Working From Home: Episode 18 – From Travel Blogger to Digital CEO with David Schneider
Nelson is joined by the CEO of Shortlist, David Schneider. David has been working remotely his whole life and has started several remote companies, including Shortlist and Ninja Outreach.
– Traveling as a remote worker
– Software development and remote teams
– Ethical considerations when hiring remote employees
– Tracking key indicators
– Personal habits and lifestyle considerations
[1:45] – David shares his background with the audience, and discusses his work as the CEO of Shortlist.
[8:23] – How traveling the world inspired David’s career trajectory.
[11:46] – Why the nature of software development lends itself to building remote teams.
[19:10] – Remote work and the freedom to travel.
[24:42] – Thinking about and providing benefits for remote employees.
[27:43] – Ethical considerations when hiring remote workers. Engaging employees about work satisfaction.
[32:07] – Measuring growth, tracking key indicators. If you are not going to do anything with the data, why bother tracking it?
[36:03] – Personal habits, lifestyle curation as a remote worker.
[45:22] – Closing remarks. How you can connect with David.
Nelson: Hello, and welcome to the working from home podcast. I’m your host Nelson Jordan. Today I’m thrilled to be joined by Dave Schneider who’s the CEO of Shortlist, and is here to talk about being a digital nomad. Travelling and earning money while you go. Thanks for joining us, Dave. Really appreciate it.
David: Thanks for having me, Nelson.
Nelson: No problem at all. I’m genuinely very excited to speak with you as somebody who kind of unbeknownst to me, I’ve been following your career without realising it. I’ve been using your previous software company that you helped build up – Ninja Outreach. I didn’t know you were the person behind it. So it’s really great.
David: Cool. Glad to hear that, it was good to meet ya. Sort of why he said customer because not my business anymore. But I think you know what I mean, you are a previous customer, if not a current one for sure.
Nelson: Sure. Amazing. So you’re currently the CEO of Shortlist.io. What do you guys do?
David: It’s a digital marketing agency. Although I like to think that we approach things a little bit differently. But, you know, for lack of a better word, we do offer, you know, SEO and conversion rate optimization and design depth. So it’s definitely an agency in spirit.
Nelson:Perfect, and is that I know, obviously your remote. Is that a fully remote agency? Or do you also have a hub?
David: No, it is fully remote. Everything I’ve ever worked on has always been fully remote. And I think I would begin to know how to run a non-remote business. And so the majority of the team is in Eastern Europe, in places like Macedonia and Serbia and Croatia, you know, when I’ve worked with people all over, whether it’s Asia, or South America, Ninja Outreach was much more spread out. But I liked the idea of having a more central, centralised remote team. So okay, I guess, I guess it actually is an office in Skopje, Macedonia, I forgot too, I forgot just because I don’t go into the office. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t an office. And so I guess in some ways it’s sort of pseudo remote. And there’s an office in Skopje, Macedonia, where about 10 or so people meet regularly, you know, in non COVID times, and then the other 10 or so people have this 20 person company. They’re scattered about the area.
Nelson: And what’s the reason that you hire multiple people from the same country? Is there any kind of rhyme or reason behind that?
David: Yeah, I think there is a rhyme and a reason, you know, in Ninja Outreach, it was, let’s just grab, you know, whoever is the best person, you know, that we feel like for the job kind of independent of where they’re based, and things like that. And obviously, you know, having complete flexibility to choose who is going to work at the company is great, but it does create some internal issues, around time zones around communication around culture, things like that. And so with Shortlist, I wanted to try something a little bit different than I had done with Ninja Outreach, which is I want the company to be remote. I wanted to work with people, you know, abroad, but I wanted there to be somewhat of a, what’s the word I guess, zone in which we kind of operated in. I felt that this would be better, and that people were more or less be working the same hours, there’d be less issues with communication barriers with someone not being on while somebody else was on, language issues, and the opportunity like we have now for that actually be a physical office that people can kind of go in and strategize and work. And I think that overall makes the organisation more efficient.
Nelson: So all of your employees seem to be kind of in a similar area, then I’m quite curious then about the clients that you take on, do they share those kind of time zones? Or are they in other parts of the world?
David: Not necessarily. I think that you know, many of our clients are in America. That’s just kind of where you know, the market is and where people who are willing to kind of say pay the most money, so to speak are, although we’ve service clients certainly from Europe and Australia, New Zealand, but I think that the majority are in the States. The thing is that while people are Shortlist they need to work together 24/7, you know, client interaction is much less of a need to be say 24/7, you might want to have a call with a client once a week you might want to exchange some emails, obviously you’re communicating with them but it’s not as important that they’re on the same timezone as everybody else.
