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How does Michele Hansen make life work?

The one when Si talks to Michele about building a SaaS with her hubby, writing a book about empathy and making 100 episodes of a podcast, all whilst parenting.

The one when Si talks to Michele about building a SaaS with her hubby, writing a book about empathy and making 100 episodes of a podcast, all whilst parenting.

Show Notes

Transcription

(Unedited from Descript automation)

[00:00:00] Si: Welcome back to the make life work podcast with me Si Jobling, father of two full-time engineering manager and side project hustler. This is the ninth season of the podcast, which takes a slightly different direction from previous seasons. And now focuses on how people find that work-life balance. So ideally you can learn some little tips and tricks too. Nobody has pure harmony, but everyone has their own approaches that work or possibly don’t. 

[00:00:31] Si: Today, I’m talking to Michelle Hansen from Geocodio. Michelle has successfully built a startup with her partner, Mateus written a book about deploying empathy. Produced a podcast about building a SaaS company and all this with a young child too. Such an inspiration. So I’m honored to have her along to share her story. 

[00:00:52] Si: Let’s find out how does Michelle Hansen make life work? So welcome along, Michelle, how are you doing? All good. Thank you for joining me on this. I know we struggled to make calendars work mostly on my part.

[00:01:08] but no, it’s wonderful to have you on, you’ve got such a, an amazing, interesting background and story, so I thought it’d be amazing to get you onto the podcast. but without loading it up, it’s probably worth you explaining how you like to describe yourself or what you do and your personal situation.

[00:01:22] Michele: Yeah. So, I am co-founder of geocodio, which is an independent SaaS. We do, geocoding and data matching focused on the north American market. My husband and I founded the company in 2014 as a side project. And I went full time in 2017 and him shortly thereafter. I also wrote a book on interviewing customers.

[00:01:48] Michele: Uh, last year, called deploy empathy. And I am also the co-host of the software social podcast, which is me and my friend, Colleen, talking about, running and starting SaaS businesses.

[00:02:03] Si: Wow. I mean, the fact you reeled off three massive accomplishments in life is, says a lot, really about how much you’ve achieved. And I. I’m fascinated about how you managed to do all that. So in your back, going back to 2014, you said for geo code, what kind of motivated that side project as it were, you must have been another job at the time then, and you identified a need.

[00:02:24] Michele: Yeah, we were both working full-time jobs. And quite frankly, what, really brought that about was, anticipating the birth of our daughter and understanding just how expensive daycare is in the US. we knew that it was going to be expensive, but we didn’t realize that it’s. Actually more expensive than college in a majority of states.

[00:02:45] and so, so it was about $25,000 a year for infant care, in and around a major city. Again, we knew it was gonna be expensive, but , we didn’t quite. know how expensive. And so we had always talked about having projects together. You know, I’m a product person, he’s a developer. and so we quickly went from being like, oh, like, yeah, we should have something together.

[00:03:06] Michele: That would be fun to do to like, All right. Let’s start launching stuff like we, you know, cuz we could, we could kill it at work, but you know, sort of snapping our fingers and getting $25,000 wasn’t gonna happen. So we’re like we, we need to have something else going on. if we wanna, you know, live our life at the same level.

[00:03:22] Michele: So, that is really what motivated us, to start launching things and get going and. Geo codio was an outgrowth of one of those projects. we needed geocoding ourselves for a little app. We had built, and it was that app was making four or $500 a month in ad revenue. And, as we added more locations, we were basically, Priced out of using existing options, because you could either get 2,500 locations for free per day, or you could pay tens of thousands of dollars a year for an enterprise contract to get a hundred thousand a day.

[00:03:56] Michele: And we just needed 5,000. So, so that, yeah, that really came out of our own needs and talking to our other developer friends, realizing they had the same needs. And one of our friends was like, Hey, like if you just open up this API and slap a paywall in front of it, like maybe other people would pay you to keep the servers going and then you don’t instead of having to pay somebody else for this, then, you know, you’re just basically breaking even on this.

[00:04:20] Michele: And we’re like, oh yeah, that would be, that would be really awesome. And then we can keep our little app going. and then, you know, I think six months after Geocodio launched, it had quickly eclipsed all of those other apps and projects we had built and, kind of the rest is history from.

[00:04:36] Si: So you, you had a, like a life goal effectively with your partner to think, well, to afford having a child, we need to make X amount of money, really. but also based on your personal. Side project needs. He was like, actually with an opportunity here, we can extend and thanks to other colleagues, acquaintances, you went, oh yeah, we’ve got real customers.

[00:04:55] Si: Like we’ll pay for this. Brilliant. Let’s see what happens.

[00:04:58] Michele: Yeah. I mean, I think that the, the realizing we had real customers sort of came after the fact,

[00:05:03] Si: Yeah.

[00:05:04] Michele: Because, I remember making a spreadsheet of like levels of success for the launch of Geocodio and, a wild success was that it made, more than its server costs, which at the time was two little digital ocean droplets.

[00:05:17] Michele: So I think our costs were about $20 a month, so that wild success was making more than $20 a month. And we made, 31 and. Yeah. Never even dreamed of it being our full-time jobs.

[00:05:34] Si: So, so at what point did you switch into the full-time job as it were, you know, as, as a you sole business,

[00:05:40] Yeah. So we were running it as a side project for several years, which I found incredibly valuable, because, first of all, we both really loved where we worked and, I found it to be a helpful sandbox for trying new ideas, new concepts, new ways of managing a product, because. You know, if something didn’t work or, we lost money.

