Episode 0070 · August 31, 2023

The podcast about what to do next.


[Unedited Transcript]

Paul Ford: [00:00:00] Richard, hello my friend.

Rich Ziade: Hello, how are you?

Paul Ford: So what do you want to talk about? You, you have a topic in mind.

Rich Ziade: I do have a topic in mind. Um, a dear friend of mine is opening a restaurant

Paul Ford: Okay. Okay. Why would anyone do that? That’s a, that’s a terrible thing to, it sounds

Rich Ziade: No,

Paul Ford: It’s

Rich Ziade: restaurants can be delicious and fun. And yeah, I mean, you’re right. The romance of the restaurant, especially in New York City, is a rough thing.

Paul Ford: It is hard work. Yes.

Rich Ziade: and they’re laboring over every decision before they open.

Paul Ford: Oof. Yeah.

Rich Ziade: They want to get it right. They want to get everything right.

Paul Ford: Oh, I know that feeling. That’s a terrible feeling.

Rich Ziade: it’s a terrible feeling. And the truth is, [00:01:00] and this is hard for people to hear, um, there’s a few things to share. And I think we can share them in a very punchy way right here in this advisor podcast. A. Nobody cares about most of the decisions you’re making.

Paul Ford: God, they don’t. And honestly, an enormous number… No, so

Rich Ziade: I should give more, more color here. Like it’s a piece, it’s one of the like appliances that will go into the commercial kitchen

Paul Ford: So, so A, no one will see it. Like it’s not, it’s not like what

Rich Ziade: will see it.

Paul Ford: No, no, but it’s not what… A good… Something to labor over, what, what are you going to name the restaurant? It’s like naming a kid, right? You’re going to be yelling it down the stairs a whole

Rich Ziade: That’s kind of important. That should be, that should, but here’s the thing, Paul, the person has put, I think, two to 300 hours of thought into the purchase.

Paul Ford: this is normal. Look, you know, my hobby, my hobby is synthesizers, right? I learned to play piano

Rich Ziade: Mm

Paul Ford: [00:02:00] learning about and reading. And boy, have I obsessed. Purchases that are in the hundreds of dollars and then I sort of like think like oh my god You know is it gonna lose value is it gonna gain value and what happens is then you get the object in your house And then you realize that your fantasy of how it was going to work and what it was going to be really has no bearing.

It’s a tool, and you have to figure out where the tool fits, and you gotta learn it. But there was no way to learn it without buying it. And it’s a horrible thing about these spaces that we do our work in, right? There’s this fantasy that you can research and understand things and get the knowledge just right, and then make the perfect decision.

But the reality is there is no perfect decision. And what you, what you find is, uh, there are incredible musicians who are like, I play exactly this Fender guitar and I will only play that Fender guitar in the studio, but I will not take it on tour. And, and you’ll be like, Hey, well, what do you do for, what’s your effects rate?

And they’re like, I don’t care.[00:03:00]

Rich Ziade: I don’t care. And I think, and I think that’s, that’s, you know, I, I think someone that’s, trying something, taking a risk around anything, whether it be putting out a book or starting a business or launching a product, right? Um, they want to get it right. And it’s hard to, uh, embrace the idea that you have so little control over how the world is going to react to anything, almost always.

Paul Ford: Well, and then frankly, you’re going to, this person is going to need to learn that device. They’re going to need to learn the, the kitchen and then, and then, and only then can they truly decide

Rich Ziade: They may, they may have got it wrong. I mean, here, here’s, I think the best way I, you could say to, Hey, don’t worry about it. Just make a call. And they look at you and they want to, they just, just hatred is pouring out of their eyes towards you, right? And really the best way to put it is this. Two years from now, you will not look back on the [00:04:00] failure of your business and realize that it was because you bought the wrong stove.

It won’t be that. It will be something else, right? It will not be that decision. And that’s not to trivialize the decision. The point is this, The, the good news here is that when something does make it out into the world, unlike a video game on a CD for PlayStation 1, which could be a disaster, if there’s a bug in that game, you’re going to have to ship out new CDs to everybody.

You can, unlike that, where things are fixed and quote unquote in the can, you could change stuff. You can actually change things. You can fix things. You can apologize. You can tell people we learned. Here’s the good news. Also, sometimes the things you thought weren’t going to be the reason people fell in love with whatever your entree was Surprise you and you get these happy surprises too because you can’t predict everything.

Paul Ford: This is [00:05:00] okay. So there, you know, it’s funny, you know, the musician Lizzo.

