer scarcity trick where he was “closing the doors” or anything stupid like that, no he announced he was going to be ending the membership.

Two or three weeks after the successful launch, Ben said he’d be closing it by the end of the year and in fact, that date has been moved up to September 1st.

Why?  It makes no sense.

It did to me.  It made perfect sense.  Ben was quitting quickly.

Ben runs a pretty successful subscription-based physical newsletter product called Email Players.  I’ve mentioned it before because I’ve used it as inspiration for Casual Marketer and borrowed some of his tactics and strategies.  He’s set himself up a good business that suits him and his lifestyle, but unfortunately, his new membership program simply didn’t fit in with that.

I mentioned the repeat of the live Q&A call – well that’s because when they ran it the first time they didn’t have enough seats in their GoToWebinar plan to accommodate all the members trying to get on and they didn’t record the session.  That got a bit of blowback and some customer grumbling so Ben decided to do a repeat performance, record it and make that available to members.

Then on top of that, there are the day-to-day issues of running a membership site with people forgetting passwords, sending support requests to you personally instead of to your helpdesk and the variety of other time-consuming things you end up being required to do just to keep the lights on like website rubbish.

Ben looked at it and went, “Nope, this new venture isn’t working for me, thanks, but I’m done.”  He didn’t try and drag it out for his own financial gain or anything like that, he simply decided to give people a couple months to sort out picking up their bonuses and then Ben is closing it all down.

He’s decided to quit quickly on his terms.

I can relate to this.

About five years ago our SEO and content businesses had just started to really take off.  It was exciting times as we started getting asked to do a bunch of new things by our clients that would allow us to grow quite quickly.  I also had just left my job to work on the business full-time, so I had the bandwidth to get stuck in.

One thing we kept being asked to do for people were to build out their WordPress sites and set up their marketing automation platforms like Infusionsoft and Ontraport.  Finally, we decided to try our hand at these services and straightaway we got two clients to start with each paying just north of $2500.  While our delivery engine was kicking into gear doing the work, I started working on a new site and some copy for this great new part of our business that we were expanding into.

Except it totally sucked.  It was successful financially and we had no trouble delivering, but overseeing the build out of websites and setting up things like Infusionsoft for people was just monotonous for me.  I found it incredibly boring and dealing with the clients was pretty much unbearable.

I remember we launched the new site on a Wednesday, had two additional orders come through within 48 hours when I mentioned it to my list and by the following Monday I’d take the site down having spent the weekend working on the four in-flight projects.

Some people would say, “Dude, you picked up ten grand in work in a couple days, why wouldn’t you stick with that?”  And for some people, they probably would have been happy to do that, but I just didn’t want to work on something that I ultimately couldn’t stand.

So I quit quickly.

I saw myself being consumed by this beast of a service business that required tons of time and input.  I found myself becoming very selfish about my time (which is a good way to be) when I talked about these new businesses.  I even started resenting the time I did spend on them.

Meanwhile, my SEO and content services were happily humming along doing their thing while this other business was consuming my time.  It’s important to note we’re not talking fluffpreneur style “passion” nonsense here, this is a discussion about how you want to spend your time with respect to running your business.

Simply put, I want to invest my time getting a higher leverage return or I want my time back – if the effort I put into my business isn’t going to get an acceptable return for me, I’d rather spend that time watching Netflix.

Quitting quickly is a serious lesson for those of you out there that are building a side hustle business or are what I refer to as Casual Marketers.  When your business is not your primary contributor financially or if your time is limited because maybe you’re a stay at home mom, then you simply cannot afford to spend the time doing something that diminishes your life in exchange for money – you need to find the balance between building a successful business and destroying your own mental health and personal satisfaction.

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