[00:05:59] we were the ones who were responsible for that. Right. Like I, I wasn’t putting my job at risk. And so, for a while it was just a really, helpful like sandbox kind of playground. but at the same time, you know, it, it was growing, every year and, it, it got to a point where having a full-time job and a.

[00:06:20] Michele: Side project that was making multiples of my salary, was simply not feasible. And so I got to a point where I basically had to give myself the permission to go full time on it and, and take that risk, even though that was quite scary.

[00:06:36] Si: I’m sure. Especially when you become your own boss and financially dependent on yourself and your, your partner, did you still have both of you working full timeness at this point or was it a mix?

[00:06:47] Michele: So I went, full time first and I mean the, the big challenge there. And again, this is a US thing as well is the cost of health insurance. And, both my parents are software engineers and my dad had been a consultant when I was growing up. And I remember my parents always, talking about how terrible our health insurance was and like, it was just always a headache.

[00:07:08] Michele: And so I think growing up with that, I had this really strong. Feeling that I had a duty or responsibility to make the most stable choice for our family, even if it was not the one that, you know, necessarily optimized for my happiness. Right. Like I was definitely happy working full time, but I had had a dream that I didn’t let myself. Vocalize that I wanted to be running a company, and felt capable of it. But because of that, you know, that draw to, to do something stable because we had a family and the, consequences of that, not going well on the family. I felt like I had to, make the, the stable choice, you know, and it was actually at that time, I had a couple of good conversations with friends and coworkers about this, and one of them, when I shared all of these, you know, these doubts and fears and everything with them, they were like, ever since I have known you, you have wanted to run a company and you have the chance to do that.

[00:08:11] Michele: So what are you doing? and it was just real moment of clarity. And then an, another friend said, you know, if you are happy, then you will be, a better spouse, a better mother, you will be able to do those roles better. and I think that was, yeah, really important. It was, it was definitely scary at first though, but,eventually grew.

[00:08:31] Si: Took the plunge. And have you never looked back and thought, Ooh, I shouldn’t have done that or has it always

[00:08:36] Michele: Oh, God. No, no. It’s more like, wow. I understand why I didn’t go full time sooner. But, but yeah, it was definitely the right choice. Definitely.

[00:08:45] Si: that’s good. I mean, if anyone is listening and is contemplating it, then this is a good example of actually it can go well, It’s

[00:08:53] Michele: yeah, yeah. I mean, it can be, and I think if you want it, you will make it work, right. Like,

[00:08:58] Si: true.

[00:08:58] And it’s just, you know, of course you can’t be, you know, too committed to what it is you’re building, but more so that end goal. Right. And willing to try things and, and get to that point.

[00:09:10] Si: Totally. So that, that was 2017 when you took the plunge and then Mattias followed suit soon after, I guess.

[00:09:17] Michele: Yeah. So the idea was, oh, you know what, if I go full time, like maybe I can take some of the load off, right. Because you know, when you’re working full time, like we couldn’t answer any inquiries or customer support requests during the day. Right. So, you know, five o’clock comes and it’s kind of chaotic because that daycare pickup, we’re making dinner.

[00:09:36] Michele: And also we’ve got this massive Intercom queue and email to deal with for side project stuff. and so, I was like, you know what, maybe I can take some of that pressure off. Like I’ve handled that stuff during the day and then it’ll be easier for him to keep working full time because we switched our health insurance over to his company.

[00:09:52] and we’re like, okay, good. Okay. This, this makes this a little bit easier, but then, you know, a couple months later, um, me replying to people when they, you know, wanted to buy it or helping them get started, led to it growing at an even faster rate. And so we were kind of like, All right. So , we wanted to keep it stable, but it’s actually growing, which is weirdly not what we wanted.

[00:10:15] Michele: So then he ended up going to his boss and saying, look, I’ve been working here, I’ve had this side project. I never intended to go full-time on it. But now it’s at the point where I really need to. and, I need to quit. and his boss said, no.

[00:10:27] Michele: And we were like, this is an interesting negotiating position to be in. And so what he ended up doing was actually, working three days a week, so going to, partial salary, but keeping full benefits, which was really helpful. Yeah. So then he was working two days a week, on Geocodio and three days at work.

[00:10:45] but six months later it was just not tenable because we just, Kept growing the better we made the product, the better customer support we provided the better, sales responses and stuff we provided, the more, it just kept growing. and so six months later, he ended up going, full time.

[00:11:00] Michele: So then we were completely, independent, so to speak, within a year of me going full time.

[00:11:05] Si: That’s amazing. And at, at one point, did you have your daughter, was this during all this or

[00:11:12] Michele: Oh, so all this, you know, conversation about side projects and daycare and everything happened, while we were pregnant. So we started building while, we were pregnant and then, seven days after she was born launched our first app two months after she was born and Geocodio was launched when she was four months old.

[00:11:34] Si: Wow. So you did it all at the same time.

[00:11:36] Michele: Yeah.

[00:11:38] Si: That’s amazing. Well, I don’t think anyone could achieve that so much.

[00:11:41] Michele: You know, I actually, I found it kind of helpful to be a parent trying to launch a side project because. I felt like when I didn’t have kids, and maybe this is just me because I have ADHD, but work expands to fill the time allowed. And if you have an infinite stretch of nights and weekends ahead of you, it’s really easy to be like, yeah, I’m just gonna watch Game of Thrones this weekend for the whole weekend, rather than, you know, work on that app idea I had.