Nelson: No I get that completely and a lot of people ask me how it is because the majority of my clients for my conversion copywriting business are based in the US. And it’s exactly for the reasons that you outline, then it’s, you know, it just happens to be where the money is. And the opportunity is to be quite frank, I’ve often found that the same conversation to so you know, sign off the same amount of money here in a company in the UK versus a company in the US, in the US that gets signed off like that. And then, in the UK, there’s rounds and rounds of discussions to go through lots of different stakeholders to manage. And you know, you gradually lose momentum, and it’s a lot harder to get the same amount of money signed off. So I totally get that. The other one, you know, in terms of time zones, which is quite interesting, I work with a lot of Australian clients as well, for similar reason. And people kind of say, Well, how do you manage all of this, and they kind of forget that I’m not talking to clients every single day, on calls or anything like that the majority of the work is done, you know, is kind of front loaded, in terms of the briefing sessions, and then very much, they kind of leave me to get on with it and do the research and then present back to them. But the majority of days, even when we do communicate, it’s via email, it’s via Slack, it’s not necessarily like an instantaneous, I have to be there from nine to five their time, which would obviously be pretty late for me here. So I totally get that. And it’s, I think a lot of companies nowadays, are hiring freelancers are hiring agencies where whereas previously, they would have hired full time employees, I think gradually, people are getting more kind of accustomed to the fact that not everyone works the same hours with them as Is that something that you’ve kind of noticed as well among the clients and sort of their level of comfort with working with saying agency and things of that?
David: Well I think just looking generally, at the direction that things are going, a lot of businesses are now experimenting with remote work, they’re getting used to somebody, maybe not being in the office and not seeing them nine to five, as you mentioned, maybe not even living in the same place as them. And so, you know, hypothetically, that that might lend itself to people being more comfortable with agencies, because agencies are always sort of by nature of a remote team that’s sort of working on your behalf. But I can’t say anything other than kind of anecdotally, that that it seems like that’s the case.
Nelson: Of course. So obviously with Shortlist you’ve built this kind of fully, or partially remote team, we should say with the office, you forgot about the office, I forgot about the office know for a second as well. So we’re real friends. Tell me about your kind of journey up to this point. I’m very conscious that you’ve travelled extensively, you’ve built and sold a very successful company. And yeah, how did all of that come about?
David: Yeah, it’s, you know, it’s been years. And so it’s nothing sort of overnight. And there wasn’t exactly a plan, either. It was mainly always just thinking about what was the next thing that we wanted to sort of do. And so when we were, when my girlfriend now she’s my wife, when we were working in Washington, DC, we were thinking, Oh, you know, we really want to go travel. And so we started to plan a trip to kind of go backpacking around the world for one/two years, and said, Okay, well, let’s start a travel blog. Because everybody does that, why not? And then we sit down, we’d like to make a little money off this travel blog. Because we were a little short and our savings to cover the full extent of the travel that we wanted to do. So we started saying, Okay, well, if we’re going to make a little money, we have to learn a little bit about digital marketing, we need to learn a little bit about how to grow a website and how to travel blogs monetize themselves. And so that got us into SEO and doing some client work in working basically, digitally, remotely, and just getting comfortable with the kind of the ecosystem. And then that kind of carried on for a while. And then one, you know, this is sort of I made a hard pivot, essentially, to software, you know, because I had been working on the travel blog for a number of years, and I didn’t really feel motivated or enthusiastic about the work. I didn’t feel like inspired necessarily, it wasn’t really clear, like what the what the product was, what the service was, who the customers were, seemed kind of like there was, you know, we were one of many obviously there were so many other travel blogs out there. We were actually making money though, I don’t want to confuse it by saying that it wasn’t that wasn’t going well. It was going totally well but I just wasn’t feeling the passion for that work. That coupled by the fact that Google started to make some algorithmic change which made it more difficult to provide the services we were working on. And so I started to think about software. And that’s why I started Ninja Outreach. And I met my partner Mark, and we kind of built the team remotely like I did then. And that was about four years or so of working on that and developing that product. And then eventually, we decided for personal reasons to sell it. You know, I was moving back to the US, I was sort of getting written, you know, stopping the travelling life, and felt like I was going to need one of my property at some point, all these sort of things, all these adult type things started to kind of come to me at one sense that I, you know, I think that the best thing for me to do is to sell this business and move on. And then eventually I started Shortlist, because having just sold, and not really having an audience or a fallback, or kind of much of anything as a whole, what can I kind of get off the ground, you know, the quickest in a service based agency seemed something like I hadn’t tried before and an opportunity to learn more about that business model. And so that’s essentially where Shortlist kind of came in. And that’s been two years or so now.
