Selling a Business and Scaling Another Amidst Tragedy

A raw conversation between Michele and Jesse Hanley about how he sold his first business and scaled up his SaaS last year all while dealing with the death of his infant daughter Leia from Trisomy 13.
Read the post Jesse mentions about his daughter Leia:
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Michele Hansen  0:03  
Hey, welcome back to software social.

Hey, everyone, just a quick note before today's episode. So today's episode is a continuation of the conversation that I had with Jesse last week. And it's quite a bit heavier than our episodes normally are. And I want to give you a heads up in case this is a sensitive topic for you. So as many of you may know, from following Jessie on Twitter, his first daughter was born last year, and she was born with trisomy 13, which is a usually fatal condition. And his daughter died soon after being born. And so we, we talked about that in any episode. And what it's like to be a founder throughout all of that. And I mean, it's, it's, it's certainly not a topic that we normally talk about here. But I think it's an it's an important one and in many ways I feel like this is maybe the most important episode we've ever done. Because you know, we are business people and but we are we are people right like all of those things are happening at the same time. And and people don't really talk about death nevermind death of a child. And so I feel like this is this is really important to talk about. At the same time. I also want to stress that it was fully Jesse's decision to talk about this, we. So we actually didn't plan out last week's episode. Colleen was sick, and I was supposed to be talking to a guest and they ended up having to reschedule which is totally fine. But then I needed somebody else to come on and had to record that day. And I was like, who I wanted to have on that is online right now. And reach out to Jesse and so he hopped on with 20 minutes notice, and he had published a blog post about this about a month back, but I wanted to leave it entirely up to him whether we talked about his daughter, Leah, and it didn't end up coming up in that conversation we had and it was really fun conversation. And then we kind of you know, we stopped recording and then Jesse was like, You know what, let's but let's talk about it. So, so that's what we dive into. And, and it was also important to to you know, Jesse and I talked about whether we should publish this episode and how we should publish it. And so it's important to him that there be this sort of content warning in advance knowing that many people do struggle with infertility and miscarriage and and the loss of a child. And it's also extremely important to me, I think, to both of us really to show that it's okay to be open about that. And that if you are open about it, you'll receive compassion and that it's okay to talk about it. So without further ado, here is the second part of my conversation with Jesse. You may remember we've recently had Jesse on talking about his incredibly fascinating background as a bodybuilder turn marketer turned developer who now runs a SAS called bento and lives in Japan and is if you missed that episode, go listen to it. It was so fun for me and so fascinating. He's incredible founder.

But something really struck me from that conversation was how his life for the past like seven or eight years has just been a series of changing major stresses from working at the small company to moving abroad and starting an agency and then having to scale it down and then scaling it up and starting bento and everything else so much else going on. And so I have Jesse with us again today. And we're going to talk about we're like the personal side

Jesse Hanley  5:30  
of all of that. So welcome back, Jesse. Thanks. Good to come back.

like that thread, the yeah, there, there is a lot of stresses, I think, especially towards like the end of last year,

which we can go into last year, they had has been a pattern of that, there's also been a pattern of me, putting myself in those stresses or overreaching a lot. And then kind of, I don't know, not burning out, maybe burning out. But kind of like reaching the end of like, whatever amount of gas that I had in me for whatever that venture was, and then just trying to, you know, regain myself take a breather, and then kind of go back out there and overreach again, and I still don't really know. Maybe we can dig into it on this a little bit. But I still don't know really where that comes from. Basically, it's been present, I think, since after after school, you know, even like during the bodybuilding shows and stuff, that was a pretty insane thing to do at 1818. I think 19 was when I stepped on stage. But yeah, it's been, it's been interesting, but it's definitely been a pattern. It's been a pattern of constantly putting myself in, like difficult situations, burning out trying again, so a lot of stresses.

Michele Hansen  6:56  
It seems like you're either running like full health, like sprinting, or resting. Yes, that's exactly new. There's two Jessi modes. And most of those, it seems like have been sort of like work related. But but if you want to sort of start with it, I guess the end of last year, you had a major personal stress.

