Software Social

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Summary

Alex Hillman grabs a chair and joins our table for this special episode. We talk about his new book, The Tiny MBA.

Show Notes

Michele Hansen 
Welcome to the Software Social podcast. I'm Michele Hansen.

Colleen Schnettler
And I'm Colleen Schnettler.

Alex Hillman
And I'm Alex Hillman.

Michele Hansen 
And we have a special guest with us today, which is very exciting. Alex has recently released a book called The Tiny MBA. Colleen and I have both read it and we are super excited to talk to you today, Alex.

Alex Hillman
Um, thank you for having me. I've been enjoying listening to this show. And I feel like I got invited to the the cool kids lunch table to hang out and and talk business. So um, thank you.

Michele Hansen  
Yeah, so let's dive in. So so the book, I really like how you structured it with a bunch of sort of a bunch of nuggets of wisdom, many of which you get the sense that those were hard won on your behalf.

Alex Hillman
Yeah, the hard won is a good way to describe it. And I think talking to folks have since read it, a lot of folks find themselves nodding along nodding long and going, "Oof, ouch. Yeah, I've been there for that one. I wish I had heard that one sooner." And so I think for folks that haven't encountered it yet, there's maybe some warning signs. 

And then on the other side, it's it's stuff that I think people do know, including myself, but don't necessarily hear or hear often. And sometimes they just need a reminder or to hear it in a new way. So one of my favorite ways I've heard this book described so far was from a friend of mine, who is a pretty storied entrepreneur and has spent time in sort of all different categories. He's done the big venture back thing. He's done small bootstrap stuff. He's done publishing, he's done software. And he really, really enjoyed he's even been involved in reading books with entrepreneurs, so he's sort of seen behind the scenes. And he, he's like, this book is so different from other business books and there's sort of three kinds of lessons: There's one third is stuff that maybe you've heard before, but it's in kind of a new way. You know, the constraints of these, you know, everything about a thing is kind of on one page. And you don't even have the whole page in really any case, it's really a couple of sentences. There's another third, that is what he called next level thinking. And I'm not super comfortable calling it that, but what he was really describing was more, you know, a different way of seeing a thing that people have a sort of a commonly held perspective. And this was an alternative that is maybe equally true, but less commonly heard. And the third part was a kick in the ass, and something that he's heard before but needed to hear or needed to hear in a different way and to challenge himself and go, why am I doing this the hard way? And, yeah, I mean, it's, I think there are books out there that do each of those things, but it's been really nice to hear from folks that are at lots of different stages of their business, that it can do one or all of those things kind of in one sitting.

Colleen Schnettler
So Alex, you talk a lot about psychology in the book. One of the quotes is the most valuable books aren't business books. They're books about human psychology. So, you know, my background is engineering and development. And I know a lot of your audience I believe, as well. And I, I was just like, man, now I gotta learn about humans? That sounds really hard.

Alex Hillman
Yeah, I'm curious, like, Why? Why does that seem hard to you? Because I hear that and I feel that and look, people are frickin weird. So I get it. But like, from your perspective...

Michele Hansen  
I love how weird they are!

Alex Hillman
I do too. I do too. From from you, like when you say? Like, what's, how does that read for you? Like, what it what actually makes it feel hard to you?

Colleen Schnettler
Well, I already feel like I'm better with humans and most developers, but still like they're just humans are tough. I mean, they're just irrational. And you know, they don't make logical decisions. And so trying to get in someone's head and find out like, like, what I took away from the book is I really need to figure out how I'm providing value to my customers. And you know, you really just want to make them happy, which is something I've talked about with Michele before too, like you, you want them to feel like they're winning. But then I just, I just really struggle with like understanding human psychology when you get people who really aren't logical thinkers.

Alex Hillman 
Yeah, yeah. Well, I think there to your point, there's, there's the rational behavior and the irrational behavior, and which one someone's gonna be deploying at any given moment is not always consistent.

One of my favorite ways to think about psychology is -- because I come from a software development background as well. I didn't explain, I kind of said that in the book, I guess. But one of the reasons I find psychology fascinating is it's kind of like having a debugger for people because people break in wildly unpredictable ways, but they do it at wildly predictable times. Or sometimes it's the other way around, they break in unpredictable times, but in relatively predictable ways. Or no, I say break. It's not always bad things, they respond positively, consistently, just not always in the exact same way. So, you know, for, for me programming kind of clicked when I realized, "Oh, this is about patterns, right patterns and, and systems." And if you start thinking about people as patterns and systems also, I don't, I mean, I think you can get pretty far into the weeds with psychology and things that are useful, but maybe not instantly deployable. If you really just think about what are people's behaviors as patterns, like it's not just what do they do. And it's, it's also why do they do it? And then is there any consistency to why they do things or is there inconsistent consistency? And if there's inconsistency is there consistency within the consistency, so you can start to see how when you sort of pull apart the layers, it really does start feel like debugging a person.

