Blaze Your Own Path

This morning I was up early launching a cool new feature for our customers and I realized how lucky I am to be doing what I am doing. I am sitting in my kitchen with my son eating his waffle and my faithful friend at my feet while I deploy some new code to our data center. I am passionately working on a product I know is making people’s lives easier and it is absolutely a blast. I have no boss (other than customers :-)), no office to report to and no meetings to attend. A standard day for me is wildly productive. I communicate with my 2 partners via email a few times a day – sometimes the phone. I’ve been working on the Schedulefly system for almost 5 years now and every day I shoot out of bed excited to work and excited to hear from customers and prospects. I am very lucky – it just does not feel like work at all.

Every entrepreneur’s story is different. Something happened in their life – somewhere along the way – that lit a fire under them to go out and start a business. Maybe they inherited their fiery creative spirit from their parents and were destined to start a business, maybe they had a scratch that was not being itched or maybe they just decided that working in a cubicle for a large company sucks. I come from a family of successful business owners – so I think I inherited most of it….although I did work in a cubicle for years writing software for large clients and while it was an incredible learning experience and part of who I am now – I never really fit in.

My parents have owned a successful manufacturing business called Patsy Aiken Designs for over 30 years. They make baby clothes. Mom designs them and Dad runs the business. They are a really great team in life and in business and I owe 100% of my creative and entrepreneurial spirit to do my own thing to them. I grew up listening to them talk about their business every night at the dinner table. They were always talking about pricing, sales and customer service – and orders and shipping and things like that. They were also always talking about power bills, and payroll, yard maintenance at their office, having clean bathrooms for staff and all the other day to day things that a small business owner deals with. The things that really matter. Everything they talked about was important and necessary and basic. I remember thinking that’s what all people do – they have a business and they wake up every day to run it.

After years and years of hearing these discussions and asking questions about why they did things and why things mattered – I remember thinking in my first job out of school that I never heard anyone talking about these things. I was never in any discussion that had anything to do with a customer or an order. I had no idea how much a customer was paying for what I was helping create. I never heard about sales or marketing or revenue. I never heard about shipping and customer service. I was trapped in a cubicle, on a team of software developers, cranking out code for “clients” I had never met. In fact – today – the word “client” makes me queasy. I’ll never use it to refer to a customer. It seems to add so much distance between me and the people who buy what I make. Honestly – in those first few jobs I really don’t even know if anyone ever really did use what I made. Most of what we created was because there was a budget for it and it kept people employed so “clients” could be billed. Great and all, but what I was creating….did. not. matter.

My sister definitely inherited her creativity and desire to run a business from my parents. She has been designing and manufacturing her own line of handbags for over 10 years. Her designs are crazy popular. So popular that magazines like Southern Living and Parenting literally knock down her door for articles. She is a press magnet. Amazing what happens when you create a product that people love. Not only do people want to buy it over and over again – they want to tell their friends and family and readers about it as well. I am working really hard to emulate what she and my parents have done by creating something that people love and feel that it makes their life better if they buy it.

So I am sitting here in “my office” thinking about those days of listening to my parents at the dinner table talking about things that matter and thinking about the path they blazed for themselves. I’m thinking about my sister and her business and the other friends and family I’ve got that have hung out their own shingle and blazed their own path. Sure there were other children’s clothing manufacturing companies and handbag companies – but none like theirs. They followed no one. Their product, their passion and the way they delight their customers is unique. Sure there are other companies offering restaurants scheduling software – but none like ours.

Blaze your own path!

Wes @ Schedulefly