Aurelius Podcast: Episode 40 – What UX Designers & Researchers Need to Know About Business with Jane Portman

Episode 40 highlights – Jane Portman podcast about what UX designers & researchers should know about business to be more successful :

  • The critical things you can learn about business to make you a better UX designer or researcher
  • How important is UX in the success of building new products
  • The business of consulting versus the business of products or software
  • How to stand out as a UX person in the world of generic resumes and cover letters

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Jane Portman podcast about what UX people need to know about business to be successful

Links from this episode:

UI Breakfast Podcast


Episode Transcript

(transcription was automated and has been minimally edited, please excuse any typos or weirdness 😀 )

Zack Naylor 0:00
This is the earliest podcast episode 40 with Jane Portman. I’m Zack Naylor, co founder at Aurelius, and your host for the Aurelius Podcast, where we discuss all things UX research and product. This time, I got a chance to chat with Jane Portman, co founder at user list and host of the UI breakfast podcast. She’s got quite the impressive background as not only an accomplished UX consultant, but as a founder of a few different businesses prior to user list. As I mentioned, she also hosts her own podcast discussing UX design and related topics. She and I had a chat about her experience in starting a SaaS business, and how that’s helped her become a better UX designer. She also shared some really excellent tips and pointers, you can learn from starting a business and how to apply that in helping you become a better UX designer and researcher. Learning more about business and understanding those internal needs is a recurring theme of our podcast. And Jane has an awesome guest to have on to discuss those very things. I’m certain you’re gonna get some very actionable takeaways from this episode. The earliest podcast is brought to you by Aurelius. The powerful research repository and insights platform really is helps you analyze, search and share all your research in one place. Check us out at That’s Okay, let’s get to it.

Hey, Jane how’s it going?

Everything is great. Thanks for having me on the show.

Yeah, of course. Really happy to have you on it was kind of a funny turning of the tables, right? Because we I think originally met because I was a guest on your show, I think a couple years ago. Now. It’s been a while, right? ages ago. Yes. Yeah. So the is for those of you who don’t know, me, Jane runs UI Breakfast podcast, which is awesome, have a lot of really, really awesome guests, I was lucky enough to meet her through that. And we had a conversation about product strategy, design strategy, that kind of thing. But now, the tables have turned and we’ve got her on our show. So what I’d like to do is just in case anybody who might not be familiar with you, and the work that you do, maybe you introduce yourself, give a little bit of background of, you know, sort of what you do things you’re passionate about.

Jane Portman 2:10
So I’ve been in design for ages, basically, I think, up to 15 years by now, when my first son was born at that point, I was a creative director at an agency managing designers, projects and everything. And then I just realized that I burnt out. So I started a solo career online, just doing what I do best UI UX design. And that’s when I started my personal brand, UI breakfast. That’s kind of the root name of everything I do started UI breakfast podcast shortly afterwards, and what has just turned six years old, which is a lot of time we’re approaching 200 episodes, a lot of things have changed. Throughout the years, projects came and go, then I had a number of consulting clients, I started up but Upwork, which was called oDesk, back then spent a tiny bit of time there, just you know, get an idea how things work. And then my goal was to basically get out of there and never have to go back there. So I did this consulting drill. And I think I was inspired by post by Patrick McKenzie. And he taught me the basics of how to anchor your work to value how to charge more and everything. Then I got inspired by Nathan Berry and his authority book that teaches people to basically write for authority. That’s what I did. And back in 2013, I wrote my first book, which didn’t make any money after that was more books by now it’s four. Then I also dipped my toes in SAS. And right now I’m in the middle of my second SAS journey, which now is like in full swing and serious right now since January, I’m full time on my SAS product together with my co founder Benedict product is called user list. And we think this an extremely complex mission product for ourselves. It’s the customer messaging tool that helps SAS founders talk to their users via automated email or in app messages. And it involves a ton of a ton of very complex tasks. Really, that’s where my time goes. These days. I keep running the podcast. Oh, but I hope we’ll be able to talk today how my understanding of the business universe evolved as more books went out as I grew my audience from scratch over the years and what I really think about this all these days, and I’m so excited to share this.