And, you know, I think one of the other pieces is sometimes you're debugging yourself. It's like, "Am I making a decision or not doing a thing because of my own psychology?" I think that in some cases is even harder. However, I also think, you know, one of my favorite books and it's recommended in in the Tiny MBA is a book called Just Listen by an author named Mark Goulston. And Mark is a clinical psychologist. But the reason he's famous for -- famous enough to write a book that I would be recommending in a business book -- is he's a lead hostage negotiator, trainer for the FBI. And in the book, he talks about sort of the neuroscience of why we, why it's hard to listen and and why it's hard to get other people to listen to us in a really, really systematic way. And he teaches you some really specific techniques for, and he uses, he teaches these techniques to hostage negotiators. And he also uses them in his private practice with, you know, husbands and partners and wives and families who aren't talking to each other. It's all the same basics, you know, brain science, but he does this, this interesting thing where, you know, it's not a good idea to teach somebody a psychology tool, and then have them go use it on their friends and family. Bad things are likely to happen. But instead he teaches you how to use these tools on yourself. And by practicing them on yourself, you start recognizing your own internal voice, your own internal conflict when you're not listening to yourself. And you get to sort of practice the techniques in the book on yourself before you ever take it to your partner or your kid or your teammates or a client, whatever it is. So it's really, really hard. Really treats it like debugging. He frames the process. It's a 10 step process called from "Oh, fuck" to "Okay." And step one, before you do anything with the other person is figuring out where on that process of conflict they are. And you can't get somebody from oh fuck => okay if "Oh fuck" is a 10, you've got to get them to a nine, then from a nine to an eight and eight to a seven. And if you don't sort of go through those stages, it becomes difficult if it's possible at all, to get somebody to do a thing. And he's all like, you can't get somebody to do a thing they don't want to do you have to figure out what they do want to do, and align your interests with theirs. And that's where I think things come back to business. You can't make somebody buy something they don't want to buy. What you can do is figure out what somebody's interests are, what they care about, how they think about it, how they communicate it, earn their trust and prove to them that you're aligned and then you're not convincing them to buy anything, you're showing them that you are going to help them do a thing that they already want to do. And these are the steps to do it.

Michele Hansen 
I'm totally gonna have to read that book now.

Colleen Schnettler 
I was just thinking that I'm definitely reading that book.

Michele Hansen 
You know, so when I was reading the book, I also highlighted that quote, Colleen. But when I saw that there was a reference for a book, and in it, my first thought was, oh, I wonder if this is going to be Thinking Fast and Slow, which is one of my favorite books about irrational thinking and understanding when people are making these sort of rational irrational decisions, how contextual those are and the psychology of it. And so actually, I like flipped to the to the to the end of it being like, Oh, this is like totally Thinking Fast and Slow, and it wasn't and I was very surprised. And now I'm delighted and definitely gonna go check out that book. I'm curious, Alex, if you've read that I have

Alex Hillman 
Thinking Fast and Slow is an absolute favorite. I was kind of intentional about picking my book recommendations, too. To try and give folks stuff that they might not come across in another another setting, they think Thinking Fast and Slow is a common recommendation among business books, even though it is absolutely yeah, yeah. And so, you know, Just Listen, I don't think is positioned as a business book at all. But my actual my favorite interaction, I recommended it to my brother in law who's in, he's in advertising sales. So like, maybe and he would be okay with me saying this, maybe some of the slimy sales that exist some on the planet. And, but he's, he's an honest guy, and he's really good at his job. And he loved the way this book broke down. The psychology of what he experiences in building sales relationships. So I think it's an uncommon business book. But I think it's useful to to lots of different kinds of business people.

Michele Hansen 
Yeah. And so speaking of sales, and marketing, one of the quotes that I find myself thinking about is, if done well, teaching and marketing can be nearly indistinguishable from one another.

Alex Hillman 
What does that show up for for you? Like? I mean, sounds like that's it, you said it resonates with you and you think about that? Is that how you approach your marketing? Or what? What about that quote landed for you?

Michele Hansen 
I think there's a lot of truth in it. And earlier this week, I came across a tool for the first time called Bubble, which Colleen might be familiar with, since it's a no code tool. And what was so impressive about it was, you know I went to their site bubble.io, and a lot of their marketing is, like tutorials on how to create other sites. So it's like how to create Uber with with Bubble and no code or how to create Netflix or how to create like Hulu like all of these like different things I didn't even think would be possible, and it's just a tutorial guide on how to do it. And it was so cool because I came to that site for the first time and I was like, What is this? Like, what can I even do with it? And then it's like, Okay, this seems really powerful but it's kind of intimidating. And then getting to that point with all of those different use case tutorials was like, wow, this is like super cool. Like I could do this if I wanted to. And it really was education as marketing and you know, meeting someone, someone where they are and marketing not having to be this, you know, slimy thing that like some people have to engage in but it really just being genuine education about a tool, helping you do something you already want to do, but do it better.

