Ben Aston turned a part-time side hustle and passion into a $3 Million a year business while he had a 9-5 day job.
He initially launched his first terrible website, aged 14, and was hooked. 20+ years later, he’s still at it, but things are going quite a bit better.
Ben is now a digital project manager guru and online entrepreneur – the founder of Black & White Zebra, an indie media company on a mission to help people and organizations succeed.
He is also the founder of the largest and fastest-growing community for digital project managers – TheDigitalProjectManager.com with 500k+ visits/month, 30k subscribers, and 4k members.
The Ultimate Guide to Website Traffic for Business
What you will learn
- The power of micro-niches to succeed in business
- The problem of churn for a membership business
- How to build an online community that pays you
- How to use the brand experience to grow your business
- How to monetize a podcast
- How to use content to sell a community membership business model
- Whether you should have a monthly or annual membership fee business model
- The importance of constant testing
- Why creating content that solves pain points can help create loyal customers
- Why you should use SEO tools like Ahrefs and Clearscope to optimize and create the right content
- Why creating content that matches user intent is so powerful
- The importance of the onboarding process that adds value with content and connections in the community
- How to build a community built around a shared passion
- Why you should create a movement not a business
- Why 800 people in the community are the sweet spot
- How to create content that doesn’t age and remains evergreen
- Why you should be creating high-level frameworks and principle-centered content for your readers
- The importance of hiring great people
- Why you should ship your product and learn from the experience instead of seeking to be perfect
Jeff Bullas: Hi, everyone. Welcome to the Jeff Bullas Show. Today I have with me Ben Aston. Now Ben is currently living in Vancouver but he doesn't have a Canadian accent, he's from the beautiful area of Sussex which is where he did his first degree, and a little bit about Ben before we leap in is, Ben launched his first terrible website at the age of 14. That's about 40 years before I did it and he was hooked, 20 plus years later he's still at it and things are going a bit better. He's a digital project manager, but did a political science degree and an online entrepreneur. He's a founder of Black & White Zebra, an indie media company on a mission to help people and organizations succeed. Ben is also a founder of the largest and fastest growing communities for digital project managers, thedigitalprojectmanager.com with 500,000 plus visitors a month and 30,000 subscribers and 4,000 members. Welcome to the show Ben, and it's great to have you here.
Ben Aston: Hey Jeff, thanks for having me. It's great to be on the show.
Jeff Bullas: You are living in a part of the world where you weren't born. I do love the English accent and generally English have a great sense of humor-
Ben Aston: Some of that plays out.
Jeff Bullas: We'll see how that goes. You originally went and did a political science degree in Sussex but now you're an online entrepreneur. Tell us a bit about how that journey all happened?
Ben Aston: Yeah. Well, I did a year in industry before going to university. I was supposed to be going to Cardiff University to do computer science, but before... the one fact because I was going to do computer science I had this opportunity to do a year in industry and it turned out in my year in industry. My year in industry I was working actually for the ministry of defense as a web developer. And I realized at that point actually quite soon into the year that I didn't want to spend my entire career sitting in front of a computer coding. And so I pressed the abort button or the eject button on the computer science degree and decided well, what do I want to do? Well, I want to go into marketing communications. I want to talk to people. I don't just want to sit talking to myself in front of a computer screen.
Ben Aston: I thought about marketing and communications, what do I need, what degree is good for that? Well, anything. So I did politics and international relations and that was really the beginning of my journey. But I guess though, kind of in parallel with that, from the age of about 14 I was making websites in my spare time. And one of the first websites I created was an online satirical newspaper. It was called Suge Times. Kind of a bit like the onion. And that was my first adventure.
Ben Aston: My first real adventure in the online world where I created a bit of a club and made swag and tried to get PR. I was always involved in the online marketing world and just deviated a bit through my university patch before I ended up in advertising actually at the beginning of my career. And the first account I was working on was actually for Stella Artois, a beer client, which for your first client out of university that's a good one to land.
