Scaling your business is exciting, but it can also be scary and anxiety-inducing. This week, Paul and Rich share lessons they’ve learned in five years growing Postlight from managing business owner anxiety to learning to let go and trust others. They also discuss the importance of building your business to be much bigger than its founders.
Paul Ford Yeah, isn’t that—that’s a great part of our partnership, is I eventually learned to be as unhappy as you are about things.
Rich Ziade Yeah, instead of you influencing me to be more zen and calmer, I influenced you to become more paranoid and terrified. [music ramps up, plays alone for 15 seconds, fades out]
RZ Yes, Paul. How are you?
PF I’m doing good. I’m doing good. I’m enjoying life.
RZ That was a pregnant pause there.
PF Well, you know, it’s been a couple of years, you know, you weren’t allowed to say you were doing good there for a while, you had to kind of put a lot of caveats from but it feels like we can kind of, you know, be nice to have a vaccine. I’d love a little vaccine action. That’d be cool. So look, there’s a topic we bring up a lot. And it’s something I’ve learned a lot about, we’ve hit on a couple of different ways. And I’ll just say it straight out, it’s growth, right, like growth is one of these words, that shows up in business and product and—
RZ In technology, in startups, the pressure of growth, I mean, it’s growth!
PF Here’s what’s tricky. I would actually say, I’m curious what you think, I would say that growth almost doesn’t have a definition. Like you can be like, well, it’s the you know, you can show a chart, or you can say it’s revenue, or you can say it’s number of people or number of users. It’s just growth, right, and it doesn’t have one definition. And your job, if you’re leading is to go find growth. And it’s not always one thing, it ultimately, because you have to pay people and companies exist—or maybe it’s not, maybe you’re a not for profit, and you have to give money away. But ultimately, you are looking for some, you know, you’re investing some money and you’re getting a bigger return than you would get, say going down to the store and buying honeybuns. But aside from that, I just think it’s all a lot of hooey. And you kind of know it, and you learn to feel it. And then you just, you’re just always, always looking for growth. And so the real job of a leader is to define what kind of growth matters for you and the organization? And how are you going to achieve it?
RZ Yes, I agree with that. But let’s put aside a very particular cohort that decides that they are going to be 10 people, and don’t want more than that. I had dinner once with someone I respect very much, who said—why are you—we were like growing, as Postlight has been doing for the last few years. And I was like “It’s getting harder. We got to scale up the operational parts, HR, etc.” And she looked at me just utterly confused and said, “Why are you doing this?” And it was interesting to hear that because this is someone who is very smart, could easily grow a business if she really wanted to, and decided that she was going to balance her lifestyle, keep income coming in. But she wasn’t going to chase growth. It’s not that different than the person who has the diner in the small town who knows exactly what his revenue is going to be every year because he knows all of the people in the small town. And the person that saves every penny from that diner, and then opens one in another small town.
PF I’ll give you a great example, which is, you know, the diner owner in New York City, and they come to buy his building and offer him like $20 million.
RZ It has happened! And this happens.
PF Yeah. And he’s like, “Why would I do that? I got a great diner!”
RZ Well, no, like for $8.95 you get a burger, fries, salad and a Diet Coke. And he goes, “Do you know how long it took me to perfect the profit margin around that offering?” [Rich laughs]
PF And it’s you know, “My kids come in their families come in. People come in after church.”
RZ Yeah, it’s less about money. It’s a great point.
PF I don’t really, I don’t really want that. And I mean, there’s also the element that like later he could sell if you wanted to. It’s okay. It’s okay.
RZ But most entrepreneurs do what they do. And I think this is something that is beyond business. This is something fundamental, it is why there are lines on a map. It is why there is territories—like we are, by our nature, by nature, ambitious.
PF Even if we’re not, if more than 1 or 2% of us are, that’s enough.
RZ Actually, you’re making a good point. Most are not, most are just looking for stability, they have aspirations but they’re more professional rather than like growing a thing and growing an entity.
PF I want to go back to your friend there because I’ve had that conversation many times because, you know, I think people see me as a kind of unlikely entrepreneur and like to make fun of me and—which I welcome. So I’ve had that conversation about like, you know, why are you growing a business?