Alex Hillman
Yeah, that's such a really great example for a couple of reasons. The first thing that stands out to me is, you know, anytime I'm I buy something new, or like a new piece of software, a new piece of technology, a new really anything, or if I'm trying to do like home repair the like, I almost never go to Google anymore. I go to YouTube. Because YouTube is like the biggest searchable compendium of how to do literally anything, like I needed to figure out how to diagnose a problem with my dryer, right? I was able to find a video not of how to fix it, how to figure out what was broken, I was able to learn that in like seven minutes on YouTube, and you know, that was a DIY person doing it. But if you think about that is a really common pattern for a lot of people, is to look up how to do a thing and if I'm looking at how to do a thing, I'm not necessarily looking for a product but if I learn a thing...if I have a problem and you teach me how to do it. The next time I have a problem even kinda like a guest who I'm going to think of you because you helped me last time.

I built a deck this summer, turning quarantine. I've never built a deck before, I'm not as handy as I might be making myself sound, and I'm the -- before we built the deck, I was doing some research on YouTube, you know, techniques, process materials. And I watched somebody who, there's no way that person was smarter than me, build a deck in very similar scenario with like, uneven ground. And here's the thing. Home Depot and Lowe's also had videos about how to build a deck. And I watched these very polished, professionally shot videos, show me how to build a deck in perfect conditions, with all the right tools, and everything comes out perfectly. And I watched them and I go, no way. I just don't think it's gonna work that way and like, and so I went looking for others. And meanwhile, I find another video from a person who runs into problems, solves those problems, I get to kind of watch them go through it. I trust that video more. In effect, I was selling a guide or have referral links to products I would click those links because he earned my trust.

So I think about what is the job of marketing, why do we do marketing, I think there's two two reasons. One is to get the word out about our thing, right? That is the sort of the top level, the top line goal. But once somebody has heard about your thing, is that enough not to make a sale, even if they really want the thing. People are looking at their money, they're looking at their bank account, they're looking at the thing going, how badly do I want it? Do I want to spend that money? Do I? Is this really going to do the job? But if you've earned their trust, with a tutorial video that makes them believe, "Oh, I've now seen it done by someone who's not any smarter than me, if they can do it, I can do it." If you've got somebody in the mindset of if they can do it, I can do it. And their wallet is anywhere nearby, you're so much closer to a sale than if they simply knew you existed. So the last piece about that is you know, we're sitting here talking about it, right. And so when somebody learns something, and they get a win, they trust you they feel good about themselves, and they're going to talk about that experience. And that's that elusive word of mouth marketing that people want. How do you generate that? You get people to talk about their wins, not your product. And that's kind of counterintuitive to figure out, like, how do you engineer that? There's no shortcut to earning trust and making that happen. But the closest thing to a predictable path to make it even possible, I think is is teaching people something that they already want to learn.

Michele Hansen 
Yeah, absolutely.

Colleen Schnettler
Still talking about people. I feel like we're doing a lot of talking about people, which is an interesting, you know, outcome of this book. So you have this question about money psychology. And I know we already talked a little bit about human psychology, but you said, if I gave you this same assignment to make $5,000 in the next seven days, how would that make you feel? And so I read that and I thought, how is that supposed to make me feel?

Alex Hillman 
Well...

Colleen Schnettler
Terrified! It makes you feel terrible, Alex.

Alex Hillman 
Excellent. I think that's, that's I mean, the goal of the question is not to make you feel terrified. The goal of the question is to make you aware of how you feel, however that okay, right. So somebody read the Tiny MBA and said, "You know, this was really great. But I have a question. I paused for quite a while on page 12, where you said money, psychology impacts that how does that make you feel?" And they said, "It would terrify me," literally using the exact same word you did. "Do you have any advice for how to go about learning about my money psychology?" So that's the reason for that question is not to teach you a thing. It's free to identify what your money psychology might be and interrogate that and go, Well, why does that scare me? Is that is that a rational feeling? Is that an irrational feeling? Is that something that that fear is keeping me from doing something that maybe could help me make those $5,000 Whatever it is.

So I gave him the following assignment. I said, you know, try to spend some time just you with a journal or whatever it is, and answer these questions. The first one was, what exactly are you terrified of? Is there something that happened in the past that would make you feel that way? The second question is, what's the worst case scenario if you tried? The third question is, what are the facts about your situation? What resources do you have that you might not be thinking of in that moment of terror, but that if you step back and go, I actually have these resources. I have knowledge, I have the email list, I have professional relationships, I have the ability to create things, you know, what resources do you have that could be useful in reaching that goal? And the fourth question was, what resources could you create now so that next time you get this challenge, it's less terrifying. There's no right answers to any of those. It's more of a self evaluation exercise. So, you know, I'm curious if there's, as I was asking those questions, are there any, any of them that made you made your brain go to a place? Or, you know, now that I've kind of explained the goal of sort of interrogating that terror, do you have an idea of why that's terrifying for you?

Colleen Schnettler 
My initial instinct is like, okay, like, I actually thought about it. I was like, okay, based on my hourly rate, if I work this many hours, like, I could do that, but that sounds miserable, right? Because I would just be working, working working. And so it kind of made me try to like, reframe it into, wait, I should try this. And I should not, you know, work my consulting hours, I should do something else.

Alex Hillman 
Yeah.

