First - wow.I’ll be the first to admit - I’m a sucker for Likes.I’d like to say I’m above it, but the truth is, whenever I post a picture or anything on Facebook or Instagram, you best bet I’m refreshing every few minutes for at least the first hour or so, seeing how that sucker’s doing.On Instagram, anything over like 25 is a winner. On Facebook, maybe 50 or so and I’m walking with a little more pep in my step.Ostensibly, I’m an adult. I (should) have other things to worry about. But damn if that little red bubble and that little blue number don’t tickle me.I’m a sucker for it. What can I say?The response from this week's Headstash post though… wow.
I actually didn’t mean to write that post.It started off as just a quick business musing I was going to make - the oxygen/money analogy that lead the post.The Headstash story was originally just intended to be a quick anecdote to illustrate that point.But as the words started to flow, before I really knew what was happening, I realized I had writtensomething that had been bottled up inside of me for years - finally addressing and giving some closure to something I’d abandoned so longago.Since re-starting this blog in July, I purposely hadn’t shared any of the posts on Facebook.I’d been content writing for my own enjoyment - sharing small thoughts and musings on business and life, and enjoying the process, practice, and creativity.After writing the Headstash post, I realized that there was a community of people who helped make Headstash - who created it, supported it, and related to it - and that the story would resonate with many of you.But I did not see the response coming.The post really resonated, and it was humbling, motivating, a little anxiety-inducing (269 likes! OMG! ...Did I say too much? Who the fuck am I?), but most of all, rewarding.Most rewarding was seeing the friends, team members, and community members who remembered or were involved in Headstash share their memories and stories about their time with the company.My old partner in Headstash chimed in and said it well:
As was always the case, Andrew was right on the money.The feels I got from reading your responses can’t be captured in little red bubbles or quantified in little blue numbers.So thank you guys.***After the post, I got an email from a friend who runs another music magazine.It hit on something I’ve thought a lot about in the years since winding down Headstash, and have been asked about on occasion.It’s a nice extension of the business lesson I discussed in the Headstash post, so it makes sense as this week’s follow up.[blockquote]Looking back, do you now see ways that Headstash could have continued as a brand/resource and become financially sound?[/blockquote]I used to think about it all the time - kind of like all the "what-ifs" your mind cycles through after a breakup.I think about it less these days - kind of like how all the "what-ifs" from that breakup fade away as you get over the relationship and move on to new things.But like any other past relationship, I tryto look back fondly on them, remember the good parts, and learn from them what I can.As Andrew pointed out, despite never finding its footing as a business, Headstash was a fun, meaningful, and worthwhile project in so many other ways.It brought together a community of fun and talented writers, photographers, musicians, and designers from around the country, and connected us around the music and events that we loved.We did great work together - great content, great technology, great design, great marketing - and shared an incredible learning experience.All those things are meaningful and worthwhile. The satisfaction from building and working on a project like Headstash is something money can’t necessarily buy.So, for me, making money will never be the only reason to start a project or build a business, any more than breathing oxygen will ever be my reason to be alive.Relationships, experiences, meaning - these things make life worth living, and make businesses worth pursuing.But they simply don’t happen without oxygen.Business, no matter how fulfilling in other deeply important ways - no matter the vision, aspiration, or dream - doesn’t happen without cashlow to keep the heart pumping.With that said, could Headstash have found the cashflow to stay alive?Maybe.Maybe we could have eeked out a living. Maybe we could have put in the blood, sweat, tears, and soul to push Headstash to sustainability, somehow.But in the years since, as I’ve experimented with my own businesses and observed others, I’ve started to look at businesses through the lens of business fundamentals and leverage.Here’s what I mean.A better business, with better fundamentals (a bigger potential market, addressing bigger pain points for its customers, commanding higher price points, subscription revenue, etc...) makes every single input (your time, energy, money, soul) that much higher leverage.For example: 2 hours invested in a killer blog post serving the jam band community might have yielded us 5,000 visitors, which we could then advertise to for, let’s say, $20 dollars in revenue.But the same 2 hours invested in a killer blog post serving the social media marketing space (as lead generation for CrewFire) might yield, say, 200 visitors, which might turn into 10 leads, and 1 CrewFire customer that would be worth $1,200 to us over the course of a year.That is leverage.Businesses, looked at this way, are like tools.There’s a nail stuck in a board, and maybe, maybe if you try hard enough - if you put enough of your blood, sweat, tears, and soul into it - you could pull that sucker out with a pair of tweezers.But tweezers, no matter how great they are, are pretty low leverage. They don’t amplify your efforts as much as, say, a crowbar, which would take that nail out handily (and leave you with plenty of time and energy left to go enjoy your life with).Same nail, same person, different tool... wildly different results.This same amplification of inputs can be applied across every individual action, minute, or dollar you invest in a business.Every minute invested in answering customer emails. Every hour invested in programming. Every dollar invested in advertising. It adds up real quick.Thus, product and market really matter:The same amount of hustle, sweat, and resources it would have taken to push Headstash to, say, $100k/year in profit, might be applied to a higher leverage business with better fundamentals like CrewFire, and yield $1M/year in profit.All this runs the risk of sounding very cold and capitalist, so I want to rehash: money is never the only focus I have in business or in life.Money is not the reason I’m doing business, any more than oxygen is my reason to live.I want to build products I believe in, serving customers I care about, in a market I feel connected to.I want to do more than just make money.But, again, just like oxygen - none of those other hopes, aspirations, or goals will matter without a solid business foundation built on a crystal-clear path towards revenue.**I do think about doing something with Headstash again.We still own the domain, still love the music, and the opportunity still sounds as fun as it did 6 years ago.As a passion project, Headstash was exceptional. Everything we could have hoped for, and something we look back fondly on.It was only as a business that Headstash failed, and we took that lesson to heart.The fundamentals of an online publication or lifestyle brands in the jam band community weren’t great then, and they probably never will be.So if we were ever to revisit Headstash, we wouldn’t get that confused.It would - first, foremost, and only - be a passion project.Just for fun. Just for our souls.