Two part special! In part one, the guys chat about decision making in a siloed company structure and the challenges of making sure everyone is on the same page. That's not all! More details about the secret Honeybadger conclaves are leaked, dirty laundry is aired about the logo scandal that shook the company to its core, and America's favorite Honeybadger is revealed!
Ben: 00:00 Yeah, maybe you want to omit that from the whole thing because we probably don't want the FBI come and knock on the door and ask us, "Hey, what other customers that we have here might be...
Josh: 00:08 I like that it's a good story and...
Announcer: 00:10 So did those guys really name their app after a meme? Huh? Buckle up, fellow kids. It's time for Founder Quest.
Josh: 00:20 I mean, okay. Once you get that Trump tweet out there it brings down the hammer on you.
Ben: 00:26 No collusion.
Josh: 00:28 I like the Ben Findley's suggestion that we kind of just put out a no collusion preemptively. Like, you know a disclaimer tweet.
Ben: 00:34 Right, right.
Starr: 00:36 That works. That's law.
Josh: 00:38 Right? Yeah. I think it is.
Starr: 00:40 It's like calling shotgun.
Josh: 00:40 Right? Yeah. Just call no collusion ahead of time.
Starr: 00:46 I just wrote a message to my friend, the orthodontist to ask her about how people sell stuff to orthodontists.
Ben: 00:51 Direct mail, direct mail.
Ben: 00:54 I've always wanted to do direct mail, like designing postcards and putting them in the mail.
Starr: 01:01 You know, I'll give it to you. Like direct mail does have this sort of appeal to it, but also it's like I've never actually bought anything from direct mail. I don't think.
Josh: 01:07 You know what's big business in direct mail, is political mailers.
Starr: 01:13 Oh yeah. So let's get into those. So my friend... I'm just going to describe this in case we decided to put it in the podcast. My friend, the orthodontist, was described a marketing issue that they have. They have to do this process manually, and it's real pain in the ass. It doesn't really map well to any generic marketing solutions because they have to coordinate between a prospect who's also a patient.
Starr: 01:36 So it was medical stuff involved. They have to get in touch with their dentist, and so there's like a two party thing happening. And she's like, "Yeah, you should build me this software."
Starr: 01:45 So I just messaged her and was like, "Okay, so how do people actually buy software in orthodontist land? Do people come and like demo it for them? When they buy do they come back, and then train the staff?" Because all that stuff just sounds like a lot of work, boys. Like I don't know how to do that.
Ben: 02:06 Well. That's pretty easy to do, but yeah, that's a lot of work.
Starr: 02:08 No, I mean I would know how to do it, but I don't know how to like manage people to do it. You know what I mean?
Ben: 02:14 Wouldn't it be wild to have like a fleet of reps out across the country, out showing software and like a real enterprise-y business. On that note, an area of software sales that I've always found interesting and intriguing is school systems. Like they had the most horrendous software ,and I'm pretty sure it's only because they have to deal with companies that have to deal with their purchasing process.
Ben: 02:39 And so these companies are like, "You know what, because of your messed up purchasing process, I'm going to force you to use this craptacular software. Ha! Take that."
Starr: 02:48 Oh totally, totally. So my partner Evie was a... she used to do web stuff at this well-respected local university that I will not name. And it was just amazing hearing about the amount of money they were paying for a new CRM. Like a CRM in 2019, the University of Washington... Which is not the school that she worked at. It's much bigger than the school she worked at. Their CRM is WordPress, but no. This little private school has to have this weird enterprise-y CRM because it does all this things, meets all this requirements.
Starr: 03:28 It's like they're paying something like twenty thousand a month for it. Like, it's insane. It's insane.
Josh: 03:33 CRM or CMS?
Starr: 03:35 Oh shit. A CMS. I always get those confused. No wonder nobody calls me. No wonder I suck at sales, guys.
Ben: 03:42 You are not going to be a sales rep, Starr.
Starr: 03:44 No, I'm just publishing my sales leads for the world to see. I don't even realize it.
Ben: 03:52 We talked about Josh's food truck dream, and like one of my dreams once there's sunset money involved, and I don't really have to work anymore, what kind of things would I like to do? I think like volunteering to replace the craptacular software at schools is something that I would like to do.
Ben: 04:12 I'm just going to show up. I'm going to be the White Knight, I'm going to just replace all your bad software.
Josh: 04:18 Just set up shop in their basement.