Zack Naylor 4:38
That’s awesome. Well, that’s exactly why I wanted to have you on because I knew a bit about your journey and your background just from us having been acquaintances and I can point to some areas of your background that sounds very much like mine and the journey that I took just kind of starting as a designer more even like front end developer Honestly, this slowly but surely working closer and closer with the business and now Obviously, we have our own product or alias to research tools. So it’s a little bit different where I kind of stayed in industry, I started in both of us having started as UX people, now starting their own businesses. And I know personally, I have learned so much that makes me a better designer, from having started a business. And I would love to hear from you, you know, some things that you have learned and what you think other folks in our field UX research should know about that. So I mean, maybe start with what made you decide to start user list right to go in and say, we’re gonna build a SaaS tool, hey, I’m a UX person. But

this is what I want to do. Now. It’s interesting that in spite of the fact that I was a UX consultant myself, for the last like five years or something, I’ve been focusing entirely on SAS products. And instead of hanging out with fellow designers, I was hanging out with fellow SAS founders, this concept of this lifestyle business. So bootstrap sass, it really, really resonated with me and I was aspiring to follow that track for a while. In 2017 16, I started my first SAS product that didn’t go anywhere was a small productivity tool. So user, this is actually a second product with tiny reminder that first tool that I later sold for small amount of money, Benedict, my co founder, he was my developer for hire. So immediately when that first tool was shut down, I was like, I need the next one. And I had more ambitious plans and was impossible to do this without a technical co founders. So why recruited him and I also recruited Claire solid, trop, she later transitioned into an advisor role. So she’s no longer with us on the team. But she’s there as the founder of the company. Now she focuses on her forget the funnel marketing stuff I’ve heard forget the funnel. Yeah, so herself and her co founder, Jia, they put out an amazing amount of awesome marketing content out there. That was a pretty serious undertaking, it was long wanted to adopt this mindset. If only I knew that being a SAS founder is such a huge challenge. And I really would not recommend this way of making money online to anyone except for if you’re up for like really big pain, like for a long while. Because getting a SaaS product off the ground is nowhere near infoproducts. Like info products are much, much easier to make money online, getting out a book per year and generating some cash with it will make your wealthier way faster than trying to grow yourself. I think that’s the recipe. Even though this model of recurring revenue and bringing value to the world, of course, it’s attractive. And that’s why we’re there to build something useful, and to make sure that our skill set and the way to build awesome products that are really useful to to the customers. So yeah,

yeah, I think that that’s really interesting, too, that you’ve done this, you started a couple of different businesses, right? Because you did it, like you said, with information products with knowledge books, that kind of thing. You did your own consulting, that’s your own business. And then now said, Okay, well, SAS is for those that are not familiar with SAS, we’re talking about software as a service. So basically, software like you would sign into Gmail, or Trello, or anything like that. Those are all SAS products for anybody unfamiliar with the acronym, but it was funny to me where he said, I wouldn’t recommend this to anybody. Tell me a little bit more about you know about why you say that there are some obvious challenges there, what comes to mind as to why you say that

Jane Portman 8:30
info products are largely an impulse buy. And they don’t come with much of a relationship that you have to build with the customer. And they just purchase it and they can consume the knowledge you provide, or they can keep it on their shelf, you particularly don’t care because you already have the cash in the bank. And generally speaking, they might like your book, they might not like your book, they might ask for their money back in some very extreme and rare cases. But generally speaking, your your fine mount of support is very low. with SAS, you really have to drive to prove the value of the product that you’re providing. Maybe selling something for, like $9 a month on a repeatable basis for something that that a service does is much harder than I don’t know, selling it $200 book or $100 book, really, because that’s just a one time commitment. And getting into relationship with the SAS business is another different story. It’s much, much harder to start those kinds of relationships. So the conversions are harder to make, the people are harder to retain, it’s all kinds of struggles, I thought that was useless. In particular, we’re they’re pretty close to the money, the value is pretty prevent. It’s a pretty known marketing category. And yet, we still have our own struggles here because the customer acquisition, on the other hand is a pain and it’s a quite a big set of work that needs to happen in order for users to start receiving value, and therefore it’s definitely not walk in the park?