[00:12:05] but when you have a kid and you have maybe an hour to yourself a day, That really forced that prioritization. And so it was like, okay, nap time. Like after bed, like we’re working on this. We’re, getting it out there. I think it really forced a kind of focus that I didn’t have before.

[00:12:23] Si: Yeah. So you’ve mentioned. Like the way you think with ADHD as well, did that sort of lend well towards the flexibility? Or did you find, you had to introduce some systems to help you prioritize a bit better? .

[00:12:34] Michele: So when I was working full time, I found it really helpful to have multiple projects just because I, I mean, you can tell even today, like I can’t just focus on one thing. My brain just. Doesn’t work that way. I need to have multiple things going on. I need to be pulling inspiration and ideas and challenges and stuff from multiple places.

[00:12:55] that just feels normal to me. we have experimented with a variety of systems and, and whatnot. we all don’t really have one fixed. Thing that we go back to, you know, I’ve used various Trello boards and white boards and things over the years, but mostly just, we come back to, you know, Keeping as much as we can about customers in Intercom.

[00:13:17] Michele: I have my phone calendar, my specific brand of physical calendar that I use my to-do list, where there’s often a lot of duplication between all of these things. I send myself a lot of emails. I also, I do any sort of, you know, brainstorming or thinking through ideas on large artists paper. We still do our best thinking on road trips, like sort of high level strategic thinking.

[00:13:40] but no, there’s not really been one consistent system that we’ve used.

[00:13:44] Si: I mean, I think you mentioned this when we’re preparing for the podcast, it was like, I dunno if have got it working yet, but it is wonderful to hear how you’ve experimented with different things. And it just it’s fell back to the classics, whiteboard chat, and at least we’ve got one central source for our customer problems, you know, and that tends to work for you by the sound of it.

[00:14:04] Yeah. I mean, and that might evolve, right? We we’re actually, hiring our first full-time employee as of July. So, we’ll probably have to do more in the way of communicating. priorities and projects. And I actually have a, to do for myself to, do an exercise of Martin Erickson’s decision stack framework, where you go from principles and values and strategy all the way down to the level of op you know, specific opportunities and projects.

[00:14:30] and so I think that would probably be a helpful thing, but, you know, we’ll see.

[00:14:35] you mentioned the fact that you were all recruiting. This is your first employee for the company.

[00:14:39] Michele: Yeah, first full-time, employee. Yeah, we’ve, we’ve had various, you know, freelancers and contractors over the years, but, it’s mostly just been the two of us until.

[00:14:48] Si: It’s gonna add another curve ball to your,ways of thinking right. In an organization, cuz they’re not you and your partner. You, you sit there in the evening going you. We should totally do that thing tomorrow. Right? Mm-hmm that’s it.

[00:14:59] Michele: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. So, I think it’ll, it’ll take a little bit of, adapting from both of us and, you know, we’ve also told the person we’re hiring. they know they’re coming into a situation where they’re the first employee. and this also it’s a former coworker of my husband. So there’s a bit of a known quantity going on there.

[00:15:14] but we said, look like, we’re gonna be new at this. we’ve both managed or worked with other people in other companies, but like not in this company. And so, you know, Help us manage you better and be more communicative and, and like, you know, help us. And, this is a new rule for them, but also for us as well.

[00:15:31] Si: Mm,

[00:15:32] Michele: hope I’m hoping we can have a good dialogue on that.

[00:15:35] Si: I’m sure. And they’ll probably have some suggestions and you can work through it as you get into it a bit.

[00:15:40] Michele: Yeah. One would hope we can build a kind of open communication culture like that.

[00:15:45] Si: Totally. I mean, you kind of touched on a fair few things, but what would you say your average day looks like in like the, what time do you wake up and wrap up? You know, I know it’s, it’s probably difficult to have an average day in your world, but I’m just curious how you balance it all out.

[00:16:01] Michele: So during the school year, the alarm typically goes off at 6 30 and we typically ignore it until 6 45 or maybe seven, if we’re really tired. Quickly shower, get everybody out the door. our daughter is eight now, so she can thankfully get herself dressed and, and get her own breakfast.

[00:16:19] Si: it’s such a big win though.

[00:16:21] Michele: yeah. though it let’s us, be a little bit more lax in the morning in terms of getting up, which is maybe not a good thing. but then yeah, we are out the door at 7 30. and usually at our desk. At eight and then, so we both at least work from eight to about two, and sometimes, you know, you have occasional errands that need to happen during the day.

[00:16:40] Michele: But for the most part, we are at least both at our desks from eight to 12.

[00:16:46] Si: Nice.

[00:16:46] and then because all of our customers are in north America and I live in Denmark. The real challenge happens in the afternoon when, I, you know, have to talk to people, in the us or Canada. so basically the earliest, any of those calls can happen is three o’clock my time, which is 9:00 AM on the east coast.

[00:17:01] but if I have to talk to somebody, you know, in California or Vancouver, or what have you, it can be five o’clock if they’re really, really nice and let will let me do an 8:00 AM phone call on their side. but very often it’s, you know, eight, 9:00 PM because having a family it’s really hard to schedule anything during dinner time and bedtime.

[00:17:20] Michele: And I think that’s the, that, that’s the part of the day that I really struggle with the.