RZ You’re a writer, you have no business growing or making money. Your thing is, “I’m going to research the purchase of a breakfast nook for the next 60 days, that will take up my free time.” That’s all you’re supposed to do.
PF Yeah, so first of all, you know like I was always consultant but second of all, being a writer, there’s no industry left, I wanted to do something I wanted to get my hands dirty. Anyway, I’ve always liked that. Like, when I was starting out my career, I wanted to get into advertising just so I could see how it worked. I like to go up close and see. But this isn’t about me, right? It’s about like, what I would say with that small business, is that what people do, and I actually say this with a tremendous amount of respect, and sometimes jealousy, they stay very anchored in their discipline, they say, I am going to build the best X and it’s going to be 10 people, I’m going to build careers, I’m going to make plenty of money, that’s fine, I know how to do that, I’m going to build great client relationships. But that next stage up, I’m not going to do it, because that will get me out of editorial platform building or design or engineering or whatever. And so there’s like kind of a natural cap, right, where they go beyond that, I’m going to spend more of my time working around invoicing or trying to drum up new business that they will doing the thing that I love that I find rewarding on a day to day basis.
RZ Right, away from the craft and more towards the operational stuff that comes with growth.
PF Yeah, and I ran the numbers on my writing career. And I was like, Okay, well, that’s not, that’s never gonna happen, right? Like I’m not I can’t build a 10 person writing shop. That’s very dangerous.
RZ I mean, worth noting to you are, you are in the 0.5% of successful writers, like you are making, you could make a living and you could go down the path, you could go get the job, you could be an editor in some really well recognized publication. And so you’re, you’re even an aberration inside of this example.
PF It’s funny for me, because you’re talking about how certain, you know, there, there are borders for a reason, right? I find disciplines to be very border driven, right. Like writers have certain things that they can do in certain things they can’t. I remember feeling like you know that the people in the information architecture community were a little upset with me for going to learn how to program. And the programmers, of course, were always really upset that somebody who’s coming in from other disciplines and talking about them. People treat their disciplines as territories. I hate that, I just find it to be the biggest drag in the world because no one has all the solutions. And you have to put all these pieces together. And actually, having the company makes that really interesting. You have different disciplines interacting, you have leaders in those disciplines, but you’re figuring out how to get the thing done. But what happens on the other side of that you put the disciplines together, you put the the different processes and ways of working—ops, design, engineering product, back end, front end, all the different things that you do. But all of those together, when you put them together, you have to drive them with some sort of policy or understanding that kind of will move everything forward. The only thing that moves things forward across disciplines is a sense of growth, which is “I’m going to get more work so that we can do more things.” It’s the only way to activate that kind of work.
RZ Yes, if you are, I mean, look, you could do that inside of a well established business, right, you know, the user experience team inside of American Express, but let’s be realistic—
PF I’m gonna counter, you can’t.
PF Giant orgs build innovation groups and innovation platforms and all kinds of, it’s really hard. I’ve seen and worked with both of them. Some of them can succeed. Like I’m being a little bit too reductive there. But for the most part, it is an incredible slog to try to create interdisciplinary groups where there is a very large organization, it’s political, there’s a lot of fighting. And what happens is the friction is such that the only people who can succeed are people who are good at organizational politics. Occasionally, you will have a breakout if you have that sort of perfect barrier between the organization and the team. So like Xerox PARC is a great example right? Like they were able to pioneer a ton of stuff because they had very good leadership that was like “I’ll go take care of Xerox you guys go get your beanbag chairs.”
RZ Yeah. But even there Xerox rejected the organ, right, like they didn’t even welcome it in like Xerox is still about copiers today. Right?
PF Yeah no, they could never—and document management. They could never quite figure out what to do with it because all the new work, to them, it looked like ‘Copiers Plus’. It’s like oh, we’ll make the star workstation. It’ll cost $20,000. And people will use it to prepare documents. And then Steve Jobs saw the same set of technologies and said, Oh cool, a consumer product that will allow us to blow away the Apple 2 because it’ll have little pictures.