Nelson: Awesome. So I’ve interviewed quite a few people now for the podcast. And something that comes up time and time again is when managing remote teams, it seems like software, as an industry seems to come up really, really frequently. So I had Luke Szyrmer on here who is kind of an expert in that field of remote work. And he first started, for example, managing remote teams and telling other people how to do it in in the software industry, it just keeps coming up and up and up. Is there something special about software that makes it so kind of complimentary to the remote working lifestyle?
David: Maybe I can think of a couple different potential reasons, I can’t be sure about any of them. I mean, you know, firstly, you know, developers are very expensive. I’m thinking always from a US perspective, just because I’m a US citizen. So forgive me, for any listeners who are not in that area. But you know, I think of the US is having very expensive developers. So it’s somewhat of a natural tendency for us entrepreneurs in the US to look outside, for developers in Eastern Europe and elsewhere, where the rates are just more, you know, reasonable for, certainly a bootstrap startup, for example. So I think you know, that in that circle in itself towards remote, secondly, software sort of implies an aptitude with technology, that you’re probably used to using tools, and therefore you’re more comfortable making the transition to remote, you’re used to working with tools like Slack, and Skype and zoom and things like that. So I think that’s another reason. And then thirdly, I guess, everything just kind of exists in the cloud and software, there’s not really like a physical product. So you can kind of already you don’t necessarily need to have storage space, or it’s not as important to have an office or sitting or things like that. So I think that there are some yeah, nuances that make software more inclined to be remote.
Nelson: Mm hmm. I definitely get the feeling that when you have not just the processes and systems that are online, but also the product itself as a software, obviously, I feel like that lends itself to that, that mindset, it’s not necessarily that you can’t do it with the other industries, it just seems to be an easier step with software, kind of starting up that sort of company for me. And so with your whole kind of travel experience when you were managing the blog, in particular, and did you have kind of any employees then or was that kind of you just handling everything yourself?
David: Yeah, we worked with virtual assistants, and it’s always kind of, you know, what does it mean to be an employee and say, oh, they’re contractors, are they employees, a virtual system, sort of, but I would say, comparing them to now it definitely feels like they were more of a kind of contracted help. As opposed to this team there was not in a couple of travellers’ organisation there was not so much of a everybody felt that they were that they belong to this company and things like that is different than it wasn’t in charge and Shortlist, there’s more that we utilise to various people that sort of help out. Most of the work we did ourselves, we were only Well, I mean, it wasn’t necessary, to be honest, to have a big team with people for writing a lot of different services. But like I said, we would use a little bit, but we had a developer who helped with the site, and we had, you know, more like an admin system and stuff like that. But it was small.
Nelson: So how about Ninja Outreach, did that change at all?
In terms of the way the team was, yeah, it was a huge change. And I don’t know why. You know, it went in that direction. I mean, that team also eventually was 20 or so people. And it was marketers, and copywriters, and designers and developers, and I just think the business just required that fuel to grow. Whereas a couple travellers just wasn’t, it wasn’t necessarily like a growth-oriented business, it was on a more like a side hustle. I was then job rich, you know, that was sort of a proper company, in most respects. Obviously, we had a product that we were developing, and it just a lot of pieces need to kind of go into that. So it was very much going headfirst into, you know, build a remote team.
Nelson: And how do you kind of had that experience of managing people before you did it?
David: Now not that scale, like I said, I had, you know, I had people, I had virtual assistants, for example, or developers, or however you want to call it contractors that we found on Upwork, that needed some degree of managing, they needed direction, they needed feedback on their work, they needed, you know, some oversight. But they were rarely asked to work with each other, for example, it was very much I would be in the middle, and then sort of I was kind of delegating and overseeing was very one to one. And so when Ninja kind of came around, I really had to think more about the organisation, how people were going to interact, eventually, you know, people had to have roles, responsibilities, they maybe were part of a particular department, it just became much more official,
Nelson: Did you have a roadmap for what you are going to do in terms of these processes, or any resources you use? Or was it very much, this is the problem in front of me, I’m gonna try my hardest and try and find specific guides on this one, and then move to the next one, and so on so forth.
