Mixergy and Jason Cohen – Best Business Advice Ever

I have been a long-time listener and viewer of Mixergy content and have to say it’s always top-notch.  Each interview I listen to always has a takeaway for me, always a useful nugget to try.  Andrew Warner, host and founder of Mixergy, recently talked with Jason Cohen of WP Engine.  This interview was over-the-top for me with all the goodness Jason shared.

For me, this interview had it all.  Jason discussed how he and his time started WP Engine but more importantly how they found customers before actually creating the product.  This is so important and seems to be to most difficult part of starting a business.  We developers tend to have an idea for a product, go out and create it and then sit back and wait for customers..who never come because you created something no one wanted.  Jason discusses and idea he had which potential customers did not want to pay for and he dropped it.  WP Engine was customer tested before it was conceived.

Jason found potential customers via LinkedIn:

The first one is, I’ll tell you how we did some tools for consultants, and I’ll tell you how I got a hold of those consultants and how I got them on the phone. It’s exactly what I did, and anyone can do this. You go to LinkedIn, and you search for the type of person that you want to interview. In this case it was WordPress Consultants, but you could say just people who have WordPress in their blog, you could say designers, you could say anything obviously, there’s something you can do on LinkedIn to roughly find them.

Then I simply went through anyone that I could find, and, of course, looked through their information a little to see if it would make sense. And I found people who were professionals, that is, they charge money for their time. Then, I contacted every one of them, which is easy, since, as they are consultants you can find them and their e-mail addresses and they answer it because that’s their sales line. So, it’s very easy to contact people who are professionals in the field. So, I would send an e-mail to each one, and this is what I’d say exactly. I’d say, “Hey, we’re thinking of building these new tools for WordPress.

You are exactly the kind of person who we’d want to use these tools. I would love to get your opinion on what you’re doing because it seems like you’re someone who’s doing something nice in the world and I care what you think. I also know that you’re a consultant and you have an hourly rate, and I’m happy to pay for your time, in fact, you can quote any rate you want since this is just a one off. If you want to charge $200 an hour for the one call, I’m okay with that because I’m not just trying to “pick your brain”, I will compensate you for your valuable time but I really want to know what you think.”

Here’s the result, I had 30 hours of interviews, because I literally logged them so I know. One hundred percent of them agreed to the interview, and one hundred percent of them said “Oh, you don’t have to pay me. This would be fine.” OK? This is why I’m saying anyone could do it. And, by the way, they didn’t really know who I was per se, because I didn’t come through a blog.

Discussion of the growing pains associated with WP Engine are discussed in detail, what worked and what didn’t.  If every business did this we would all learn so much.

This blog is hosted on WP Engine and I have seen those growing pains first hand.  During the early months it seemed this blog was down more than it was up.  Support at the company was what kept me from pulling the plug, fast response and even when they didn’t have an answer they were transparent and explained the issues were not resolved.  I’m sure I have needed more support than most others but each time WP Engine support is there, willing to help and solve the problem. This kept me as a customer.

Other areas which hit home that Jason discussed:

  • Partners
  • Transparency
  • Marketing
  • Contracting
  • Assistants
  • Giving Up

Anyone who has an idea or is struggling getting to the next level should take the time to listen to this interview, maybe even twice.  Take notes and try some things out.  I would call this episode a blueprint for business.

Running a Lifestyle Business – Tom Rossi Interview on Mixergy

UPDATE: There is a really good discussion about the interview on Hacker News.  Check it out.

I really love listening to realistic entrepreneurs.  The ones with practical advice based on years of experience who can clearly explain why they chose their path.  This contrasts with the ones who are out to be the next Mark Zuckerberg.  I’m not saying it can’t happen, it just doesn’t happen to most of us, like winning the lottery or becoming President. 

The main goal taught by Amy Hoy in her 30×500 Launch class is finding a group of people willing to pay you $30 a month to solve a particular problem for them really well.   When you find 500 people paying $30 you have a nice annual income of $180,00, a nice chunk of change to service a small market.

A great example of this type of entrepreneur was featured recently in Mixergy’s great interview with Tom Rossi of Molehill.  Tom created such a business with a couple products where people pay him a small sum of money for each month.  Tom, in return, he has a great lifestyle business.

A lifestyle business, in my definition, is a business where you work from home and earn a healthy living where you can come and go as you please, making your own schedule. 

From the interview, Tom is asked if running a business is not about “millions and billions of dollars, then what is it about?”:

Well, I think it’s about life. Life isn’t found in those things. We can have all the money in the world, but what are we going to do with it? Where are we going to find happiness? And so, for us, my co-founder, Kevin Finn, and I, we went into it with the idea of we wanted our business to support us in life, not our life to support our business. And sometimes it’s hard for people to relate to that because they go into it with this idea of how can we make the most money, whereas we went in with how can I have the most freedom? All of our kids, each of us have three kids. They are not even in kindergarten. My oldest is in first grade. Most of them are younger than kindergarten, and we want to be there. We want to be around. We want to be in the house. We want to have freedom to be able to go up there for lunch or go on a field trip with our kids and things like that.

Listening to Tom’s story mirrors my goals and plans so closely that I found this interview especially valuable.  Please listen to his story and decide for yourself:

Tom is a seasoned entrepreneur who chose a lifestyle business over one chasing the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  I see so many folks trying to be the next Facebook or Google but failing to realize the odds of hitting that lottery are very small.  The path Tom takes, which resembles mine in so many ways, is doing work you love while making a decent living and being afforded the time to enjoy life.
I think many entrepreneurs realize it is better to make a good living doing something you love which gives you the time for the other great parts of your life.