[00:17:25] Si: Because you’re up at say 6 30, 7, that’s a long day to be in the zone with work. Even if you have got like this sort of weird break in the middle of

[00:17:33] Michele: Yeah. I mean, it’s really nice to have that focused time in the morning because there’s nothing coming in from customers during that time. There’s no phone calls, you know, unless I’m doing, a podcast with somebody who’s, you know, in Europe or another part of the world on a, you know, agreeable time zone.

[00:17:48] Michele: Right. But otherwise it it’s just focus, work time, which is something we really didn’t get when we were in the us, because we were constantly being pinged by, you know, various things. so that’s been really good in terms of the product and the company itself. but it’s a real challenge in terms of schedule because.

[00:18:05] Michele: You know, if school gets out at three and then that’s when my phone calls are starting. And then, by, four 30, we have to start thinking about dinner and like, it’s just kind of everything happening all at once. And there’s not really a whole lot I can do about it.

[00:18:22] Si: I mean, yeah, it’s difficult to get that, right. Especially with setting expectations with customers, but they are paying customers at the end of the day. So you need to be available to them with their core hours, I guess. Haven’t you? Mm.

[00:18:32] Michele: Yeah. Yeah, it’s tough, but I think that’s something that we’re hoping that will help when, we have our employee come on board is that they can help with support. so especially when, you know yeah. During those hours, when either we are. just completely offline.

[00:18:46] and also, you know, on holidays, for example. So Denmark has a lot of, holidays that the us doesn’t have, you know, just different vacation schedules and stuff like that. And so, that can be a bit tricky sometimes. Like, I feel like April, may, June Denmark basically has like a holiday, like every week or every other week.

[00:19:05] Si: Wow. I need to move to Denmark.

[00:19:07] it’s a bit tricky. and so I’m hoping having that, that balance, you know, can be really helpful, like today is a holiday in the us, so we’re not gonna necessarily get anything coming in today, but it’s not a holiday here, so we’re still working. So, Some days I have taken us holidays off.

[00:19:23] Michele: There was one day, I think us labor day, a couple years ago, we just went for a bike ride all day. And that was really nice, but mostly we just view it as an opportunity to get ahead so that the next morning can, be a focused work time as well, rather than responding to things.

[00:19:38] Si: Of course, I, I mean, the way you talk, you are very customer driven, very customer centric. you have to be right to make sure your product satisfies all the needs. So I, I gather the book was a good segue for this and, opportunity to share your story so far. How did you go about that? Start off with 

[00:19:57] Michele: So I learned about customer research when I was working as a product manager. and it was a revelation for me because before, you know, when we were trying to drive KPIs, you know, we would look at a spreadsheet of data and see, okay, you know, the people who are. You know, perform the way we would want users to perform in terms of our metrics.

[00:20:17] Michele: Like they took all of these actions. So if we make more people do those actions, then more people will, hit that metric that we want them to. And so we would launch new things, you know, redesign things, features, et cetera. And then the metrics wouldn’t move or they would get worse. And it was really frustrating and we kept doing that.

[00:20:34] Michele: And, and so I ended up learning about customer research. which is partially about. Usability testing of actually getting your site in front of somebody, seeing what do they think of it? Are they able to do the things that you think you have designed the product to be able to do, and then interviewing them, which is really is your product doing the right things in the first place and what are they trying to do overall?

[00:20:55] Michele: And how might you fit into that? And, It just felt like everything clicked after that. Not only in terms of the product strategy and vision, but also as a team and being aligned on what we were working on. and so when I went full time, one of the things I was most excited to spend my time on that I wasn’t able to do previously was interviewing our customers.

[00:21:15] and that has something that I have, continued doing through the years And as I started to gain more experience, as a founder, you know, we started investing, in, other companies, you know, primarily through things like,calm fund, tiny seed, so forth, or just simply, you know, mentoring other founders when they ask me for advice about how to understand what they should be building or what customers wanted or why they were having cancellation problems, all those kinds of things.

[00:21:38] and so I think moving to Denmark. It was not quite as easy for me to just hop on a random phone call with somebody from Twitter and talk them through about how to interview someone, given those those time zone challenges. and, was also working with a, Europe, middle east based group of founders.

[00:21:55] Michele: and sort of out of that experience realized that there was maybe a need for, some sort of a book or resource, on customer interviewing for founders. And really specifically developer founders is where I started out with the focus. So. you know, I’ve learned after the book come out, that it was, I mean, not just developer founders, but architects and copywriters and marketing people and product leaders and all sorts of other people, have gravitated to my book, which has been really, surprising and, and nice, but that’s sort of how it came about.

[00:22:24] Si: Where do you start on this? when I read the book, I was like, this is, I love the, you obviously had a real need to understand the customers and that desire. But even as an engineering manager, as a leader, I found some of the conversational techniques that you talked about was really useful, kind of getting the best outta people.

[00:22:40] and how you structure the conversations. I was like, oh, this is interesting how you do that. But the fact that you had, you know, original goal of developer, founder, Wait, everyone that wants to find a business can benefit from this. And you know how many sales you’ve had now. Thousands now.

[00:22:57] Michele: Yeah. The last time I checked, which is a couple months ago was over 1500 copies sold, but actually I haven’t run the numbers. Recently because, you know, there’s sales from yeah. Various different places, but yeah, actually, you know, last week I was, I was giving a talk at a developer conference on this. So speaking, not only to engineers, but engineering managers and leaders, agile coaches and, and whatnot as well.

