My Biggest Mistake

When I set out to build Sifter, I had a singular vision. Make a bug and issue tracker that non-technical team members would actively use. However, once it was out in the wild, things weren’t so clear. I failed to stay focused. I let myself get distracted by finances, logistics, uptime and support.

I got bogged down watching our bottom-line even though we’ve always been comfortably profitable. I worried about preventing fraud even though the only instance we ever encountered only cost us $200. I constantly worried that Sifter could go down at any moment even though we’ve had 99.96% uptime since launch. (That’s about 9 hours in almost 3 years.) Don’t get me wrong, we’re working to do better, but at 99.96% there’s more important work for us to do. I also let myself become too focused on support. I desperately wanted people to like Sifter. If they didn’t like it, I wanted them to understand, and ideally, appreciate the vision. All of these little things were distracting me from the work that really mattered.

Once Sifter was live, I went from creating an application to running a business, and it didn’t take long before that business was running me. Between fear, worrying, and the feeling that I had to justify our every move to our customers, I stopped having the guts to try and do anything special with Sifter. I was so obsessed with ensuring that we didn’t fail, I forgot to spend time making sure that we succeed.

It took the biggest deadline of my life for me to see what I’ve been doing wrong. In about 4 weeks, if all goes well, my wife and I will have our first child. I’m not even close to finishing the amount of work that I had hoped to by then, and until recently, it was killing me. However, it has helped provide a renewed focus, and the next 4 weeks will see some of the deepest improvements to Sifter since we launched because they set us up to minimize the distractions of running Sifter.

By the time our daughter arrives and I hopefully get a little bit of time off to spend with family, Sifter will be in a new hosting environment with improved performance, higher availability, more modularity, and even better backups. That means fewer logistical distractions and more time to focus on improving the application itself. We’ll be able to grow faster and with less effort. On top of that, we’ll add one of our top three feature requests with the other two to follow not long after.

I’ve always known better, but I simply couldn’t see it. Building a business is scary. Starting a family while building a business is even scarier. However, letting fear and worry drive decision making is no way to accomplish anything meaningful. I just wish I had recognized it sooner.