Getting Back on Track Post-Launch

In a lot of ways, it’s easier for me to approach life as a whole while I’m developing a large project like LockerPulse or the new Detailed Image last year or Tastefully Driven the year before. I tend to have a very narrow focus. I don’t think much past launch date. I want to work as hard as I can every day to push to get the site out to the world as soon as possible. I still work out and eat well and try to get enough sleep, but almost everything else gets reduced/minimized. I find this completely necessary for me to get the job done well and to do it without going insane.

Then the site goes live and I feel like this for a little while. Then I realize that I’ve got to get back to a more “normal” balance, which for me means going back to all of the things I wrote about in my productive output post a few years back. As I’ve done before, I’m making an intentional effort to spend more time with friends and family as the Summer gets started, I’m making sure I spend as much time as possible outside in the nice weather (this weekend was beautiful and I spent large chunks of Friday, Saturday, and Sunday outdoors), and I’m making it a point to allow myself more time to read and relax at the beginning and end of the day.

Once I get back to neutral, which I feel like I’m a lot closer to right now, things tend to get fun. Small, iterative improvements on the site design and functionality are some of my favorite projects to work on because you get to really hone in on a few details and try to get them right. I also like to actually market stuff…once upon a time I actually made my living doing SEO and web marketing, which I still enjoy doing. Both LockerPulse and Detailed Image have a lot of great projects in the pipe line. I’m also looking forward to being able to devote myself to learning and applying some new skills to our projects, like HTML5 and CSS3.

Now that I’ve finally pulled my head out of the sand we’ve got a really exciting few months ahead of us.

For fun, I was searching through my blog and found some interesting quotes from previous projects that exactly describe this same situation after previous launches. There might be more, but this was all that I could think of. I think a lot of my comments illustrate that how you feel on Day 1 or Day 10 or even Day 30 really has no bearing on the ultimate success or failure of a project.

6/2006iPrioritize Wacky Day 2 [launch of iPrioritize]:

From my limited experience as an entrepreneur, I’ve come to the realization that the day after the launch of a new business or product is a weird one. The initial excitement and relief of the launch has been replaced with a realization that you have exactly zero customers. Now, maybe for some people this doesn’t happen the next day, but I’d say something’s wrong if you are still celebrating your launch a week later.

I woke up in a weird mood today. I had that “holy crap, how am I going to get people to start using my site and eventually buy my service” feeling, despite the fact that I have a well-thought out marketing plan to execute. I suppose that I get this feeling because marketing is such an inexact science.

5/2007Price Guide Live – is it ready? am I freaking out? & Positive response thus far, but I’m worn out [launch of the SportsLizard Price Guide, which has become very successful – over 4 million price searches and counting]:

When you first launch something you ALWAYS freak out. No matter how solid your plan or your product, you realize that all of the hard work you put in thus far has generated exactly $0 and you’ve really accomplished very little. I purposely posted immediately after I put it up to capture my feelings: Did I add enough features? Will people be able to figure it out? Will people even care? Did I quality check it well enough? etc, etc.

On a more personal level though, I’m worn out. When I’m programming like crazy I shut out my entire life – I exist for one purpose and that’s to get the job done. Now that it’s done, everything else is catching up with me. My back is still driving me nuts, is much worse than anticipated, and has sidelined me for over a month (although the doc just cleared me for light exercise this week which rocks). My free time/social life is still lacking, although I blame myself for holding back…it’s not like the opportunities aren’t there, just that I turn them down frequently to focus on my work (and recently cuz I can barely walk).

Side note: I think I programmed that entire project either standing up or lying in bed. It was impossible to sit. That back injury (torn oblique + herniated disk) took over a year to fully heal and added a completely different level of stress because I didn’t have the physical outlet that I normally do

9/2007DI Up – Completely and Utterly Drained [launch of the first DI cart]

I am 100% completely drained – I’ve got nothing in the tank right now. For the past 3 months, I’ve pushed balls out everyday to launch this site so that our company can make the efficiency gains from the automation of this site, which in turn enables us to focus more efforts on marketing existing sites and developing new ones (the key right now to our successful growth). Every bit of expendable energy has been directed to the site the past 3 months. Couple that with the PayPal disaster last week and this redirect fiasco last night, and those two “crisis” have worn me down.

Honestly, if I had a wife and a house and 2.5 kids I wouldn’t be able to do it right now. Even after a few years, I still need to give the business priority. We all acknowledge that this is the turning point for the company and it’s uphill from here, but the focus, determination, and sacrifice that all of us have given lately is evidence of just how hard you have to work to get to the spot that it looks like we’re at now. We’re all talented guys, but nothing replaces relentless hard work.

So I don’t burn out, I’m taking the next few days real easy (i.e. unless there’s ANOTHER disaster, I’m not working).

4/2008Downshifting Post-Launch [launch of Tastefully Driven]

I’ve got to remember that we’re in this for the long haul and we don’t need $50k months right off the bat to be having success. I knew this all along – it was part of our plan, but I still got the same anxiety. So I started asking myself WHY.