Colleen Schnettler
And I think one of the cons, I guess there's a lot of pros to starting a little bit later in that, like, you already have an established network and you already, you know, have established skill sets. But like, one of the cons is there's a huge opportunity cost for me to take a week off.

Alex Hillman 
Mm hmm.

Colleen Schnettler
And so that's been a consistent challenge for me and you talk about this in the book about being comfortable, you get really comfortable, even though you know, you want something else, like, you know, you want to diversify your income streams. And you know, you want to have a different maybe life experience in your business like, man, when you're working as a developer, it's comfortable.

Alex Hillman 
Yeah.

Colleen Schnettler
And so that is always that's challenging. For me, that's kind of this time, I'm, I'm not gonna fall back into that comfort. But I've kind of been on this journey for many years. And I keep just kind of falling back when it gets hard, or when it gets scary. I mean, I think scary is a good word, which I haven't thought of before this conversation.

Alex Hillman 
And I want to sort of pick apart one other thing there. I think your point about, you know, the opportunity cost of taking that week off is, is real and calculable. Right? So I look at a problem like that in a couple of different ways. One of them is all right. "What if I don't need to do a week in order to get started?", right, what could I do in a day or maybe I can't do the whole thing in a day. But if I were to take four Fridays in a row, if not Friday, whatever day it is. And you know, if I now I've got timebox, like, what could I do over those four Fridays? So that's -- where that fourth question is, is what could you do now, with that week so that the next time it's a little bit easier, right? That's where the business that that Amy and I run is called Stacking the Bricks. That's kind of the metaphor is, like if you don't have an advantage now, what can you do now to build the advantage for the next time through? Because your your point about comfort, I think is a real one, especially when it comes to these kinds of business income streams that are not trading your time for money. Time for money is super powerful, because to your point, it's easy when you're doing it. But the trade off is as soon as you stop working. There's nothing happening. You are not building any sort of asset, you can't resell the time. Where things I think get kind of interesting is where you go -- like starting to look within your work. Obviously you can't sell work that you've done for clients, but other things that you're learning on the job that is sellable. Even if it's not, you know, I think so I'm talking to two software folks as well. So like, I think people with software skills think that in order to start a business, I need to sell software. You can, if you want, but that is one format, one mode and selling software, you know, starting software and having $5,000 worth of sales at the end of the week is, you know, it's not a hill to climb. That's a vertical line. It's it's near, honestly, it's impossible because some folks have certainly done those sorts of things, you know, a tiny app or something like that. But if you're starting from scratch, you know, to work to use those constraints and say if I've only got eight hours, every Friday for the next four weeks, what could I be doing over those over those times to build advantages that I don't have yet. So could that be you know, trying your hand at scoping, like a really small workshop to teach some skill. And that could be a technical skill. It could be if you are, if you're a freelancer, that could be a business skill to teach other programmers some, you know, client related thing. If you were in a job, it could be, you know, a team related thing. So like, I think it's widening the scope of what it could be, and narrowing the scope of how big it needs to be in order to be a thing starts to allow things to take a little bit of a different shape and sets up an opportunity to build with build which you can with the time that you have, rather than building the idea in your head with the time that you have, which is like that's, that's a that's a road that stretches off into infinity. A lot of times for a lot of people and it's where it's easy to get discouraged and feel like this is hard. The tech consulting work or a job is easy. Why am I doing the hard thing again? To say one last thing on that is, every, everything comes in difficulty modes as well. And so I think like building choosing to build software as your first product is on hard mode. It's like the analogy I use this and one of the lessons in the book is like, you play a video game on hard mode it is way harder to beat, you can beat it, and the game is going to award you extra points for it, but when it comes to business, if you make a choice that has you playing on hard mode, instead of easy mode, the trade off becomes, you know, is the game going to give you more points whether it's you know, internet points or real money? No, it's not. The game doesn't care how hard you're working, it's how well are you serving them. So I think choosing a difficulty setting when it feels hard, I think that's a real feeling and it is a real reality is there an easier version and I guess believing yourself that an easier version is not a lesser version, it might just be the best version that you can do now to set yourself up for, again, the advantage you need to do the slightly harder version in your your next pass through.

Colleen Schnettler 
That's great advice. Thank you.

Michele Hansen 
So I have a question that's a little bit of a different track from things that are specifically in the book. It's about something that isn't in the book.

Alex Hillman
Cool.

Michele Hansen
So the book is called the tiny MBA. And one of the big values of an MBA in addition to the learning and especially the system's level thinking and and the practical level learning, which is all in this book, is community and being with people who are excited about the same things as you but coming at it from different perspectives, different industries, different roles, and then also getting access to people who are more experienced whether they are running their own companies or touring factories or things like that. And you're a big community guy. I mean, you run Indy Hall like, like, how does community factor into this? And like, can you can you give us any insights there?

Alex Hillman
I love that you asked this question. And I want to come back to the, the MBA component to it as well. This is one of the things I wanted to talk to you about because you do have an MBA.

Michele Hansen
Yeah.