David: Most of it was, you know, hey, what do I need to deal with right now, what’s kind of the problem in front of me today. That may not have been the best approach, because I do think that it’s usually beneficial to have a vision. If you don’t have a vision, then you might not like where you end up. And you don’t exactly have any guiding principles to kind of get you where you want to go. That said, I mean, Ninja Outreach was, you know, it was not like a super fast growing startup or anything like that. We didn’t take funding. Nobody offered us funding, by the way. So it wasn’t like we turned down a bunch. I don’t want to make it sound like that. Like, nobody gave us any funding. We were bootstrapping it, you know, and it grew. And it grew nicely, but it wasn’t, you know, like I was faced with a tremendous amount of growth that had to be managed all at once. There were problems and it was coming at a pace that I could kind of take it one at a time.
Nelson: Nice. I think that’s sort of the benefit of bootstrapping, versus taking VC cash, isn’t it really, because you’re not answerable to anybody else. You haven’t set expectations with valuations about when you’re going to deliver x growth. And, you know, potentially when you’re going to hit profitability and stuff like that. It’s more just like, Hey, this is this is my business. I’m answerable to myself, and we’ll get there when we get that if we get that, and there’s just so many businesses on destined for like hyper growth, you know
David: Yeah absolutely. It was definitely a lifestyle business, intention and lifestyle entrepreneur. And you know, when you are bootstrapping, you can kind of set the pace a little bit more yourself.
Nelson: I’m just quite curious now that you’ve seemed obviously that you’ve been travelling quite a large proportion while you are building these things, how are you finding it working at the moment to build out Shortlist and not having the freedom to travel.
David: So,nowadays, you know, the freedom to travel in building the company are not necessarily part of the same or the same intention. You know, the fun of travel is sort of, Hey, I like to travel, I like to go places, I like to be in different environment. And sort of, you know, I would be almost building the company in spite of travelling to be honest, it’s easier to run a business and to work when you’re not travelling right because you have more stability in your day to day, you’re less likely having issues with something being delayed or WiFi not being available or things like that. So not travelling is sort of it’s easier to kind of be productive and do the work. But it’s not nearly as fun for sure. And yeah, I guess, I guess that’s probably the biggest thing.
Nelson: You mentioned, productivity there. Is there anything these days that you would have liked to have had in your life a few years ago that like principles or practices that you’ve implemented?
David: Hmm. I think that, you know, the, I guess, the way up and running Shortlist is pretty similar to the approach that I’ve taken with past businesses, I think maybe it’s just moves a little bit of a mindset thing. So for example, early on in Ninja Outreach, I was kind of like neurotic about every little thing. Like, for example, customer support, making sure that was answered right away and stuff like that. And I do agree that a level of neuroticism, I guess, a small level is kind of healthy, because maybe that is what helped that business kind of grow and ultimately be successful. But it tends to be very stressful and not that fun. And maybe I wasn’t the, excuse me, the most pleasant person to be around all the time. While that was happening. So now with Shortlist, I think I like to think I’m a little more relaxed and the way things are kind of done. And so I think the mindset is probably the biggest difference, not necessarily in the way that like that I have some particular approach to productivity or that like, Oh, I wake up early in the morning, now I do XYZ before anything else, it’s not anything like that.
Nelson: Hmm, I guess there’s a difference between that neuroticism or I say, like the difference between diligence and dictatorship, right? So making sure that you’re on top of all the things that matter, but also having the trust in people and the trust in yourself that you’ve hired the right people to accomplish those goals, and to meet the same kind of standards that you would have for it if you were doing it yourself as well. But what’s your I’m quite curious. Now, what’s your goal for the Shortlist, is it to reach kind of a certain revenue or stability or a certain number of clients?
David: You know, there are definitely revenue. I hate to say goals, but I guess for lack of a better word, there’s some milestones that one would like to hit. But I generally don’t like to define, like a goal of a business in terms of like, such something so numerical. For me, it’s a little bit more of a, I guess, a vision, right? Like, it’s sort of it’s like a vision for the company in a vision for myself as someone in that company. And so, you know, certainly from my own perspective, you know, which Shortlist I want it to be providing, obviously, what I believe to be a stable sufficient income for myself and my family that I can rely on, I want it to operate without complete oversight from myself. So I don’t want to be maybe putting in 40 hours a week or so to run it, I would like to be putting in maybe 20 hours or so a week to run it something like that, something less than full time. And I would like to, obviously, you know, I’d like to develop a niche and a specialty with the business. So we’ve recently kind of decided to focus more on health and wellness businesses in the e-commerce space. But we still have a lot to, I think, to learn into, you know, figure out in that space that we can kind of call ourselves like the agency for these people. For these types of companies. Obviously, I want the employees to be you know, happy with where they work and to feel that they have you know, that they’re well paid, and that they’re getting the benefits and just generally that the culture is sound. So I think those are those are more in line with kind of what I would like to achieve in a really, really big picture, I guess perhaps, I would love it if Shortlist was somewhat of an umbrella brand to other businesses in companies in that we had some more products of our own maybe software or maybe a course or something like that. That wasn’t just a service-based agency on behalf of clients. So that’s kind of like your five-year vision.