Jeff Bullas: I suppose the Friday after work, there was plenty of beer on tap so to speak.
Ben Aston: Yeah, I mean, that's the great thing about advertising agencies. There seems to be like an unlimited supply of beer or at least there was in those days. Yeah. It was a good client to work for.
Jeff Bullas: Yep. So you discovered early by really accident that you love, because you ended up doing web design for a company as your sort of ... it wasn't a gap year, it was before you started university, wasn't it?
Ben Aston: Yeah.
Jeff Bullas: Yep.
Ben Aston: Yeah. It was a gap year between high school and university. Yeah. It was at that point that I realized that I didn't want to do computer science, but I think right from an early age, I think my early inspiration, I remember doing a project. It was a book review at school. Probably had no one, I was at 11 or something. And the book review I chose to do was on Richard Branson. And since reading that book, I can't even remember which Richard Branson book it was, but he has forever been a massive inspiration to me. Reading his stories about, well he was at school, selling Christmas trees and selling canaries or whatever else it was that he was doing, he just found ways to create businesses. And for me at an early age, that was super inspiring.
Jeff Bullas: It's fascinating isn't it? When you come across either books or experiences that change the direction of your life, or take you in a direction you didn't expect. You could have done all the goal setting and planning for all the world to see and do, but in reality, it was going out and doing things and reading that really led you to where you are today. Isn't it?
Ben Aston: Yeah, definitely. And I think that process of making things and just making something happen, doing something, I think so many people get hung up on whether or not they've got the right idea or not and they want to start a business. They want to be an entrepreneur, but they're not quite sure what to do, so they don't do anything. And I think that's the worst possible thing to do, but if you do something, something will come of it. It's just a matter of what.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah. I totally agree with you. A lot of people are perfectionists and want to get it just right. They want to get the plan just right. The reality is that the plans we make often don't work out at all. How can you predict the future? That's essentially what you're trying to do. And what you said too, regarding just going and doing something, I've found is really, really important. There's magic in the motion. And for me too, I've mentioned before in past podcasts, but I was a teacher and hated what I was doing.
Jeff Bullas: Yes. I had a degree. So I got my degree. It was political science, mine was a teaching degree, BA. I didn't put a theology along the ways as part of that BA, but for me, I discovered I love sales, so then I went and tried three different types of sales jobs, and what happened to me in the tech industry, which I went, wow, there's something going on here. And my life has never been the same since. All right. So let's go forward a little bit to you did you sales degree, then you moved on and did another degree in Hong Kong, is that correct?
Ben Aston: Yeah, well that was my kind of final year at university. So yeah, that was just a semester abroad that I did in Hong Kong, which is where I happened to meet my wife, which is why I now live in Vancouver in Canada. So, that was kind of the Securitas route that I took along the way. But it was after university that I began my career in advertising. That's where I was. My goal really in my, I guess, young twenties was to climb that corporate ladder in the advertising world. And that's what I did. For 10 years, well, in fact, it was more than that, but I was in the world of advertising and marketing within digital, but I kind of just focused on learning the trade, learning the craft, and really all around me and the world of advertising, people were kind of doing things on the side.
Ben Aston: For me that was super interesting. I was constantly inspired by people's ideas and their side hustles that they had going on. And so I kind of saw it as a great preparation and training round for whatever was next. I wasn't quite sure what it was. Probably at that point, I thought maybe I'll start my own agency, but I was just there to absorb and be around creative, smart people, doing interesting things, which is what we were doing in the world of advertising. We're helping sell things, we're helping communicate things clearly. And just being amongst designers and developers, creative people, strategists is a great place to be for someone who loves ideas and making things happen.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah. And I do like the term side hustle and I think a lot of people do have ideas and some act on them and some don't. So one of the things that caught my eye when we first communicated is that one of your ideas was bootstrapping a side hustle to a $3 million annual run rate business. So what was the side hustle and how did that all start?
