This week I’d like to reflect on a book I read that left a surprising impression on me. Lost and Founders by Rand Fishkin was the topic of a Jake and Jonathan Podcast (see podcast of the week). Jonathan, one of the presenters mentioned that he purchases books that are recommended to him immediately. I like this philosophy and have embraced it wholeheartedly.
Ever since Apple started reminding us how much ‘Screen Time’ we accumulate, and after reading Manoush Zomorodi book ‘Bored and Brilliant’ - I have actively been trying to not pick up my phone! This has required me to invest in a wrist watch, digital alarm clock for the bedroom and actual books to read.
I have 2 children and when I pick up my phone to look at something, I cut them off - even if the task is something as harmless as checking the weather. All the kids see is Mum looking at her phone. It’s shitty. So, I decided to change my ways as I’d rather have my kids see me pick up a book than my phone.
I tested it out one afternoon, sat down on the couch and opened up the book I was reading. It took about 3 minutes before both kids grabbed a book of their own and snuggled up next to me. It may have only lasted 30 seconds before they started fighting and wanted me to stop reading my book and read theirs out loud, but for a very brief moment, we were all reading together on the couch - it was lovely.
The book that was getting torn away from me on the couch that day was Lost and Founders, which is what I wanted to write about. Rand Fishkin has written an autobiography about his journey and lessons learned as the CEO of Moz, an SEO company currently worth about US$47 million. The story is a chronological account that starts with him as a young website designer in his Mum’s design company to his resigning as the CEO of Moz ready to start all over again.
The purpose of the book to shed some light on what actually happens with start up companies in Silicon Valley and he uses his experiences with Moz as the live case study. I didn’t know much more than the obviously about ‘Start Up’s’ before reading this book but Rand’s blow by blow explanation describes the decisions he made and why he made them - for better or worse. He is incredibly honest and doesn’t leave much out which helps you feel very connected to Rand and the Moz journey.
While I haven’t done any work for a Silicon Valley start up (yet) there are a few really powerful messages that I think can be applied to working with any business, especially when they are starting out. My favourite takeaway is about Core Values. These are pretty well understood in any business or corporate setting but they often fall short of being the actual CORE of the business. Lots of businesses have positive affirmations plastered on their annual report but do they actually run every business decision they make through their core values? Rand has many examples of when Moz started to vare off the track and can usually narrow it down to a decision made that didn’t directly support the 6 company values or TAGFEE code (Transparent, Authentic, Generous, Fun, Empathetic, Exceptional). These values were decided on by the original employees of the company and ALL company decisions should result in improving and supporting the Core Values.
It’s made me reflect on my own company values and whether or not all decisions I make are for their benefit or mine. The most confident and competent people I work with are those who truly believe in their core values and work tirelessly at keeping the company true to them - even if it isn’t the most direct or cost effective route! I feel the side effect of this is integrity within and around the company or business.
So Lost and Founders - a super interesting read that certainly doesn’t skip of the facts and figures but uses them in a supportive role for bigger and more profound lessons.
The video of the week is Chris Do talking to Micheal Janda, the author of The Psychology of Graphic Design Pricing. The hour and a half long video dives into how to price design work. It's one of those videos I wish I’d watched years ago. Pricing jobs something I got wrong for a very long time. Videos like this are invaluable and make you aware of what you should actually be charging and but futher more, why.