Nelson: In terms of employee benefits. How do you really go about setting those is that I guess Do you do it on where the person is based on, do it on what sort of role they occupy? Or, you know, how do you even go about thinking about something like that?
David: It’s tricky. I definitely do not have it all figured out. I’m sort of trying to figure it out as I go along, to be honest. People live obviously, in different countries. And so benefits mean different things, depending on where you are. In the US, we think about like health care, for example, but then in Europe, a lot of the health care is already kind of provided by the state. And so it’s not really necessary. You know, the main benefits. I think that people think about our vacation, obviously, maybe some sort of leave for like, someone’s like pregnant, for example, I count maternal leave, I think, is what we call it. And, you know, those are some of the things that kind of are on my mind. With vacation, it’s always very tricky, again, because you have you have people working like in different capacities. So like, what do you do with somebody who’s working for you, like 60 hours a month, or something like that? It’s like, it’s like, not full time. It’s like, around half time, it’s like, so does that person get vacation? Do they not? Like if they do, how do you calculate it? Because it’s not the equivalent of like the other what everyone else is sort of working? And how do they earn it? But they’re also not like, nobody, I mean, they’re working for you, like 60 plus hours a month, or whatever it is, you have to address that somehow. And it doesn’t seem right, that somebody who’s been on the team for a year or more, and everybody knows, and everybody worked with, and you think of as a team member doesn’t get benefits as the other person? I find it very tricky, to be honest. So I think, you know, those are some of the things I’m trying to kind of try to sort of figure out I mean, it’s in some cases is obvious, right? with like, you have somebody who’s been there for a while, they’re very senior that working full time. Okay, we want to introduce vacation, I think it’s the fringe cases that’s quite difficult. No, the thing is, like profit sharing and stuff, I’ve always wanted to do that with a company that I had, which is to kind of like, take some share of the profit that the company earns, and then allocated to the employees. And because I think that I want people to feel incentivized where they work, I want them to feel that like that the growth of the company is something that is going towards them as well, and they have a reason to kind of want to see the company grow. Otherwise, it’s like, why is everybody you know, working on this. But again, it introduces you to the same questions, that you have these employees and with different, I hate to say statuses, but they have different relationships with the company, and it becomes difficult to kind of equitably fairly, distribute, you know, the mean. So I think, you know, we’re kind of working through that I have, I have ideas, but still figure it out.
Nelson: I like the differentiation between the kind of the standard cases and those edge cases where, if we’re all going to be honest, it kind of just boils down to a judgement call. And I think a lot of the time for me, the easiest way is to just put yourself in their shoes for a little bit and say, if somebody kind of came to me with this proposal, would I think it was fair? Like, would I be really pissed off? If somebody has to come like this? Well, I would I feel like somebody is taking the make a little bit if, you know, and I think that gets you some of the way. And I’m just curious, though, do you have any feedback loops in place to find out whether the employees think that’s fair? Or is it just kind of on quite like a casual basis, having discussions with them one to one.
David: So we do have feedback loops, although we could be doing better. We have, so I have sort of, haphazardly done like employee surveys and things like that. I’m probably maybe twice or so this year, in sort of a general kind of survey to talk about, you know, how they view the company in his progress and the team and things like that. But I haven’t done that a number of months. I did it like maybe twice a week earlier in the year. And that’s why it feels like it’s been a little while. So that’s kind of one thing. We also do a state of the business meeting every month, where we kind of talk about what’s kind of going on with the company and what you know what happened recently that was notable in what I am going to start putting in that because I haven’t I at the end of the presentation, I used to always be like, okay, does anyone have any questions? And like, nobody ever has any questions. And I was like, well, this is that nobody has any questions or says that there are no questions that people want to ask in front of everybody else. Because I was like, if I had a question like, Hey, how are we going to do races this year? What I want to ask that in front of 20 other people like honestly the business mother yeah, probably not. So what I want to do now is having anonymized feedback or question portion of the state of the business where prior to the meeting, we open it up to the team, and they can anonymously submit questions and feedback. And then we will go through those on the call. And I’m hoping that maybe that leads to a little bit better participation. So yes, there are like some, some feedback loops. And I definitely talk to people kind of one on one. But, you know, again, not a perfect system.