Ben Aston: Yeah, so it was actually when I made the move from the UK to Canada and I figured, Hey, I'm going to be in a new city with no friends. I'm not going to know anyone. This was back in 2012. So I thought, okay, well, my plan for the year was I want to make 12 websites in 2012. That was kind of my big goal.
Jeff Bullas: Okay.
Ben Aston: This was the first one I tried. So it was called thedigitalprojectmanager.com. And that was the first website I created and started. And the idea for that was that I was going to create an ebook and sell an ebook online. That was it. I'd write a book, I'd sell it online. And I never actually got around to finishing the book. That's still a work in progress. But what I did do was create a whole ton of blog posts because I thought, well, who am I going to sell my book to? I've got no audience.
Ben Aston: So I thought, well, I'll drip feed this book over the course of the year. So that by the end of the year, there's some people who might want to buy it. That was the plan. And yeah, as I said, never finished the book, but what I created instead was a website that's become a platform. We now monetize through membership. So we have a online subscription, we have online training and we have advertising as well. So I started at the end of 2011, beginning of 2012. So we've nearly been going for 10 years and yeah, now we're at the point where we're generating upwards of 3 million a year, which is great from something which started for the first ... I mean, from 2011 to 2018, I still had a full-time job. So this was something I was doing in the evenings, at the weekends, whatever spare time I had, I'd be hustling to try and build something. And yeah, that's kind of been the journey.
Jeff Bullas: So you've only gone full-time since 2018. Is that correct?
Ben Aston: Yeah. Yeah. That's right.
Jeff Bullas: Right. So one of the sort of emerging business models that's happened, especially in last 10 years, it's been around forever, but it's certainly become much more promise is a subscription model.
Ben Aston: Yeah.
Jeff Bullas: Okay. So can you tell us a little bit about, and obviously that's for thedigitalprojectmanager.com business. So tell us a bit about how you make that work and what value do you add, and then some of the challenges you have. There's obviously issues with churn, is issues with onboarding. So tell us a bit about how the idea of subscription came to you. What was the inspiration and then both the challenges and the opportunities.
Ben Aston: Yeah. So the idea for membership really came out of just looking at the data and looking at the analytics from the website and seeing, okay, well, what are people interested in. And what people were consistently interested in were the templates that we provided. They wanted a template for project kickoff meetings, or they wanted a template for an estimate or whatever it might be. We had a whole ton of great content and a whole bunch of templates. And so I thought, well, why don't I charge people for this? And so we thought, well, let's start pay walling some of the content. And so making it kind of members only access, we know people are searching for this stuff. We know that this is what they're looking for. It gets downloaded a lot. So maybe people are willing to pay for it.
Ben Aston: So he's created this subscription, which is all about access to resources and basically pay walling our most popular content. So we tried that. Our membership now has been running for nearly about 18 months or so. The impact of what we did was yes, it creates short term revenue. So people are willing to pay for access to things that they want. But like you said, you mentioned churn rate and that's absolutely our problem with that model. It's forcing people into membership because they want access to a certain resource. It doesn't mean that they're someone who's willing to pay month after month access to these resources. So yeah, what we have found over the past year is yeah, our subscription rate's really high, but also our churn rate is really high. And so that's why we've begun to pivot the business model and actually the entire membership offering to try and accommodate for that a bit better.
Jeff Bullas: So what's the current monthly subscription and annual subscription that you're charging for access to premium content resources?
Ben Aston: Yeah. So we've actually just scrapped our monthly membership. So this kind of comes back to our pivot that we've just done. Realizing that we don't want people to sign up for monthly membership and churn after month three, because it's not worth it. So the monthly membership was $15. The annual membership, $150. But what we've done now is just scrapped our monthly membership altogether. And we're pivoting our whole membership model to be less around access to resources and more about being part of a community. And the idea is, well, if you just want access to resources, if you just want a template, then we'll sell you a template. You can just pay $10, get your template and leave.