Rich Ziade: I know of that person.

Paul Ford: Okay. You don’t know her personally.

Rich Ziade: the music.

Paul Ford: Anyway, regardless, uh, Lizzo put out an album and it had some kind of slur in it.

And I think this, it was like something that was offensive to people. Um, she might have used the word spaz, like, which is offensive to people with epilepsy. And so the, the community online did its thing, right? And they were like, Oh my God, you know, you, you may not know this, but this actually really hurts.

This is a way that we disparage people with epilepsy. And it’s just, it’s, it’s actually, it’s not cool. And she went, Oh, okay. And then she removed it from the song and uploaded a new version to the streaming

Rich Ziade: Whoa.

Paul Ford: And it was just like, it was the greatest end run. She’s like, Oh, you know what?

She’s, she’s like, of course I get this. That’s, I would have, I can see

Rich Ziade: No, no, it’s, it’s, it’s smart and, and also what a lot of people do is they get [00:06:00] defensive and they’re convinced that the rest of the world is wrong.

Paul Ford: she didn’t dig in. She’s like, Oh, well, yeah, of course I can screw up too. Okay.


Rich Ziade: The customer is always right. Uh, there was a London based department store called Selfridges.

Paul Ford: That’s famous, famous story.

Rich Ziade: Famous store. And Harry Gordon Selfridge coined the phrase, The customer’s always right. Um, it is about you not necessarily being wrong. Uh, it is about you… Uh, kind of embracing the unknown and the uncertainty of just the randomness of a billion personalities possibly coming across whatever it is you put out in the world, whether it’s an appetizer or a feature in a product.


Paul Ford: Well, look, okay. [00:07:00] Here, here’s the actual lesson here, right? And this goes back to my theme. My big thing, theme is resilience, which is. What you do is you obsess over a series of decisions. You’re like, if I make the wrong decision, I will, uh, essentially, I think there’s a real risk of humiliation. That’s what people are worried about.

They’re not worried about the, the thousand dollars that they’re going to pay for one thing over the other industrial equipment or whatever. They’re worried that they’re worried that they’re going to be an idiot. That’s, that’s the big concern. Okay. So when you’re doing something new, you’re embarrassed and it is a natural state and you’re assuming.

So I, here’s how I can help. Here’s what I can advise. Humiliation is part of the deal. You learn to deal with it. All you want is flexibility. Okay, so the big risk to me when you describe someone buying something for the kitchen is it’s heavy. It’s not that it’s expensive or that it’s wrong. It’s that it actually takes time and resources to move it.

Rich Ziade: the cost of change

Paul Ford: [00:08:00] the cost of change for that equipment is high. So, so rank things, rank decisions, not by if they’re going to be right or not, but by the cost of change. And we do that at work all the time. We do that while we’re building this product. We have built, we have built

Rich Ziade: Not as good as customers always right, Paul, but

Paul Ford: customer is not, the customer is often incredibly wrong.

I don’t, I don’t buy customers always right. The customer is

Rich Ziade: don’t think that’s what he meant. I don’t think he meant the customers

Paul Ford: did he mean? What do you mean?

Rich Ziade: I think he meant you have to make sure you make the customer feel like they’re always right, even though when they’re wrong like 70% of the time.

Paul Ford: There is, okay, so that’s

Rich Ziade: it is about, uh, patronage, right? Like that’s what he was talking about.

He, he, he, he probably hated all his customers. I just throw that out there. He’s probably a cynical, like conniving marketer in the early 1900s around why Selfridge was going to make you a better person.

Paul Ford: No, this is true. When somebody walks in the door, they need to feel that they [00:09:00] belong there and, and special and that their needs are more important than your needs in that moment. And that you, you are there to bring them a moment of success. And that is, that is real. Okay, so that is, our software has to do that.

If it doesn’t do that, then people won’t use it. Um, but yeah, so that’s, All right, we’ll keep this one short. We’re busy boys. Everybody’s busy out there in the world. But yeah,

Rich Ziade: a related thought there. Uh, uh, uh, and I think it goes beyond this podcast and can go into another one. Um, you know, because we don’t know what’s going to work and what isn’t. Betting on maximum, I call it putting a chip on every number at the roulette table. Maximum chaos.

Paul Ford: Yeah, this is

Rich Ziade: is your friend here.

