I'm a pickleball addict. This weekend I played in a tournament and had some tough opponents. There are some games you can come in and just dominate. You'll find a trick, or a weak spot that works for that game and just keep pounding away at it.
More often than not though, when you're playing against evenly matched good players, your tricks stop working. There are no obvious weak spots. You realize you're just going to have to grind it out. And the sooner you stop trying to find something fancy that will work, the better.
Business feels a lot like that most of the time. You're up against good players without obvious weak spots. Most weeks, nothing significant happens. No Product Hunt launches. No Tech Crunch articles. No viral videos. Just a kind of steady state. Incremental features, support tickets, modest growth. Normal.
This is where the work is. You just have to grind it out.
At some level, if I'm honest, I thought that after buying 10 companies, one would pop. None of them have. They've all been a slow grind. There haven't been any miracles. It shouldn't be surprising. I was hoping a power law would carry us. It hasn't, and probably won't.
This is what I call "peace time". It's not a time for getting lazy or complacent though it's easy to do so when things are going okay. I'm particularly ill suited to peace time so I have some tools to help me through when everything is "kind of fine".
When you're in the grind, it's crucial to focus on KPIs that matter. Forget vanity metrics. Focus on customer retention, lifetime value, acquisition costs, and profitability. If anything, peace time is a great time to double down on retention.
On a personal level, I need to see things move. If I don't I feel stagnant. I have to regularly look at metrics that give me a sense of momentum. Even if this is as simple as new user signups or github commits. Just something to validate that progress is indeed being made.
Don't stop doing the things that are working. Don't slack on outbound efforts, don't take your foot off the gas. If there's not an immediate crisis, I have a tendency to get bored. It's a bad habit. My routine helps me stay focused and making incremental progress even if it feels like watching paint dry.