Zack Naylor 10:01
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, a lot of things that you’re describing, for what it’s worth are the same kind of challenges we have just to share a little bit. From our perspective, it’s particularly difficult, I think, with gaining that trust and earning earning that business, honestly, for other designers and researchers, because that’s our target. And so if you consider, you’re literally trying to earn the trust and respect of people who build a great products, it just adds like a whole new level. And We have certainly seen a lot of the same things that you have. One of the things I want to ask you so direct to the point, having been a UX person. And now having been a person who started several different kinds of businesses, do you think that that’s made you a better UX

Jane Portman 10:45
designer? Absolutely. unquestionably, so the most important thing is better understanding off your place in the world as a UX designer, in how one hand, of course, great UX is essential to software success. But on the other hand, is such a miniscule part of all the processes and limited resource game that’s going on this happening in the SAS and the software world, in general, it’s really small place, it takes you a couple days to design, it will take two months for the developers to build enormous resources, then it will take ages for as for team and the customer success team to work around those features is just such a small task compared to the rest of other tasks that the founders have. And I didn’t even touch on sales and marketing, which is absolutely the essential thing that’s often overlooked. Seems that you know, you will design a product and it’s going to be great, you will build it and people will come Well, I’m sure if someone’s listening, and has never done the product, you might have this understanding, thinking but it’s definitely not like this, you have to do very serious work. And I would say sales and marketing efforts are much more challenging than product work. With Braddock, you’re basically sure what do you do you are aware of input of the hours versus output in terms of like good product or something with sales and marketing. It’s very different game.

Zack Naylor 12:16
Yeah, I’m actually really glad that you touched on the sales and marketing piece, because I think I will only speak for myself. But I can say much earlier in my career, many, many years ago, let’s say about 10 years ago. Now, I used to think sales and marketing were bullshit, I used to think it was like smoking mirrors and just trying to convince people to do stuff. And what really mattered was how awesome the product was how great the UX was, because that’s what that’s the world I lived in. Right? It was purely a UX person. I couldn’t agree more than that starting a business makes me realize, and you said it in such a great way, like your place in the world. Again, because it’s coming from the industry that I did, it’s not to say at all, UX is not important. Of course it is, it’s still to me one of the most important things in a product. But that’s just it, it’s the product of business is so much more than just the product you build, you talked a little bit to like you mentioned, the funnel, the one co founder, forget the funnel, and just even the funnel of like engaging with a business, particularly a SAS businesses software product, if we have a great experience. And that great experience delivers on these features that somebody might find later in the product, when they’ve like fully adopted it and got on board. That’s great. But there are all these things that need to be designed and considered and planned for, to even get somebody to that point, which by the way, are experiences to design, but they have nothing to do with that feature that you made.

Jane Portman 13:34
For software product, well designed marketing website is I don’t know, thousands of times more important than what’s inside the product. And it’s pretty sad because the product itself matters. There is a very sad discrepancy that I’ve seen many times as a consultant that there is a well designed marketing site. And then there is something not right happening on the inside a good sign, the things I write is that the product is still making money. So throughout these years that I’ve been consulting for other software products, my favorite client is the kind of business that’s been making money in spite of poor internal UI, that’s not an obstacle. Like basically, if you’re solving a big enough problem, great UX, unfortunately, is not necessary. Yes, you’re there great consumer products that scale to like millions of users that we’re used to seeing, like I don’t know, Dropbox kind of tools, but certainly not all software in the world looks like that.