Ben Aston: But actually if you're looking to develop in your career, if you want to be part of a community, if you want support, if you want accountability, if you want to grow, then you need to be part of the community. And this is a long-term investment. You're not going to get the value out of it within three months. So we need people to stay in membership for longer, which is why currently the only offering we have is an annual membership, which is priced at $150, but it means that people have made a bigger commitment and so they're willing to make more effort in giving to the community, but also receiving from it.
Jeff Bullas: Great. That's fascinating insights. Now, the other thing I'm curious about is, okay, so you got to get people to stump up $150. So tell us a little bit about how your funnel works to get them to do that, because obviously you've got to create trust. You've got to create credibility. Do you start with any small commitments? How would you describe ... give us a bit of an overview of your funnel to get people to sign up. I'm curious about that.
Ben Aston: Yeah. We haven't really created a funnel in the classic marketing way of ... I mean, there are some funnels that I'll mention, but essentially what we're doing is it's a brand experience that we're offering and providing to people. The brand experience includes our podcast and that provides and helps build credibility. People can hear what we're talking about. There's believe and trust us that we know what we're doing. And the podcast is completely free. The content on our website, most of the content is completely free. So that's where trust is built. And we know that there are certain trigger points, which help people decide that membership is a good option for them. Things like people getting a new job, things like people looking to upgrade their resume or find a new job. So there are certain points in people's career, maybe where they've got a promotion or they've got a review coming.
Ben Aston: There's certain points in a digital project managers career where they suddenly think, "Oh, maybe I do need some accountability. Maybe I do need some support. Maybe I don't know what I'm doing." And so we've created a lot of content around those kinds of topics so that people who are searching for it will find our website. And then from there, we have promos within the article itself saying, "Hey, if you want to be part of the community, come and join us." So it's a very short funnel, but we're trying to create content around that obvious user intent where a solution like a membership might be helpful. So that's kind of one, there's the brand building piece, there's the content. And then with our email also within our website, what we do is when someone becomes a subscriber to the website, we introduce to them to some of our content. We find out who they are by what they click on and what they're interested in and begin educating them on what we offer.
Ben Aston: And as part of that journey, we introduced them to membership. Now, as part of our funnel, it used to be that we offered people a two week trial, but actually we found that two weeks isn't enough for someone to get the value out of membership. It's not enough time. And so actually the number of people that signed up through that free trial and then the people that unsubscribed because they didn't make use of it was too high. So it just wasn't worth doing, and it created administration for us as well. So what we're trying to do as much as possible is look at the numbers, see if things are working, if they're not working, get rid of them and try something else. And this game of experimentation is something that's always ongoing.
Jeff Bullas: Hmm. That's fascinating. So you're breaking some of the current practices that are being recommended by a lot of people, but there's no one easy answer. Depending on the community, you've just gotta keep trying different things, don't you? It's a constant regime of testing, isn't it?
Ben Aston: Yeah. And I think so often we can kind of fall into the trap of thinking, "Hey, this guru is clearly really good at something, therefore the advice that they're giving must be right." And it might be right for certain instances, but it will always depend. And I think what we need to have confidence as entrepreneurs is we know actually better than anyone else, our audience, we have the insights that they don't have, and there's not a one size fits all approach to things. And to think that you can just ... and you see this advertised all over Facebook all the time. It's like, "Grab my playbook, grab my swipe files." As though it was just a simple recipe that you could follow and success will just come out the oven 10 days later. It's just not that simple.
Ben Aston: And I think for me, whenever I have tried following those things, or even engaging with some so-called experts at certain things, they apply their learnings and their best practice thinking that it'll work. And I think it'll work, but it turns out it doesn't work because they've missed a key component or insight. That means their whole strategy, their plan, is not very effective. So, my experience has been as an entrepreneur, as someone who knows the business, knows the audience, we kind of have a gut sense on things. And that gut sense is really powerful, and we should rely on it.