RZ You know, it’s interesting that you bring this up Paul, you know, when I approached you to start Postlight, you said something very interesting to me. You said something along the lines of “I’m curious to see how this works. I want to go inside.” And watching you come to terms and really come to understand all of the pieces around the machine. It is a learning experience. I will say this it is a wild ride. It is inevitably a wild ride, but it is an incredible learning experience to be in the cockpit when you’re trying to grow and also we are an agency. Agencies are one of the most volatile types of businesses like they’re, they’re just naturally volatile. And it’s been wild. And we are at a point now, and this is why this topics come up is, you know, we are constantly challenged by growth, constantly. So let’s park, the decision we’ve all made, let’s say it out loud. We didn’t say “Enough growth, this is fine. It’s a nice car, there’s power windows—”
PF You and I have a conventional, there is a conventional capitalist rationale here, which is more growth is better for the organization. Now what people might hear when they hear that is greed, which fine, if you want to, that is actually fine, you can hear that. But the thing you may not hear is that because we have a limited time horizon to understand the future of our business, four to six months, and then we kind of don’t know exactly what Postlight will be, we have to continue to grow. Because that is the only way to manage risks to the business, if I can’t get more work in. And actually the you know, the person who made this really clear was Rick Webb and his agency book. He’s like, that’s it, you’re either growing, or you’re shrinking. There is that certain pointers, that equilibrium with you know, eight to 10 people and you can kind of turn work away and slow play stuff, and nobody’s coming to you with very big projects, because they know the scale and you’re very, very boutique, there is an equilibrium you can find. And you can sustain that equilibrium for often for years.
RZ I think you can do that at 8 to 10. I don’t think you can do that at 70. Like that’s really, like, cruising altitude at 70, it’s nearly impossible. It’s very hard to do.
PF It’s totally impossible, because you need big things and you need sales, and you’ve got groups splits up, and also 8 to 10 might have one admin, but 70 needs a layer of people collecting bills, running finances, dealing with accountancy, doing HR, that’s our ops department, right? Like, there are all these other functions where people are aligned and people are more aligned maybe with their disciplines. And then with the entirety of the company, right, like 8 to 10 can truly share a mission. Everybody’s talking.
RZ You can go out to lunch together! You can you can literally the whole company, can eat together on a regular basis, connect. Like, we don’t know what’s going on in the little, in the circles, and we’re remote right now. So we don’t know what’s bubbling up. What’s what’s brewing in different corners of the org.
PF No that’s right, 10 is like we’re going to each other’s weddings. Seems like you’re having a bad day. People can vote on office snacks. You know, it’s stuff like that. Right? So it’s very, very cohesive. So no, I mean, okay, so now we’re in a situation, we feel as the leader of Postlight—took me a while to figure out what my, what my job was. My job is to always identify growth for Postlight. And then in partnership with you, look for ways to achieve that growth. That is the dumbest thing I could say out loud. But it’s utterly true. What does the CEO of Postlight do? People think that the CEO of Postlight is like either playing golf or looking at spreadsheets. The CEO of Postlight kind of idly looks at Twitter sometimes, reads a lot of PDFs, thinks about six months from now, and then talks to Rich for three hours, and then we make a decision. [Rich laughs]
RZ You got to be able to, you got to sell it better than that. If you’re the keynote speaker at some conference, dude, it better be better than that. [Paul laughs] It better be better than that. Look, we speak to product managers a lot. We speak to designers a lot. We speak to engineers a lot. We speak to technical leaders a lot. We speak to executives a lot what we’re speaking to here, and let’s just say it out loud, is someone that’s either starting a business or has aspirations to do so. And and that is a big moment. Right. And and I think there are two things to keep in mind when you do it. You know, I was in a, at a conference and I ran into Lynda from Lynda.com, which I think now is owned by Exxon Mobil. I think they got acquired or whatever. But Lynda’s in the airport. And we were—my old agency, Arc90 was 24, and she looked at me and she was like, 300 at that point, right? And she said, “Ooh, that’s bad.” I was like, “What do you mean? It’s bad?” She was like “You’re in that terrible spot, 25 to 50. You got to get HR, you got to get like a finance, you got to get a bookkeeper. You can’t have fun anymore.” And it kind of hit me that there are these tears your leap across as you grow. So first off, decide, if you’re going to do it, decide what you’re really aspiring to do. What most people have visions of, is big growing successful agency and the toast that the holiday party, right? Like “I can’t believe what we’ve built together. This is such a wonderful thing.” I can tell you that those are really a sliver of the moments around growth, if you’ve decided that you’re going to grow the thing that we’ve succeeded with and this is I think we should say out loud because people wonder what we do all day at Postlight, is we’ve created a lot of heat around Postlight, right? That is the beginning of a process where you have to literally pluck certain molecules out of that heat and turn them into growth. And what we’ve done, successfully, without a doubt, because we are five years old, and we can, we can barely keep up with with opportunities, is we’ve created that heat such that enough options are being put in front of Postlight. So park that for a second, that is half the battle, we wouldn’t be talking about growth if we were coming out of a pandemic and like, “My God, what are we going to do? This is a disaster.” That has not been the case. However, when you do that, I wish I could tell you, we could decide exactly how many molecules we want in front of Postlight. You’re not allowed to decide that, if you’re going to create opportunity. And that’s through marketing, through outreach, through messaging, through branding, you don’t know what’s going to come back at you. You can be too successful with it.