Ben: 04:19 Exactly, and I'll ride off into the sunset, and everyone will be happy. Right?
Starr: 04:22 Oh, you poor boy. Like you're not going to be the White Knight. You're going to be Don Quixote.
Josh: 04:26 That sounds like a slow, terrible death to me.
Starr: 04:30 It does. You're going to be tilting at those windmills.
Ben: 04:35 But you know part of the motivation is listening to my sons deal with the software they have to deal with because all their teachers use this online software for managing the assignments. And you turn assignments in, and half the time they're like, "I can't turn in my homework because the site's down." Like, "Wow, gosh," you know, as a person building software for businesses to help them keep their sites up, that just makes my skin crawl. You know, my son can't turn in his homework because their site's down.
Josh: 05:04 It's crazy how many industries are left. Some of the more traditional industries are left in that situation though. It's not just education, I don't think. You hear that sort of story from a lot of different places like healthcare, and service, contractor type industries, and those sorts of things.
Josh: 05:22 We've talked about how it would be fun to do a company that serves an entirely different out of our wheelhouse type of industry. I mean it's kind of like totally the opposite of what we've been talking about over the last couple of months. But yeah, I think it would still be fun. If we wanted to throw everything out the window and just start over. Try to go after something new.
Starr: 05:48 The way to do it though, you have to bring somebody on board who knows that industry, right? You've got to have an insider, right?
Ben: 05:54 Yeah. I think we just put in the disclaimer right now. This is not official business advice, right? Don't throw away everything you all have experience you have and all the advantage you have and just...
Starr: 06:05 I don't think it's throwing away, Ben. I don't think it's throwing away because look, I think I said in one of the previous marketing shows, it's like, yeah, if I started a custom cabinet shop, I can out market the hell online out of all the custom cabinet shops. Because software as a service companies ,and just sort of online sales in general, is just a couple of decades ahead of just normal sort of mom and pop businesses, in terms of marketing.
Starr: 06:31 Like the product my friend was describing they were needing for their orthodontist practice. It sounds like something that's very... it's like something we would just sort of take for granted and just have Intercom do for us or whatever. But because there's some special requirements, you know, those things don't quite work.
Starr: 06:49 So I think it's not throwing away. I think it's like moving to a sort of smaller pond where you can be a bigger fish, and use your expertise as a fish to catch more things that fish catch.
Josh: 07:04 But you know-
Josh: 07:05 Worms, catching worms.
Josh: 07:06 I think the point that we're trying to make is that there that there's a lot of weird fish out there, and if you haven't spent a lot of time in the pond, you might not know what fish you're dealing with.
Starr: 07:18 Alright. So today we're going to talk about systems, right? We're programmers, we build systems for a living. We think in systems. We eat, breathe, and sleep systems. But you know, there's like a lot of systems that aren't really, they're not programs. They're just kind of these manual systems, or these sorts of systems of thinking about things, that we've put in place.
Starr: 07:40 So first of all, one thing that I've actually heard from people. People want to know because we're a company, we have three guys who have equal ownership. I don't think we're legally allowed to fire each other. So how do we... Oh, I saw you make that face, Ben. I saw you make that face.
Ben: 07:56 I was pondering, like how-
Josh: 07:57 He's like, "Well, I could find a way."
Starr: 07:59 This is going to turn into Game of Thrones, before you know it.
Starr: 08:04 So how do we make decisions?
Ben: 08:06 I think you know, to start off, one of the things to remember is that even though that we have different opinions about how to accomplish some things, and so we had to come up with a framework for dealing with that. I think if you back up a bit and say, but we all have the same long term goal, right? We have the same mentality when it comes to the kind of business we want to run, the kind of customers you want to serve. Basically, how we want things to look in general. Like we were on the same page from the beginning on that. So that helps resolve a lot of differences right there. Right?
Starr: 08:39 We all want to be the person who's sitting on the iron throne when the final credits run.
Ben: 08:43 So that helps. But you know, I think we kind of fell into it by accident from the start. Three developers, we had things we wanted to build, and Starr you fell into just doing the finance stuff because that was interesting to you. And Josh you were doing the client stuff because that's what we needed to have done. And I did the backend stuff because that was fun for me. Right?
Ben: 09:03 And so we got started, I think, accidentally, but it worked out really well. Just focusing on a particular area, I think that helped avoid a lot of stepping on each other's toes from the outset.