Zack Naylor 14:30
Yeah, I’m really, really happy to hear you say that, because it’s been some of my impression as well. It’s difficult for the UX community to stomach in some cases, right? Especially if you’re new in your career to say your product and your business can be successful in spite of bad UX. Like interestingly enough, a lot of earlier stage companies. This is the reason why they don’t have those people they don’t hire UX folks right away is because dependent You know, this thing that you said, understanding your place in the world, understanding where the business is, if this is one of the only players in the space, the problem getting solved is valued enough. how it happens and the experience of the product in the design matter just so much less. But you know, on the other hand, different extreme situation where you look at like an email provider, there’s so many different options. For commerce sites, there’s so many different options where the experience there matters so much, because there’s so much competition, that that can be a differentiator, I think being able to understand your place in that, and the importance of not only UX, but like, which parts of the UX in that product matter the most, to not only get new customers keep customers have returning customers, like all these things matters so much, then maybe even just a beautiful interface.

Jane Portman 15:36
Businesses with the design co founder, they have a major advantage, because not only you can have great UX inside the product, then you can have consistently great website about also relates to the quality of the inside of the product, which is great. So there is no such discrepancy that I discussed, mentioned before. And you can also establish like consistent flow of nice looking marketing materials, which also big spending of money for people who don’t have a designer in house, that’s a big struggle to keep the website and the marketing stuff all in line brand early on without having to hire an expensive agency. But it’s a mistake to think that it’s by itself a recipe for success. I did have such kind of thinking early on, I thought this kind of advantage would be mission critical. But no, you still have to solve all this acquisition problems and everything from scratch, regardless of whether you are having great design or not. Unfortunately, that’s the sad truth.

Zack Naylor 16:38
Yeah, I found myself in a similar situation in cases where sometimes I was interviewed recently for something and they were asking about my day to day job. As a founder designer, and it looks like, you know, the funny thing is most of my day is spent doing sales and marketing and not designer products at all. I try to keep a good 5050 balance there. It’s true. There’s just so many other things that happen there. It’s almost like what I tell people is, the product part is easy for me. I’ve done that my whole career. It’s everything else. That’s a really big challenge. I’m curious, like, have you seen you’ve been able to live in both worlds, somebody running and growing your own SAS product, your own software business? Do you see any patterns with UX designers, the UX community and how they approach work that, you know, you just wish they knew something about business that would actually help their work, or help their approach in how they do this work better.

Jane Portman 17:30
There’s so many things that you can learn to be good consultant, be good UX consultant, the designer, and it comes on so many levels firsthand, there’s that business of consulting. So we were talking the business of software the last few minutes. And there’s another whole thing of business of consulting, so that there is etiquette, the way you sell your services in the manner that’s efficient for everybody, the way you position your services, based on value deliver, not the hours spent. Definitely practicing in general with your own products makes you a better product designer, because you start thinking about different things. And even if it’s a book, you get a fraction of that stress that software owners experience when they try to sell it. Trust me the the level that’s trust is even higher with the software. But even with when you try to sell a paid newsletter, or an E book, the basic step one of the product game is still gonna give you an idea of how that’s marketed. How to write a sales page, right? a sales page for your product for your service for your I don’t know, personal website, by the way, we did mention writing but that’s like that’s been a cornerstone of my entire career. Basically, I think I write way more than I design ever. That’s a very essential skill. Both started those I don’t know what it was like, eight years ago now. I designed a consulting site, and I showed it to my client from Australia. And he was like, Jane, your writing is not great. Like why? It’s literally I don’t make English spelling mistakes is like, No, you should study some business writing. And he pointed me towards the books by joanna Wiebe, that’s when it started, started spinning a read them. It was like whole big revelation of what business writing is about and sales copy and all that jazz. Designers often think that if they have nifty black and white page with some of their works, that’s going to sell their services or the UI is gonna sell itself. No, you have to write about it as much as you have to design it.