Alex Hillman
And I was, there was a slight hesitation in calling this that. Because I'm friends with Josh Kaufman, who wrote The Personal MBA which is an excellent book, and I you know, I know Josh, I know the book. I know people love the book, and Josh has negative reviews are, "This isn't a replacement for an MBA." And he's like, "Of course, it's not that's not the point." And so, you know, I was really good. Not with not with trepidation, I think a little bit of trepidation, really curious what people who have gone through the MBA experience how they see this as a compliment and what are the things that this does that are different? So we can talk more about that if you would like.

But to answer your question about the community side of things, this is something, that there is a reason there isn't. And I will caveat that with there isn't there, it's not there yet. So one of those sort of...

Michele Hansen
I was hoping that was the answer.

Alex Hillman
Yeah, so one of the core philosophies of our work and I think work in general is to, you know, is to ship a tiny product first. And this is not my first product naturally. But that lesson kind of carries over to ship the tiniest version of the product first. So this book is tiny. I -- this is not my first attempt at writing a book. It's my first time finishing it. So getting, like having the book product finished also taught me that writing the book is not the hard part of publishing a book, everything else that comes after the, the core of the book is done is actually took way more time. Knowing that I was going to have a bunch of things I had to learn, I wanted to focus on making the product great. I wanted -- this is our first time doing a physical product we're working with this new print and distribution partner, had to learn that, we were using the Kindle Store on Amazon, I learned a lot about that. And but I was thinking the same thing. I was like, if if this book is read the way that I hope it's read, there's sort of two versions. One is where it sits nearby. It's you know, near your desk, it's at arm's reach, and you flip through it, you know, once in a while and sort of almost like a magic eight ball, see what comes up. And the other is using it as a tool for sparking conversations like this one. And I feel like you know, a mastermind group or a community setting being able to sit down everyone having either read the book or pick a few of their favorite of the pages and come up with a couple of prompts to say, you know, what did that remind you of? If you were -- if you experienced that differently, why do you think it was differently? Again, it's sort of an interrogation tool. So that lends itself to a community experience. I just think doing it at launch was just, it was just one more thing that did not fit in the scope. And I've been doing community long enough that I know better than to do it unless I'm going to take it seriously. For as hard as it is to ship a book, building and running a community is way harder. I've seen so many people launch communities alongside books and products, that just kind of like you know, they're really exciting at the beginning and they kind of flounder off. And Indy Hall, the co-working community you mentioned, we just turned 14 years old. The subtitle of this book is 100 very short lessons about the long game of business. If I'm gonna build a community around this book, I want to do it in a way where it has the best chance of lasting. And doing that, while also launching the very first version of the book and a bunch of new formats just wasn't practical.

But this is not the first time I've gotten the question. Sort of two things that have come up one that is near term because it requires very little of my immediate energy and effort. And that is some tools for helping people run, run book clubs and masterminds and stuff that they might already have, to use the book as a tool for sparking discussions and doing this again, this is sort of interrogation. But I think an online community space where people can discover each other people, you know, the book is an alignment tool. So if people are aligned, exactly like you said, knowing who those other aligned people are, create some really exciting, you know, things far beyond what the three of us could imagine. What I know from Indy Hall is, there is incredible potential on that. I want to build the foundation first. So yeah, a tiny MBA community is certainly on the horizon. I, I'm hopeful we launched something along those lines before the end of this year.

Michele Hansen 
It totally makes sense. And you know, when you were talking about how you want to launch the book first and then get it out there and how writing the book, while difficult was almost the easiest part of it. And then there's all the other stuff to actually get the book in people's hands. It reminded me so much of what Colleen is going through right now, with her image management service. Like we were just talking about this recently.

Alex Hillman 
Catch me up, tell me about that. What's the what's the, what's the correlation, here?

Colleen Schnettler 
I am in that phase where I'm so close to shipping something and I'm just trying to ship it right. Like I am just right there. And it's feature. I mean, it's, it's what you just talked about a little bit ago about like, like thinking about your idea. Well, I have. I'm cutting features aggressively and I just want to add one more thing. And so I'm trying to just stop and just just ship it, right? That's all that's where I am right now. Got it?

Alex Hillman   
Yeah, no. The discipline, it's hard. It's hard, but uh, I mean, even we're working with the designer to finish the book. And one of the last things that we added to the book was the how to read this book section. And I had, so the designer that I work with Hannah is amazing and she I've been so happy to be able to pass along compliments from people who love the design, love her work. But there were definitely periods where I was like, doing that last little bit of fiddling, like just one more thing. And I could tell where I was like, I was pushing up against some of the boundaries where I was like, I promise this is the absolute last thing but this how to read this book section I think is important. So she helped me get it in but yeah, that if you don't have... it's, I guess for me it's the line is like, if it was something I wanted to add, versus something that I felt so strongly that the customer would have a significantly better experience -- like they will get more out of the book. This is not a ooh that will be nice when we have it, this is a step function improvement. Where if somebody goes through this and doesn't have the guidance to pause on a page, reflect and go, what does this actually mean for me, and they just read it cover to cover? That's not the experience I want them to have. So that was my my final scope creep. Books can have scope creep, too. Yeah. So I feel you.

Michele Hansen 
I'm curious, when did you finish the text for this book? Or you know, sort of 99% done.