Jesse Hanley  7:23  
Yeah, around the star Molossia. Things were looking pretty, pretty great. Bento was like Stein to come into itself, the product was developing in a really good direction, like, we haven't really found in quite like product market fit. But the direction was going in a way where like, you're starting to click with people, mainly, we're going down the marketing automation route, which people are really excited about. And I felt my skills are getting better and like so from that business perspective, things are going good in terms of the agency, things are also going really good at that we like survived the pandemic. And we grew actually quite significantly over the pandemic, which was mostly related to having really good friends and people like, yeah, just basically doing all my work online as well, because all of our clients are either an E commerce or they're an affiliate. So as those industries boomed, we basically kept hiring writers to support those businesses. So that was pretty good. So the SATA last year, things were all looking good businesses, MRR all that stuff was nice, we're just moving into this, like, beautiful two story house in South Japan, right in the city, which, if you've been to Japan, or you know much about Japan, it's hard to find housing like we do. And the amazing thing was because the place was on the market for a bit, just because during COVID, or even the year before COVID, people weren't really moving. It's quite expensive to move in Japan. I think like all that for us to move from our apartment to this house. It was like, over over $10,000 that you don't really see back and that's just like key money and a whole bunch of stuff. So it's it's expensive. And but we did it we found this like beautiful house. It has a garden so like our dog and our cat. But don't tell the landlord like a dog and cat can like cat can roam the dog can play in the garden and stuff. Got really nice neighbors, all that kind of. It's like a really quiet, quite lovely Japanese life. So yeah, everything was looking really good. And then we found out that my wife, Mikayla was pregnant. And that was super exciting. It was, you know, we'll never will that kind of like thing I wrote in the blog post that I put up towards the end of the ICS that like nice kind of combination of like excitement and nerves, but around just excitement. So yeah, the start of the year was fun. The middle of the year was also fun. I started to have conversations with people about selling my business. One of those conversations kicked off incredibly fast with a client, previous client who wanted to buy the business Yeah. agents business, a previous client, I was with situations probably worth going to this story. A friend sent me a listing on Empire Flippers of a business at the same monthly revenue as me, and had $1 figure on it. And he goes, Oh, this is interesting, like, have a look at it. And we knew the guy who's listening it was and so it's just kind of like an internet class and B type stuff. And then, um, I saw the dollar value. And I was like, Oh, that's interesting. And I spoke to another friend and I, who I knew was kind of, he said, offhanded jokes, like, I'd love to have your business. And then one day, I was like, would you love to have? Would you love to have this business? He's like, What do you want to sell it for? And I just said, the number that was on, you know, the other person's listing. And he said, Yeah, I'm kind of like interested in that. And what was going through my head at the time is like, I kinda was feeling that running an agency, a growing software business, and having a child, the three of them couldn't exist.

Arguably, starting a business and having a child can't really exist. But I know people that pull it off, and you put off your business. Yeah. So, you know, knowing stuff like that. I was like, I can do it with one. I don't think I can do it with two. Yeah. And also, because it's a people business, there was, um, you know, there's people's real lives, and I cared a lot about the team. And so I wanted the team to persist. And so I was kind of like looking for a new home. So I went to one friend, he went off, and he was really interested, and went back to the original person who sent me the listing that kind of gave me my sale price, which is kind of a weird way to go about it. I told him, I went, Oh, hey, like I spoke to such and such. They were interested, he replies, he goes, I'm interested, like, I can get an LOI on your desk. In 24 hours, I was like, Whoa, this is interesting. And that basically kicked off the sale process. And the two people, they ended up going on to acquire the business like the kindest people, and some of my like, kind of dearest online friends, plus our agency who had worked with them before, like, love them. And so it was, it was the perfect fit. So at that point in time, I've got an exit in a business for, for me, I was life changing someone money. With a great bio. I've got a software project I love. I have my wife who is pregnant. I mean, a lovely house. And it is summer, so it's very hot. And everything's nice. And then we end up going to I wonder if there's gonna be a one, it's gonna make me tear up? I don't know, we'll say we ended up going to the hospital. Well, actually, the clinic so in Japan, there's our clinics, and that kind of, I don't know, how to explain them, looking back at it, but clinics are basically hotels with doctors in them in Japan. Like, they do these extravagant meals and, you know, you get massages, and it's like a

Michele Hansen  12:50  
labor and delivery Hotel.

Jesse Hanley  12:52  
Yes, exactly. Sounds nice. Like, yeah, yeah, it is nice. But the dynamic is that if they notice a single complication, you get ejected immediately. And given that this was like our first experience with the, you know, the Japanese pregnancy healthcare system, I don't really know how to say it, but like that kind of funnel, kind of going down. It was very surprising. And, and then, like, one of the checkups, they're looking at the monitors. And I not the doctor, which I, which still ticks me off. I noticed like a black.on, like our child stomach. And I was like, what's that? That looks odd? And he goes, Yeah, that is that is odd. I'm gonna take photos, and then he takes photos and kind of looks at it. And over the next couple of visits. They write us a letter to go to the hospital, and then give us a deposit back. Which I remember sitting and going like, Makayla, why are they giving you money back? That's weird. And she goes, I don't know. But they're saying she speaks fluent Japanese. And so it's, you know, there's a lot of different ways. I know, Japanese communication is very different to Western communication. So on to it. Yeah, it's it's nuance. So they're giving us a refund, but not really saying anything, but there's so much implied in that. And so, and also my Japanese isn't good. So throughout all this, we had an English doctor which was nice to the clinic but throughout all this I'm kind of like reading the room, reading faces and trying to absorb energy and just quite a lot numbers open my wife's energy when she's actually known what's going on just awful. Anyway, we go we go to the hospital, and the doctor there who stayed our doctor throughout the whole thing. He was a man, she was just the greatest guy. He just be lined and found everything wrong with a child. And what's interesting is that like, when you detect one thing, and I think like this is an interesting thing as like, reflecting on myself and like how I looked at it is like Anytime that there was a problem that he would pick up, I'd be like, Oh, that's fixable in my head, like I was like, oh, that's fixable. Then as he gets like the fifth thing wrong. He's like, is is the fifth problem? You start going I think that's something bad. Yeah. So then we do the what is the MDS thesis? Yeah, amniocentesis? Yeah. Yep. Yep, that comes back with the diagnosis that like, I thought I was Trisomy 13. Now, also, this is going on, I'm doing due diligence in my business. I'm trying to sell my business, it's incredibly stressful, I find out my child has Trisomy 13, which is effectively like a death sentence. really brutal. And the kickoff is that were past the date, because we found out late because of the clinic, and I feel comfortable putting blame on the clinic. Because we're past the date in Japan where you can't abort. So regardless of the status, you have to carry full term no matter what. That's an awful that's all, you know, like, knowing that you have to let me just recenter myself. Yeah. Yeah, knowing that your wife has to essentially carry full term. And because the good thing is like you get you get closure. But it just sucks.

