I’m a lucky girl.
I have not one but two excellent business partners, one for each of my businesses (1. SaaS and 2. education).
One partner I’m also married to, Thomas.
And one I’m only business-married to, Alex.
Alex and I have been buds since 2007 and business partners, on and off, since 2009. That’s a whole freaking decade.
Despite my name-dropping, despite his tireless work in our inbox, the excellent business tutorials he’s written, co-hosting our conference, hosting our podcast, and all that great stuff, I’m definitely the face of Stacking the Bricks and a lotta folks don’t reallllllly know that Alex exists, or much about how we work together.
The truth? He’s the wizard behind the Stacking the Bricks curtain — in the best way possible.
So I was extremely chuffed when Alex went on Andrew Warner’s Mixergy podcast to talk about cofounder relationships and, specifically, to spill the dirt on ours.
You can listen above or visit the Mixergy website check out the full transcript, which runs a gamut of topics from the coworking industry (where Alex is a leading light) to how incredibly scary I am (um…ok) and why we do what we do, together.
But here are some of my favorite excerpts, lightly edited:
ALEX ON HIS ELEMENTARY SCHOOL HUSTLING
“I’m sure some of them may have been buying rocks out of some sort of charm or guilt or somewhere in between from this seven or eight-year-old selling rocks.
But the reality is I also went to like . . . And my mom was really into crafting. I remember going to craft shows and seeing people with literally painted rocks, and they were selling them as door stoppers.
So like, I didn’t think I was taking advantage of anybody. I had a rock, it could hold the door open, you have a door that needs holding open. This is an exchange of goods for money.”
(I never get tired of this story, because little Alex was doing proto-Sales Safari… he literally looked at what people actually bought and imitated it!)
ALEX ON WHY WE EVEN PARTNERED TO BEGIN WITH
“So I didn’t start Indy Hall by signing a lease, I started Indy Hall by building a community. It took over a year to do that before we even started looking for spaces.
And Amy’s software business was not, ‘Let me come up with an idea then figure out who it’s for,’ it’s, ‘Oh, I have a small software consultancy. Time tracking is a pain in the ass. I know a bunch of other people that are doing that. That problem exists. Maybe we can figure out, get a closer look at why people struggle with the time trackers they already have and make something better.’
So that sort of systematic look at who’s there, who are we already connected to and what problems do they have, I think is a key worldview that we’ve shared from the start.”
NB: Indy Hall is a 13-year-old coworking community in Philadelphia, co-founded by Alex, who is the face of the business.
This is a key point: Earlier in the conversation, Andrew Warner was asking if I picked Alex because I’m an introvert and wanted an extrovert to help “shoulder” the work. But that wasn’t it at all. Alex and I have always shared a way of looking at the world, doing things and helping people, and I just wanted to do this with him because I was excited to see what we could achieve together, not because I was looking for a tool — or even a set of skills — to fill a gap I had.
This is a major reason why our partnership has lasted so long and endured all the stresses inherent in such a partnership.
We didn’t set out to use each other to get something done for equity instead of pay.
ALEX ON WHY WE’RE NOT ACTUALLY ANTI-VC, BUT PRO-OPTIONS
“We saw lots of friends hopping, hopping, hopping jobs and then occasionally we’d hear somebody say something like, ‘I’m going out to the Bay Area and I’m going to raise some money and I’m going to start a startup of my own.’
And Amy and I would look at each other and be like, ‘Well, now you’ve got two problems.’ We’d ask, ‘Do you actually want to create a rocket ship of a company? Do you want to have 20, 50, 100 or more employees? Do you want to end up getting bought out and then just work like ending up in the exact same situation you’re trying to escape right now?’
Like, why are people not considering all of the options between these three sort of cornerstones of startup job, corporate job and going out raising venture capital?
And it was sort of in the space between those that we realized, we’re seeing something that other people aren’t, maybe we should talk about that.
(If you’re paying attention, you’ll have spotted the secret: this is Sales Safari at work.)
ALEX ON LANDING PAGES
“Andrew: One of things that I admired about the way the first Year of Hustle was presented was, it was just like on, like, a blog post. It didn’t feel like a long form sales letter. It just felt like a simple blog post with an offer to buy. You know what I mean?
Alex: Almost all of our products start out that way.
Andrew: Why did you laugh when I said that? What was I touching on that I didn’t even realize?
Alex: I think a lot of people really over engineer what they need. You know, people talk about landing pages and sales pages and marketing pages and all these things, and the reality is that they don’t think about what’s on it.
And what’s on it and who you wrote it for is the only thing that matters.”
ALEX ON HOW TO HANDLE A FUCKUP
“Alex: We had sold like 150-some-odd seats to the semester long course. We had done a whole revamp on the course. And a few weeks in, I was totally drowning in a client projects. Amy was frankly pissed at me. And she’s like, ‘what’s going on over there?’
And I had to be honest, I said, ‘I’m overcommitted. I screwed up. I feel terrible about it. And I mean that in the most honest way possible. I want to make it right.’’
…I was like, ‘If it makes sense, I’ll give my portion of the money back from this last version of the course.’
Andrew: And did you?
Alex: I did. I absolutely did. In my mind, I value the friendship more than the money. But also, I value the potential to ever work together again. You know, if and when I dig myself out of the problem I created for myself, which I was fairly confident that I would. So, yeah.
I think that that experience early on sort of established what me and Amy’s professional relationship was going to be like….”
One of the reasons Alex and my relationship has been so durable is that we strive to be both realistic and honest about our mistakes.
I don’t want you to walk away thinking that Alex is the only one who’s gone through a period of not pulling their weight, because of course I have as well…
ALEX ON HIS EPIC BUSINESS BREAKTHROUGH
“At the beginning of last year, 2018, we were set up to do our first January launch of 30×500 and Amy came to me and she’s like, ‘I’m really sick. I can’t do this.’
And I was like, ‘Well, what if I found a way to do this without you. How could I use everything that we’ve built up until this point?’
The reality is, every time we launched the course, it was all bespoke new, new content, new framing, new articles, new essays, and the vast majority of it Amy was writing. I was working more on behind the scenes editing and exercises and implementation on the course and things like that.
So we had a bunch of successful launches in the past. I thought to myself,’What if rather than Amy needing to write an entirely new bespoke one, I’ll go back through our past launches?’ And what I ended up doing was creating sort of, it’s almost like a mixtape or like a greatest hits album of articles and essays that were part of our launch in the past that the people really liked, that people responded well to.
And so I built that January launch that way. And by the end of that launch, we had blown through our best sales record ever since we had rebuilt the course in 2015…
And so in 2018 we did $480,000ish grand. That was like a 40% increase over the previous year without creating anything new.”
I had to cut a huge part of this out because this email is already super long. But this is literally the biggest and most important thing in our business for the last 2 years and it changed everything! Alex gave a lot more details in the interview — about this, our finances, the way we’ve evolved the course over time, and of course lots of coworking inside baseball — and you should absolutely check it out!
There's more where that came from
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