PF You know what it is, but and here’s how you get in that situation. So suddenly, you have more leads than you can follow. So here’s how you get in that situation. But that’s actually that’s good. It feels bad, but it’s good. We decided about, I would say about a year ago, that no matter what happened, we were going to continue to market the firm. Because what would happen before that is we get really overwhelmed. And then literally you and I would go on to client projects and start working on things. Because, because the firm was so busy. And as a result, that part of growth would get less attention. But everything’s a lagging indicator. So then four months later, you got all your work done. And you’re like, “Oh my god, there’s no more work!”
RZ We haven’t been focusing on creating new opportunity for the for the firm, right?
PF You got to slam jam that gas pedal and never leave up. And if you need other people to help you do it, you do that. And so that that’s where we got. And so that’s good. That’s number one. Yes, number one, never stop marketing. The busier you are, the more, the louder, the signal should be that you must continue to market and grow the firm, because you are three to four months away from not having new clients or new work or new customers. And it’s funny how simple it all is right? Like, always be looking for growth. Don’t forget that things take time. Like it’s really like Chicken Soup for the Soul level advice. There’s not a lot that’s shocking.
RZ There’s not. It can be as you look at the jagged path, I wish I could tell you is a straight line for Postlight. When you look at the jagged path, and you’re hitting one of those dips, you do wonder to yourself, “Am I really going to go spend a lot of money on marketing?” And the answer is yes, you are.
PF You are going to spend, in fact, when things are down, it’s so tricky to make this decision, what you want is steadiness. And that’s what took us a long time to achieve. And also, we should talk about how do we help people who are looking for growth, right? Like that is actually our real job. Our job is to grow Postlight. And the way we do that is by growing other people, organizations and projects.
RZ Yes, yes, that’s right. And I think we do a good job of that. I think, look, this can sound like quasi sales for a second. But we like to talk to people about where they want to go. And where they sit inside of the machine they are in. Like that is something we like to do, has little very little to do with technology, in the early conversations. Because people have aspirations, or they’re dealing, they’ve been told go solve this problem that has been eating away at this organization for eight years, you have been blessed with the opportunity to solve it, which means success or failure.
PF And then they keep paying us, right, like that, to me is a tremendous measure of success is that people think that we are critical to the growth. We have one client, we’ve been with for four years, four plus, and they say it. Just straight up, like you’re absolutely critical to our growth, you you unlocked a lot of things for us. And as a result, we make more money. So you will continue to work with us, right, like that one was really specific, actually, I’ll give that client I’m talking about, sort of financial services adjacent, they went, “We have a lot of legacy code. And we have a lot of web platforms. And we want to enable the people who use our products to do so faster.” And it’s, if you were to reduce the whole problem space, it’s that they had form fields with 1000s of different drop down boxes. And we were able to make that a much faster, more fluid and hierarchical process even, and that takes a lot of time. And so there the growth was really obvious. It was like if you let people do this faster and better, your model will work better and your people will use you more and it worked beautifully.
RZ I want to share one of the things I’m coming to terms with as a byproduct of growth.
PF Your total irrelevance.