Nelson: It’s great that you have those in place, like so many businesses realise that no matter what they implement, nothing is going to be perfect. And so they shy away from implementing anything. Just because there’s even when you do like, 360 anonymous reviews several times a year, there’s somebody that’s not happy with that process. It’s not a perfect process, so they kind of just shut the whole thing down and say, like, Okay, why bother? We’re just gonna do what we want anyway.
Yeah, I think that, you know, it’s just like running like a country, nobody ever agrees on everything. People are different. They’re not homogenous. They all have different needs and priorities and values. And there is no sort of policy that’s going to kind of be hit with everybody. But you have to kind of play the majority, so I think.
Nelson: So is there anything that you wish that you’d known before setting up either Ninja Outreach or Shortlist?
David: I think the things that I wish I knew about Shortlist, I still don’t know yet. Because it’s too early on. So probably years from now, we’ll be like, Oh, I wish I knew that. With Ninja Outreach. I think there are more things that that are that that, you know, that I could point to? Certainly, I wish I knew, like how long and kind of slow that that was going to be. Although I mean, one could argue that for years, it’s not actually that long to kind of like start and grow a business and then sell it and stuff. But at time, it definitely felt long, you know, and there were just so many days and weeks and months of like not much progress at all. And I would love to be able to kind of go back and tell myself like, hey, just keep doing what you’re doing. Everything’s kind of going in the right direction. You know, it’s certainly interesting now, with the services side of things, that I just lost my train of thought.
Nelson: Yeah, it’s the perfect time for you to lose it, because I’ve got a question about what. So when you when you’re talking about going back in time and saying, Okay, look, just stay with it. Stay with it, you’ll get there. I wondered if there are any, like short term markers, or KPIs or metrics that would have been helpful for you to look at, that would have acted almost as something to keep you on track? So like, okay, we haven’t hit this. I don’t know whether that it’s your revenue goal, or number of clients or whatever, we haven’t hit that. But in terms of what we are doing this, this, and this looks like it’s going in the right direction.
David: Yeah, I think that with the tool, you know, aside from revenue, which is the obviously the easiest metric to look at, and kind of claim success, you really want to be looking at, like the customer success, which is your how many people are using this project product and loving it, and what are the types of things, projects that they’re getting done by using the tool and those types of things. And obviously, retention kind of factors in the band and things of that. Unfortunately, those things are extremely hard to measure. They’re hard to measure, they’re hard to get ahold of, you know, it’s not like just every customer’s kind of waiting by the phone saying, hey, once they’re going to call me so I can tell them about like this cool thing I do, it’s a tool. It’s not like that at all. It’s sort of like, occasionally, somebody feels really compelled to tell you something, but for the most part, they kind of like are going about their business. And they like the tool and they enjoy it. But it doesn’t mean that they’re just kind of ready to give a lot of feedback. So, you know, that’s why, you know, things like revenue are kind of easy to get and look at, you know, looking at the team, and the team satisfaction in knowing that people were happy with where they worked and stuff like that was also another indicator that we were doing the right things. We looked at a million metrics, obviously, you know, like traffic and stuff like that. But it’s sort of questionable. Yeah, like how much those are really correlating with like growth?
Nelson: I always find like, the measurements that are easiest to measure are the ones that get measured. And like revenue is super easy to look at where something like you mentioned retention and churn. They’re a little bit harder to you can obviously do things like cohort analysis to understand who came in when and whether they’re still with you, and the percentage of people that came in through different marketing campaigns and things like that. But that stuff is complicated, you know, it’s quite hard to do, and occasionally involve somebody who’s actually pretty solid at data analysis to be able to do that. So as a CEO or a founder, you’ve obviously got to have the dedication and the willingness to uncover those numbers to spend kind of the resources to want to understand those and understand the value that they’ll bring to you otherwise you just won’t bother, right, you’ll just stick to the obvious things that you can see. So I think a large part of that is people understanding the value, what it can like these metrics that aren’t just there on the surface, what they can tell you about the business and what you’re doing well, and what you’re, what you’re what you’re not really. So that’s super interesting.
David: It is very tricky. I think that, like you mentioned, like a core analysis and things like that. And there are tools that like, for example, profit, well will kind of show you your cohort analysis, they’ll do the calculations for you. But you know, what does it really mean for one month to be 3%? Better, worse and another month? And what’s the reason for that? Is it because you did something or you didn’t do something, or just that group of customers? Or it’s just one big customer laughed? Or there’s so many kind of, I think that often the data leads to more questions and answers.
