A Time Crisis
How’s that for a catchy title? As you can see, my fresh new personal blog hasn’t been all that active lately. As soon as Mateo came home, all my spare time went out the door along with all of my work time as well. The truth is, fatherhood is the responsibility I didn’t know I needed. Over the last year or so, I’ve been going through a bit of a mid-career crisis. This wonderful beast called The Wood Whisperer consumes all of my available time like a greedy sponge. Anyone who has run their own business probably understands this very well. If you are motivated and there are no formal restrictions on your time investment, you essentially wind up using all of it. As a result, I fell into a “time crisis” where I felt like I was constantly spinning my wheels and getting nowhere. Reading books like The 4-Hour Work Week and other time management/lifestyle resources did help. They taught me that I need to spend more time on the things that generate revenue and stop worrying so much about what my friends are doing on Twitter. It also taught me that the pile of email in my inbox CAN wait. Who knew?? I don’t know about you, but having email in my inbox drives me nuts. It’s like being in a boat with a unrelenting leak. Every time I scoop some water out, a bunch more gushes back in. So one of my biggest lessons of the past year was learning to tackle email once or twice a day, instead of all day long. I also learned that there is a huge difference between simply checking your email and actually answering your email. One of the worst things I can do is check my email just to peruse it. Once an email has been checked, it takes up space in my brain. If I don’t answer that email, that space remains occupied. So twenty read/unanswered emails in my inbox equates to 20 things to do in my brain. What a waste of brain real-estate. So if I don’t have the time to answer, I don’t bother checking. And I only check/answer one email at a time. If I haven’t read it, my brain doesn’t know about it. This is easier said than done, but I do my best and things are improving.
So this is where the Baby comes in. Mateo is, without a doubt, the most demanding thing in my life. Everything else abruptly dropped down a notch on October 28th, 2011. Whether I like it or not, I simply don’t have time for all the extra-curricular work-related activities. I can’t afford to edit video and let myself be distracted by an open internet browser on my second screen. Now is a time for uni-tasking, not multi-tasking. I need to focus on the core functionalities of my business and make sure they continue to thrive, while letting go of the things that just contribute to the white noise. But for all the sleepless nights and scheduling frustrations, everything with work just seems easier when work is no longer the most important thing in my day.
Far from it. While I get some mental relief from this revelation about my priorities, there are still some significant challenges in The Wood Whisperer camp. If you don’t know what I do, I run a free website at TheWoodWhisperer.com and a paid membership site at WoodWhispererGuild.com. A big part of my struggle is trying to balance the two sites. But I really shouldn’t paint the picture that the flowers are blooming and the sky is blue.On one end, I have the people who actually paid me money to provide them with video instruction, and on the other I have sponsors and advertisers who are paying for eyeballs. I never expected both sites to thrive concurrently so I have been burning the candle at both ends for a few years now. There is so much more I can do on both the free and paid side of things, but I just can’t afford the time investment as one would come at the expense of the other. Walking this tight rope was fine when it was just Nicole and I and working till 11pm on a Friday night was considered “normal” behavior. But now, it just seems ridiculous. So when a company recently offered to buy us out, my ears perked up.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am not looking to sell my business. But I had a strong curiosity about what they thought my site was worth and what life might be like without The Wood Whisperer. While the idea of separating Marc Spagnuolo from The Wood Whisperer seems crazy, my entrepreneurial spirit just couldn’t ignore the possibilities. I mean, imagine selling off everything I have created so far and considering that the “practice run” for the next big thing; taking the big payout and investing that into my next venture. The question is, how much money would make it worthwhile/possible/feasible/smart? After all, with a little one in the house, this isn’t exactly the best time to take a gamble with my livelihood. So let me cut to the chase and say the offer ended up around $1 Million. That may sound like a lot but after taxes, the actual payout would be substantially lower. It didn’t take long for me to decide this wasn’t the right move for us, for many reasons. But I went through a bit of a mental exercise that not only solidified my decision not to sell, but also made it painfully clear what I need to do with my business moving forward. Since I had to consider what I would do AFTER The Wood Whisperer, I had to ask myself, “What would be my ideal business model?”. I’m sure there would have been some sort of non-compete clause in the contract, so what would I do to get myself back into the market?
The answer was very clear to me: I would start a new online woodworking school. A paid membership site where people could learn woodworking. I would use a good part of the acquisition money to jump start the business with a new website and a strong marketing campaign. The marketing campaign would obviously be essential since I no longer would have the power of TheWoodWhisperer.com to disseminate information. This is when the realization hit me like a ton of bricks. I already have an online woodworking school! Furthermore, I have a built-in advertising machine at TheWoodWhisperer.com! The Guild does very well with absolutely NO paid advertising. So if I sold my company, I would be selling the machine and the tools that I would need later to create my ideal business, and that is not very smart. This realization may be somewhat obvious but it was ground-breaking to me at the moment because it made me realize how powerful my free site was, even without the addition of new content. And if I am being honest with myself, THAT is the source of my stress. The free site is a hungry voracious monster that will simply gobble up all the content I can throw at it. Over the years, I have pumped about 200 videos, 272 articles, 301 Viewer Projects, 76 Shop Tours, and 102 audio podcasts (with the help of my co-hosts) into it. Yet despite this fairly large library, I always feel indebted to the free site. I made the mistake of thinking my site needs to compete with magazine websites by trying to be everything to everyone. But I am only one person. And the truth is, if I abandoned my site today, it would be a long time before I saw a decline in traffic and/or ad revenue. Sure it would start to drop off at some point, but the library of content could potentially serve as a resource for decades. So perhaps, it is time to stop burning the candle at both ends and start burning twice as bright from one. For those of you who are fans of TheWoodWhisperer.com, fret not. Let me clarify.
The thing that got me where I am today is making good quality woodworking videos with a sense of humor. I want to stay true to that. So I will no longer simply PUSH out a video out of a sense of obligation. Instead, I will put out videos when I am inspired to do so. I will simply have to ignore all the comments from “the entitled” that criticize me for not putting out enough free content and focusing too much on the Guild. The days of cranking out 40 videos a year are over. Instead, I will try to make a smaller number of videos that reach the highest bar of my personal quality scale.
I took a very circuitous route to arrive at the realization that the Guild comes first. After all, these are folks who are paying me directly for a service. Putting anything before that would be disrespectful, not to mention irresponsible. The free site will continue to showcase community work and will serve as my personal woodworking blog as it always has. Free videos will roll out as often as I can get to them……and no sooner. 🙂 I have to say, it feels liberating just to type those words!
As it turns out, having a baby and turning down $1 Million were the best things to happen to my business and my state of mind!