RZ I mean, I wouldn’t say total, but my diminishing—[Paul laughs]
PF That was a little, that was a little gift to the rest of the company.
RZ There’s an inverse correlation between growth and leaders relevance and that is success. One of the most important things a leader can do is come to terms with the fact that they are not secret sauce. You are not the critical reason something is a success, especially as it gets bigger, because if you’re 60 people and you’re starting to see real success, you as an ingredient in that success is diminishing over time. And good leaders know that. They want it. They actually rejig their organizations to embrace it. They actually externalize a lot of the things that they think they do well, so that others can do them well, they educate others. But boy, it is a moment, even though it is the master plan.
PF What has been the hardest part for you?
RZ I think the hardest part for me is trusting and accepting the judgment of others. God, that is a severe thing to say.
PF Yeah, you’re very, very risk oriented. And so I think for you, it’s just sort of like, “If I let go of this, I can’t guarantee a good outcome. If I hold on to it, I can take responsibility for good outcome. And I know for sure, having done this before, 100 times that I can get us where we need to be.”
RZ Which lands arrogant here, right? That sounds like nobody can do it better than me is what I’m saying. It’s not really what I’m saying. What I’m saying is, you know, a leader in a small company that’s self funded, carries a lot of anxiety, they carry a lot of they run a lot of failed states scenarios, right?
PF One of the hardest lessons for me, as your co-founder, was exactly how much anxiety I actually needed to be feeling. I was like, Oh, well, here we go. And we’re having an agency and then like, about 18 months in, I was like, Oh, god, this is terrifying. I’m facing into the absolute gaping maw of capitalism and it doesn’t care if I lose, I’m gonna lose an arm, right?
RZ It’s a skewed and unhealthy perspective. My sources of frustration is seeing a leader below not be as anxious or upset or angry as I am, which is a ridiculous feeling to have. It’s like, why aren’t you freaking out right now the way I am? And it’s like, oh, wow, it’s a healthy leader who’s actually thinking about the problem the right way. But letting go, frankly, letting go and and that is, that is something that I’m still working on. I acknowledge it. I think I’m getting better at it. But I know there’s a ways to go. I do swoop in sometimes, I’m not gonna lie. And that’s hard.
PF I mean, I know you, I love you. We’ve been friends for awhile. You will always swoop in, you know, I will be 72 years old. And I’ll be like, “Hey Rich, I’m thinking I’m gonna, you know, paint the shed.” And you’ll be like, “Oh, well, hold on a minute.”
Right. Right. Right. Right. “You’re buying the wrong paint.”
PF Yeah. But that is, I know, my own personality. I like to factor in everything, think it through, and then maybe come to a conclusion six to eight months after I’ve got all the facts, right. And without that animating force, I realized, like I always need, you know, in any kind of partnership that I’m involved in, I need an animating force. It’s not that I’m passive. It’s just that I really like to know all the variables. And then once I once I figured it out, I’m like, let’s go. But that’s often, often no one’s left, by the time I kind of—the reason our partnership works, and we’ve talked about this before, right, which is that you move, you’re very fast on your feet, you have a ton of experience, and you start things moving, you hear them and you go “Whoa, okay, no, we’re gonna fix that right now.” And then usually the next day, I’ll be like, “What about this angle?” And you’ll be like, “Yeah, okay, okay, let’s, let’s go.” And so like, those cycles kind of keep moving forward. For me, the the real challenge was a sense of relevance, right? Like I started to, the business started to scale. When we started this thing, I didn’t have the operational skills, but Postlight represented, it was literally a reflection, I brought in so many leads, I was really proud of that, because I didn’t know what I was supposed to do. So I was like, like an enormous amount of the recruiting, an enormous amount of the inbound was due to my social network and public presence. And I was really, really proud of that. Because I got it. I was like, Okay, I’m doing it, I’m bringing things in. And then you would take what I brought in and be like, okay, we’re gonna turn this into business, and it was good. And then the clients would be really happy. I mean, we got one client, because I did an event with Miranda July, like literally that’s, like, that’s where we were in the early days.
RZ And by design that has shifted, right?