Starr: 09:13 Sometimes when people have asked how do you work together and what's your process, I was like at least earlier on, our process was kind of to not work together.
Josh: 09:24 It's just that we don't. You avoid all sorts of conflict if you just don't, if you don't work together ever.
Starr: 09:31 And it sounds bad, but I mean, you're building this business and there's so much work to do. There's so many different pieces of it where three guys can easily each have their own silo. And people say silos are bad and they do have their own problems. Yeah, you want to make it so that people can dip their toes into each other's silos. Initially, that worked pretty well, didn't it?
Josh: 09:56 Yeah. And I don't know, as someone who freelanced for pretty much their entire career, and I've always had a home office. I'm comfortable in my silo. So, yeah. It's nice in here guys.
Starr: 10:08 That's exactly how we approached it, essentially. We approached it like three freelancers who were just working on the same project.
Josh: 10:16 We didn't really want to change a whole lot, I don't think.
Ben: 10:18 But over time, you know, of course we have come to have disagreements about certain things. Have we talked about the logo experience before on the podcast?
Josh: 10:27 I don't know. I don't think we did.
Starr: 10:29 I don't know if it's the people are ready to hear.
Ben: 10:30 Yeah, I think that was the first major one where we all had some opinions. Right? And they weren't the same opinion. I think... We didn't let it formulate this plan, but I think what came out of that experience was like one of us has the ultimate responsibility for a decision, and whoever that person is, that person gets the final say like I guess they get the-
Starr: 10:54 Wait, who had the ultimate responsibility for that decision?
Ben: 10:56 That was you Starr, because you're all... Oh yeah. That was totally-
Starr: 11:00 I think we have very different memories of this. I don't really feel like I hold-
Josh: 11:05 I think the point was... I think the point that Ben is making is that you were supposed to, and we like, we like ripped that responsibility out of your hand, and tried to tell you what was up, and that's when we decided, okay, we need to have a process for who who's driving this ship or whatever.
Starr: 11:25 So a little backstory and a confession. Nobody really called us out on this. I really expected somebody to call us out on this, but for what, two or three years, our logo was a fun awesome icon. Like you know that that font that has a bunch of icons that just people use with bootstrap and stuff, it's free.
Starr: 11:47 It was just that, and it was a lightning bolt because I thought that'd be kind of cool. It doesn't have anything to do with honey badgers, but you know what? They didn't have a honey badger icon or I would have chosen that. It was just a fun, awesome icon.
Starr: 11:58 So, eventually, we were like making some money. I mean we should buy a real sort of logo. And what were some of the... I think I went to 99 Designs first, and everybody hated everything because there was all... weren't there some cartoon honey badgers involved at some point?
Josh: 12:16 Yeah. Yeah, it was a little. Like there were a lot of-
Ben: 12:18 Got into the weeds pretty quickly.
Josh: 12:20 A lot of duds in there. Yeah.
Starr: 12:21 Yeah. It's like stylize honey badger logos, and eventually we decided to go with somebody from... This freelancer we got off of Odesk. What's it called now? What's Odesk called now?
Ben: 12:35 Upwork.
Starr: 12:37 Upwork. Back then it was still Odesk. I think they're from Argentina, and they helped us out. Like they knocked out this logo, and I think we all liked that one.
Josh: 12:46 Yeah.
Ben: 12:47 Yeah.
Starr: 12:47 It's our current logo. It's a riff off the lightning bolt because we were just like, okay, nobody can agree on like these badger concepts. Let's just go back and make a fancier lightening bolt.
Josh: 12:58 Yeah, it's great because like there's absolutely no other company, that either then or now, that has a lightning bolt for a logo. It's really worked in our favor.
Starr: 13:10 Yeah, especially not a yellow or orange lightning bolts. And definitely none of our direct competitors have a logo in a very similar shade of orange.
Josh: 13:21 Yeah, either the border... where we really stand out is the border, I think. You know, around the lightning bolt? Because ours is a diamond, and everyone else is like a square or a circle or something.
Starr: 13:36 Yeah, I think we've got a couple of... Maybe there was a hexagon involved.
Ben: 13:38 Diamonds are forever.
Starr: 13:39 So, yeah. That's one example of a sort of dispute that we had. And frankly there was no system involved in resolving that. It was just, we just all thought about it until we were just exhausted of fighting about it.
Ben: 13:55 Yeah, basically.