Michele Hansen  16:29  
What were the odds you were given of? You know,

Jesse Hanley  16:33  
survival? Yeah. It's it's like 90% die in seven days. Like that type of stats. It's brutal. Like yeah, it's it's, it's, it is a death sentence. What's kind of interesting is like, you turn on social media. So you look at Instagram and stuff. Make it Makayla was really different to me. She spent like a lot of time looking at stuff. I was trying to find answers, I realized they weren't no answers. So I kind of channeled my, my data a lot.

Michele Hansen  17:06  
It's okay, well, it's not, I mean, it's not okay.

Jesse Hanley  17:12  
I channeled my data a lot, and then allowed me to kind of like, get through it from like a stock pot, but didn't really process it. Like I kept trying to mimic him, which was good.

Michele Hansen  17:22  
But it sounds like that's like sort of, I mean, it's what you're trying to do right now, which is steel yourself up against the emotion because it's, I mean, it's unthinkably hard to know that your wife is carrying a child that is going to die. And then, of course, we all know that our children are going to die eventually, we simply just hope that's after we are so so right. But yeah, and then you have all of this business going on. And you're someone who like takes, it seems like you're as a person, you're someone who looks for stress almost and kind of enjoys it in a in a way. But it's all previously the stresses you took on in your life were all things that you opted into.

Jesse Hanley  18:08  
And yeah.

Michele Hansen  18:11  
And you chose the stress of being a parent. And but this was not the kind of stress that you signed up for, like you were blindsided by the stress versus all of your other stresses seemed to kind of build slowly and you had time to adjust to them. And you could you could, you know, you could pivot away from them. Would you were in the process of doing with your agency business at this time? And then you're just you just, I mean, your life was just hit by a train like,

Jesse Hanley  18:45  
Yeah, and you know, like, the interesting thing is, like, work work was work was my coping mechanisms. So like, for me, I just the bento product evolved, I think found product market fit, revenue was up, not gonna say my MRI numbers, but probably 3x What they were in a six month period, all whilst kopien like the graph is, looks like you know, those kind of hockey stick hockey stick meme Silicon Valley graphs, and that was cope if I'm going to be frank and the product was just evolving so fast and I had friends who didn't necessarily know what you're going through and then like they'll send me stuff that I like how you shipping stuff so fast. And it was just because like What else am I supposed to do it? Because you're you're walking this like bizarre march to the end. Because you know the outcome, right? Like most kids die at birth. If the if you want to extend their life, you have that option you have the optionality to but like, like what before you know it? I think it's more suffering for the parents. And, and with trisomy 13, that the children are non responsive. So they may be breathing, but, you know, nothing really else. So, yeah, you're walking this March. So it's like, you know, it's, it's, it's interesting, like I still remember getting like the often after the business transaction went through getting the lump sum, which was a goal since I was like 18. I, like wanted to hit a goal by the time I was 13. And the dollar amount hit my bank didn't, I felt really good, it was at the gym again, felt really good for about 30 seconds. And then I felt like shithouse which was this interesting, you know, hit a goal that I had my sights on for years, didn't really mean much.

Michele Hansen  20:44  
Like to hit that goal for an Gavai life changing amount of money. And I don't know, I imagine that that probably felt bitter. You know, like, I people say that money can't buy happiness. And it seems like an experience where you stared that in the face that money indeed, cannot buy happiness, no matter how much you have.

Jesse Hanley  21:08  
Those are console problems study on the happiness part, just console like sometimes money can solve so much problems. If I'm running into a Postgres issue at the moment with bento, which sometimes I am, I can throw more money at the problem, I can add more CPU, I can increase my storage, I can hire help. Can't do that here. So I think like for contacts, like when I'm 29 ACS, I think like the first time it was like a real, raw experience of like, no matter what I do, I can't solve this, like a con work my way into a solution. And I can't solve it with cash. And so really was the first proper instance where to kind of deal with that, which was just, yeah, super hard to kind of go through. Yeah, it's tricky. Tricky.