I think I was wrong back in 2006 – it’s not at all because marketing is an inexact science. It’s because you downshift yourself from going balls out to launch a site to a more steady, long-term marketing strategy. It’s a massive life change that’s akin to switching from being a sprinter to a marathon runner.

For months I was pushing with everything I could to launch the site. Since I knew it was a short term thing, I could work 15 hour days and push aside other aspects of my life. The “rush” was always there because I saw us rapidly achieving goals that brought us closer to the ultimate goal: launch.

Now, I’m doing a mix of things that will bring some sales right away (PPC, product syndication, etc) and things that will bring in sales months/years from now (blog posts, forum posts, videos). Programming goes from exciting features to mundane maintenance, with the occasional exciting feature a few times a year. The ultimate goal is thriving over a period of years, something that’s much harder to get motivated for.

5/2008The New SportsLizard is FINALLY Done [current SportsLizard revamp – which has resulted in a doubling of revenue]

Now that I’ve had a few days to calm down from everything, I’m not really sure how I feel about it. Weird is the best word to describe it. The guy who spends all day on the card message boards seems to have no use for what we provide, even the Price Guide tool. This makes me scratch my head and quite frankly pisses me off. Part of me thinks it will just never happen with SL – we have our audience, our niche, and I should leave it at that. Part of me wants to keep pushing and make it finally pull through. Another part of me wants to take everything I learned with SL and start another unrelated cards site and focus on that

5/2009The new Detailed Image is Live! [current Detailed Image cart]

As far as I’m concerned, I’m totally spent. (followed by about 8 paragraphs explaining the crazy launch…you get the idea)

I’m not sure if these types of posts are interesting for everyone to read, or if it seems like I keep re-iterating the same points over and over again, but I think this emotional rollercoaster is an important topic related to running a business that’s mysteriously not talked about much. I figure if even one person launching a project reads this post and feels better that they’re not alone, it’s worth my time.

7 comments on Getting Back on Track Post-Launch

  1. Rob says:

    These posts are certainly interesting for me to read, as I often go through the same rollercoaster of emotions when we try something new. What’s really interesting is the number of times you’ve been through it and documented it and so can see it coming, but that doesn’t seem to help…

    When you start a project, after the initial shine wears off but waaaaay before launch, do you start having massive doubts and guilt pangs that what you’re doing isn’t currently generating revenue and that you should perhaps be working on your main project (eg. DI) rather than a side project? This is what I struggle most with – I find it really hard to start big projects if I can see them stretching out a long way ahead and/or I feel that they may make me take my focus off my main business too much.

    I think Bill Hogan had it right with “How do you eat an Elephant? One bite at a time”; it’s just so hard sometimes!

    • Adam McFarland says:

      Haha yes it is. To answer your question, yes, I’ve always struggled with how much attention should be placed on strictly the easiest revenue generating project. What keeps me wanting to do these types of things (and not just do DI or even build lots of websites for people) is that I want to have fun and work on exciting projects more than I want to be a billionaire doing something boring. I do think this strategy will work well for us in the long run (throw enough darts and you’re bound to hit a bulls eye). It also is nice to step away from DI for a while. I’m really really excited about a few projects that would have stressed me out to think about six months ago. I just needed a mental break from thinking about it 24×7.

      • Rob says:

        by “it” do you mean DI or LP? Are the projects part of DI, or something new again?

        • Adam McFarland says:

          Sorry for not being more clear. Yea I mean more DI projects. Definitely nothing new for a while lol. We’re going to be rolling with what we’ve got for the foreseeable future.

  2. Tim says:

    I think these posts are great as well, they are unfiltered experiences of what it’s really like out there. So many folks think being a business owner means opening a business and hiring people to do all the work and you are left with all of the money, a private jet, a yacht and houses peppered across the globe – this is NOT the case. Typically entrepreneurs work harder, smarter and longer hours often for the same or less pay for a VERY long time. People see the overnight success story and successful businesses owners but they rarely see the blood, sweat and tears that go into making their business that way. It’s an emotional experience, it’s a physically draining experience, everything falls back on you and your abilities, there is no one else to blame and often HUGE potential financial losses if things go poorly – that’s a lot to be responsible for!

    @Rob, I like the quote at the end of your post, very true!

    • Adam McFarland says:

      Well said Tim

    • Rob says:

      @Tim – I definitely agree with you; I think the perception of business owners by the general public is heavily influenced by survivor bias and a minority of high-profile businesses. Most people fail to see the small mom & pop businesses and fail to recognise that all the independent stores that have been closing in the last couple of years aren’t just a store but someone’s life, dreams and livelihood.

      That said, dreams are important motivators (is fear of failure a better motivator?) so it can be helpful in some ways to have these incredibly successful examples to shoot for, as long as you remain grounded in your expectations.

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