Zack Naylor 19:34
Wonderful advice. We didn’t touch on writing at all. This is something that when I was still doing a lot of active UX work, design or strategy work as I tried to help people understand a lot more importance needs to be placed on how you talk about the work you’re doing or how you talk about the thing you’re building in the way in which you describe it so that it connects with what’s valuable to somebody as opposed to just describing or laying out the details of that thing. So like a good example of that. And you say business writing join weaves, awesome. The stuff that they put out is amazing, super helpful for anybody designers alike, right, but not just copywriters, or even conversion copywriters, but you know, writing a website, for example, it’s not just a matter of describing features about your product, it’s about describing how your product helps somebody else be better. Those are very, very different things, you could sit here and describe, technically, interactively, how your product works, people don’t really care about that they want to know about is, if I use your thing, does it help me become better? Or does it help me solve some pain or problem that I have? That’s just such a huge parallel to the work we do as UX people to particularly even user research, the whole idea is uncovering needs, expectations, pain points, so that we can do things design experiences to address them.

Jane Portman 20:54
Yeah, thankfully, UX and product designers by the nature of our profession, we are exposed to the jobs to be done and all that all kinds of frameworks that help uncover business goals. But don’t forget to use the same stuff when you’re selling your own work as well. So it’s not about the features of your work, but also about the benefits that you bring to the table as a business. I used to write sales copy for my services, that will say something like struggling with bad design or something. And you know, nobody’s particularly struggling with bad designs, like among all the founders I hang out with, it’s a small, tiny fraction that really struggles with bad designs. Usually it’s keeping their customers or converting them from trial to paid and other things like that, that good onboarding, can help them really make money. So maybe that can help you anchor your UX work to what the software founders need.

Zack Naylor 21:53
Yeah, you hit the nail on the head with that, right? Where that’s the way we would think of it. Well, your problem is bad design. But that’s not how they would talk about that. That’s not how they’re considering it. They have other problems where like, you just you just mentioned, a few people aren’t signing up, or people aren’t staying or people aren’t coming back. All those things might be caused by bad design. But that’s not how they would describe it. That’s not what they care about solving. They might think design looks just fine. Because their definition of design might be different, right? But what you’re really describing is, well, there’s a problem that you have that the thing I can do can help with, whether that’s design or not, they almost don’t care. If you can help them solve that problem, then they’re interested in chat with you.

Jane Portman 22:34
The framework by Amy, Huawei, and Alex Hellman called 30. By 500. It was a system of different educational products about how you run your software business. And the foundational idea that people need to know about products is why products actually exist, that they don’t exist out of the blue, but they exist to serve the needs of an existing audience. It sounds it might sound obvious to large part of our listeners. But it’s definitely not baked in like the design professional, unfortunately, you can very well, like prior to that I wasn’t designed for five to 10 years, and I was really missing this part very much like I was able to grow up to a management position. And all I was working on was the internals of the products that were given to us. And we never even question the reason why people need those products and how that’s going to be solved, because there was like a publishing house that would do that for us. So it’s pretty fascinating how naive we can be for many years if we don’t really touch upon the business side of things.

Zack Naylor 23:39
Yes. And that’s it’s such a passionate topic. For me, we talk about it a lot on this podcast, I feel like almost every guest we have on almost every topic we’ve got somehow comes back around to this where you can be a more successful UX person, UX researcher, whatever, by understanding business better. It’s just a fact. And I continue to quote Christina wood key because it was one of the best episodes that illustrated this point where she said, a lot of designers out there a lot of UX, people have no idea how their business makes money. So you think about what that means. Essentially everybody else in the business is working to help the business make money. That’s its function, right? By providing some value. And so when people will struggle, people being like us you in the UX in the research area, struggle with getting their ideas across or accept or anything like that. But we haven’t demonstrated that we understand how the business works. I always say I always ask somebody, well, then why should they listen to you? If you haven’t demonstrated your ability to listen to them and understand their job in the business in the greater context? Why should they take your why should they take your suggestions?