Jeff Bullas: Yep. And I suppose you test that gut instinct through the testing and see what works and what doesn't.
Ben Aston: Definitely.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah. So you're obviously creating content that solves pain points such as going for a job interview. In other words, you're providing the answers and tips and frameworks for people, which is great. Now I came across a really interesting insight regarding creating content. And it was not just go and create content, but record what you do and what works, and then create a framework from it. In other words, the content comes out of recording your processes and then putting them into a framework, which I thought was ... I hadn't heard. Look, maybe you thought about it, but I really liked the reframing of the content creation, was record and create. So the recording becomes the creation.
Ben Aston: Yeah. That's interesting. I think one of the things that we focus on is, obviously a huge part of what we're doing is creating content. And as time has kind of gone by, we've become more sophisticated at the way that we plan content and write content and create content to make sure that it works. And I think so often we hear things like content is King. And so we go, "Okay, right, yeah. Let's produce loads of content because everyone says that's King." But not necessarily basing that on insights on maybe what is ranking on our website already, or what content or topic clusters do we have already? What can we build upon? And then how does that relate to what people are actually searching for? And I think using tools like Ahrefs, which is a super powerful tool, using tools like Clearscope and market news to optimize and write content about the right things.
Ben Aston: I want to create content that I know is going to rank and know is going to do something and that matches a really specific user intent, because if we don't, we end up creating a whole ton of work for ourselves publishing content and it doesn't do anything. So there is a case for creating more passion-based content. And so for each of our websites, we typically have a podcast where we kind of blur the lines of content a bit more, but for our written content and for our video content, we're very focused on, "Okay, well, let's create stuff that people actually want to view or stuff that they actually want to read about."
Jeff Bullas: You and I've both been playing content creation a long time. I started content creation in 2009 when I launched Jeffbullas.com. But today there is so much content and that's the challenge for all of us. And so that requires us to think more strategically, doesn't it? Regarding what we create and what media we use as well. And certainly for me, the podcast has been a great focus point because we create video, audio and text content out of this, and then we'd cut it up into snippets. And the other challenge coming down the line is content being created by robots and AI.
Jeff Bullas: I've had a few conversations with both colleagues and people I've interviewed about the role of AI in content creation, and places like Forbes and so on are all creating news content using AI and robots now. So I think watch this space over the next decade, because that's going to be the other challenge we have as content creators, as we're battling just mega content creators that are using incredibly powerful tools. The other question I want to ask you was, I'm curious about the onboarding process, because I've heard that in terms of minimizing churn, the onboarding process is really, really important. So can you tell me a bit about how you guys onboard?
Ben Aston: Yeah. It's something that we have evolved as our membership has grown and really, the point of onboarding is to make people feel, and when we talked about this earlier, get some momentum early and build on that momentum. So we want people to feel like, Hey, they've won, that they've got value out of it, that this is easy, this is fun. So our onboarding process is partly education, is partly introducing people to the various different parts of the membership that we offer. It's giving them a kind of heads up on events that are coming up. But what we're trying to do in that early onboarding phase is identify, okay, well, what are the things that people actually clicked on? What type of resources are they interested in? What level, or what stage in their career are they at? And we're looking at the content that they're using and then tailoring the journey based on how they interact.
Ben Aston: So we're creating dynamic flows for users dependent on what they're interested in. And I think that's super important as is getting them engaged in the community. So I've talked about how we're trying to make this transition from being a resource based community, to more of a community that's built around a shared passion. And so we are trying to get people involved and engaged in our community, our forum, as quickly as possible and showing them, and kind of holding their hand to get through those first hurdles by showing them some really interesting content that might be relevant to them, by helping them create their profile, by showcasing some of our most interesting and trending content. So these are all things. We're trying to provide value early, get them engaged and get some momentum in place so that they stick around.
Jeff Bullas: So maybe I can sum it up in a couple of ways. Number one, you're under-promising and over-delivering in terms of when you onboard them, bring them on, you are delivering more than they're expecting.
