Jack Ellis - How to Run a Company People-First

Jack Ellis - How to Run a Company People-First


What happens when you judge employees on their work (rather than on measures like hours worked)? Why is online privacy so important? Why is running a lifestyle business just the best?

Peter Akkies: Hey folks. Welcome back to How They Get Stuff Done, the podcast where I chat with people about their productivity habits, techniques, and workflows. Today, I'm speaking with Jack Ellis. Jack is the co-founder of Fathom Analytics, a privacy-first Google Analytics alternative. Jack also teaches an online course on Laravel, a popular PHP framework, and hosts his own podcast, Above Board, where he discusses a running an indie and bootstrapped software company.

Jack and I discuss how he runs his company people-first, the importance of online privacy and how his company enables that, lightweight ways of collaborating with a small team, and much more. Enjoy the show!

Hey Jack, welcome to the show.

Jack Ellis: Thanks for having me.

Peter Akkies: So I always like to do a little background reading on my guests on the show, and I found an article on your website where you talked a little bit about your background as um, somebody who runs a business. I guess at some point you were, um, washing people's cars for a couple pounds.

Is that, is that

Jack Ellis: Oh, wow. Yeah. You've done some digging. That is definitely a, a thing from the past. Yeah. In my childhood I did wash cars. That was my, an entrepreneurial venture of mine,

Peter Akkies: a long, long time ago. And, and I also saw that as a teenager you did some software development work, which resonated with me cuz I did the same thing. But it sounds like you stuck with it, whereas I didn't, I do other things now and, and you, from what I understand, still spent quite a bit of your time developing software and I, I'd wanted to start there and just ask what do you like about building software?

so I suppose, I, it's sort of normalized to me now, but I'll talk about what actually appealed to me when I was learning about it, because now it's just every day and normal. But I love the fact that you could kind of do custom stuff and I remember seeing a form on a website and you could change the department.

You choose the department, right? And based on the department you chose, it would send to a different email address. And I'd stumbled onto HTML accidentally, almost as a former protest when I was a kid, because they said we had to pick a book. I didn't like reading. And so I picked a computer book cause I liked computers, so I knew html.

The, the, the idea that you could change the email, that form was going to blew my mind. And then I stepped from html, which most people can do. It's not programming, it's just markup into actual programming, engineering. And that's when I went into php. And then from there on in, it was just, you know, constantly fascinated about what could be built.

And you just, you just get interested in it, don't you?

Peter Akkies: Yeah. And I wanna talk a little bit about the sort of the app that I think is one of your main focuses right now. But before we get there, before you worked on Fathom Analytics, right? You were doing a bunch of consulting work. What, what sort of consulting work was that? Was that also development work?

Yeah, that's right. So I did a mixture of stuff. Um, predominantly I was building, uh, le stuff in the legal sector, um, applications, uh, for legal clients was one of the things I did. At one point I did like just ad hoc freelance stuff. Um, I also help people scale, like build hyper scale things. So I'd consult on the best way to build certain things and, um, all kinds of things really.

But it was all around php and so I, I'm, for the most part, I had a, a kind of main client and then some additional clients. But, um, yeah, it was mostly around legal. Prior to that, I did a few ex, I think an expat website. It was a real mixture of things. Honestly, I can't even remember that you we're going back a little bit now.

But it was a real mixture of things and a lot of the time I was doing, I was working with Dral, which wasn't really something I

Peter Akkies: Uh, yeah, I've heard of

with. You find a drool, right? So it's a cms. Yeah. Similar to WordPress, but not really. Don't come at me for that. Uh, it wasn't really what I wanted to be doing.

I liked writing the actual code, so I did a bunch of that as well. And then, uh, yeah, that's been my career, which I can't even remember. It's been a long time. I've been coding since I was probably 13 and I'm 29 now. So it's been a long time.

Peter Akkies: That's, uh, you get to Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 hours for mastery. Uh,

Yeah. Oh yeah. There's no way I haven't.