Jane Portman 24:43
Absolutely. I just had a great conversation this week about the ROI of UX work with Mark Baldino, or fuzzy math a an agency in Chicago. We talked for an hour about how hard it is for us designers to get on the table and Like make sure those metrics that we need are in place to make sure that it’s not that we’re not just hired for cosmetic UI UX work, but that we’re hired to make actual business improvements, and how to measure the this ephemeral customer satisfaction and how you can even like, really measure the effectiveness of the gig that you’re hired for. And in spite of the fact that I was pretty expensive, pretty accomplished consultant, by the time I quit last December, basically. And I was making very decent money, I was helping people solve their business problems, but I can say that I was never really taken to, I don’t know, to like full business metrics kind of trail that I would love to be taken. Usually, software founders have limited resources and such engagements that involve like going to the foundations of the business, they are much longer and much more expensive. And, unfortunately, not so often given to solo consultants like I used to be. So yeah, there is no easy answer.

Zack Naylor 26:07
Yeah, no, that’s very, very true. Because, you know, in my past career, I’ve, I’ve sat on both sides of the fence, I’ve been a consultant at a services type company, you know, custom design and software shop, I’ve worked in house at various levels to the individual contributor to leader of teams, builders, teams, it’s very, very different. I completely agree. And what’s interesting is when I went back in house, so to speak, after having worked at a services company, for a while my eyes were reopened to that tried to help my former colleagues at the services company understand, like, why you’re struggling with getting this highly strategic, like very big business impact work as a services company is number one, it’s, it’s not cost effective, it’s very expensive, because the company essentially then needs to pay you to learn their business as well as they do, and then make the thing that they need you to make. That’s the first reason. The second one is frankly, I don’t think you’ll ever get there. So you think about like the person hiring you. Maybe even in your case, right? You’ve been working on your own SAS product for how long

if you were to try to hire me total, like four years of product of that product?

So if you were to hire me as a consultant, would you ever expect me to have the same level of understanding your business over the past four years that you have? Of course not, it would just be ridiculous. So it’s a really difficult trust problem, honestly, keep me honest, I think this goes back to understanding your place in the world, so to speak, if you are a consultant, right, understand, like the value that you can help provide right away, I think lean into that, I think, embrace that and understand that the value can help with and by the way, and I’m speaking from experience here, when you do that, you demonstrate value in the thing that they need and kind of want immediately, you actually then earn a little bit of trust to this sort of a wedge offering up to say, you know, I can help you with some of these bigger sort of strategic problems that a lot of us tend to want to do, even as consultants,

Jane Portman 27:51
in spite of what we said before, in the last few minutes, there is still hope. And you can absolutely advance yourself in this food chain. By doing some stuff on your own, you can, you know, preach first. And then you might get to practice that in reality, you know, you you can absolutely write about this, you can start your own podcast, which is a nice way to distribute knowledge. If you get known even just a little bit for those practices that you do that you are close to the money close to the business practices, then you’ll get similar kind of gigs in whoever I’m hiring today as a founder contractors and everybody, if I see someone who knows the world of SAS and products that live in a little bit, that’s like that’s an instant hit that increases their chances of being hired exponentially. And you’d be surprised if it does. It’s a very interesting activity of browsing profiles and Upwork. Not for designers, but for I don’t know marketing people, writers and everything. You’d be surprised how generic and said their profile descriptions are. We’ll just take a few sentences of human English and some business oriented language to completely send out in this ocean of generic candidates out there. Yes, you shouldn’t be on Upwork likely in a much more advanced position. But still business writing and positioning yourself in the business system is is just a great win for everybody out there.

Zack Naylor 29:20
I would agree. You know, that’s really interesting point that you bring up too. Can you share any examples of maybe some of that generic language that you see and then maybe even give some advice for folks, here’s how you can do better with that. Because I think there’s a lot of folks, it doesn’t matter if you’re a consultant, or even looking to get hired at a company. They want to say I want to help people understand how I can help them I can be very strategic, I can do all of these things. So can you maybe give us an example of like, here’s what I’ve read, don’t do that. And then here’s an example of what you should write.