Starr: 13:55 And then we basically resolved never to change the logo again. Like that's something I'm never going to do. I'm sorry, I don't care if it starts to look dated in another 10 years. I'm not going to do it. Like I'm going to sell the company before I change the logo.
Josh: 14:10 That's like classic brand advice too though. Like you never want to change the logo no matter how bad it is because people just know it. People wouldn't know Honeybadger if they didn't see our wonderful logo.
Ben: 14:22 I was just thinking about the Slack logo. It's like I definitely don't want the Internet to bring out their pitchforks when we change our logo.
Starr: 14:29 Oh, yeah. They do, man. They do.
Josh: 14:32 They do. And I guess like if you're going to do it, there's been a few that have done it, but most of them are like Slack sizer or larger, it seems.
Starr: 14:41 Well I guess. Let me step back. The logo thing was an example of just a dispute about a specific thing. But we also, I think, found ourselves kind of drifting towards pulling the company in different directions almost, right? Because we're all kind of working on things that we personally wanted to work on, and we all had our own sort of ideas of where the company was going and that's understandable. But we didn't really have much coordination like between us, or making sure we're all on the same page or whatever. Eventually that was kind of difficult because we're all sort of on different pages. And I think that's when we instituted the system of the quarterly conclave.
Ben: 15:20 Yeah, I think our silos got a little too far apart there. So we decided we had to coordinate with better-
Josh: 15:26 Yeah, well, and we realized that while the silos work pretty well for actually getting a lot of work done, they don't work well for coordinating, moving in the same direction. I think we found that we needed to have somewhere where we actually decided on larger big picture things that we wanted to happen in the company. Otherwise, it was just going to keep drifting in whatever direction the three of us each would pull it. That's when we started the conclave, and meeting up on a regular basis.
Starr: 15:55 Yeah, so first we just did the meetups. We call them conclaves as a joke because we sort of go into seclusion for a day, have a day long meeting at an undisclosed location. It's varied right now. We meet at an undisclosed location that is a converted bank fault. I've posted about that on Twitter.
Starr: 16:12 Yeah, we have a day long meeting, and at first it was just us in a room talking in each other, but eventually we kind of... I think based on some books we came up with a system for like what we do. Should we go through like what a typical conclave involves?
Josh: 16:32 We first got the idea from... We all read a book called Scale. I had it here. Which one was it? It was a Scale: Seven Proven Principles To Grow Your Business And Get Your Life Back by Jeff Hoffman and David Finkel.
Starr: 16:46 I think I may have gotten that from the Tropical MBA podcast.
Josh: 16:50 I believe... I think at least one of those guys, is he Tropical MBA? I don't know.
Starr: 16:57 I don't think he wrote the book, but they recommended a lot of books. It's about these guys, they built a business manufacturing fancy cat furniture, you know, like stuff for cats. So they moved to Asia so they could oversee the manufacturing of it, and live this baller lifestyle. Then they moved on and started making portable bars for events, I guess, whatever. Then they sold those companies. Anyway, lots of good advice.
Josh: 17:27 Well, I remember reading... I've read some books by them, and one of the ones we read recently was After The Exit, I think. That was pretty interesting. It was kind of like a devil's advocate view of selling their business. That was kind of interesting for me. And if you're in a bootstrap company, it's interesting to think about what happens if you did sell. Are you happy with just money versus having a business that you love?
Starr: 17:57 Yeah. Like the point of that book was like everybody focuses on selling your business. But a lot of times when you sell your business, you wish you hadn't.
Josh: 18:05 Yeah, and there's like a period of grief that you have to go through, that a lot of founders go through. It was interesting.
Starr: 18:12 So anyway, what does this book Scale, what did we get from that?
Josh: 18:15 I mean, it was a fairly practical book. They have an actual process, planning processes and things, and basically a system for building a company that runs itself without being reliant on the founders. And I think that's what we've kind of always wanted. You know, to some extent we would like to have a machine that works when we go on vacation or whatever. We don't want to be stuck doing things. We don't want the business to fall apart if we go away for a while, or forever. It doesn't really matter, it's kind of the point. Scale was a system for that.
Josh: 18:52 There's a lot of other books out there that kind of have similar things. Like it seems like there's a lot of people who have written this book based on their own particular experiences. There's other ones I've seen. I know there's also one called Scaling Up, which is pretty similar.