[00:23:21] Michele: And, and that talk was on, you know, this is not just about talking to customers cuz you may. Be talking directly to customers. It can be about talking to clients. It can be about talking to your stakeholders, your teammates, but also your friends and family. you know, using empathy and having a very, I think having a clear idea of what that means and, and knowing that empathy is learnable and that anyone can learn empathy and then it can improve your relationships.

[00:23:45] Michele: That is something that really drives me. And, and quite frankly, when I was writing the book. You know, there was a point when I had a rough draft circulating and I think let’s see, I think this was actually when it was a, when it was a pre-order and somebody who had read the book. And had been following along and he was a friend of mine had recommended it to someone else.

[00:24:07] Michele: So this is a, a stranger, or as we say, stranger money, right. Not somebody who bought it because they know you and like you, but, you know, and, I happen to come across a comment they made on LinkedIn that the book. Helped them have better communications and relationships with their coworkers. and that was the moment when I knew that the book was done like that it had accomplished not only what I had to set out to accomplish, which was to help people interview their customers better, but had this sort of dream of helping them be more empathetic in their daily lives.

[00:24:38] And that was when I knew that it was, you know, it was time to just get it out there already because, you know, people write down, you know, write a landing page or build this feature on their daily to-do list. They don’t write down, be more empathetic unless their, you know, therapist or spouses told them to.

[00:24:54] Michele: Right. So, so it was like, how can we teach people empathy, through things that they’re already doing that are already on their to-do list? yeah.

[00:25:02] Si: How the hell did you find time to write a book while parenting and running your own business? 

[00:25:06] Si: This, this is what blow my mind. 

[00:25:07] Michele: It was just fun. I mean, it was so much fun, right? Like I started out writing it as a newsletter and so I had the idea of writing a book and then I was like, oh God, that sounds. You know, every, everyone I’ve heard talk about writing a book, they talk about how lonely it is and how they were basically locked in the closet for like six months or a year

[00:25:25] Michele: And I was like, yeah, I have a family. Like we are already in lockdown. And I was like, I don’t need any more loneliness in my life. and I was like, I, yeah, writing a book just sounds overwhelming. But I was like, you know what? I can write email. I write a lot of emails. I can write an email to my friends too.

[00:25:40] Michele: Right. And so I just started out writing it as a newsletter, just each chapter or part of a chapter was just sent out as it came to me. And as I was inspired to write about it, or, you know, my friends asked me whatnot. and so it was all just sent out, as, as an email.

[00:25:54] which really reduced the pressure on my side and made it really fun because I got this instant gratification from it.

[00:25:59] Michele: Like I got the dopamine of sending it out and people being like, Hey, this one was great. Or like, Hey, this was good. But like, have you thought about this and that? Or like, could you write about this other thing? And like, and so I was getting that feedback and that sense of accomplishmentso, you know, it was actually quite know, you know, put our daughter to bed and then hop in bed with my laptop and bang something out for, you know, an hour and send it out.

[00:26:22] Michele: And then, you know, the next morning, wake up and have all these comments from people. And you know, it quickly grew from, you know, five or friends who, joined I don’t think they would describe it as pity, but I would describe the best pity and then, you know, quickly, quickly grew to, you know, several hundred people.

[00:26:37] Michele: And before I knew it less than two months later, I had a, full rough draft. 

[00:26:42] Si: So he kind of transcribed all those emails into like a consolidated book. and then 

[00:26:50] Michele: Yeah, exactly. So I compiled all of those emails into a book. And so that editing process took about three months to go from. Complete rough draft to feedback on the rough draft and interviewing the beta readers. And feel like I did a sort structural rewrite, um, for a month there that was rough.

[00:27:14] but getting those comments coming in from people who were already reading it, who were already telling me how it was helping them really, really kept me going. And so I think if it had not been such a social process, I would not have. Um, been able to get it out there, but it, it really felt like there was a community around it that was really pulling this book out of me and, and kept me going. 

[00:27:33] Si: Uh, the words of encouragement though, surely from your listeners and your readers, you know, like actually go, I like this, or I like what you’re trying to do here. What about this?

[00:27:41] Si: Give you instant feedback and you, the satisfaction that someone’s actually read it, but also processed it and wants to provide the. Feedback. That’s three levels of wins for me.

[00:27:51] Yeah. And I mean, the editing process was, tough, but I had hundreds of people reading it on, um, help this book, um, which is a great platform for giving feedback on books. And then I also had, I had two good friends of mine. Who I knew would behonest andharsh editors, looking at the actual Google doc version. and then I also had a, a someone else who I had just gotten to know because they were started reading the newsletter who lives in Singapore and I’ve never met them, but provided edits and feedback and comments on it. and then I had several friends who, were actually some of the people who taught me how to interview customers and do customer research. They, they provided sort of technical editing, on the book as well. And then also of course hired a professional proofreader as well, 

[00:28:35] Si: Nice. And so when did book go live again? so the pre-order went live June 1st, 2021, the. Ebook was basically done early July and then I just needed like a cover and whatnot. And then it was the, ebook and paperback versions were available to buy. I think it was July 23rd, july 24th, 

[00:28:59] Si: to a year then next, like next month.

[00:29:02] Michele: Yeah. 

[00:29:03] Si: Ooh, you need to celebrate, you need to do something to mark the occasion.