Michele Hansen  22:05  
you coped by just, I don't know, throwing yourself into something that was sort of predictable and comfortable. And

Jesse Hanley  22:18  
I could control it. Yeah. controllable. Yeah, I could make the graph go up. I could fix problems, I can make customers happy. But yeah, I mean, like, we went on trips and stuff, but they've got like, a kind of a sad cloud over them and stuff. So like, we tried to do stuff. And, you know, obviously, incredibly loving my wife and I were, you know, we love each other. So, we spent a lot of time just kind of like feeling emotions and stuff and just walking together. But then you do the birth? And then, you know, it goes away. It does. And yeah, and then you know, what's interesting, then you end up speed running the, it's probably a real weird stuff with social bond reflection, it's probably real weird kind of thread, and stuff to talk about. On the software, social

Michele Hansen  23:11  
is real life, right? Like, you're not just this robot that runs a company, right? Like, you're a person who also runs a company who also sold a company at the same time, like, like this, it like, you know, for us, I mean, the story of God is, like, inter intertwined with the fact that we couldn't afford daycare and that's why we had to start a business like there's no separating those two, like our our work and our lives are in so many ways one of the same and yes, so it's weird, but this is real. And I mean, I feel like I can hear how hard this was for you. Just alone and the way you talk about it because I noticed that you keep saying you when you mean I Are we you're saying you know you go through the pregnancy knowing what's going to happen and you go through this and like you're putting this linguistic difference

Jesse Hanley  24:10  
there great observation that's it and I

Michele Hansen  24:13  
don't know if you hear yourself doing that but it just it tells me how like, understandably how hard it is for you to I need to I guess we should let the story finish because you know, I've I know the story but maybe people listening don't so do you want to

Jesse Hanley  24:32  
Yeah, speed run through it because a little bit traumatic. So,

Michele Hansen  24:36  
yeah, yeah.

Jesse Hanley  24:38  
Yeah, he says, okay, yeah, so we ended up Makayla gives best to Leah. She passes away my arms. I was able to be there with her. Which beautiful bit? Yeah. Because COVID Right.

Michele Hansen  24:54  
So was Leah alive for

Jesse Hanley  24:58  
under 30 minutes or so? Yeah, but alive. And then and then she passed a doctor. If it was done during the day a doctor again, like I call it kind of like say enough good things about him. He was it he curated it in a way that I could be there with Mikayla, if it was during the day or any other time, he knew what outcome we wanted. And he knew. Yeah, he knew the outcome that we want to do. He wanted me to be there. And so he curated the delivery so that I could, so we're kind of like, indebted to him. And then you know, what, you go through the Japanese healthcare system, which is designed to give you closure in the in the fastest way possible. We met I think I wrote in like the post that I did the write up of like, we met this lady who we call the bones lady. So you know, we're in a room with our, you know, our child who's passed away. And this lady comes in starts commenting on our child's bones. She's like, Oh, she's got a long femur. And you just can't help but laugh. You're like, who? Who the hell is this lady? Who the hell is this lady? And I remember, like, the kid was like, Ah, she's talking about Leah's femur. Like, what he's like, again, okay, let's make fun. So she understands. But we don't know who she is. Like, even with Michaela, we don't actually know. She, she's, she's like asking about childbirth, we ended up finding out that she's basically like a salesperson for the crematorium, who's organizing the process. But just doing in a really bizarre way. Anyway, we made the bones lady, she got some details from us, we end up doing, like a ceremony with all the doctors which was quite beautiful. In the hospital, then they put us in a taxi with with Alia on my lap, and send us to the crematory with a taxi driver who's like, super eccentric, like making noises as he's taking turns because he's so excited to go to crematory the city commentary. Because it's like big and epic. And so for him, he's like, he's excited with devastate it. So just the whole thing is just bizarre. And then we get to the crematory, quite impressive. Never been on before. But you got a room you have time with your child. She gets taken away comes back, you're in a room. And we finally figured out what bones lady was about. And you know, you see your child's bones. And she was kind of asking like, did we want them crunched up in a certain way? It's just because in Japanese, you got to put them in a box, right? You got to put the ashes in a box, but the bones of that. So you got to put the bones in the boxes, just kind of asking. How big do you want the bones? It's just

Michele Hansen  27:41  
and you're doing all have these weird decisions in the middle of being like in extreme grief and shock.

Jesse Hanley  27:47  
Yeah, but you're you're just in shock. grief. You're giant.

Michele Hansen  27:52  
Yeah, it's just, yeah, you're running a pilot at this point?

Jesse Hanley  27:56  
Yeah, yeah. Yeah, you're like him. Like, if there is an opposite of flow, like an extreme opposite of flow, you're liking that, which I guess is a shock. So yeah, you are just focused on going from A to B to C, and you get home we've got, we walk up the road. Our neighbor sees us, she sees us with a box, she breaks down. We give her a hug on her hug. And then we go home, and we're done. And then we begin processing all whilst doing everything else that was going on in the sir. Yeah, it was. Hello, via Hello, hello over you.

Michele Hansen  28:32  
And then meanwhile, you've probably got you know, waking up to like customer emails to get through and like, every morning databases to keep going and like Postgres all of that.

Jesse Hanley  28:47  

Michele Hansen  28:48  
you're dealing with this just I mean crater in your life.

Jesse Hanley  28:56  
Yeah, and so that no, like, I don't think I It wasn't until I took Christmas off. To be frank like I like that whole year just been working, been working, been thinking been in shock. And so when I took the first week off during Christmas, because, you know, people aren't sending that much emails, they're away, which is nice. It was the first week that I could actually process which is when I like write up the post and I put on my side and stuff. I like relaunched my site on the cell and stuff which was quite fun. And then I just started writing is like, I just kind of wanted to document like the year and then kind of processor because I just really like hadn't done any processing at all. Also, something that I I realized was that when I did posts about it, particularly from men's, I would have a lot of men reach out to me. And that was interesting. Like, like, maybe honestly probably like 70 people a sir, I think probably reached out to me which I don't have a large audience. So I was kind of like, shocked that so many people had lost children had been dealing with infertility for like five years. And these were like, impressive business people that I like, admired. And and to find out that they had like, a beautiful family of four, and have lost three children. You know? Yeah, crazy. So, yeah, it was, it was interesting.