Ben: 19:06 Yeah, I just remember initially we didn't have any of that in mind. Right? We were just building something we wanted, and wanted to make some money, and that was good enough. But at some point it was like... And Josh was really, as I recall, really pushing this. Like, "I want a system for the business so that we're not always working in the business." Right? To make it extend past us.
Starr: 19:27 You know, I had actually forgotten that the book Scale had a bunch of that stuff because what we took from it was mostly the quarterly planning system, but it has a bunch of other stuff too. So what does a quarterly planning, like how does that work, and how have we changed that sort of over... Have we modified it at all?
Josh: 19:46 Ours has become a lot looser than is in the book. I've read through a number of these types of books now, and like I said, there's a lot of them that kind of echo each other in different ways. And I think every business needs to figure out what system actually works for it specifically. And I think everyone will take... you can take things from different places and kind of build your own way of doing things. But we're still pretty, we're loosely based on the system in that book.
Josh: 20:17 But I think most of what we do is, basically, it's called a quarterly action plan. It's basically just a template document that we use to kind of help us go through what our goals are for the business at this moment in time, and then translate that into some like actionable things that we can do throughout a single quarter. So we do this like four times a year, and that's a really good pace for planning strategic goals, I think. It's kind of like you've got the annual and then the quarterly planning cycle. It helps keep us on track, in the bigger picture sense.
Starr: 20:52 The first step in our sort of modified version of it... Because, I mean, books like Scale and I don't know books about scaling up, a lot of times they're talking about much larger companies than we have. You're talking about setting goals for divisions, and departments, and things. It's like we don't really have those. We've got, at the time, we had three people and now we have five people. There's really no divisions. We had to modify it, and make it a little bit more flexible.
Starr: 21:18 The first step in our quarterly planning process is we decide focus areas that we're going to focus on for the quarter. Right? How many of those would you usually do? Like three?
Josh: 21:30 Try to keep it to three. It's three focus areas, and each focus area has up to five individual items within it that we want to tackle.
Starr: 21:40 What's a focus area? What's a couple of examples?
Josh: 21:42 So a focus area could be, say, acquisition.
Starr: 21:46 Like customer acquisition?
Josh: 21:48 Yeah, like customer acquisition. I think like lately ours, they haven't changed very much typically. We have customer acquisition, and we have product usually because there's, at least lately, we've been wanting to do things in those two areas.
Ben: 22:04 Few years ago we had problems around ops, right, when we were feeling the pain of our hosting company, and we wanted to move to Amazon, and that was like a multi-quarter project. But that was one of the things that we set as an action plan for a couple of conclaves. Right? Here are the steps because it was a bit of a process. So here are the steps we want to accomplish this quarter so that we can be set up to do X, Y, and Z next quarter. It's been really helpful to have those action plans in place for the things that take longer than a month or week, or that we know it's going to take awhile.
Josh: 22:37 Yeah, that kind of proves that it actually works too. Because I remember back then for even a year or more, operations was one of our focus areas. That was like the top one. It didn't go away, and now today I don't remember the last meeting that we had that was operations that was on the sheet.
Starr: 22:58 That's true. So we've defined our focus areas. They could be marketing, it could be retention, it could be operations, it could be, I don't know, hiring. There's lots of different things, sort of these big broad categories. And then we set up to, I don't know, three to five items per section. These are, these are not like little to do items. These are things that it would take a quarter of somebody working part time on them. What are some examples of those?
Starr: 23:27 So, like my last quarter, one of my things was set up this podcast and get it going. And believe you me, there's a lot of work involved in setting up a podcast. So that was a pretty good thing to have a quarter to do.
Josh: 23:41 And that was like one item. These are very broad things. It's not like... It's not small. It's not like a to do list.
Starr: 23:48 And then most importantly, like each of those items is assigned to a person who is the person responsible for it. There's no confusion about who's going to do what. I mean, we don't always get them done. We don't always finish what we started or what we set out to do because sometimes things pop up and prevent us from doing that.
Starr: 24:05 But man, I gotta tell you I love this system because before that, I was so stressed out because I didn't really know what you guys expected me to be doing on, working on versus what I just happened to be working on. I didn't really know like how what I was doing sort of maps to the overall strategy of the company. It was just very vague and stress inducing, but now it's like I'm not sure what I should be doing. Okay. Let me look at my list of three quarterly goals. Okay. I'm just going to work on one of those.
Josh: 24:31 One of the other things I liked from the Scale book that kind of helps us come up with those sub items within the action plan is the sweet spot analysis.