[00:29:06] Michele: Yeah. I don’t know. I haven’t 

[00:29:09] Si: It, it just comes around though. Don’t you like, you’re say you don’t realize lockdown hit and start writing letters, newsletters, and all this then. Oh, I’ve got a book after a year and then, oh yeah. Sold books. This is brilliant. do you look back and realize how much you’ve achieved in the last two years?

[00:29:21] Si: Is it, is it one of those moments, 

[00:29:23] Michele: no, 

[00:29:24] Si: do you think you need to Michelle? 

[00:29:27] Michele: I think I need to, because I think sometimes I get so busy between, you know, working and, and calls and then also, you know, being on podcasts and about the book and, yeah, I kind, I kind of miss, uh, Missed the big picture up there, so to speak. And actually, I really, I haven’t stepped back to celebrate.

[00:29:48] Michele: Like I think the last time I really celebrated the book was the day Iuploaded it for publishing. So it wasn’t even available yet. uh,we went out to a nice dinner and, drank a bottle of rose and, you know, it was, it was amazing. but I don’t think I’ve actually really celebrated it 

[00:30:05] Si: Mm, I’ll leave that with you. Yeah, I won’t think about that.

[00:30:08] Michele: Yeah. 

[00:30:09] Si: you mentioned, um, the podcasting as well, that you do with Colleen software social. How did that come about? Cause obviously it’s another thing to your bone now.

[00:30:18] Michele: Yeah. So, um, before the pandemic, so Colleen and I used tobasically be neighbors. We lived, in Arlington, Virginia, and we met because a slack community that we were both in of people who are yeah. Have like indie projects and some of them are founders. Some of them are employees.

[00:30:37] Michele: Some of them used to have projects. Now they’re employees, you know, some of ’em are consultants, like kind of a, a real mix of people. She was part of that community as well. And people like, oh, like Colleen just moved up to near where you live. Like you guys should get together. And so we, yeah, it got together. It turned out, we lived, you know, one neighborhood over from each other. Our kids went to the same school. And we started meeting up for coffee every week, just talking about like business and life. And, um, at the time she was a consultant and really wanted to have a SAS and had been trying to get one going for a long time.

[00:31:10] Michele: And so, you know, when we were meeting up every week, that’s what we were kind of talking about, like her ideas and how she could go out and test them. and so then the, the, the pandemic hit, and I think we realized at one point that we. hadn’t had our coffee in in, in a while and, uh, really missed that.And then I moved to Denmark, uh, in the summer of 2020. And we well, we had joked about starting a podcast actually. And then our friend Benedict,who a SAS called user list. Um, he had had this like, He had, he had made some offhand comment on Twitter. Like, you know, I love all these founder ride and along podcasts, but like why aren’t there any hosted by women? And so I kind of replied and I was like, oh Colleen, like maybe we should actually do that podcast. We joked about ha ha ha. Not expecting anything to really come from that. And then like all of these people like replied to us on Twitter and DMS and on slack and we’re like, Hey, like you guys should actually do that podcast. Like that would be great. I would listen to that. And we were like, really like, Okay, maybe we’ll give it a try. Right. And it was like, you know what, worst case scenario, this forces us to talk to each other every week, which again, as someone who had just moved to a new country in the middle of COVID didn’t have any friends where I lived was really important to like have a scheduled appointment, to talk to one of my friends every week. and so that’s really where it came about. I mean, we didn’t expect anyone except our friends. Again, quite frankly, the same people who were also our pity listeners in the beginning.

[00:32:37] Michele: Plus our husbands, And, uh, I mean, I didn’t have a proper mic cuz I was like, I’m not gonna invest in a micif nobody’s gonna listen to this. Right. peoplelistening to it. and uh, yeah, we just had a hundred episodes a couple weeks ago and uh, and it’s been really fun and I think it’s really important that we have that too, because she’s since moved to California. So it’s a nine hour time difference between us. But I think it’s really important that we have that appointment 

[00:33:02] Si: she’s nine hours behind you in time. When do

[00:33:06] Michele: So usually like maybe 4 30, 5 o’clock, but sometimes if you know whatever’s going on, like it might be at, you know, eight or nine o’clock or even 10 o’clock my time sometimes. Or we could also do 6:00 AM my time 9:00 PM her time. But like, we haven’t done that one yet, but it’s, it’s usually some time after 4:00 PM cuz she tends to rise a little bit early. 

[00:33:28] Si: Prior to dinnertime with the family and all that. Cause if you’re both parents trying to fit that in. 

[00:33:32] Michele: It’s either before it has to be before dinner or after, but you know, six, seven o’clock is basically 

[00:33:37] Si: Sure. Do you, do you feel the benefit of having that regular check in with her though? Cause I like you say it was to scratch a personal itch effectively. 

[00:33:45] Michele: Yeah, exactly. Oh, it’s, it’s wonderful. Um, and you know, very often we end up chatting about personal stuff before or after if we have time um, You know, we’re, we’re, we’re friends outside the podcast. Um, and I, I think that’s really helpful. And it’s also really funny cuz we have, you know, friends that, uh, uh, we have a, we have a mutual friend and we learned a couple of months ago that he listens to the podcast and we had no idea.

[00:34:09] Michele: And so it’ll be really funny when we’ll get something from him. Like I was listening to you guys on the podcast and, listening to the episodes where Colleen is talking to someone else. Or quite frankly, listening to podcasts that, that our friends have, makes me wish all of my friends had a podcast. Because then I could, stay up on what’s going on, on their lives. And, uh, you know, since I’m so far away, it’s, it’s hard to do that. Or you only get it, you know, through text or whatnot with occasional phone calls. And so I wish all of my friends had podcasts. 