Jane Portman 29:47
Absolutely. So the majority of the profile looks like this. Something like I have extensive experience in the industry of marketing. So I was I was looking for an email marketing specialist to do some competitor research for This was two weeks ago, literally, all the profiles there started with that. Very rare people just use human language. And you can only see like the first three lines. But that’s already enough to understand that the person that I ultimately hired, they used, at least started with the phrase, email marketing is a pain in the blah, blah, blah, I help you solve that. And I was like, Oh, my, not only it was human, but it was also provocative. And making the user stopping their track is basically a very, very common thing that good copywriters can do. And it doesn’t have to be necessarily friendly. But what he did was, he definitely caught my attention. I was like, oh, a good copywriter here, wonderful, like, let’s explore more and that he had a longer description of what he can do. But basically, just just being human, and a little bit of that CV. And copywriting can take you a long way.

Zack Naylor 30:57
That’s a really great, that’s a fun example to just trying to kind of distill down what you shared, there are a couple summary points is the first one is stand out. And you don’t necessarily have to use that kind of language if you’re not that kind of person. But be you. Yeah, speak in a way that somebody can relate to. Right. Definitely. That’s one of them. But then the second one, you know, that really made me think of Simon Sinek in the whole start with y concept.

Jane Portman 31:22
Oh, my, that book is a discovery of 2020 for me, before 2020 turned bad.

Zack Naylor 31:30
It started off great. And then it just went downhill from there.

Jane Portman 31:34
Yeah, it was, it’s so mind blowing how great his approach is to the entire business. Sorry, I interrupted you please keep going?

Zack Naylor 31:42
No, that’s, that’s okay. I was just gonna say, though, I mean, a couple summary points is one standout catch the lady’s attention by just being real. But then the second thing it made me think of was that whole start with y concept, which, again, for anybody unfamiliar, it doesn’t start with describing, I have skills with UX design, interface, design, visual design, like nobody cares. Well, everybody has that kind of stuff, or everybody can state they have that. If you start by catching someone’s attention and go, I’ve helped people design websites that convert visitors into customers. Whoa, that’s what I’m trying to do. And then later you describe how, right you could say, well, I do this by doing research with people who might be potential customers. And then I write good copy. And I have experience, right? Like you don’t start with those things, because everybody’s gonna talk about those things, but talk about you and why it matters to somebody who’s reading this.

Jane Portman 32:33
One of the other takeaways from the book was that those so he analyzed business successful businesses across like many decades, since the beginning of the century, and why some of them survived, and the others died. And they couldn’t transform. Because the successful companies do have a long term mission, which is goal that is above monetary gain for them. For example, I don’t quite recall, he was comparing like photo printing digital companies. For one of them, the mission was to help people make better pictures. This is always the case, no matter what the platform is, no matter what century you’re in, they were doing great until they abandoned that when they changed course at some point. And they went after keeping their film business in place, when everybody was transforming to digital, if they really focused on bringing value to this big goal, they would have probably converted into digital and survived was about Kodak. There were some great examples about Apple, Patagonia and everything else. And you always have this big, somewhat unattainable somewhat timeless goal that your business can serve. And for us, for users, that definitely is helping founders along their journey, making their journey more enjoyable with good tools. So that’s a large enough mission that we can pivot inside that niche as much as we want. But we’ll still be serving that founder image that is struggling on everyday basis, and we are helping them with good tools.

