Ten Things I Will Never Have to Do Again

Almost four years ago, after a failed attempt to grow my consulting firm, I made the decision to never hire another employee.

Through my experience as a manager and employer I realized that the time and energy it takes to hire, manage, motivate, train, administer, and retain employees would be better invested in adding value to my products.

In other words, I’d rather spend my time writing code, talking to customers, and marketing my products than managing employees who would do that work for me.

As time has passed I’ve realized the benefits of Micropreneurship are abundant. Far more than I realized when I initially made the decision.

Some of the more obvious benefits include never spending a single minute worrying about:

  • Employee retirement plans
  • Payroll
  • Hiring
  • Firing
  • Someone quitting
  • Meetings
  • The myriad of office politics I’ve experienced, even at small companies

And mark my words; every one of these takes time, energy and focus away from making your product better. More than you can measure.

But aside from these, there are some less obvious areas that we spend countless hours working on (and worrying about) that a single founder with no employees will never do again.

So with a sigh of relief I present to you a list of ten things that confirm Micropreneurship was indeed the right choice for me.

I will never again have to:

  1. Read a book about leadership
  2. Worry about building a company culture
  3. Get someone’s “buy in”
  4. Participate in a performance review (on either side of the table)
  5. Motivate a hopeless employee that I did not hire and could not fire
  6. Negotiate a raise
  7. Commute
  8. Ask for permission to take a day off
  9. Take only two weeks of vacation in a year
  10. Update my resume

Would love to hear your additions to this list. Please post them to the comments.

Start Small, Get Big
Growth Secrets for Self-Funded Startups. It'll Change Your Life.
What you get for signing up:
  • A 170-page ebook collecting my best startup articles from the past 5 years
  • Previously unpublished startup-related screencasts
  • Exclusive revenue-growing techniques I don't publish on this blog
"The ideas and information Rob provides should be required reading for anyone that wants to create a successful business on the web." ~ Jeff Lewis
Startups for the Rest of Us...
If you're trying to grow your startup you've come to the right place. I'm a serial web entrepreneur here to share what I've learned in my 11 years as a self-funded startup founder. Luckily several thousand people have decided to stick around and join the conversation.

For more on why you should read this blog, go here.

18 comments ↓

#1 Steve Morin on 09.29.10 at 5:46 pm

I think some people thrive with Micropreneurship by not dealing with other people and their hang ups. But just like in most things in life, I have seen probably more people who are pushed by working with people.

You don’t have to play IT manager, which you often have to do with even very technical people. That might be one of my favorites.

#2 Stephan Wehner on 09.29.10 at 5:48 pm

You can add to your list “Write a job ad”.

I think it’s a trade-off. I would guess you would enjoy working with talented people who complement your skills.

Just not that easy to find.

Stephan

#3 Rob on 09.29.10 at 5:51 pm

>>I think it’s a trade-off. I would guess you would enjoy working with talented people who complement your skills.

You’re absolutely right. I do enjoy working with awesome developers.

Although I am a solo founder I do have hand-picked business partners in two of my businesses.

#4 Marcus McConnell on 09.29.10 at 7:46 pm

Rob,

I know that you try to outsource a lot of the day to day activities, correct? Could you talk a little bit more about how connected/disconnected you can be on vacation? Could you take 8 weeks of vacation during the year without checking email or keeping touch with your sites? If you can, please provide some tips on how to accomplish this.

Thanks!

#5 Rob on 09.29.10 at 7:53 pm

@Marcus – I can be pretty well disconnected when I’m on vacation. If I give my business partners and VAs some notice I can take a couple weeks off without checking email. With no notice I would need to check email 1-2 times during the week.

I take a lot of vacation by U.S. standards: 6-8 weeks per year. I typically check email 2-3 times per week during this time, where I spend 10-15 minutes responding to anything urgent. I don’t have to check this often, but I typically have the time and I like to take care of whatever I’m able to while I’m on the road.

I went to the mountains last summer and was incommunicado for 5 days and everything went fine. If I go back to Costa Rica I will likely be off the grid for a week or two and I won’t worry about it while I’m gone.

The biggest tips I have are that my business partners are really good and we cover for each other. And all businesses where I don’t have a partner I have a VA that handles tier 1 email support. Obviously if I didn’t have the business partners I would have VAs covering those businesses as well.

I don’t have as much automation in place as I do reliable VAs who handle things while I’m in town when they can ask questions, so they are able to handle a wide variety of situations when I’m out of town because they know how to make the decision.

If I had to point to two things that allow me to take vacations, it’s:

1. Building the business with this automation in mind. Automating or outsourcing everything I possible can as I go along. I’ve written code to handle all product delivery, I rely on long-term sources of traffic, and I’ve created 30+ Google Docs with processes that are used by my VAs.

2. Reliable VAs whom I’ve worked with for an extended period of time. None of them are full-time; all are hourly employees and only bill me when they work on my apps. But they handle tier 1 email support all the time so when I leave it’s not a major shift from when I’m in town.

#6 Marcus McConnell on 09.29.10 at 8:57 pm

Thanks Rob!

Maybe I can pick your brain a little more at BOS2010 next week.