Nelson: Yeah, this is this is something I had a conversation with somebody years, about years ago about, because they were asking me about Google Analytics at the time. And I was telling them, basically, the crux of it was never go into Google Analytics, unless you have a specific question. And something that you’re going to do with the with the results, you know, that’s got to have like an impact. Because otherwise, what you do is open up GA, and spend like an hour digging through data, and you’re literally no wiser by the end of this. And I spent four years or so working for an agency, and we would have clients that would every month, they would ask us for a report on how their website was performing, how their marketing campaigns were performing. We also included at the end our recommendations based on that, and not once were those recommendations followed. So why are you even paying somebody to compile this, this data for you, if you’re not going to do anything? And the same kind of applies on, like, with your own business? Right? Why are you tracking these metrics? If you’re not going to do something about those metrics, you know, if you’re not going to use them to inform your future actions, you might as well, you know, spend your spend your time elsewhere? What do you think about that?
David: Yeah, for sure. We, we just spent too much time checking analytics. I very rarely look at the analytics for Shortlist to be honest. I mean, like Google Analytics, for example, because it’s nothing. There’s nothing I need to know right now from and it’s not going to really tell me anything that I don’t already kind of know about my business. So yeah, I think I think we should all Yeah, obsess a little less I there are a lot of people boy, they look at the analytics, like daily or weekly and like, oh, why is it down today? Or why is it down over last week? And this is like, just because it’s like natural volatility. And you just really need to Yeah, kind of avoid getting too caught up? I don’t do the most I’ll ever look at anything is monthly. Just That’s it.
Nelson: Sure. Yeah. Similar to me, every month, what I do is just write up what happened in the previous month, the actions that I took, and the results that it had, both in our data, but also from a personal level, like how achieving certain goals made me feel, and whether that’s changed the goals that I want to achieve for the next month or the next year as well. I feel like things like that rule most like, quite akin to journaling, in terms of understanding where you are, like, objectively in terms of objective metrics that you can measure, but also those subjective metrics that just basically live inside you like how do I feel about that? Is there anything like that, that you kind of incorporate into your practice?
David: I’m not as good with the subjective stuff, although I think that I have thought about that. That would be a good idea. Like, what’s my happiness every day or something like that? Because sometimes, you know, you wonder yeah, like, about the changes and sort of how you’re feeling kind of day to day, week to week and things like that. To answer your question, I don’t have anything like that at the moment.
Nelson: Perfect. It’s been kind of a journey for me. Because even as recently maybe like six weeks ago or so I kind of started Incorporating yoga and reading in the morning. So like the first two hours of my day, always mine, even when I work with clients in Australia, who tend to expect things done, because of where I am in the UK kind of in my morning, I don’t start until 9am, ever. So between seven and nine, all I do is kind of read and do yoga, and then get myself kind of ready for the day. And I think that has had a really large impact, I started to do journaling. And just felt that I couldn’t keep with it. I tried to do it for a little while, and then I was just getting really bored in the process. And I just couldn’t stick with it. And I think that’s like a large part of it. And I could have, you know, beat myself up about not sticking with it. You know, maybe I’ll go back to it in the future. Maybe I won’t. But I think the important thing for people is to find what, what makes them happy, what moves the needle in terms of their own kind of productivity and happiness. And maybe journaling just isn’t it for me, which is surprising considering I’m a writer, but you know, maybe I’m writing so much for other people that I don’t particularly want to write my own things. And when I do I want it to be work related, not personal. I don’t know.
David: Yeah, I think that you have to find what works for you. I mean, there’s a lot of a lot of talk out there about doing meditation and yoga and journaling and gratitude exercises and things like that. And they’re all great. They have proven to work for many people, but I don’t think they do work for everybody. And I don’t think you should force something just because you think it’s what you’re supposed to be doing.
Nelson: No, definitely, definitely. So what’s kind of next for you on a personal level? Do you think?
David: On a personal level? Yeah, I think I’m probably more focused on Shortlist now than then than ever. And I think that we’re having a good quarter after stuff with pandemic and COVID and sort of just normal. Yeah, issues around that. And we had also maybe gotten a little away from ourselves and sort of introducing other a lot of other projects and stuff client work, but sort of like, like business projects and things like that, that we probably weren’t ready for, to be honest. And I felt anyway, I thought we were spreading ourselves too thin. Basically, what I what I’m trying to say, and that we were probably spending too much money, and that was reflected in profitability and stuff like that. And so I kind of roped all that in, and now things are looking good again. And I want to kind of continue on that path for a while until I feel like really, really strong and stable about where we are. And we have a new vision, which is good, but we’re taking steps very slowly on like, you know, really transition there. And so this, you know, it’s just mostly business related. You mentioned personal. Other than that, I mean, I had a daughter four months ago.