Ben Aston: Yeah. Yeah, definitely.
Jeff Bullas: And then also you're also delivering content through different streams that is relevant to them as an individual, not just one size fits all.
Ben Aston: Yeah, because I think in our instance, we have people at different stages of their career. There's different pain points that we have as digital project managers. And we were trying to identify, "Okay, what's this person's pain point right now? And then how can we address that?" So we're trying to do that as dynamically as possible based on the things that they're interested in and the things that they're clicking on.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah. And I think its important to try to cover pain points, isn't it? The other thing that I think you've mentioned, which I think is incredibly relevant is it sounds like for me, you're not trying to sell a product or resources. You're more trying to create a movement around a common passion.
Ben Aston: Definitely. Yeah. And I think it has a whole lot more longevity. In terms of building a business that is going to be around a decade from now. The products that we create, the courses that we make will be obsolete. But if we can create successfully a community of people who have a shared passion, who are engaged, then they'll still be around in a decade. And I think building a community is really hard work. I think the mistake that you might make after listening from this is, "Oh yeah, let's build a community that sounds easy." It's super, super difficult. Trying to get people to engage is really, really hard, but hard things are normally worth doing.
Ben Aston: So I think often we default to the kind of easy option, which might produce some kind of short term fruits, but yeah. Investing in something, building something for the long term, growing things more slowly is less attractive in our startup worlds that we're used to where we're trying to create unicorns, trying to get that hockey stick growth. Well, actually, if you embrace the fact that you're not building that kind of a business, but you're building something that will be around in 10 years time and going slowly, going more sustainably, then I think you can have more fun on the way and take the pressure off yourself to get instant results. So I think there's just a word of caution there really.
Jeff Bullas: I really liked that. In other words, you're playing the long game.
Ben Aston: Yeah, definitely.
Jeff Bullas: Because he could get into this frantic sort of startup world where everyone ... burn the bridges, work 26 hours a day, wake before you actually go to sleep. Yeah. It's just crazy. And I think that's the quickest way to just burn out and blow up quite often. So you've had to change your business models. So you're in the middle of testing that now. Where do you see your community and your movement going from now?
Ben Aston: Yeah. So we've grown the community now to about 800 paying members right now in the course of about 18 months, which is great. I'm happy with that growth. I think there's a ceiling actually to the size of the community that we can have, and it still be rich and engaging. So there's a bit of a cap on that. So what we're trying to do now is actually launch other communities in other disciplines as well. So we've created a site for product managers called theproductmanager.com. One for E-commerce called theecommmanager.com, one called People Managing People, which is kind of HR related, and one called The QA lead, which is all about quality assurance and quality engineering.
Ben Aston: So the way that we're scaling is by building communities in other disciplines and other niches as well. So the digital project manager's our flagship and as things work and as things are successful and we hypothesize and we test and we learn and we optimize once we get to that point where we think we know what we're doing, we then roll it out in these other platforms on these other sites. So yeah, we're actually this year about to embark on a project to unify the sites together under one platform so that we can more easily publish and share content and really get some of those efficiencies of scale. But yeah, that's what we're doing. We're growing new communities.
Jeff Bullas: So any of those are starting to get traction or is it just still early days in terms of you testing all those different niches?
Ben Aston: Yeah. These new sites have been going for about a year, and two of them are beginning to do well. So “People managing people” and “The Quality Assurance Lead” communities are both in a really good spot where we are beginning to build the wait list for people to join the community. They've both got thriving podcasts with a good following. We're collaborating with lots of different people on those sites and in those communities. So those two are showing a lot of early promise and yeah, it is exciting to see the model develop a process initiated and then following that process and seeing what happens.
Jeff Bullas: Okay, well you're taking a framework that's worked for you. In other words, you have recorded what works. You're building a community and you're then rolling that into different niches to see how that works, that framework. Is that correct?
Ben Aston: Yeah. Yeah.