Michele Hansen  30:29  
I mean, I think, you know, we have another friend who, who lost a child last year. And I think our society doesn't really teach us how to, how to talk about that, and how to support people who are who are whether that's infertility or miscarriage, or, you know, or, you know, losing a child after they're born. Like, me that you had 70 people reach out, and I noticed that the reaction to that post where a lot of people saying, you know, nobody really talks about this, and we went through this, and I didn't know what to say, and I didn't even know how to talk about it. And I think what you did was so incredibly courageous and important for making it clear that it's okay to talk about this.

Jesse Hanley  31:32  
Yeah, thanks. I, cuz it is it is interesting, like, you'd have people then be like, I don't even like customers and stuff. They're like, I had no idea that you are like, you know, that maybe customers that like, would message me a lot, are like, really passionate, bent to customers. And like, they felt some sort of guilt, but kind of tried to tell them like, don't feel guilty. Like it was kind of like how I was coping. But I think like, what I'm realizing is that like, yeah, like, businesses and people, business, essentially, people and people are complex, and they have complex lives and stuff is either in their control or out of their control. And they're just kind of going through it. But I think, you know, online, you just kind of see like personalities, or you just see people being successful and stuff, and you don't really realize so much is going on behind the scenes. And it's not like you should know, like, you should know, but I think when you're going through stuff yourself, it's very helpful to know that, like, you know, you could look at other people's lives and kind of take their time horizon as your own, you know, like, for us, it's like, All right, we lost our first child, but like, you know, if we want, we can try again, and it looks like other people have, like, we've got some, some friends that have gone through, like the infertility process, and trying to resolve that for six years, seven years. And like, I've just become pregnant, you know, and, and seeing people's journeys on that. It's just stellar, just like so courageous. And, again, successful people, people that you admire, but they're going through these, like much larger battles behind the scenes, which kind of makes them all the more impressive, maybe. But also, yeah, it's just, it's, it's quite real, you know? Yeah.

Michele Hansen  33:22  
It seems like you've learned a lot about the, I don't know, the benefit, or of being open about this, like you talked about how you reacted initially, and really just trying to steel yourself against it. And I can almost hear that there was like this transformation. And you now have, you know, you said you go for walks, and you feel your feelings together. And you've talked to all the 70 other people who reached out to you. I guess it sounds like you've you've learned that maybe there's other ways to process the grief besides forgetting it happening and burying yourself in work.

Jesse Hanley  34:09  
Yeah, it's interesting. It has been really good talking about it. I think the reason I spoke about it as well as because Mikayla has always been phenomenal about talking about stuff publicly. So like when we kind of knew the diagnosis and stuff. After that was kind of confirmed we we started talking about it. So she started talking about it, and I think I I saw how she was processing stuff by like writing public things. And I just thought it was really impressive and like really courageous, but she she got a response from like, mostly women that were following her. And so I think I was kind of inspired by that. But then again, I saw her kind of healing from it, maybe I don't know it's a long journey to actually heal properly but it Yeah, processing, you'd have like healing properties of like talking about it publicly. And so by doing that myself, I definitely kind of felt that. And then it kind of was interesting after reading the posts that kind of draw a line in the sand for me that I could start healing. It also gave me permission to stand up for myself a little bit more like, and tell myself, I got to make sure that like, I look after myself this year. And so setting more boundaries on myself being more confident of saying no, when I know what my boundaries are, like, I've made a couple of decisions this year, around mostly around hiring like mostly about putting myself in stressful situations, again, I think like coming all the way back, when we were kind of talking about how I would constantly like select stresses, put myself into them, and just like, try and make it happen. Through going through all this stuff last year, I think I'm reflecting on that part of me, and I'm saying no to it more, there's been a couple of instances of stressful stuff that like I wanted to put myself into that I just kicked the can down the road for a year. And I think that's fine. Like a large ones like a database thing, like we were thinking about moving all of our data stuff to a single store or whatever, it doesn't really matter. But it's gonna be a lot stressful project who would take like a whole quarter to pull off? And would it be like a heroic effort by heroic effort by being call it and then I was just like, bugger, I'm gonna pay for Heroku enterprise upgrade, pay up front and not worry about it for 12 months, and decisions like that. A good. And I'm trying to make more of them. So I don't are even asking like, why am I doing this? Am I just like am I overreaching for the sake of overreaching, and I don't want to do that this year. So that's one part like giving my purse up self permission. Also, like for my customer base, we run like a lot of our customer support on Discord like a community channel, and telling people hey, I need to take this weekend off, or hey, you know, I'm overloaded. Do you mind just give me a bit of a pause in a public channel. People are super nice. And they're really understanding and they it's, it's a little bit better on that discord note, as well, I find that running a community based support people way more empathetic. You know, Hey, how are you? I got a question. If I was running in support event on email, I probably honestly would have just shut the business down. To be frank, you know, yeah, it's just like, I find that when I get support tickets on email, they're often ggressive if they don't know who I am. Whereas if they we encourage everyone to come to discord instead, when they see how many emojis people are using and our custom emojis and stuff way more friendlier, even if they don't know who I am. And so that was an interesting move by us last year, that has held incredibly well over the stressful period. And even now, so yeah, give myself permission to set up boundaries with customers and stuff. They'll be like, hey, like, I'm overloaded. Like, I don't want to build that feature, or I don't want to do that this quarter. Can we please wait, people like, Yeah, no worries. And a lot of them have read the stuff that I've put out. So they get it?

