You need to neglect mostly everything to win big

Your business is either a magical money printing machine.

Or it’s an endless source of interesting challenges.

Usually it’s more of the latter.

And that’s kind of cool.

As long as you’re running a business you’ll never be bored again.

There’s always something to do.

There is an infinite number you can improve or tweak to give customers a better experience or sell more.

Look at these idiots

A popular type of tweet is this: “It’s ridiculous how [[successful business]] fails at [[surprisingly basic thing]]”.

Haha, LinkedIn thinks “Self-Employed” is a company.

“Atlassian is a $50b market cap company and you can’t input rich text into a ticket creation window.”

“The fact that you have to use your personal facebook account to manage a business ad account is unbelievably idiotic. How is this a $900b market cap company?”

What are the thousands of engineers at these companies even doing, right?

What are they spending all the money they’re making on?

I’m totally guilty of that type of thinking too.

There is so much stuff broken with almost every product I’m using.

It’s sometimes hard to believe just how broken everything is.

Now one lesson here could be that the bar is still low and you still win pretty easily just by building something that’s not completely broken.

But there’s a more interesting lesson.

How winning big works

You only need to get a tiny number of things right.

You can fuck up everything else.

And you still win big.

This is true for companies and for people alike.

Product-market fit heals almost everything.

Think drug dealers.

Nothing about the experience of buying drugs seems particularly great.

But as long as the drug gets the job done, cash keeps flowing.

Similarly, people can be can be unbelievably idiotic about almost everything and still win big.

The wrong training

Truly internalizing how winning big truly works incredibly difficult.

It requires unlearning decades of brainwashing.

In school, the winning strategy is to do at least an okay job at everything.

You cannot completely neglect anything.

There are no 100x returns.

But in real life, the winning strategy is completely orthogonal.

There are 100x returns.

And to get them, you only have to do a great job at a tiny number of things.

You can neglect everything else.

What you can neglect?

Everything I just wrote about might seem completely obvious.

But at least to me it’s incredible unintuitive.

So I want to explain exactly why all of this is top of mind for me right now and what it truly means to apply the lessons here.

I’m running a cold email agency.

I’ve mostly focused on making sure we do a good job at everything.

Good communications, good onboarding, good service delivery, good data, good copywriting, good reply management, good deliverability, good everything.

Now I realize how stupid that is.

The “drug”, we’re selling are leads.

As long as we deliver amazing leads, our customers will be happy.

If we don’t, they won’t.

Simple as that.

But here’s the challenge.

Time, energy, attention, and money are finite resources.

So I always have to make a choice.

Do I invest 4 hours to improve our weekly reports from, say, bad to okay?

Or do I invest 4 hours to squeeze out 1% more deliverability?

Intuitively fixing the broken reports feels more important.

With just 4 hours of my time I can make something at least 50% better.

Deliverability on the other hand, is already pretty good. It will be hard to make it even 1% better.

But that’s the wrong way to think about it.

A 1% improvement in deliverability means ~40 more emails per months will land in the primary inbox for each client.

Across, say, a three month period that translates roughly into at least one additional lead for every single client.

That’s huge.

Better reports, on the other hand, will not have any impact on the number of leads we deliver.

Every fiber of my body resists leaving any piece of the business broken.

I want to pass every single test.

But I now realize that it’s absolutely necessary to fail at some to win big at others.

What can you remove?

Since leaving things broken hurts my soul, I’ve come up with an alternative strategy.

We’ve stopped doings that aren’t absolutely essential.

Only now I do realize how some of them were really sabotaging our ability to win big.

For example, for a long time we were managing inboxes for clients.

This required using a unified inbox tool to manage multiple email accounts for each client.

The tool is expensive, maintenance a pain as you have to connect every single account manually, and I spent countless hours optimizing workflows around it.

We’ve stopped manging inboxes for clients a few weeks ago.

But we were still using the unified inbox tool since it helped with reporting.

Last week I finally decided to ditch it.

Will this make our reports worse?


Did some clients benefit from us managing their inboxes?

Of course.

But I have zero doubt that the tradeoff is worth it.

After ditching the tool, I suddenly realized that there are dozens of things we can do now to optimize that we couldn’t do before.

For example, as the tool bills for each accounts connected and connecting them is cumbersome, we only used a small number of email accounts for each client.

Now we can easily double the number of accounts we use.

This will have a huge impact on deliverability.

We also always had to add an aritificial delay before handing over leads to clients to make sure the connection between the different tools did not break.

Now we can hand over leads instantly which reduces reply times and hence the value clients get out of the leads we deliver.

We were also quite limited what we could do in terms of account warmups as every single step needede to be carefully coordinated across all accounts and tools.

Now we can do whatever we want which again will have a huge impact on deliverability.

The lens

Moving forward, I’m looking at everything through the lens of “is this helping us deliver more leads better and faster?”.

I just deleted 200+ tasks from my todo list that don’t fit this lens.

It certainly feels weird to keep pushing and pushing in a small number of areas while leaving so much underoptimized.

But I’m convinced that this is the only way to win big.

Written on March 18, 2024

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