Accountability is the Best Motivator

24 September, 2019

It's been 2 weeks since I announced my new venture will be an open startup. It's been 1 week since I added the first metric for people to see. Here's how I'm feeling about it.

In the past, I've been skeptical about the whole open startup thing.

When an already-successful startup opens up their metrics for everyone to see, it's easy to view it as a marketing exercise. It's the ultimate social proof - here is how many customers we have, here is how much money we make. You're safe with us!

In reality though, there's a number of factors / benefits behind why a company decides to go open. And just in the last week since pushing this commit to my open stats server, I'm starting to see one of the main benefits of being open, especially in an indie / solo entrepreneur context: accountability.

I haven't launched my first SaaS product yet. I'm planning to launch it next week, so really I should be writing code right now. But I'm not, I'm writing a blog post. Why?

Because since last week, everyone can see my mailchimp subscriber numbers. It's right there in the footer. So now I feel a sense of accountability to make sure that number grows. One way to do that is to get more people looking at the blog, and one way to do that is to consistently write content - so here we are :)

This is a new feeling for me. When I was doing my solo 12 startups in 12 months I had zero accountability to anyone except myself. Only I could see the metrics. They were secret, sacred numbers that told a story nobody else knew about.

There was no meeting with my team looking at growth (or lack of it), no meeting with my boss - just me alone seeing some numbers slowly move. Marketing activities? Maybe after lunch. Maybe after I push this new feature.

I'm sure it's possible to keep yourself internally accountable as a solo entrepreneur, but I have demonstrated to myself that I'm bad at it!

With my metrics now publicly viewable, all that has changed. I'm now accountable to everyone and I can feel it. If the subscriber numbers aren't going up that means I need to do more promotion, or write better content, or target more accurately - the list goes on. I knew all of this before, but only now do I feel a desperate need to actually execute and drive those public metrics up.

Externalising my accountability has probably doubled my productivity. This is coming from a guy who has spent 20 years building things with private metrics. I think adopting an open startup ideology is a tremendously powerful tool for solo entrepreneurs or small teams.

This post isn't meant to convince you to "go open", but hopefully it explains a bit more about my process. I'm really looking forward to seeing if / how things change once the revenue numbers start to move :)

About the author
Jon Yongfook @yongfook

Jon is the founder of Mojosaas. He enjoys coding in Ruby, writing about startup life and has built and sold several startups while living as a digital nomad. He dreams about one day owning a warehouse full of motorcycles.

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