Michele Hansen  38:19  
Yeah, the boundaries are so important. And you know, something you just underscored there, which sort of, you know, so I talk a lot about how when we're, you know, understanding what a customer needs, there's, there's functional social and emotional reasons why they decide to choose a product or not choose it, or change products or whatever. And I feel like I sometimes get a little bit of pushback on like, emotional, as if there is emotion in business. But I think what you just said, right there of are we going to spend a quarter doing this database project. Or I can just use Heroku and delay this for 12 months. Like, that's partly a business decision. But that's a huge context of that is the emotional context of you imposing boundaries. Yeah, I mean, and, and deciding not only what the business needs, but also what you need as a person. And I, I doubt you got into this whole story with the Heroku enterprise sales person, right. But like, and you don't need, you know, you don't need to and they shouldn't pull it out. But like, there is that emotional context behind it. Like it's still there's a huge part of the purchase decision, like and to act like it isn't there and there's only Oh, well, we just need a database thing. And there's only this functional element to it is just completely missing all of the context.

Jesse Hanley  39:49  
No, I could not, I could not agree more. And like I love that you bring this stuff up. The emotional part is huge. I can like speak to it. outlinks for banter, but let's take the Heroku For instance, right, I also speed ran myself through this sales process. Because what I was doing by doing I was actually upgrading to the Heroku plan, you basically pay up front. And you know, I could I could haggle him down. But I was, I don't think I can say the rates because I find stuff that doesn't really matter, I paid double digit percent for premium support. Essentially, what that gives me a couple things takes me off the general population by going to enterprise, you go off their general population, like rails, so you don't get auto shutdown and all that kind of stuff, which I've seen friends, like it happened to them. So I actually saw a friend during Black Friday get taken offline on Heroku and be down 48 hours, because of it because of an automated glitch. Oh, and so I saw that, and I was like, that's never happening to me. Um, and another one was, they've got a, like, you know, after you pay for enterprise, that premium support thingy, blah, blah, blah, whatever that line item is, you get like one hour SLA whenever you want. Plus, you get to talk to like a database specialist. Whenever you want, you just raise a ticket. And so I was like, I need that, like, I want one out. If something goes wrong, I want one hour response times I like, I don't want to wait business hours, like my mental health is super important. And if I can pay, you know, double x percent for the bill, like that's why I was making the decision, you know? And to that effect, like, Was that a good decision? For me? Well, it was because I had a call last week with a guy called Jesse Soylent from Heroku lovely sky came on, he had a lovely big beard and amazing background that was animated. And I said, Hey, man, I'm really anxious about all these Postgres things. Like, I keep seeing all these, you know, things in my database, click, just go through everything. One by one, we sat down, he took an hour and a bit with me, went through every single thing 10 out, I had nothing to worry about. But because of everything that I went through last year, I like so many anxieties and like, manufactured stuff. And so by leaving on someone, even if it was paid, I was able to sleep well at night. And so, like, I may only have like one call this year, but Touchwood touch got a lot of wood in my house. So Touchwood there's nothing gonna nothing's gonna go wrong this year that I meet them again. But if however, many, you know 10,000 plus dollars, for this thing, for that one call, probably would be worth it for me. And so is entirely emotional on that side. And then bringing that to bento on a little less, you know, deep and introspective. People switch to bento, because they're emotionally unhappy with their other platforms, they dislike trip for whatever reason, or they don't like Clavijo, or, you know, a support person annoyed them in another tool, and they've got, you know, a boost of emotional energy to make this switch. And they connect with me, and they see that I'm excited about bringing them on board, and they know, they'll be able to talk to someone. And that's all emotional kind of transfer of energy, they're pulling on my energy to be excited and pumped, they know that I'm gonna, you know, well, hopefully, they'll see that I like, live up to my word, and I'm going to be there when they need me. And yeah, they're, you know, excited and happy to switch. And so, because it's a lot to switch to a CRM, like, it's a lot to move your email marketing price, not really a lot. But mentally, it's a lot, you got to change, you know, whatever codes, adding data into the system, and then you got to do your imports and stuff. But to get someone across the line, especially if they're spending like 500,000 bucks a month or more, it's purely emotional, to be frank, or its insecurities. You know, I'm a marketer, in a small Sass company. My boss is telling me to do email marketing, you know, between you and me, I don't really know what I'm doing. You know, there's a lot of I have a lot of those conversations and marketers that are in house that don't know what they're doing, they're nervous, and they can just talk to me, I've got access to a lot of sass companies. I've run, you know, email marketing for Sass companies, like I can help them I can talk to them. And so you know, their emotional energy there is that they're anxious, a little bit uncertain, they want a little bit of guidance. And you know, I can send templates and give them ideas and guides and stuff, and then they feel empowered and happy, and they become lifelong customers. So so much of the sales processes is emotional for a business like bento, but then there's also stuff which is finance. And I don't to be frank, I don't like those conversations. And those customers tend to just not be the best ones where they're coming over just for pricing reason or whatever. The best customers are generally the ones that are, you know, the summary of the nation. Yep. real frustration. Yeah, real anxiety, or something around the job to be done that

there's just some uncertainty there and, and, you know, me and the team Scott ash, we can, like, basically help them and make sure that yeah, they feel confident, happy. And if they've got a question, they'll be heard and they'll get an answer straightaway. So yeah, Sales is a huge part of sales, I think.

