Recent learnings have grown longer. That may be the evolution of my reflection, wanting to think more deeply about what I’m learning. Perhaps it’s the evolution of my writing ability, finding greater ease with words. Whatever the reason, I’m remembering an adage attributed to Cicero, a Roman polymath, who said something like, “If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.” Many others, it seems, have had similar sentiments. So, in the spirit of succinctness, I’m firing off a few quick-ish hits, learnings 16-20.
Thanks for reading.
#16 What’s your stack, bro?
Quite a few memes reference stacks, which, I think began with the emergence of tech stacks and have since evolved into nootropics, with guys who generally look like me asking other guys, “What’s your stack, bro?”
Given that this blog is called nonlinear, I’ll likely post something on nootropics sooner than later, but let’s start with the tech stack.
To borrow from Mixpanel, “a technology stack, also called a solutions stack, technology infrastructure, or a data ecosystem, is a list of all the technology services used to build and run one single application.”
In the case of running an ecommerce business, however, I’m not dealing with a single application, and thus my stack is a bit broader. Here’s my ecommerce stack:
Social commerce: Instagram
Email marketing: Klayviyo
Affiliate marketing: LeadDyno
Email, calendar, and documents: Google Workspace (I give them 0 stars for customer service and need to migrate)
Reviews: Product Reviews by Shopify
This is a nascent stack. It’ll grow in complexity as the business and aptitude grow. Additions to the stack will include, for instance, applications that enable greater automation.
#17 One-thousand licks
Reflecting on affiliate marketing, I am, bizarrely, reminded of an ancient Tootsie Roll ad:
TOOTSIE ROLL POP COMMERCIAL 1969
Turns out, researchers at NYU worked out the number of licks to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Pop: 1,000.
Interestingly, and maybe conveniently, I think 1,000 is about the number of customers (online) I want for every affiliate marketer. This rate* improves the attractiveness to an affiliate of marketing on behalf of my brand. This assumes that the affiliate will also be marketing on behalf of about 20 additional brands. Improve the rate to, say, 10,000 customers for every affiliate, or 10x the previous rate, and the affiliate may only need to support two brands to earn a low six-figure salary.
I might conclude, then, that achieving this target, 1,000 customers for every affiliate, requires a forecast or record of at least 10,000 annual transactions. In the meantime, investment is better used for product development and marketing.
*rate is higher or lower, depending on average order value (AOV)
#18 A shortcut to seeing competitive advantages
Looking at a business from the perspective of a competitor, what thing or things does the business have that I want?
I think analyzing competitive advantages is often over-analyzed, over-complicated. It can be simpler. Ask the right question. And that question might be the one above. They have something I want.
#19 Walk to learn
I took a Cousera course four years ago called Learning How to Learn.
It’s one of the most popular MOOCs (massive online open courses) of all time, with more than 2.7 million people having enrolled during its history.
Among my learnings was a concept of focused versus diffuse learning states.
A focused learning state is one in which attention is applied with effort, locked in on a subject. A diffuse learning state is one in which attention is everywhere and nowhere, one that might be enabled or enhanced by walks on the beach, running, or, famously, showering.
With some consistency, the walks I take actually do yield clarity around ideas and connections. A greater challenge is committing to diffuse learning activities with the same consistency.
#20 What I miss about corporate
This isn’t the “grass is always greener” trope. Certainly not. I love this new journey I’m on. Yes, entrepreneurship is hard. It’s messy and chaotic. I’m constantly just figuring things out. In fact, “Chaos” or “Figuring Things Out” might be the title of a podcast I want to launch, focused on this niche of the early days of entrepreneurship. Yet, despite the challenges of entrepreneurship, it’s fulfilling, as I shared in learning #12.
But I’d be deluding myself to ignore what I miss about corporate. I miss three things in particular.
First, let’s be real. I miss my salary. It’s nice to get paid regularly, really nice. A salary provides stability and security. Life is just easier with steady income. No surprise there.
Second, and, in some cases, related to the first, I miss my benefits. Wow, healthcare is expensive (for an American)! And complicated. It’s so much easier when someone else is handling that. Then there are all the financial benefits, such as stock plans and retirement accounts. I miss those too, but, again, no surprise.
What is surprising, however, is that, third, I miss the quality of the talent in corporate, which I didn’t actually know was a thing to miss until I missed it.
I’m lucky to have been able to work in a few great companies, including, most recently, Nike. Large, successful companies recruit the best talent in the world. At Nike and other similarly successful companies, it’s like playing with the professionals of Major League Baseball. There’s a dense concentration of talent, but once you leave, you’re suddenly in a much broader pool of talent, swimming among talent of all levels, from Single-A on up.
Now, I’d end there if not for the elitism in this view. I get it. As I mentioned, though, I believe I’ve been lucky to work where I have. Awareness counts for something, and anyone else who has had a similar experience, they’ve been lucky too. Extremely lucky. Some people are playing Single-A because of circumstances, not their talent or desire, and they may belong in the Major Leagues. So maybe what I miss is the easy access to Major Leaguers. They’re just easier to find in leading companies. But, let’s be honest, there are plenty of Single-A players hiding in these companies too.