Jeff Bullas: The other challenge, I certainly find with content and online courses, and this will be my last question, and then I'll just ask you to share some insights about being an online and some tips that you can leave with our audience. So how do you find keeping ... and we all know in this fast moving world, despite us trying to go slowly in a fast moving world, playing a long game, how do you find keeping your content relevant? So it doesn't age, because you create an online course and let's say you created something for Facebook, advertising training. It's going to be almost out of date next month. How do you go about keeping your content and training relevant and up-to-date?
Ben Aston: Yeah, that is super difficult, but we've been quite intentional right at the beginning. In focusing less on the tools and more on the higher level frameworks and theory that you can apply that stay relevant from one year to the next. So I think, yeah, if we were creating courses on how to run your next Facebook campaign and Facebook changes its interface every second week, we'd find it super difficult, but our overriding kind of principles for content is to make it evergreen. How can we create something that, yeah, we can come back to and update next year, but isn't going to require rewriting. Because what we want to do is not have a churn of content. We don't want to be a new site. We want to create stuff that's evergreen that will be relevant next year. Well add relevant next year as it is this year, maybe with a new section on something. So yeah, we try to steer clear of ephemeral content and try and find those evergreen areas that we can write about.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah. So you're really trying to create content around principle-based evergreen training that is hopefully going to be relevant in the next five to 10 years, and it's a real challenge to do that. So just to finish up, Ben, I know your time's valuable and we spent a few minutes getting the tech right on this. From cameras not working to microphone is not working to ... we got there in the end. Hopefully this sounds good. So just to finish up, what are some tips you could leave with our listeners regarding being an entrepreneur in a digital world and especially your building community? What are some two or three things that you think you've learned that you'd love to share with our audience?
Ben Aston: Yeah. I think probably the most relevant thing to anyone starting or maybe for someone whose side hustling at the moment. I think one of my regrets is not leaving my full-time job earlier, and waiting so long. I'm not really sure why I waited so long other than I just had the comfort of a full-time job to fall back on. So yeah, if you're thinking about making a jump, make the jump is something that I would recommend. And I think one of the really important things that was impactful was my first hire and then every subsequent hire after that. And I think sometimes we can be reticent to hire when we think, "Oh, we're adding overhead."
Ben Aston: But my experience has been particularly if you've got management experience already hiring great people who are better than you is going to really help you grow your business faster. And there's no way that we would have grown the way we have, if I hadn't hired really great people. So build that team as early as you can, make sure that you're not settling for B grade candidates, but hire the best people you possibly can and build the team that is going to help take you to where you want to go. And then I think it really comes down to ... We've been talking about this a lot today. I'm a massive fan of things being good enough. If it's good enough, ship it and then build things, tests, and then learn from it.
Ben Aston: I think all too often, we get caught up in perfection, as we talked about. And it is our concept or idea of perfection, which doesn't always play out in the real world at all. We can spend hours laboring over something and we might be creating the wrong thing altogether. So I'm a big fan of building things, testing and learning. Once something is good enough to test rather than creating perfect things. That way you're able to see if something works and pivot much more quickly. So build a great team, leave your job and start testing things. Don't just assume you know.
Jeff Bullas: I think those three points are great, Ben, and I do love the one, just ship it. And I think that's a Seth Godin quote possibly. I'm trying to remember, but just ship it because you don't know what you don't know. And until you ship it, you don't know if it's going to work or not. So you can build a ship that's got all the bells and whistles or let's just ship this feature, let's see if it works and you're going, "Oh my God, I didn't think that was going to work." So thank you very much for your insights and wisdom. Ben, it's been an absolute pleasure to have you on and look forward to catching up in real time in one of my favorite cities on the planet in Vancouver. So look forward to having a beer sometime in Vancouver when the dust has settled and the rain stopped.
Ben Aston: Yeah. See you in the summer then. Thanks Jeff.
Jeff Bullas: Thank you.
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