Michele Hansen  45:04  
Yeah, I mean, we talked about that on the on the last episode you were on about the, that like rapport building with someone. And you know, I mean, that came up in the example customer interview that I did with one of Collins customers. So, you know, a much lower price SAS much sort of a lower hurdle to cross. But the person I interviewed Drew, you know, he said, you know, well, we're all junior developers, and we didn't really know what we were doing. And we're running into these problems with this other service. And all of a sudden, this one just worked and like, is impossible, but it was so easy, like, and, and, and, you know, because I think when we have issues with software, like we, sometimes we doubt whether it's us, like, I feel like at least once a week, there's a moment where I'm, like, struggling with something and I'm like, I swear I work in technology, why can't I figure this out? Right? Like, we blame ourselves for that. And then, and so recognizing that really, you know, you're basically selling sort of emotional relief. And, like, you bought peace of mind from Heroku. Which, like you said, he said, like that interview can be a headline, but like, it's,

Jesse Hanley  46:15  
like, you said that interview with like, cleans customer, I thought was kind of interesting, because like, there's so much there. There's, it's not just like ease of use of our product or getting set up. It's like, if they're working for, you know, a client, they've got deadlines, they don't want to be messing around with, you know, there's

Michele Hansen  46:35  
no stress there. Yeah,

Jesse Hanley  46:37  
yeah, even if it's small, and even if it's something that they don't want to waste time, because they got billable hours, they got other people's expectations, and if you can help someone solve that pot, and you generally win the sale, but I don't think people are necessarily mindful of that. They just kind of, I don't know, they look at people like numbers, you know, a person slides onto their calendar, and they're just trying to like, get through the transaction, the sales transaction. But if you can get away from that you can kind of like look more at the person. And actually deeply try and solve that problem. Not just kind of, like, take things in one ear and out the other. It's real, it's really hard to lose sales often, like a kind of, I think you can look at is look at your close rate. For me personally, I don't know how would be interesting. He also, if you get on a call with someone, do you like have any idea of what your close rate is? Like how many deals when you personally get on the phone with them that like become customers? Potentially longtime customers?

Michele Hansen  47:37  
I have no idea. I've never tracked that.

Jesse Hanley  47:39  
I would imagine a tie. I've got a feeling.

Michele Hansen  47:43  
Yeah, most like it's pretty rare that I yeah, I guess it's pretty rare that I have a conversation with someone like that, like there are very few let's put this way. The only way I would be able to track this is looking at my contracts folder and seeing which ones were only drafts and never made it forward. And I can only think of a handful. Yeah, in the last couple of years that are only drafts and I'm pretty much I'm pretty much always working on you know, a larger like negotiating a larger deal. It's it's pretty unusual for me to not have at least one going on at any given time.

Jesse Hanley  48:26  
Yeah, which is interesting. You know, like that's, that's as far as the sales things cuz I'm like, that's a really high close rate. But you're naturally curious. You're looking on the emotional side of things. I think during the sales engagements, you're deeply trying to help someone and so yeah, you come to a deal and you do actually probably resolve the problem that they are trying to do in the best way possible and it's hard to lose deals like that if you kind of have

Michele Hansen  48:53  
Yeah, you know to what you're saying earlier like about everything going on with Leah this year like you in some ways reacted to that by just trying not to feel the emotion at first, at first. And I wonder if people are afraid to recognize the emotion in a sales or business context because they don't want to feel the emotion right like if you don't know how to feel comfortable in your own body feeling stress and frustration nevermind crippling grief, or anger or guilt or blame or whatever all those things are like, if you are someone who runs away from their own emotions, then it makes sense to me that they would run away from other people's emotions in general. And to say that you have to recognize emotion even if that emotion is stress or frustration which are pretty mild compared to grief. No, they're all you know all emotions are valid right? Then it makes sense that they would avoid that element entirely and distress regard it as not being as relevant, as, you know, the functional elements of it like that, like that makes sense to me. Because, you know, even even digging to that level of Yeah, like, am I am I using this right? Like, and recognizing that someone's like feeling vulnerable or feeling frustrated or overwhelmed, like to be able to handle that carefully, especially in a sales setting and be like, Yeah, you know what, I think I think you got this, I think we got to kind of make some tweaks. And I think what we've got, like will work better, but like, you've got the pieces there, you know, like, reassuring them, right? Like, but if somebody's just been running away from their own emotions, then it's going to be really, really hard to handle that other person gently, which is what you need to do in a sale setting. And I think, you know, I think it sounds like to me with you, like you are really learning how to handle yourself gently. It sounds like you learn to handle customers gently first. And now you are applying that same empathy and gentleness and curiosity to you know, that you first learned with people who manage body building vitamin shops, to yourself and your personal life.