#7 Jack Nilssen on 09.29.10 at 9:16 pm

Always refreshing to read these, thanks!

In my top ten, one of the most important would be:

X. Wear pants.

#8 AnnMaria on 09.30.10 at 1:21 am

High on my list of things I will never do again are some of yours:

Ask for permission to take a day off
Take only two weeks of vacation in a year

Also,

Work with (or for) people I don’t respect or who don’t respect me.

Do work I don’t consider important or interesting.

Have someone else set my hours

I DO have employees and have generally had good ones. The biggest pain is payroll, workers comp insurance and all the paper work but I have a wonderfully competent accountant who does 90% of that.

The trade off of having employees is that I don’t have to do things like make travel arrangements, enter data, keep track of business expenses and a lot of other things that take me away from writing code. That has the added benefit of allowing me to make more money while I get out of boring stuff.

Also, there is a social benefit, I think, to creating jobs that pay a good salary and allow young people to develop a variety of skills. I was lucky to have that opportunity when I was young and so I try to provide it for others.

#9 Rob on 09.30.10 at 1:37 am

>>The trade off of having employees is that I don’t have to do things like make travel arrangements, enter data, keep track of business expenses and a lot of other things that take me away from writing code.

That’s great. I outsource this to virtual assistants, but I can imagine good employees could work for this. You have more consistency; I don’t have to worry about payroll, workers comp, etc…

>>Also, there is a social benefit, I think, to creating jobs that pay a good salary and allow young people to develop a variety of skills.

I agree with this. It’s actually one of the few reasons that have consistently pushed me in the direction of hiring employees. Thus far I’ve resisted.

#10 A-ron on 09.30.10 at 8:48 am

I’ll never have to ride the bus to school again (nightmare), especially when it’s freezing cold outside and the bus has no heater (true story). As far as everything else, you never know. We could all wake up one day and find this magically land of interweb is gone, killed by terrorists or “global warming.” Then jobs may be our only salvation :).

I’m one of those people that doesn’t play well with others when it comes to creative endeavors, and I view programming and software as a creative endeavor. I can work with others, as long as I have significant creative control, not necessarily over the whole project, but at least the area I’m working in. Like when I played drums in bands, I objected to anyone telling me what and/or how to play. In this respect, all jobs are prisons that can crush even the strongest creative spirits.

And that’s why being successful at this Micropreneurship thing is so important to me. It transcends your list of 10 things. It’s about getting out of the cage that’s on the conveyor belt.

#11 Andy Brice on 10.01.10 at 3:52 am

11. Set my alarm clock when I go to bed at night.

(That is a big deal for me – I’m not good in the morning!)

#12 bennyb on 10.01.10 at 9:32 am

Best post I’ve read this week. Same list for me.

#13 Wade on 10.01.10 at 1:22 pm

I always like to tell people I only work for one asshole now 🙂

#14 Chris on 10.05.10 at 1:13 am

Hi Rob,
I’d surmise that most people feel the way you do. In fact, I nearly ceased hiring any employees for my consulting firm at first, too. However, I realized the only way to scale an organization is to empower subordinates.

Many leaders I’ve met or advised had challenges letting go of control. A consistent program of delegation, cloning success, and allowing your people to take risks is the surest way to grow. It’s rough to allow your people to fail but you must.

Check out a series of articles on our blog about creating a turn-key organization. Start with http://ow.ly/2OvFV where it describes the steps we took to grow a small regional firm.

Cheers!
Chris

#15 Sean Tierney on 10.05.10 at 1:14 am

– mediate a dispute between employees
– report to a clueless middle-manager
– wear a name badge
– report your time in 6min increments (<- had to do that at a job)
– worry about making payroll

Of course there are drawbacks:
– never be able to build and rely upon a team that is truly invested & cohesive
– not be able to check out for a few days and have company run without you
– rarely have contractors go above & beyond tasks as spec'd
– no creative conflict to challenge your assumptions
– no office culture, diversity, personalities & relationships to stimulate and bond

#16 Deborah Fike on 10.12.10 at 12:40 pm

My husband and I are starting an online subscription-based tools business. He’s the programmer and I’m the marketer. 80% of the reason we’re launching this business is to be independent and let our own ideas live or die by the market, rather than have to answer to the whims of a boss or an investor. In that respect, we both have said we are doing to do our damnedest not to hire anyone but hires.

That being said, we do have some holes on our 2-person team, and that means finding a lot of contractors or consultants. It’s not trivial the amount of time it takes to manage them either, to be honest. But at least you can just employ them strictly for the work they provide, and you can switch much, much easier if you are dissatisfied. The downside is a good contractor can’t be worried about just your business and can be spread thin.

#17 Dante on 10.22.10 at 9:10 pm

mmm… but what happens if your company grows..? you have to hite more people I think… Have you ever think in hire a Manager and you will be focus only on Tech things… like Ballmer/Gates duo.

What do you think?

#18 Rob on 10.22.10 at 10:39 pm

>>but what happens if your company grows..?

If it grows in revenue that’s fantastic. That’s the goal – no employees required 🙂

If it grows in required manual labor I either increase the hours one of my VAs works on it, or if I’m not able to outsource the labor I will eventually sell the product. The point is to remain a solo founder.