While I was working on the time line the other night I began to notice that I wasn’t all that happy with what I accomplished for the business in ’08. Don’t get me wrong – we had a great year and I was super excited to see the growth laid out in numbers during our ’08 company review this afternoon. I’m very very happy, content, and proud at what we achieved as a business. Our goal was to double in revenue from ’07. Instead, we doubled plus an extra $50k. In a down economy, I’m not so naive that I don’t recognize that ’08 was special for us.
But on a personal level, when I compare strictly my business output vs 2007, 2008 doesn’t look all that great. Part of that is because moving to the warehouse and launching Tastefully Driven were very arduous tasks that took much more time and effort than anticipated. Part of it is because of our increased volume and the increase in customer service and overall BS work that comes with that. We also had a string early in the year where one catastrophe followed the next (heating system failing at the warehouse, firing our accountant during tax season, server crashing for a week, etc).
Mostly though, it was the more balanced approach I took towards life. I spent a lot of time intentionally downshifting and getting involved in the fun things I’d shut out for the prior two years. In terms of my “quality of life improvement” I give myself an A+ for 2008 whereas ’06 and ’07 were probably C+ at best. So all in all, I’m very happy with how things have turned out. They could be much, much worse.
All of that said, I want to return to that mentality I had in 2007 where I had a bit of a chip on my shoulder. I did A+ work that year. I’d wake up every day with an extremely narrow focus: complete the days tasks to make us a better business. Back then it was stressful because we weren’t sure if we’d be able to make payroll from one week to the next. Thankfully, that stress is gone. What I enjoyed most though was the feeling of comfort that came with blocking out a lot of the other insignificant BS that goes on around me and focus on something I passionately wanted.
Whereas goals for last year involved more life-balance type of things, this year I only want to maintain what I’ve started when it comes to that stuff. In my efforts to do more socially, I think I over did it a bit and let a little too much of the useless drama back in.
There is only one goal this year: complete our overhauled e-commerce platform. To a large extent, ’09 is a step back to re-invest in R&D. We’ve proven our business model. It works. We’re growing fast and we all are making decent salaries. The next step is to take all of what we’ve learned, everything that works and doesn’t work, and combine it with best design, UI, and programming practices to build the foundation for our company future. For the most part, the rest of the business will be status quo for the year.
We’re not just talking a better design for DI (which is sorely needed) or some new features, but a completely scalable solution that is as good as or better than the absolute best e-commerce platforms on the web. Mike and I have studied what we consider to be the best-in-class – Newegg, Overstock, Amazon, Buy.com, Best Buy, Circuit City, the unique Old Navy/Gap/Bananna Republic site, and hundreds more – and plan on taking the best features from each to give us a platform that we can grow with. Both the user experience and our back-end experience need to be improved ten-fold, and I’m not exaggerating. The platform needs to be scalable so that we can add a new e-commerce site in a matter of days using the existing code base that all of the sites share (a technique introduced to me by Anthony from Xonatek).
Sure, I want to do more cool little web apps like Music Alerts. They’re so much fun. I have a list of about 50 of them, some of which could potentially make us some decent money, but those will have to wait. This year is about one goal and one goal only. It’s an extremely challenging goal, and a very ambitious goal considering the infinitely superior resources of the companies we’re trying to best. It’s almost impossible. That’s how I work best.