PF Well, and it was absolutely critical. This, I’ve been in firms and been connected to firms. When the firm is a reflection of the founder’s ego and their social network, it is absolutely always on the cliff edge. Because, you know, you’re like one bad day or like you, you run out of friends really fast when you’re trying to charge them hundreds of 1000s of dollars. Like you don’t, those aren’t friends anymore, right? And so the firm had to stop reflecting me, in a really, really specific way. And it had to be had to be its own brand, and it had to have its own voice. And then there are moments when it’s like, oh, that’s getting taken away. It’s not me anymore. And well, what what value do I bring?
RZ That is success, though, isn’t it?
PF Here’s what was tricky, and I’ll narrate this because I think it’d be valuable for other people. You don’t go “Well, I’m still really valuable.” What you do and what I did is step back and go. Alright, I’m less valuable, but I still have the ability to drive a lot of value into this brand into this place without it being my voice in my name on everything. And one of the direct results of that which I’m very, very proud of, you had written a thing called Upgrade a couple years ago. And it was kind of showing its age, it was a sort of advisory—
RZ Digital transformation.
PF Kind of a management consulting text. And you were like, you’re like, “Dude, take it and just do something with it so we have a new, something new to publish.” I’d always liked it. And I just went bananas for like three weeks, nobody knew what I was doing. But I turned it into this book. And I pulled in stuff from all over the firm from things people have written on the, on the website and sort of all. And so it became—kind of what I was doing was just kind of collectively bringing the voice of Postlight together and it’s very visual way. And we started to send, we’ve sent this down to consulting firms and sort of like sort of big players in our industry and like do gooders and an arch capitalist, and so on. And they asked for more copies, they asked for it digitally, they want more. And it’s, that is Postlight voice. They’re not saying I want the new What is code? from Paul Ford. They’re saying, I want more copies of Catalyst. That to me, if you were to say, you know, okay, the brand is working, the company’s growing, the management’s very good, where can you drive the most value into this organization, and not just into but also out to the clients and sort of out to the world? Because Catalyst has value, even if you don’t engage Postlight. I’m proud of that. Right. So to me, that’s like, okay, that is a good role for me as a cofounder, like that’s a that’s a perfect activity. And I’m gonna take enormous value from seeing that represent the firm and almost like being involved in it, and driving it, as opposed to, it doesn’t have to validate me directly.
RZ Well, first off, let’s just to clarify, you know, leadership is saying out loud, still accountable to us, we still kind of guide and mentor and give thoughts and give perspective, because we are a little distant now. And that’s actually helpful, because we have experience and we can, we can help guide the partners at Postlight. But I think what you’re getting at here, which I think can be applied universally, is that shedding ego is important for growth. And we just landed a pretty big marquee client, right? And I was a little uncomfortable with the proposal that was sent. And that is not because I’m right. That is because I have a lot of issues, and a lot of problems letting go. But I gotta tell you, just to finish this thought—
PF I mean, you know what works. And when you saw this, you said, “I’m not 100% sure that will work.” Now the question is, do you have to be 100%?
RZ It turns out no. Because they landed it. And I’m very proud of that moment. I don’t want to be proven right in that setting. I want to actually be proven wrong, and I want to adjust and learn. And my personality is my personality. So there’s that, the wiggle room there is only so much, but it feels good. No, it feels really good to see the machine work without your involvement. And that’s a really awesome thing.
PF We were having this conversation in real time as that proposal was getting written. And it was like, kind of like, yeah, no, I see it.
RZ I think you sent me “Calm down. It’s Saturday.” if I’m not mistaken. Which you’ve said to me like numerous times throughout the five years.
PF You know what actually calms you down? It’s when I translated into the concept of risk. You know, like, and so, I remember what I said really specifically was like, “I can see what you’re saying about this proposal. But frankly, I don’t feel that the gaps that you’re identifying, which are totally real, increase any risk to us about getting this engagement.”
RZ Which proved to be right. And that’s an awesome thing.