Peter Akkies: yeah, you must have hit those. So at some point you were doing your consulting work and you said, You know what? Let me instead, or maybe on top initially build this app, an analytics app for people's websites, if I'm describing it correctly. How did you decide to make that switch?

so there's the background with that. So I met up with Paul Jarvis back in 2017, and we just clicked instantly. You know, we met for coffee, just clicked. And then we built some funny crypto proof of concept thing. This was before it

Peter Akkies: Oh boy, Crypto

some, Yeah, yeah, exactly. We built this fun little project, really enjoyed working with each other.

And then we kind of stumbled into building something called Pico, which was, uh, effectively similar to Sub Stack. You know, you, you wrote for your audience, they would sponsor you, they'd cover your membership, and then some, and you'd make more than you would with medium. And we had thousands of people sign up, um, in, you know, register their user name, things like that.

And Paul's a great designer. I mean, it was beautiful. And so we built it together. I, when we were doing that, I would have to take time away from consult. To work on these things. So I was paid hourly. And so I remember thinking, Oh, I'm actually gonna, you know, thousands of pounds or whatever it was at the time.

I don't, I don't remember I, I'd lose that money to work on this, but it was this mental thing of, Oh, I'm, I've got to make this investment else. It's never going to take off. And then what ended up happening, Paul was working on a project with another, um, founder and it was sort of starting to get a little bit of traction.

It was super, like low thousand dollar, um, dollar revenue. Um, and then the other founder left cuz Eva didn't have time or it was not making enough money to justify the time. And so me and Paul spoke and it was a case of do we just, you know, really go for this and try and take this to something substantial?

Um, or do we, you know, continue with Pico and in the end Ghost, you know, Ghost the cms. They took Pico, they've got Pico now they, they, they did their own thing anyway, so that's fantastic. And then we moved into working on Fathom. And again, you know, I was, I wasn't able to work full time hours. I was doing, um, like kind of, I'd say 85%.

Of client work and then 15% on Fathom. But it was very charged up. You know, you know those early days of startup, every, every hour counts and so you're really charged up working on that. And that's what happened. That's how it all started.

Peter Akkies: Those are very productive hours when you're very, very motivated and excited. Lots of shiny objects, right?


Peter Akkies: and these days, Fathom Analytics is like quite a mature product, right? And And you must spend most of your time on it.

Yeah. I always enjoy these talks actually, cuz you sort of go back to the beginning and you think about how you're thinking and how it's all brand new, will it take off? And then now my day to day is literally we run this wildly successful company that I would never have expected and it's just normalized, you know, that hedonic adapt, not ionic adaption, but that it becomes normalized to you and Yeah, it's a, it's a mature product.

It's industry leading. Um, thousands of customers, like hundreds of thousands of websites using it. Big

Peter Akkies: Include mine. I just, I just wanna raise my hand here. My website runs Fathom, not that I get a whole lot of visitors on my website, but

I think, I think I saw that. Cause I took your course on things three and I think I saw you used Fathom and I thought that's amazing. Yeah. A lot more of that's happening where I'm out in the wild, even outside of the kind of bubble we're in on Twitter, out in the wild, people are actually using it.

Um, which is amazing. So yeah, day to day I'm, I'm working on Fathom and we're going through some, you know, interesting adaptions right now as the business grows, different priorities, scaling the team, which is something neither me and Paul have ever wanted to do, but it's, it's sort of, it's, it's a really interesting space we're in because you have to scale the team in some way else you work too much or know you can't keep up with it.

For example, support. Do you just stay a really small team, like two people, for example, and not hire, But then you're both doing support and then you're both missing out on other things. So we're going through a really interesting stage of growth at the moment, which, which I'm happy to talk about if you want.

Peter Akkies: And, and we will talk about that. But I, I wanna take a step back first because I wanna talk a little bit more about how you transition from your consulting work into working either full time or most of the time on Fathom. Because I, I do talk to people a lot of the time who have an interesting goal, like a project they want to start, that's not their full-time job, you know, Or it doesn't have to be a work project, could really be anything.

And they're sort of stuck in this. I'm not sure if it's gonna make a lot of money quickly. You know, even a lot of people I talk to, cuz I, I've been focusing on a lot of YouTube recently. People are like, Listen, I would also love to start putting some videos on YouTube. You know, and I only have time to make like one video a month.

