One of my all-time favorite movies is “The Hunt for Red October”. There’s something about Sean Connery as a Russian talking with an
English Scottish accent. One of my favorite lines from the movie:
“When he reached the New World, Cortés burned his ships. As a result, his men were well motivated.”
Over the last couple of months I’ve had several meetings with aspiring entrepreneurs that are thinking about making the leap and starting something on their own. They come from all walks; agencies, stable jobs at big tech companies, young, old, men and women. Just about every instance they tell me about how they are trying to ween themselves off a client to become a “product company”. IMHO, making the transition from an agency or services business to a product one is hard enough as it is.
You have to burn your ships.
When we started Urban Airship pretty much all 4 of us were jobless. The company we had worked for had run out of money and so we were faced with unemployment or consulting. I had an interim gig for a local advocacy group but the reality we were all on a short timeline. Panic started to set in and I know all 4 of us thought hard about doing consulting as a cushion so we could start the business while still pre-revenue. I firmly believe that Urban Airship would never have had a chance if we’d gone down that path.
Michael, Adam, Steven and I made the conscience choice to go hard at building a business. Technically we didn’t burn our ships but the fact is, we had no cushion. Failure was not (and is not) an option. At the time I thought to myself, what’s the worst that can happen? I’m not going to be homeless. I’m not going to go hungry. I can always find a job in the tech world. That’s even more true today.
Spin down your clients quickly. Ween yourself off the services income and focus 1000% on your product and getting it to market as quickly as possible. Stop trying to “work a deal” that will give you a couple more hours during the day to build your business. The absolute worst thing that will happen is that you will fail.
Be like Cortés; burn your ships.