PF This is the new kind of leadership for you and me, right, which is instead of going, “I’m going to go in and fix it” going, “How am I going to communicate what I saw? How am I going to decide whether that is a priority of the firm or not to address that gap?” Because the gap still exists, like you saw a few things that probably could have cut risk, there’ll be future situations where that knowledge is going to be valuable to the entire team. But instead of having to convey that in the moment by swooping in, you now structure that is like how am I going to communicate that ongoing kind of forever, right? Like this is, there’s gonna be more, there’s gonna just be more of this and that that risk based thing, which is involves letting go an enormous amount of internal anxiety, the anxiety that kept us safe. Anxiety is a safety mechanism, right? It’s, it’s your body telling you let me protect this thing. You know, you get in there, get in front of it. Right. And it’s very hard to fight. And I’ve seen tremendous numbers of entrepreneurs who never win. The anxiety always wins, right? But it doesn’t scale. You can’t have growth, you can’t have—and I mean, all kinds of growth if you’re just always in fear.
RZ Yeah, and one of my biggest fears is that my anxiety translates into you know, a toxic or contributes to toxicity in an environment where there is stress and it’s like, like I was, I worked for someone who they would be prep meetings before the meetings with the with the leader, with the CEO.
PF I worked with you with that person. And I mean, they were a nuclear.
RZ Yeah. And that’s just not healthy. Right? And so, so I think the big takeaway here on you know, usually we kind of share a takeaway, which is, you know, to grow, I think trusting others, and letting go. And really, truly giving ownership to others and giving opportunity to others to succeed or fail is absolutely key. It’s the only way you can really, truly scale in a healthy way, I think.
PF And let me let me workshop this for a second. Okay? Here’s, here’s let me take what you said and translate it back to what we’ve been saying, which is, your anxiety appears to be driving growth as a company grows. But there is a certain point where—and I actually think that’s probably a little bit of a fiction, you don’t need to be that anxious. But regardless, you’re going to commit to it early, if you’re an entrepreneur, because it’s one of the one of the things that drives you forward, is your anxiety about the business and you’re going to feel it more closely. As you hit, if you really want to grow, you have to let that go and just let growth speak for itself. How are we going to grow? We’re going to get good people, we’re going to build a good culture, and we’re going to, some things are going to slip through the cracks, because we can’t control everything. And I’m going to let that happen. I’m going to let it happen because I can see the bigger picture of growth. And I’m going to go up the mountain, instead of feeling like I’m under siege, which is how a small business feels, I’m going to be climbing steadily towards growth with my team. And that is a really big reframing. And look I think it’s taken us about a year and we’re starting to feel really good about it. And it’s been a hell of a year. Let’s never have that year again.
RZ Good year for Postlight. But lots of pressure is what’s happened in the year of 2020.
PF Yeah, and I mean, look, releasing that anxiety is great for you. It’s great for your team. I am at a stage in my life where I do not, I truly have yet to find a leader who doesn’t have some of that characteristic.
RZ I think that’s right, I think it’s a drive, it’s a constantly shoveling, like coal into the furnace kind of a thing. It’s just it is part of, I think it’s part of success. It’s a matter of how do you stay healthy, and cultivate healthy relationships with your teams at the same time.
PF You know, one of the one of the things that happens here is I think there’s a lot of very good management processes. People associate the processes with management, the processes are there to manage and control that anxiety. But you need that sort of forward moving impulse before you have the processes, like the processes are there to give structure to that desire that ambition, and you can’t actually back your way into that ambition through the processes. And that is a very uncomfortable fact, that we’re all negotiating all the time.
RZ You just gave us the the audio snippet that we’ll use to market this particular podcast.
PF I really I mean, as we’ve been saying, isn’t that my job? [Rich laughs]
RZ On that note, Paul, I hope this has been helpful. This is kind of a left turn podcast from the ones we typically do. But it’s what we’re going through, it’s what a lot of people are.
PF We needed to talk about something besides the United States of America.
RZ Fair enough. Fair enough.
PF We needed a little break.
RZ Yes. Alright all, we will not pitch Postlight to you, because this is the Postlight Podcast. Check us out at Postlight.com, we do a lot of great work for a lot of people. We’re hiring, a lot, across all disciplines. If you’re interested in working with really, really talented designers, engineers, product managers, product strategists. Hit us up check out Postlight.com/careers. Have a lovely week, Paul!
PF You too, Rich. I’m going to talk to you in the next three to five minutes, but have a lovely week.
RZ Bye! [music ramps up, plays alone for 3 seconds, ends]