Nelson: That’s a big one. Fantastic.
David: Yeah, it’s, it’s been great. So you know, and we’ve come up with a good approach to you know, caretaking and, and work and managing both. And just got learning watching her grow has been great.
Nelson: So yeah, fantastic. One of the things I wanted to get back to it’s a little bit out of order now, but it’s been kind of sat in the back of my mind is you mentioned that you are moving towards e-commerce for Shortlist with health and wellness specifically. So is there anything that appeals to you in particular about that niche?
David: Yeah, for sure. I think that, you know, the reason I mean, the number one reason why we chose that niche is because it’s something from a mission perspective that we feel like we can get behind. So young company, people are focused on being healthy. And we want also to be working with clients who we feel are trying to make the world like a better place and more health and wellness. And we just don’t it’s just not our place to be working so much in finance, or crypto or different things like that, although exceptions will still be made as we make the transition, but at least they have a vision and a focus. So I think that from a personal standpoint and mission standpoint, it motivates us as a company. I also feel like from a business perspective, it’s trending in the right direction. So I think that ecommerce, obviously more people buying things online than ever before, especially nowadays with so many retail stores being closed and people not kind of going out. And health and wellness is a huge trend in the US. I think it’s taken over and Europe and other places well, people shopping organic, they’re caring more about where their products are sourced and what’s in them. And so I think there’s a lot of lot overall just everything about it I really like.
Nelson: Well, anecdotally I can kind of give some minor evidence to support that as well. Just in terms of I’ve seen an uplift in clients approaching me who were based in kind of sustainable living. So you know, just in the recent months, I’ve worked with somebody who does zero plastic cosmetics, like bathware, and that sort of thing. And then somebody else who does sustainability like eco clothing. So that kind of around like no synthetic dyes or workers paid a fair wage, you know, less kind of packaging than kind of their traditional counterparts, that sort of thing. I think that’s gonna go to improve like, not just because it’s what we want. But there’s more transparency expected these days, in terms of I want to be able to see where this company is getting their ingredients from, you know, if it’s something like food, for example, or all kind of that bath kind of example that I gave, it’s like, Okay, are you using, like non recyclable plastic? Are you using palm oil, and things like that, that we think are actually going to be really damaging to the environment and do have a substantial cost. So it’s like that transparency, that expectation. So I’m definitely kind of with you there. From a personal point of view, it also makes me feel better, like from a business point of view that Okay, I think that’s like a noble goal. And it does make me smile a bit more, which I think is like, as good a metric as any, when you’re kind of choosing which clients to work with, like, do they make me smile? Yes, no, great. And I’ve seen that and I’m not sure if other people, I guess I’m in quite a fortunate position myself that I can turn down clients that don’t fit that their industry and hopefully that’s something that other people will be able to kind of take a stand on as well. You know, if somebody makes you feel icky, I think icky is probably like the technical term. If somebody makes you feel bad in terms of the industry, then if you can’t afford not to, then you shouldn’t touch it. So like, for me, I don’t work with like tobacco companies, I don’t work with alcohol companies. I don’t work with gambling companies. Now, don’t get me wrong, like, I don’t smoke, but I drink and I play poker. So I’ve got no problem with those on a personal level. I just don’t feel like I want to be encouraging other people to do those to do those things with my marketing. Does that kind of resonate with you at all?
David: Yeah, absolutely. I think we all want to feel that like the business we’re working in is kind of on the right side of history, so to speak, doesn’t mean that people aren’t going to have some vices and stuff like that, in moderation. And I think most of this most of those cases is totally fine, too. So yeah, I think that’s it. That’s exactly where we’re coming from as
Nelson: Well fantastic. Well, David, thank you so much for talking to us today. Really appreciate it. I wish you all the best for Shortlist. So if people do want to find out more about you and Shortlist and kind of get to grips with the agency, where can they go?
David: They should go to Shortlist.io and then it’s nice and easy. Oh yeah my email is dave@Shortlist.io if anyone wants to get in touch.
Nelson: Fantastic. Well, thanks again, Dave. And I hope all the listeners have found this valuable.
David: Thanks so much, Nelson.