Zack Naylor 34:04
I love that you establish that even as such an early early stage technology SAS company, we did the same thing, actually, with a really, as we said, you know what we want to do, and this is funny how this came up to, because I imagine very much like you. This came from some kind of personal experience. But you know, having worked in UX and research and product strategy field, we said, if we’re gonna do this, like, well, like why we can build a software product, but our mission is, you know, we want people to make informed decisions based on something that is learned from their customers, rather than guesses and opinions and politics that happen inside companies and those things drive design decisions and products and features. And we said we want to help people make informed decisions. That’s it. And it’s like you said it’s so broad, but almost anything we do can help with that. But it’s important because it actually helps focus your own decision making to you know, where you can catch yourself, everyone. So don’t go Are we doing the things that matter and whatever kind of impact. We’re trying Have

Jane Portman 35:00
that goes back to the question that you asked in the beginning was why you have your product. And we discussed this a lot with my co founder, because there are always so many strategies your business can, you can take on a lot of funding, you can sell your business at a certain point. So what long goal do we have in mind and for us delivering value and receiving joy through that having that enjoyable place of work that we own is number one goal, so like selling for significant amount of money soon would mean that we’ve been working on something great. And then we have a little bit of money in the bank. And we basically have to start from scratch, like, and building a company from scratch is no small feat, really, like those early years are quite hard. So selling at this point would make absolutely no sense. For example, yes, sure. When we talk about like billions of dollars in 10 years, we’ll have another discussion. But at this point, it’s not that kind of money that can make you you know, never work again, likely not. And then if we have to work again, then we lose our awesome place to work for that kind of thing that helps you align what what do you do with your long term goals?

Zack Naylor 36:15
Yeah, I really appreciate that you have that long term thinking too. I don’t think it’s as pervasive as we would like in society, it doesn’t even matter what industry you’re talking about. Yeah, that’s absolutely right. I mean, it’s, again, the parallels between what you and your team are doing and what we’re trying to do are very, very similar, you know, and so I just, I really appreciate that perspective selfishly. So I’m curious if, if I were to ask you, for folks listening to this knowing that they’re primarily, you know, UX research, Product Management people, if somebody were to ask you, okay, I didn’t listen to the episode. But I want you to tell me, what the top thing or the top three things I should know, about business to help me be a better UX person. How would you answer that question?

Jane Portman 36:53
Learn business copywriting that probably precedes everything. Learn how the businesses you serve, make money, and understand what part of that money making belongs to your sphere of expertise. Experiment with your own products, because you’re going to feel yourself an entirely different role that’s just going to elevate your thinking throughout, make you more mature product person altogether.

Zack Naylor 37:21
Excellent advice. Excellent advice. I love it. I would cosign all of that that’s very succinctly put to, I think, covering all the ground that we had in our conversation, I want to be respectful of your time Janus has been really, really awesome. And I know that we can, for sure go probably for double or triple the amount of time but we got to be respectful that for you, the one thing I’ll just ask is, is there anything that you want to share with folks that maybe we didn’t talk about or cover in the show so far,

Jane Portman 37:47
if you want to follow more of what I do what we do as a team, you can always tune into UI breakfast podcast, we do our best to publish weekly. And you can also head over to user list comm if you’re interested in checking out like what what my UX looks like in real life. We also launching a new podcast just about next week there accuser list, and you can it’s called better done than perfect. And we’re focusing on user onboarding, which is very relevant to UX. So I’ve already interviewed close to 10, SAS founders and collected interesting stories. So that’s going to be at Hazel slash podcast. And that’s a great example of how you parlay your skills such as podcasting to the software game. Yeah, welcome, anytime. We’re all there for spreading design knowledge.

Zack Naylor 38:36
That’s awesome. And congrats on the new show to me, you already have one successful podcast and so hey, why not just do another? I think that that’s really cool, too. Because onboarding is such a big deal, I could say I’m frankly gonna be checking that out. Because onboarding is an enormous deal with building a software product. And it’s something that never ends, you’re constantly improving. So definitely go check that out. We’ll include a link to that in the show notes too, when you check out our episode on the site. With that, I’ll just say, Thanks again, James, so much for joining us this really great conversation.

Jane Portman 39:07
My pleasure. It was wonderful to reminisce, all these takeaways learned through the IRS. Awesome. All right.

Zack Naylor 39:14
Well, that’s it for this time. We will see you next time.

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