I first met Allan Branch at LessConf in 2008 or 2009. Allan is not the kind of person you forget – he’s jovial, friendly, and has a big presence.
Allan co-founded Less Everything, and later Less Accounting, with Steve Bristol, who passed away in 2017. I caught up with Allan to talk about what it was like to start a SaaS business in the 2000’s, and what were the secrets to their success.
Beware entrepreneurial enthusiasm. It can definitely drive your momentum in the early days, but it can also be exhausting. Do ride the wave when you catch it. But channel that energy into creating a sustainable business that will continue beyond the initial wave of entrepreneurial enthusiasm. Younger entrepreneurs may have a longer wave to ride; as we get a little older, and especially once we begin a family, it’s important to balance our energy. It might be tempting to work 14-hour days for a while when you’re single and unattached, but it’s not ok do do that for very long when you have a family. That’s not to say that if you missed the wave of entrepreneurial enthusiasm in your youth, the opportunity is passed. Far from it: a recent study published by the Harvard Business Review found that the average age of a successful startup founder is 45.
Build products that have a high value. Even though accounting software is the backbone of any business, Allan and Steve found that business owners, especially freelancers, who they targeted at first, were surprisingly price conscious about the cost of their accounting software. The problem, Allan thought, was that freelancers chronically undervalue their time. Since they didn’t have a healthy value on their time, they would have rathered spend 2 extra hours doing bookkeeping instead of paying $30/month for an easier solution.
There is no perfect business model. Every business involves work. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that a SaaS business, or a marketing business, or some other business that’s marketed as “turnkey” is going to make you in a way that you don’t have to work for it. The only perfect business model is one that lets you work your way out of your job. The goal of every founder should be to be a business owner, rather than an employee in the business.
Links mentioned in this episode
- Ben Franklin Effect
- @AllanBranch on Twitter
- Our Little Warehome on the Lowes Home Improvement YouTube channel