Alex Hillman 
The stuff is on the the numbered pages, like the actual lessons was finished in December.

Michele Hansen 
Wow. And then so it went from December to August to do all of the, the get it in people's hands.

Alex Hillman 
Well, and I mean, I can break that down a little bit. If it's interesting to you what happens so real And also wrote the all those lessons in public. The original drafting happened on Twitter. That's why their Twitter length. And the feedback loop of writing and public was a big part of the creative. I wasn't writing a book at the time, I was writing a Twitter thread, where my goal was to write 100 things that would be useful business advice, perspective lessons, things like that. And the instant feedback loop of what people were responding to read, tweeting, liking, but also commenting asking for clarity and things like that. Writing in public is its own kind of terrifying. But the value was astronomical when the thread was done, it was Christmas basically. And I went offline and went on vacation with my wife and came back a few weeks later, and it was some six or seven weeks later that those tweets were still getting quite a bit of action. And that was when I made the decision to say, maybe there is a way to package this up into a book. And so that was like mid January or so. Maybe late more like late January, and so the turning the effectively the manuscript that I wrote in public on Twitter into a book was everything from hiring and talking to the designer, figuring out the the details of what it was going to contain, getting that going, what was the additional editing that was needed (those tweets were written on Twitter, so they need to be edited a little bit). Everything I wrote stayed in, they were just cleaned up a bit. Figuring out who I wanted to ask to write the foreword. And my friend Nilufer graciously said yes, so framing it for her, getting the response from her. Her first draft was incredible. It's pretty darn close to exactly what's in the book. Doing the book recommendations, all that so it was like everything after the core took that long. And you know, there was a pandemic happening in the middle. So like, Indy Hall was in kind of a funky state. So that took my attention for a while and Hannha was dealing with some of her life stuff. So we I'd say we pressed on pause for a solid six or eight weeks somewhere in the spring, pick things up again, intensely in June. And the like the final design stuff was basically done mid-to-late July. The final production, all this stuff for getting it ready for the Kindle Store, getting it ready for the the printing and fulfillment, setting up the Shopify integrations, building the landing page, that all happened over the course of maybe three weeks or so and then and then you get to the actual marketing. Right and so it's the, there's a marathon. Absolutely. And I was not you know, working on it full time. Because I have other other projects, other businesses, other products within the businesses, but for the for a effectively a side project within the business all the way through. If this was the only thing I was working on and everybody else I was working on it with it. I still think that this would have easily taken three, three months minimum. Because...

Michele Hansen 
It sounds like that that extended timeline was actually helpful, because it allowed you to reflect on the content of the book and make sure that people had everything they needed to really get a lot out of each page so much more than they would in a tweet of references and understanding how to really get the most out of the book.

Alex Hillman 
Yeah, the I sent out about two dozen early reader copies, like advance reader copies. It was a pretty even split between people that I knew and people that I didn't know. The people I didn't know I was most scared of. The people you know will always be nice to you. The randos on Twitter, they found me through somebody retweet. They might be a nice person, but they might say a mean thing.

Michele Hansen
Did they?

Alex Hillman
Nobody said anything. mean, I got one message. And this was after launch, I got one person who said, this was the most disappointed I've ever been in an ebook.

Colleen Schnettler
Ouch.

Alex Hillman
And all I could do is think to myself, what did you expect from an $8? ebook? And what's going on?

Michele Hansen 
I guess they've read a lot of really good ebooks?

Alex Hillman 
I don't know, I don't know. But like that that person was like, Here's your money back, I really hope you have a great rest of your day.

The closest thing to a negative wasn't a negative, it was folks saying that they were surprised, which given the kind of strange format is a completely reasonable response. There's something about a book that people sort of have an expectation, especially a business book, you get an idea of what a business book is going to be. And so you buy a business book and you open a business book, and it's three sentences on a page. "What is this?" And then you actually read through it and they were like, I got a lot out of it. I really liked it. But I was just kind of confused and disoriented at first and that was the feedback that made me go, strangers who don't know me don't know my work are going to read this book them telling me about me isn't going to help them at all. Me telling them what I know about the way that people who are reading this book and getting a lot out of it. That's the thing that will set the expectation. That's what sets the stage.

I watched a comedian. Oh, Hannah Gatsby. Have you seen Hannah Gatsby, she has a new comedy special on Netflix and she does a bit at the beginning. It's called Douglas is the name of the show. It's brilliant. She spends the first 15 minutes of an hour long special telling you how the show was gonna go beat for beat. And that's part of the joke. She's like, I'm going to tell you how the show is going to go. And you're going to see it coming. And then you're going to forget and that will make it even funnier. And she tells you what, she's telling you that she set up the show in a certain way and that she's explaining the show. Like the metal layers to it were unbelievable, and I didn't even think about it until we were talking about this just now, I might have been like subconsciously inspired by the way, she spent 15 minutes of an hour long special in the same way that I spent, you know, five to seven pages of a 110 page book, telling you how to read the book. She told you what came next. And her explanation for why she did that was because her first -- it was not wasn't her first special, but her previous special was a massive runaway hit. And it was it was a kind of genre breaker and comedy. And she's like, well doing a follow up to that show is weird, because I don't know what you all expect from me. So I figured the easiest way to ease you into this, I want to tell you exactly what to expect that way you can't be disappointed. And I think I'm thinking about that now and going. That's definitely what I was channeling when I wrote this book when I wrote that intro is I want to tell you what to expect because I know this is weird and that way when you get to a thing that is unexpected. You can't be disappointed. You can be challenged, but too disappointed unless you're that one person who said this was the most disappointing. they've ever read. Can't please them. All right. But yeah, I mean...