[00:34:38] Si: Yeah, I think podcast is definitely get to that mainstream point now, though, aren’t they? And. Potentially do it, but you just wanna make sure that you get got an output that’s worth listening to. I mean, I listen to your software social regularly. I won’t say all the time, but I catch up and you can tell there’s a link between you two and it, it helps, you know, you’ve actually got a good, strong relationship underneath it.

[00:34:59] Si: Then you can have a really. Honest safe conversation. I think your last episode or episode 1 0 1 was it. And you sort of having a real honest conversation about what you’re gonna do next. It, it really comes through and helps make sure the conversation is genuine and authentic.

[00:35:13] Michele: Yeah, I think that’s really important to us. And, you know, in the way that, you know, the, the goal of the podcast for us personally, is to stay connected to, to one another. I think we have this. Goal of other people, knowing that they also aren’t alone because like, right. Like most of us don’t know somebody in our day to day lives our, you know, day to day physical lives, who also does this weird fake internet business thing.

[00:35:36] Michele: Right. Like we try to explain what we do to other people and usually get a kind of a, a very, a nice, confused, stare and questions about, well, what exactly we do every day. And so. Especially if you’re a developer and you you’ve got a side project going on, right. Like you don’t know a lot of other people doing that.

[00:35:55] Michele: And so, our goal is to, I don’t know, show people that they’re not alone. And so, um, talk about what we’re going through and maybe that’s relatable for people and, and helps them with whatever they’re trying to do, knowing that there’s other people out there who are struggling with that, or have solved.

[00:36:12] Michele: Um, and, you know, keep them company while they’re walking the dog or doing the dishes or mucking horse stalls or driving or all the other things that people have told me they’re doing while they listen.

[00:36:21] Si: You don’t wanna know sometimes that age thinking, oh, keep that one to yourself. That’s fine. But I’m glad you’re enjoying And you mentioned that that, that it came out of the origins of the fact there’s not many women in tech. a SAS sort of podcast. Do you feel like it’s um, have you heard, if there’s been any more success stories of, you know, motivated by you

[00:36:43] Michele: Yeah. So actually, I think I’ve heard of two podcasts that were. Directly inspired by, our show. and then, one in Australia and then one in Japan and then, um, but also, I mean, since we started, I think, I think when we started, we were the only. Women talking about indie SAS. Of course, there’s other women talking about SaaS talking about marketing, talking about product, but specifically doing a founder RideAlong style podcast. Um, but actually since we started, there has been another woman who has joined a podcast. So it’s, Benedicta Ray, who is from Norway. Um, the, the Sloan and steady podcast now, which is also a, um, a founder RideAlong show. And so I think it’s been really nice to see more women getting into this and also. You know, more women to see that there are women doing indie SAS. 

[00:37:30] Si: Totally. I think it’s something that’s not talked about enough either. And I think I’m glad, you know, you are representing that in a way with Colleen and all your friends that around you calling that.

[00:37:38] Michele: Yeah. And, you know, I think we’ve found that, people do wanna listen to it. People of all genders, I guess, you know, do, Wanna hear people talking about SAS and, you know, I listen to other friends of ours who also have their own founder ride along shows. And I think, you know, I think, I think there’s just, it just, yeah, it just makes people feel, um, like, like they’re part of a broader community in, in what they’re trying to do.

[00:38:02] Michele: And I think that’s important.

[00:38:03] Si: That’s wonderful. I mean, I could talk to you all day and I know we’re against a clock today, so unfortunately we can’t, but, um, considering, you know, all these success stories you’ve had over the last sort of 3, 4, 10 years nearly, you know, what’s your next big goal you’re going for? And how do you think you’re gonna get there?

[00:38:18] Michele: Yeah, I don’t actually know frankly. Um, you know, I had this, this. Goal, I guess, of, running a company full time. I guess the goal would be to keep doing that 

[00:38:29] Si: Good 

[00:38:29] Michele: screw it up. That’s a pretty good goal. Um, you know, I had a goal of being able to, to speak at conferences.

[00:38:36] Michele: I think, you know, I, I, I realized a while ago that, Speaking is such a great friend, catcher to use Patrick McKenzie’s phrase, right? You get up in stage and you talk about something that you’re passionate about. And then other people who are also passionate about will come up to you and talk about that because I love going to conferences, but I find it incredibly intimidating to walk into a room full people. I don’t know of them. and I will, I will just stand there not talk to anybody. So I love doing that. So I had this dream, um, years ago of being able to speak at conferences or, or meetups, and had many years of all of my talks getting rejected. and that has turned around in the last couple years.

[00:39:12] Michele: And so I’m really grateful for that, to get to travel and be paid, to talk about things I love. People who are really interesting is just that that’s a dream. Um, so. I don’t know. I think I have to figure it out. And I think for me, a real focus is gonna be on making all of it work for me in my life. I think, you know, with all of this, my, uh, my, my health in some ways has taken a back burner.

[00:39:36] Michele: Right. You know, when I’m running around all day, doing all of these things. And so trying to make a bit more space for myself in all of that, is something that, uh, that I, that I, I. Need to focus on. And I say that in the sense of, I need to do it in the sense that I am putting off dealing with it. 

[00:39:56] Si: Totally.

[00:39:56] Michele: but yeah, I, I, I, actually, I, 

[00:39:58] Michele: don’t know. 