Jesse Hanley  51:23  
Huh? You can't. So good, good observations on this? Yeah. Yeah, I don't know. I'm now just thinking about about a lot of that. I agree. I think I agree. You do? Yeah, I think something that I was thinking was you're talking about that is like, when I do talk to customers. I am generally pretty honest of like, how I'm feeling at the time. So like, sometimes, like, I, I kind of balanced the thing of like professionalism and unprofessionalism. I can be very professional, but I still like, letting people know kind of where I'm out. And I've always done this just before this stuff last year, like, I feel like I've always kind of done that. Because it does kind of cut a lot of, I don't know, like, it breaks the ice, but it just just cuts a lot. And it's nice when you're just talking person, a person about something. Or you know, if you pick up on certain energy in a call, actually talking about that energy is quite interesting. Like I remember during a sales call with someone and they seemed to hate me. And I remember just being like, this person, like, they must hate me. They've just made me this good. rather cool. You know? And I was like, okay, like, um, you know, just wanted to ask, like, um, what I said, just want to ask, like, um, I, like, Am I doing everything? I say, got the perspective, but wasn't confrontational. It was like, like, you, you know, is everything okay? You're okay to kind of like chat today. Kind of like a soft eye

Michele Hansen  53:04  
check in, I refer to that book as, like, checking in with them being like, hey, like, is is, is now still a good time. And you don't necessarily say like, you seem super stressed. Should we reschedule? It's like, hey, like, is this is it still a good time right now like to talk about those like, solely fine if you want to, you know, like, just very casual,

Jesse Hanley  53:27  
which is confrontational trying to ask someone that right, because like they meet, but they never go.

Michele Hansen  53:34  
I don't know. I, I have had a few calls that stand out in my mind. Interesting, but only a few of the 1000s I've had, right? Like,

Jesse Hanley  53:45  
that part at that point is a numbers game. And if it's a handful, they might 1000s. And I think it's mostly safe to ask. If your tone of voice I think it's really important. So you're kind of always like, hey, like, just want to ask, like, is everything okay? Like, would you like to like I'm just getting a sense that like, you know, maybe something's off? Would you like to go see something else in the product? Or do you have something else that you got to do? Because, you know, blah, blah, blah? Yeah. And the person was just like, I go into a fight my boss. You had nothing to do with me. But yeah, so it was important for me to ask that question. So then I was like, ah, I'd like lost the sale. But they're like, I don't know if my boss about blah, blah, blah. I was like, Oh, what about No, like, like, we it was very interesting because it played into like a banjo thing. They're like, ah, like, we accidentally sent a buggy like an email to like all list with the wrong like a test subject line or whatever. And like, they're upset and I was like, I was like, well, we've got we have features that that help with that. But it was just interesting. Like they're in trouble. They were not like the happiest. They had made a couple of mistakes. And that was actually one of the reasons they were talking to us is because the boss saw that we had this particular feature and ended up being closed the deal they became a customer it was all good, but I think like Picking up on people's energies in calls, being kind, and asking client questions and seeing where people are at and you get a response, either positive or negative, and come and take it from there. But realizing that like, even in sales sales, you're working with real people with real lives and a real stressful stuff. And so, you know, from a sales perspective, or just like a human perspective, like ask questions that account and you know, like, proactively do that don't be afraid to because like, you can allow people to set up their own boundaries and stuff as well. I don't know if that makes sense. But

Michele Hansen  55:34  
I guess I mean, that really brings us full circle, right? You never know what's going on in someone's life and how they treat you and how they react to you, maybe four have absolutely nothing to do with you as a person, right? Like, there is so much going on behind the scenes that I'm, but we don't know about. And so, you know, be kind to each other, whether that's sales or personal life, and also be kind to ourselves. And that's a good place to end on.

Jesse Hanley  56:07  
Yeah, I agree. Well said, well said, this is a good chat.

Michele Hansen  56:11  
I will thank you so much for coming back on and for really baring your soul to us. I'm still just I'm in awe of the of how how you are willing to be so so vulnerable and public. You know, we as a sort of indie community, we talk a lot about building public but to me, I'm finding the people I am just just the most Admiral are the ones who are vulnerable in public and vulnerable for the benefit of other people. And you are in just such an example of that, and I'm so I'm so grateful for you.

Jesse Hanley  56:48  
And thanks for being there. When I could DM you questions and stuff like even prior to the diagnosis, it was really lovely to be able to chat to you about family stuff, which I remember as like our first call right, and left an imprint on me expat parents. Yes, it's being expat parents. And I was so excited. And I got to ask you all these questions, so I really appreciated being someone that I could DM out of the blue and talk to about family stuff, because it meant a lot at the time. Yeah.

Michele Hansen  57:20  
Well, I'm so grateful to be your internet friends, to the rest of my internet friends listening to this podcast. Thank you for listening, and we'll talk to you next week.

Creators and Guests

Michele Hansen
Michele Hansen
Co-Founder of Geocodio & Author of Deploy Empathy
2022, Software Social