Michele Hansen 
Yeah, I mean, like a few minutes ago, you're saying how you would have some hesitancies around using the phrase MBA in the title. And I'm wondering if that relates to what you're just talking about here right now?

Alex Hillman 
I think so. I mean, I think there at the end of the day, I think like, nobody likes surprises. I mean, people that people like, you know, good surprises, but even good surprises, like, sometimes I would have liked to have known right? And so I feel like if you can help people avoid feeling disoriented, especially in a book where my goal is to challenge your thinking a little bit, if by putting you on guard with a weird format, you don't feel safe enough to really do what the book intends you to do. So I think it's helpful to make it clear, like I what I want for you and if that aligns with what you want for you, this goes back to our sales conversation before, then, like, come on a ride with me, this book might be a good time for you. And the response has been, overwhelmingly that. Which is which I'm really, really, I've enjoyed so much hearing.

Colleen Schnettler 
Yeah, I loved how it depressurize the whole reading of the book.

Michele Hansen 
Yeah. And you were, of course, you know, tweeting about the book, and I had, you know, downloaded it and, and I was excited to read it, very, very curious what your take on it would be. And then somebody tweeted out, like, "Oh, you know, I read this over my lunch break." And I was like, oh, like, I don't actually have to, like mentally, like, carve out time for this in between all of the other, you know, two 300 page books I'm reading right now. Like, this isn't one of those? Like, I was kind of expecting that. Like, it was actually pretty refreshing.

Alex Hillman 
I love to hear that. Yeah, I mean, does the world need another one of those 200, 300 page books. I don't know. And to be fair, I mentioned before I've tried to write books before. And they fail, I failed to finish them in part because they were heading in that direction, where I kind of saw it coming in. I was like, "No one wants to read this. I don't really want to read it. I barely want to write it!" And so like, that's not a good place to be starting. It's also made it really fun to, you know, back to like the marketing and promotion, when you're asking people to do you favors. You know, I'm reaching out to for two people to review the book early and busy people, people I admire. Actually, this is one of my favorite stories so far, and something I'm pretty proud of. I've been pretty heavily inspired. And actually, this book and a lot of ways was also inspired by Derek Severs. You know, Derek's, I think most famous for his like mini TED talk about starting a movement, that crazy person dancing in a field turning into a dance party. Derek, I find is such an interesting, interesting person. And his business books also are kind of mold breakers and a bunch of his recent books are these. They're not books, they're like short essay collections. And I've kind of always admired his confidence to do stuff that's like, this is the way I did it. If it's useful to you, cool. I wrote him an email and I was like, Hey, your books have have been really helpful and inspiring to me over the years. I also dropped the Brian Eno, you know, reference the Oblique Strategies, because I know he's a musician, and that would would resonate. I said, Look, I've got this book. I know I'm sure people ask you to read books all the time. And I do not expect you to say yes, but this book takes about 30 minutes to read. So if you'd be interested, I love to you know, send you send you a copy. And the guy who's famous for the "hell yes or no" modality of decision making. He responded with "hell, yes.

Colleen Schnettler
Yes!

Michele Hansen
Nice!

Alex Hillman
But how like, that's the it's the, Yes. I was like, I was just, I mean, I literally stood up in my chair and you know, yes. And so you know, you know, Derek's a busy dude and he can do things on his own time. I'm excited to hear what his response is when he reads it. But to be able to approach someone who I know is busy, who I know gets hit up with books all the time to say this is, I don't know if you're gonna like it and I think you will. But most importantly, I'm not asking you to invest four to six hours. You can read this over lunch and, and, and maybe even faster.

Colleen Schnettler 
So Alex, I feel like my main takeaway of the book, if I had to distill it down into one was, it's really not that hard if you just get out of your own way.

Alex Hillman
I'm glad that that's the takeaway for you. There's, I think, a large portion of difficulty and failure are our own doing. And sometimes it's just because we don't know better and sometimes because it's variations of pride and perfectionism and self sabotage. And I think the mistake is to feel guilty about it. The professional move is to acknowledge it and try something new. Even if it is a little terrifying and uncomfortable. I think you to your point before Colleen, about being a professional, who's been doing what you're doing for a while, and you're good at what you do, to trust yourself enough to do a thing that you know, you're good at what you do, you're used to feeling good at what you do to trust yourself enough to do a thing that doesn't feel good instantly, I think is a gift we can give ourselves that maybe we don't give ourselves often enough. And this happens to be a gift that quite literally pays. So it's a good one. But no, I'm really happy that that's your takeaway that's theirs. And I would be super interested to hear what if like if that takeaway changes or what that takeaway looks like in six months or a year, you come back for a skim through when the process out, you've got some customers, you're working on the next like, whatever, wherever you are in six or 12 months. How does the book look differently then? I mentioned before I like email. I would love for you to email me.