And it’s a strange thing to say. Who the hell plans towards chaos? That’s because you want to see maximum potential opportunities get put in front of you. And that’s a hard [00:10:00] thing to embrace. We learned it through running an agency, which is just, it demands chaos I’m gonna get real with you for a minute though. It’s very hard this it was hard to work with you because you can Handle that level of optionality and confusion. No, here’s why I was thinking about this because I’m now

be spun into a compliment by the time you’re done. I can

Paul Ford: I’m not, no, cause I’m there with you now. Now I embrace the same level. I had too much empathy when we started the agency, like, like objectively, I think even people who thought I was horrible boss would have said that about me. Like I cared too much about what people thought of me. I cared too much about how they were doing in their lives.

Rich Ziade: mm

Paul Ford: Maximum optionality is very tricky because it’s really hard as a leader to deliver stability into the organization

Rich Ziade: mm

Paul Ford: you are pursuing five or six [00:11:00] oppositional paths. An oppositional path might be like, we’re going to be a consumer product or an enterprise product. We’re going to be a restaurant that’s really high end, but we don’t want to alienate the lunch crowd either, right?

Like it’s, you’re constantly in those conflicts, you lean into them. You’re like, let’s see how long we can go. Before we make a decision.

Rich Ziade: Yeah,

Paul Ford: Now, what I’ve learned is that what that feels like is it has an immense, it feels like it has an immense human consequence. The reality is it doesn’t because growth fixes everything.

So as long as you’re aligned towards growth, you can take care of people. Like as long as they’re, because people need salaries more, that’s the number one thing, right? So you’re keeping optionality open to bring in revenue so that we can take care of the team and grow the organization. But in the moment, it feels like I, someone will be like.

What am I doing over the next two months? I need to figure out my future. And, and what I, I remember looking them in the eyes and being like, I can’t tell you, I don’t know. And now I know the answer is just keep doing what you’re doing. You’re doing great. It’s a little [00:12:00] chaotic right now, but we’re going to get there right?

Like now that’s okay. And I don’t, I feel good about it. I feel okay saying it.

Rich Ziade: this feels like, I feel like we just, we took a leap that I don’t know if a lot of people are going to connect to. And let me try to bring it together with what, how this podcast started, right? Um, when you launch, you lose control. You lose, when you open that restaurant, when you release the software, you lose control.

And when you lose control, it is a very precarious feeling. And so when I say maximum chaos, what I mean is, Hey, listen, if I’m going to lose control, let me at least spin up a thousand fractals so I can take control of one of them. I don’t, I don’t know if that made sense. Essentially what I’m saying is fan out.

Fan out and let’s see what happens. And then every so often you’ll be like, Oh, look at that. That there’s a bright light coming from North Northwest. Go that way. [00:13:00] And that is how you regain control. It’s a, it’s an insane approach to business. I don’t think anyone’s put this in a book like go nuts.

Paul Ford: it’s a horrible thing to articulate because what you’re saying is what you need to do is accept unbelievable amounts of ambiguity, but that’s what we’ve said over and over again, which is that if you’re in a startup, your job is to figure out what business you’re in. It’s not, you know, most people want to want to be in a business and be told what the rules of that business are.

We don’t know what business we’re in. I’ve spent the last 10 years, not really sure what business I’m in and that’s okay. That’s okay. When I was a writer, I didn’t know what business I was in. Um, I can point, I can point to other businesses and say, I know exactly how, what they are. So I think that it is coming back to that, right?

Like why can’t this, I’ll tell you when you can decide around the big piece of kitchen equipment. Okay. It’s when you’re opening the second restaurant, that decision takes about five minutes. You know, I really, I love, I love that oven. I [00:14:00] love that dishwashing equipment. I’m going to buy it because I know it’ll work fine in the other location.

Right? Because you know what business you’re in. Right now you don’t.

Rich Ziade: Yeah. Um, we, this was rapid fire, but I think there’s some real jewels in there.

Paul Ford: Oh, Jules, Jules, just rubies, rubies scattered everywhere.

Rich Ziade: I recommend everyone listen to this podcast twice.

Paul Ford: Oh, that’s great. I’m going to listen to it twice. All right, friends. Well, we’re sponsored by Aboard. You know that. You can go sign up. Your friends can sign up. It’s open. Uh, you can send us an email at hello at ZiadeFord. com. Check us out on Twitter at ZiadeFord. Uh, it’s also called X, uh, the, the, the website.

Um, you know, and all the other stuff. You know all the stuff. Let’s get back to work,

Rich Ziade: Have a lovely week. [00:15:00]

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