Forgive me, dear readers, but I’m hopelessly sentimental. I cry at weddings and funerals. I am choked up and teary-eyed when I watch my daughter’s dance recitals, or when my little boy nails a solid shot playing wiffle ball. My eyes mist when I hear the final section of “Suite Judy Blue Eyes.” For god’s sake, I dabbed away tears when I watched “Runaway Bride” and more recently “High Fidelity”!
So hopefully you will understand that upon the third anniversary of the birth of our baby there may be the occasional tearstain on the page, and I may have to pause more than once to blow my nose and wipe my eyes.
To our brothers and sisters out there who are struggling and striving to make that online venture thrive, we hoist our glasses of Saint-Emilion Grand Cru and say, “This one’s for you!”
As a fellow online venturer, may I pass along a few words that have helped us along the way?
- Whatever topic or interest or vertical you are focused on, make sure it is one you are passionate about. That passion will emanate out of everything you do. It will make your site or list breathe and sweat and bleed humanity. Let that passion ooze from the pores of your site. Your readers will love you for it.
- Don’t focus too much on what your competitors are doing. Instead, listen to your readers and your sponsors. In fact, listen to those readers who complain the loudest they are the ones who care the most. Listen to them, and they will tell you where you need to go in order to succeed. Satisfy them, and the rest will be thrilled.
- Say “Thank you”… a lot… every single day. Thank every reader who sends you an email. Thank every sponsor, no matter how small. Thank your vendors. Thank your employees. Let everyone know how much you appreciate the contribution they make to your ongoing success. And in thanking them, you are reminding yourself that your success is not all about you it’s about a rare constellation of wonderful people around you who are working with you to make something really special happen.
- You may reach a stage where your venture feels successful, but sometimes getting caught up in that thinking can lull you into a dangerous complacency. Keep striving for improvement at every phase of your game. What can you do to make your readers better off than they are now? How can you deliver better value for your advertisers? Are you doing something to improve the careers of all your employees? A little humility can go a long way in keeping yours a thriving, growing venture.
- Don’t let spreadsheets run your business. Those numbers can fool you if you let them. When you make decisions, ask yourself how this new feature or that new partnership or the potential new service will benefit the people you serve: your readers, your sponsors, your investors. Not just financially, but does it add value in some other way that’s not so easy to measure?
- Have fun. Seriously. You got into business for yourself so you could leave that miserable job behind. You wanted to be happier. So why not make your surroundings more fun? Why not employ and do business with people who are stimulating and interesting to be around? Why not escape the old mentality of working to live, and just live to live? Why shouldn’t the daytime hours be just as much fun as evenings and weekends?
- Don’t assume that the endgame is necessarily an IPO or massive buyout. If it is, fabulous, but both come at a price. Think back on all the people you’ve ever worked with. How many wouldn’t give their right arm to enjoy the freedom, independence and creativity you take for granted? It’s hard to put a price on that. So more than anything, enjoy the amazing point of history we are in now. Make the most of it and you’ll have no regrets.
Ann and I have the honor of coming to the office every day to serve you, our wonderful readers, and you, our precious sponsors. We feel like the luckiest people on earth… we really do. We look forward to getting to our desks in the morning and leave the office with a satisfied feeling at night. When we hear that something we’ve carried on the site or written about has helped one of our readers or sponsors succeed in some special way, we celebrate! We print out the email and slap it on the wall or forward it around to our employees to share in the joy.
So both of us want to offer you a heartfelt thank you for three wonderful years.
You make us feel like the luckiest people on earth.