Colleen Schnettler
Yeah.

Alex Hillman
Tell me tell me what that looks like.

Colleen Schnettler 
I will. Cool.

Michele Hansen 
Yeah, I think I mean, talking about how how it resonates with us, is something about the book, right? It's very small pieces of wisdom. And I found out you know, I, I sort of whipped through it on a lunch break. And then it was a week later, as I was thinking about that marketing quote, or is thinking about the ones about psychology. And I think that's something that's really, really interesting about the book and about the short format is that you're not taking two to 300 pages to make a point you're giving yourself one page for each point. And it's interesting to see what sticks out with individual people at different points.

Alex Hillman 
Yeah, and I you know, I think your point about something kind of warms way into your brain. And, you know, shows up again later, now. You read 400 pages of a book and the, then you hope that that lesson is useful now or that you remembered in the future when it will be. But the ability for, I feel like, I feel like a kind of get a chance to plant some seeds. And even if you don't know exactly what it means yet, or how you're going to use it, or, or even how you feel about it, it's like it's in there. And it will show up at some point and you're gonna be like, Where's that damn book? I got it. What was he talking about again? And so like, I don't know, that's for me. That's really exciting to hear. So I love hearing that that's, you know, a few days after you read it, there's, you know, something kind of, really, you know, still resonating in your brain or a question that you're still asking yourself to me, that's, that's yet another version of the book doing its job. So that's super cool to hear. Thank you.

Michele Hansen 
This has been really fun talking to you about it, and I really enjoyed reading the book. I love how you're trying to make business education accessible for more people. I think that's one thing about an MBA is that it is not accessible to everyone, but there there's value in, in systems level thinking and challenging your own thinking. And I really like how you are approaching that even in a tiny way in this case.

Alex Hillman 
Brilliantly said. Thank you. Uh, yeah. You know, and one of one of my hopes for folks to, you know, to read through this, even people who are brand spankin new, right. So there's a bunch of folks that... I got a message from somebody who they said, I just started my LLC yesterday, and I'm signing my first freelance client tomorrow. I did not expect this book to be useful to me today. And it was so useful. And so you know, that's just like, you know, we've got...

Michele Hansen
Amazing

Alex Hillman 
I was like, that's the cool. And for somebody to read it and feel like a sense of confidence going into their first client project,  like that confidence is so much more valuable than a lesson I can teach you. Because you'll build on it, and you'll make mistakes anyway, because that's unavoidable. But when you make a mistake, you'd be like, "Oh, that's what Alex was talking about." Instead of thinking that you are an idiot, or something is wrong with you, you'll be like, "Oh, that's the thing that happens when you do this other thing," because it is!

Michele Hansen 
This is something that every business owner experiences, and you are not wrong for experiencing that.

Alex Hillman
Exactly. And to your point, Michele, it's all systems, right businesses or systems, not magical boxes where you put an effort and money comes out. Some I think some people are just like, you know, confused about what that is, and just to show give people an idea of like, oh, there are systems here that I'm a normal person, I can understand them. I can practice them and I can get good at them. This book isn't going to teach you all the things but it gives you sort of those, those shapes for you to grab onto and go, Okay, now I know what this is, I'm going to go find an expert in that thing, right? And go deep on that. And you know, find your areas of expertise, where you need to grow and find that expert on the internet, go search YouTube for the How To Video find the podcaster, or the writer or the other independent author and fill in those gaps. Yeah, no, it's it's been a blast. And I've super enjoyed talking with the two of you as well, this is, you know, the different places that each of you are in your businesses is, like I said, it's been fun to hear that myself, but it hasn't all been in one conversation. So it's kind of neat to have it all packaged up and I hope that's useful for people to hear. And yeah, thanks for you know, thank you for taking the time to read it. I'm glad it was helpful. And thank you for inviting me into your coffee chat show. Feel feel very honored to be here.

Michele Hansen 
So if people want to buy the book, where should they go?

Alex Hillman 
tiny dot MBA is the website. You can buy the paperback, it ships worldwide, and get it delivered anywhere you are. That paperback includes the ebook. So while you're waiting for it to be delivered, you can give it your first read. Or if you like to just get the ebook, you can grab that there as well. And keep your eyes peeled for the Yiny MBA community down the road as well.

Michele Hansen
Definitely will.

Colleen Schnettler
I'm super excited about that, by the way I'm already playing in my head with that's gonna be like, cool. Well,

Alex Hillman 
I look forward to seeing both of you in there before the year is out.

Colleen Schnettler 
Great. Thank you so much, Alex, we loved having you. You can find us on Twitter at @softwaresocpod and we'd love to hear your feedback and comments on this week's episode.


What is Software Social?

Two software founders -- one transitioning from freelancing, and one with an established business -- invite you to join their weekly chats about their businesses.