Authorpreneur’s Almanac #16

Entrepreneur's Almanac 3

10 Things We Need to Finish Before the End of This Year

I figured we’d take a break from the regular keynotes this week.

The response to our usual format has been overwhelmingly positive. And I do love doing them a lot more than I expected.

When I started the Almanac, I did that first Keynote as almost a lark. I was looking forward to articulating Sterling & Stone’s needs in a way that would help me, the Team, the company as a whole, and the many Smarter Artists peeking behind the curtain, but was’t exactly sure of the format that messaging would eventually take.

Because I used to make creative briefs for REV — the company I worked with before starting Sterling & Stone — I figured I’d try doing it that way. This seemed highly effective, and the response was overwhelmingly positive, so I’ve stuck with it since.

But as I sat to figure out how to best crystalize my thoughts for the rest of this year, and some of the monumental tasks we’re facing as we try to close out 2014 and prepare for 2015 — poised to be a watershed year for our company — I thought an old fashioned linear post might serve us all best.

This end of the year list is important. Everything detailed below has been heavy on my mind, and I want to everything possible to clear as much of it up as we can.

You may have heard me talk about “sweeping the floor” before. If not, here’s a quickie primer.

I grew up in a flower shop, and used to work long days standing on a concrete floor, often littered with stems. During those long days it was easy to lose track of the mess as it grew all around us. We’d serve dozens of customers through the early day, then keep serving until that number was up in the hundreds.

We’d cut each customer’s stems before we wrapped their flowers to go (the thing was like a guillotine for flowers, and sent three people to the hospital for stitches in the twelve years I worked there). Throughout the day we would add to our mess. As customers zig zagged from the counter out the door it would get increasingly difficult to justify our decision to plow through our work without stopping to clean up.

And yet, the more we refused to take that necessary time, the harder it got, and the slower we moved. We would be ankle deep in stems, leaves, snapped heads, and excess foliage, our valuable tools lost under piles of greens.

Every movement took longer, our momentum stymied by waste.

Yes, it took a long time to clean up. And it was the opposite of fun. We’d fill four 32 gallon cans with our organic garbage, haul them all out to the dumpsters, then come back inside to a squeaky clean counter, freshly Windexed. Then, we’d fly. 

I long to fly now. But I also know that won’t happen until we sweep the floor. Finishing the following ten projects will give us the clarity of mind to give Sterling & Stone the 2015 it deserves.

I asked the same four basic questions for each project:

  1. Why does this project need to be done, and how will it benefit the company?
  2. What is keeping the project from its completion?
  3. Can we reasonably expect this project to get done before the end of the year?
  4. What can the Team do to help ensure that it is?

Before I start I’d like to take a moment to discuss the Almanac itself. Thank Yous for this column are currently the number one email I’m getting.

But really, THANK YOU …

If I didn’t know these were making a difference, I’d find excuses not to do them.

Right now I’m desperate to write, and use the scant writing time I do have, in large part, to make sure the Almanac has something new each Sunday. And while Keynotes are different from words on a page, they use the same part of my brain: getting my ideas in a logical order so I can share them with someone else.

But I’m grateful for the commitment. We started something new this year, keeping a development diary for our different books as we write them. We started with The Dream Engine in June, because we owed it to our Unboxers. Then we continued the practice with Axis of Aaron because we owed it to ourselves. Dave will be trying it for the first time with our upcoming12 (a project we should all be absurdly excited about … more on that soon).

But this development diary might be the most important of all.

Sterling & Stone will be a huge company someday, and these Almanacs are documenting our growth piece by tiny piece. I’ll be extremely grateful for these someday, as many Smarter Artists are grateful for them now.

So, without further blah blah blah, here are the 10 things that Sterling & Stone must do to sweep the floor, preferably before the end of this year.

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About Sean Platt

Sean Platt is an author entrepreneur, founder of Sterling & Stone, and co-founder of the Collective Inkwell and Realm & Sands imprints. Follow him on Twitter, Google+, or Facebook.

Comments

  1. I love this post. I’m a big fan of being clear on goals to get the best stuff done.

    I have a suggestion for #10 (from a customer POV as well as having years and years of customer service experience).
    — You need 1 central customer service email address

    hello@sterlingandstone or similar

    A) so you can easily transition to a new admin/customer service employee in the future when Jacob is doing bigger and better things
    B ) so you writers all get fewer emails every day
    C) so it is clear to us, your customers, where we should email for site questions, product problems, etc. I’ve started just copying all of you on an email in hopes that someone will notice me
    D) so Jacob can take time off and emails won’t be ignored. It’s perfectly simple to set up 1 email address that your customer service person manages 90% of the time, but that any one else can check in on if they know he isn’t available.
    E) so there’s not a thread in the forum of just people complaining about things that are wrong.

    I love you guys, and I know you are insanely busy, but your customer service for existing customers is kind of a mess.