[00:39:59] Si: You don’t need any, I’m just curious 

[00:40:01] Michele: I just don’t wanna, I don’t wanna screw things up. I think that would be good. 

[00:40:05] Si: The one 

[00:40:06] Michele: Keep it going, you know, I keep saying, keep it going where it is, where it is it now with the company and, you know, the book and podcast and speaking and stuff. I feel really good how those going right now. So if they continued going at the same level that they are now, I would be happy with that. 

[00:40:21] Si: And make small iterations rather than any more big goals, just actually keep it all going nicely, bringing new people to the company and continue presenting. It’s probably enough to keep you going to be fair.

[00:40:31] Michele: I mean, we don’t even wanna bring more people on, like we’re bringing one person on and that’s, there’s no, there’s no plans for further hiring. That’s enough of a, a challenge and, and change. I think for, for now 

[00:40:43] Si: next goal that will get them on board and make sure everything’s continuing alright. 

[00:40:48] Michele: Yeah. I mean, we’ll see, right. You know, those friends who I mention you are, are pity subscribers and listeners, right? Like, you know, I’m gonna be meeting up with a bunch of them later this year, where we all talk about what our goals are and help each other on those things. And so I’m really looking forward to that retreat to have, that chance to step back, and look at things and look forward to the future in a way that, you know, as you have brought out, um, whether it’s about, milestones with the book or, other things going on with the business or life. I, I don’t, I don’t really get a lot of time to step back and reflect. So I think that will be um, I think that will be a good opportunity to do that. 

[00:41:21] Si: And don’t neglect your health, as you mentioned, you know, these are one of the one things we’d never really talk about, but it’s crucial. Otherwise none of it really works. 

[00:41:28] Michele: Yeah. I’ve had a big focus on my mental health the last few years. And that’s been in a really good place now, but, yeah, my physical health is, you know, I, I, I definitely find it’s easier to to keep working than carve out time to go for a bike ride or a run or, or gymnastics or whatnot. Um, which is my sport.

[00:41:45] Michele: So, I need to give myself that space to, to do that. And I’m, I’m getting there, but I’m not, I’m not there.

[00:41:54] Si: you know, you’ll get there. It’s. 

[00:41:55] Michele: Literally small steps. 

[00:41:57] Si: Literally for small steps, but yeah, one, one step in time, and then you go into the step, the running, and then the cycling, all that, you know, it’s it’s good again. Well, it sounds like Michelle, you I’m, I’m just jealous. You’ve got a great little life going on at the moment and you’ve achieved so much already. 

[00:42:12] Michele: I don’t really know what to say to that. Um, I guess, 

[00:42:15] Si: I’m just calling it out. 

[00:42:17] Michele: Thank you. And you know, the whole point I do this podcasting and writing books and book singular singular book, singular, not plural oh God. Um, is, um, to try to help other people do that too. Right. I feel a tremendous responsibility to try to, um, help other people who wanna be running their own companies, um, to do that, I feel very fortunate that we are able to do that.

[00:42:41] Michele: And. That in turn. Yeah, give, I think it gives me a responsibility to help others do that as.

[00:42:48] Si: of course, totally. Honestly, it’s been great, um, conscious of time again, how can people reach out to you, find your things and, you know, help help you in a way as well. It’s a two way thing. 

[00:42:59] Michele: Uh, yeah, so you can find me on Twitter at M JW Hansen. Um, and my book deploy empathy is available from Amazon or wherever you buy books. and also at deployempathy.com. 

[00:43:13] Si: Brilliant and geocoded as well. Don’t wanna forget that one.

[00:43:15] Michele: Yes. So geo cod.io, I always say it’s geo and then Cod like the fish.io because.io domains were very cool when we bought it in 2013. Yeah. Maybe they they were very, very cool in 2013. Um, and then, uh, podcast as well is software social.dev or on whatever app you use for podcasts. 

[00:43:38] Si: got in my apple podcast. I love it. When it comes down, Bob, I’m disappointed. There’s a break coming up now. So, um, 

[00:43:43] Michele: No, there’s no, we’re, we’re still releasing episodes. It’s just a break of me and Colleen. Yeah. So we, we we’ve recorded a bunch of guest episodes in advance. And so Colleen and I are basically, we have a bunch of sequential vacations. And so, yeah, we’ve, we’ve done a bunch of interviews with people. Um, so there won’t be an actual break in the podcast, but there will be a break in mean, Colleen podcasting simultaneously. 

[00:44:07] Si: So yeah, listen to that end folks. You can, uh, catch up on what’s going on. 

[00:44:11] Michele: Thank you so much. SI. 

[00:44:12] Si: Cheers, Michelle. I’ve really enjoyed that. Um, and I’ll pull the details in the show notes for anyone that wants to find out more. 

[00:44:17] Michele: Great. Thank you. 

[00:44:18] Si: Huge thanks to Michelle for joining us today. I’m sure you’ll agree. She has certainly got some fascinating stories from her journey so far, and it’s hopefully inspired you to run your own company. Write a book, make a podcast or anything else you’re contemplating. 

[00:44:32] Si: As she mentioned, you can reach out to Michelle on Twitter. Find her book at deploying empathy dot com or find out more about geocodio at geocode.io with the IO domain. That’s all for me for this week. Remember to like review and subscribe to the podcast. Reach out to me at OSI on Twitter or email. Hello at make life work, podcast.com. I’ll be back next week with another wonderful guest sharing their stories about how they make life work.