Starr: 24:41 Oh, what's that? I forgot all about that.
Josh: 24:43 We don't always do it exactly like they have in the book because they actually have printout templates and stuff that you can use. I think this is more just like a way of thinking now that we use versus like an actual system. But the sweet spot analysis, it had to do with low hanging fruit, and the... Basically, finding things to do in the business that are both low hanging so that it's not like a ton of work to accomplish them.
Josh: 25:13 You might be able to knock them out in a quarter or less, or even maybe a week or a day. So the combination of that, it's easy to get done but it also will have a high impact on the business or on whatever your immediate goal is. So you can kind of like make a big list of all these ideas of things you could do in a quarter, and then basically score it against... Is it low hanging fruit, and what is the impact on the business or on what we're trying to accomplish? It gives you a weighted list of things to do, and you kind of just start with the top.
Starr: 25:47 So the sweet spot analysis is a way to populate your list of tasks to do.
Starr: 25:53 Yeah. Per action items. So you find like... You make a big list of everything you could do. Then you figure out, okay, which is going to give you the most impact for the least amount of effort, and then you do those things first.
Ben: 26:03 Yeah, there are other ways that this represented... Some people use a quadrant kind of chart where it's four quadrants where they map effort versus impact, right? Basically, like you said Starr, that's the idea. What are the low effort things that get the most high impact. And you definitely don't want to spend time on the high effort things that have low impact. Right?
Starr: 26:22 I don't know. We've done a couple of those.
Ben: 26:23 We have.
Starr: 26:24 That could be a separate show. It could be our anti-planning show.
Josh: 26:30 A lot of those were probably before we started doing this, and maybe are the reason we started doing this.
Starr: 26:35 Oh, that's a good point.
Josh: 26:36 Yeah.
Ben: 26:40 I think one of the other benefits of the plan that we do is, you know, being customer driven sometimes means we are reactionary. Like a customer comes up with something, or something just happens, and we have to deal with that. And I know for me, it's easy to get distracted with the day to day things. You just need to be done. Sometimes I forget, I lose sight of the larger picture of the things I'm trying to accomplish. Right? Like Starr saying, going back to that quarterly plan, looking, "Oh, what are my goals for this quarter?," helps get me recentered, refocused back on the things I want to be doing rather than just the things that pop up in my face.
Starr: 27:10 So we did this, we implemented the system based on primarily the Scale book. Our quarterly meetings, or quarterly conclaves, we set out these plans. And that's all great, but I started to notice there was this one sort of problem and that we discuss a lot of things at these meetings that weren't necessarily part of the quarterly action plans. Right? You've got to make a lot of decisions in business, and some of those they involve a lot of money. They involve directions for the business to go in, and I started to notice it was very difficult for me to personally tell when something was, "Are we just brainstorming?" versus "Are we making a decision here?"
Starr: 27:52 So are we just talking about potential budgets for hiring somebody, for buying something, whatever, or are we actually making a decision to budget certain money?
Josh: 28:03 Yeah, because Ben and I love to brainstorm.
Starr: 28:05 Yeah, you guys do. You guys do. And my general mode of working typically has been if I say I think this might be an okay course of action, I've probably spent two weeks thinking about it and I've decided, yes, this is 100% the best course of action. There's a little bit of mismatch there and the impedance. I came up with this voting system.
Starr: 28:29 It's really simple. I mean, it's just like what'd you would imagine, right? Essentially, for big decisions, like budgets and things like that, we have-
Josh: 28:38 First, you put on your powdered wigs.
Starr: 28:43 Yes. We have to put on powdered wigs. First things first. We're not like barristers, we're not. Do you put on a powdered wig when you go to vote for president, Josh? I hope so.
Josh: 28:54 Yeah, every four years. Yeah.
Starr: 28:56 So if we want to change the budget, if we want to do anything sort of big, involves a lot of money, involves a change in business, involves hiring people, etc., we write up a proposal for it. And we have a place in Basecamp where we have all these. You post it in Basecamp, then there's some comments because usually even when everybody knows we're making a decision, people remember that decisions slightly differently. People sort of just completely honestly emphasize different parts of it. So a lot of times you end up thinking you're in agreement, but you're actually kind of have different ideas about what that means.