    As I said, I was a customer service supervisor for years so seriously email me if there’s anything I can help you with. xo

    • P.S. If you already have one it’s not clear, and I’ve used your contact form in the past and been ignored … so….

      • Yeah, that’s totally unacceptable. I feel like when it’s one-on-one, and I’m dealing with people directly, our customer service puts the sterling before the stone. But that’s not scaleable, and ties up too much of my day. But you’re absolutely right, as is it’s just NOT OK. We’re already working on getting a general S&S address, along with a few other tweaks, starting today. Thanks Amy!

        • I totally agree — YOU are awesome. Individually each one of you is fantastic, but it’s totally not scalable and getting that all streamlined is a perfect example of ‘sweeping the floor’

          I wish I could be more helpful — I love you guys and what you’re doing w/ S&S. Totally changing my life!

    • I totally agree with Amy. It would make so much sense to have ONE e-mail to contact you on, instead of trying to choose who to bother 🙂

      That should also keep your personal e-mails more personal. For questions that no one other than YOU can answer. In theory at least.

  2. Holy shit! You guys have a LOT on your plates. But at least you know what has to be done. All I can say is good luck.

    I know you’ve focused several Almanacs on social media. If you could, when they’re done, explain the autoresponders. I get the concept, but I would like some specifics as to what goes into each email at each stage.

    Thanks for opening S&S for all to see. And learn.

  3. Let me know if you need any help with #6!

    • Awesome. I absolutely will! Thank you! We’re actually NOT moving to a magazine site, because Rainmaker has an author specific theme on the way, but I’d love help organizing our intentions before I start building things the wrong way (which I’ll otherwise invariably do). Thanks Danny!

      • Blaine Moore says:

        I’m not sure about the specifics of the RainMaker platform and how easy it is to stage a website, but if you do move away from RainMaker any competent web developer should be able set you up with zero downtime or at worst a short period of no updates and comments (to copy the latest data to the new site) – done correctly, you can even avoid DNS propagation delays.

        I would hope that RainMaker has tools you can use internally to help manage those types of processes to make it even easier to stage a new website without impacting the current one until it’s ready.

  4. Thanks for sharing this. Seeing the way you are approaching all the stuff on your plate and prioritising it is inspiring. I’m looking forward to seeing the changes you’re talking about take effect.

  5. It isn’t clear to me, whether you plan on staying on the Rainmaker platform or not. With all the problems it have had, I’m not sure why you would stay with it. There’s absolutely nothing here, that can’t be done on WP by yourself, while having full control over every little part of the site.

    Rainmaker seems to be a Stone to hold you underwater, rather than helping you create that Sterling experience you want to deliver.

    I know you don’t have to update plugins and stuff, but seriously, you can find someone to do that for an hour each month, and you’l be rocking. Surely, that can’t be more expensive moneywise than this, and timewise it’s a no-brainer. You spend so much time trying to get Rainmaker move forward with you, while it seems to be turning left and right by random, and stacking random shit on your plates all the time.

    I get that you love the idea of Rainmaker, but it would make a lot more sense to just be on a selfhosted WP site for now, and perhaps consider RM when it’s more geared towards what you want to do.

    • We are for sure staying on Rainmaker. While I totally hear and on the surface agree with what you’re saying, I also know where Rainmaker is going. And it just isn’t the same as all the plugins and whatnots. Integrated email, social curation, built in marketing tools, all of this is coming. It’s also built for podcasts and much of what we want to do in the future.

      They’re also building a theme for authors that’s right around the corner. I spent several hours on the phone with Robert Bruce last week, and I do believe in the product. Honestly, we’d have some of these same issues outside of Rainmaker because plugins break and things go wrong. At least this is isolated.

      Of course I could be wrong, and may very well be, but for now I think that Rainmaker is still the best longterm decision, though it is more difficult short term.

      • I’m not sure what “social curation & built in marketing tools” is in this case, but if you’re excited about it, I’m sure it will be awesome additions to your toolbox.

        I still believe there’s nothing that can’t be done on a selfhosted WP, but that’s not important. What IS important, is that you still have faith that this is going the right way, and will end up where you want it to go, to serve your needs.

        And yes, you’re right. Plugins break, are abandoned, conflicts after upgrades and so on. It’s a struggle on it’s own.

        We always have to weigh the pros and cons when deciding where to go (or not to go). As long as it’s an informed decision, that’s really the only thing that matters 🙂

        • Basically, everything we would need in the platform (including crazy cool stuff like analytics, A/B testing, and landing page templates) are baked right in. For us to do everything we needed with piecemealing solutions, we would have a Frankenstein site with a LOT of frustrations.

          I believe in the team behind it, and understand their vision. People are patient with us for the same reasons. They understand what we’re trying to do, and know that we’ll get there. We’ll get through the growing pains (us and Rainmaker) and be substantially more awesome in 2015!

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