Starr: 29:33 Then later on, when somebody does something different, you're like, "Well, I thought we agreed on this and we're doing something different now." When in fact there was never really an agreement. So you write up a proposal, and then you hash it out in the comments, make sure everybody really understands what that all means. Then there's just a straight vote on it, right? Either it's unanimous or it's not. So that, as simple as it is, it's really made my life less stressful because now I know if there's a big decision being made, it's going to be in the voting booth. So I can just brainstorm with these guys or whatever, and I don't have to worry about am I committing myself to something.
Josh: 30:12 The thing that I've really appreciated about that particular system is the documentation aspect of it. You kind of talked about that a little bit just now, but it really helps to get things documented and down on paper because like you said, they do tend to... How we see them tends to drift over time. If we have something that we can go back to and refresh ourselves on, that's really helpful.
Starr: 30:34 That's true. It's very nice to be able to say, "Okay, what was our marketing budget again?" And you go and you can just look it up. It's right there.
Josh: 30:42 I still want to get you a gavel, Starr.
Starr: 30:44 Oh yeah. I mean I have a gavel emoji. Isn't that good enough?
Josh: 30:48 Well, you've got the emoji. I just want to get you like a physical gavel.
Ben: 30:53 Alright. Just one of the things I think is interesting about the voting booth is that it didn't feel natural to me, right? Like we've always kind of run the business pretty loosely. And I guess this comes down to the difference, like you're talking about, and how we think about things. Like Josh and I were pretty much off the cuff. I'm like, "Hey, let's go do that thing," and then we'd go off and we do that, right? And Starr you'd like to think about things a bit more, I guess, than we do.
Ben: 31:15 So the voting booth really felt to me like a whole lot of friction was added to the process. And so initially I was like, I just don't even want to deal with it. I mean, come on, we can just agree. Right? But the points that you made I think have proven out over time. Like I've seen the value there. So I think it's okay to introduce some things into the business that you might not love. Right? If it really does make it better for everyone that's involved.
Josh: 31:40 Yeah.
Starr: 31:40 I'm so glad. I'm so glad it seemed... it sort of proven itself to be useful to you. And I mean, we're talking about like four or five votes a year. We haven't done one in a while. The last one we did was to set a budget for hiring.
Ben: 31:56 And that was good because we had some, as you said, we had some differences of recollection of what we agreed to do. Like when we had our conclave, right? So documenting that, said no, this is exactly what we mean, and what we plan to do.
Josh: 32:09 We've talked for like half an hour about this. Did you guys want to go ahead and keep talking? We can maybe split it into a to be continued second episode?
Ben: 32:19 Yeah, I think we could split it into a second episode because the documentation thing, documenting the business, that's a pretty good segue into not just documenting stuff for day to day use, but also in light of what you might be thinking for selling your business. right, and getting plans down. And then also we could talk about documenting how you do your business everyday, like ops stuff, and the customer support stuff, and things like that.
Starr: 32:43 Yeah, totally.
Ben: 32:44 We could talk for quite a while on that stuff I think?
Starr: 32:46 Are you guys down to do that for another half an hour?
Josh: 32:48 Yeah.
Ben: 32:49 Yeah. Whatever.
Starr: 32:50 Okay, cool. Can I take a bathroom break?
Josh: 32:56 Yeah.
Josh: 32:57 No, Starr, you cannot. We have to keep going.
Ben: 33:02 Find a bottle.
Starr: 33:04 That's a hell of a cliff hanger. Hey, everybody, this is Starr, America's favorite Honeybadger. I can say that because Ben and Josh are off at RailsConf doing their conference marketing thing, and I'm stuck here at Honeybadger headquarters editing this show for you guys.
Starr: 33:17 Stay tuned next week for part two of this episode, and in the meantime, why don't y'all just head over to iTunes and give us one of those little five star reviews that everybody's been talking about. Just go over, you know, hit number five for us, and you know what? If you start a podcast, just email me and I'll do the same thing for you. So no collusion. Peace.
Announcer: 33:37 FounderQuest is a weekly podcast by the founders of Honeybadger. Zero instrumentation. 360 degree coverage of errors. Outages and service degradations for your web apps. If you have web app, you need it. Available at https://www.honeybadger.io/. Want more from the founders? Go to https://www.founderquestpodcast.com/. That's one word. You can access our huge back catalog, or sign up for our newsletter to get exclusive, VIP content. FounderQuest is available on iTunes, Spotify, and other purveyors of fine podcasts. We'll see you next week.
What is FounderQuest?
Three developers building a software business on our own terms.