I'd like to do more of it. How do I do it? I feel uncomfortable quitting my full-time job. Um, so how, how did you frame that in your mind? How did you give yourself permission to spend less time doing the consulting work? And right now, from what I understand, no consulting work and spending more time on Fathom

Yeah, that's a, that's a great question. So I've done both extremes with this. I, I dunno if they're necessarily. Extremes as such. But the first extreme, this definitely is an extreme. I, in 2013, I did quit my job. Um, I had a bit of savings and I said, I'm gonna work on this startup, get it to mark, uh, market, get thousands of customers paying me, and that's just how it's going to work.

And so people that do that, Quite often naive and they don't actually know what it takes to get a business off the ground. And the reason that a lot of businesses fail is because anyone can start a business. And that's not me being all gatekeeping about it, cuz I've been there, I've been the naive one, not understanding what it actually takes to get, especially software as a service.

Info products are a different ball game, you know, info products. Well it's not the same as SaaS, It's, I've done both. Um, but I was doing a SaaS and I was convinced that people were just gonna jump on no personal brand, no, um, no conversations with people outside of my, my friend network. And, but for some reason people were just going to appear and, you know, developers do that, build that, and they will come.

And so I spent a bunch of time on that, never launched. It, would spend ages on things like design frameworks, you know, just, just buy a theme. But I would spend like a month getting this design perfect. And that was when I identified things in myself like perfection. Um, analysis paralysis, these things that were holding me back, I, I identified, well actually I identified them in hindsight, which is , which is brilliant, really helpful.

Um, but those things held me back, back then. And so moving forward to doing Fathom, I didn't, I didn't go full time on Fathom until I literally couldn't do both of them. And I remember I was said to my client, You know, I'm gonna be here. Cause I said to them, I'm gonna have to stop probably in, you know, three to four months maybe.

Cuz I knew Fathom was taking off. I knew where this was go. Like, I didn't, It sounds cocky to say I knew, but I, I had a very strong gut feeling where this was going. Paul felt the same way. Paul's built businesses before everything was pointing up

Peter Akkies: It felt right.

if Yeah, exactly. And there are, there are reasons that led to that feeling Right?

Isn't just a hundred percent emotional. There are things that are factored into that feeling. Um, so I got to the point where our cus I think a customer went viral and at the time our database was not ready for this. This was. 2020, I wanna say database was not ready for it. And I spent all day just working out what was going on.

And it turned out for, for the nerds that are listening, it was RDS iops, which is, you know, the amount of, um, input output you can have in your database, basically. But I'd spent the whole day doing that, and I sort of got to the point where I thought, I can't do stuff like this, putting out fires and building it and do client work.

It's just not sustainable. And I wanted to do both because I, like, I enjoyed the money coming in from the client work. I love the client work. I worked with some amazing people and I didn't really necessarily want to leave that. Um, obviously eventually, you know, Fathom had grown, so yeah, I, I was forced, my hand was forced, uh, so I left.

Peter Akkies: I see. So it wasn't so much an emotional decision as a practical one, I need to do this cuz otherwise fathom will not function.

Yes. And I think that's, uh, it's tricky to give prescriptions on this. I think that's a better way to do it because then you're guaranteed to have this work that needs to be done and this revenue that's coming in versus, Oh, I'm gonna quit and then hopefully I'll build my business. I've seen someone on Twitter doing this and I always feel bad for them cuz I've been in that position.

You're looking to try and build a product, find product market fit, and get to a revenue, amount of revenue that's enough to replace some of your income and then you dip into your savings and then you run out of saving. Like, I ran out of savings. I think I got to, I was living at home, so that was a, a privilege there for sure.

But I ran out of money, you know, and I had to do some freelancing.

Peter Akkies: Yeah,

do that. I, I really don't like that approach. I used to be in that head space of, you know, all or nothing. It's like, well, maybe don't do that. Maybe manage your risk a little bit.

Peter Akkies: Yeah, I understand. And so these days, how many people have you got working on Fathom?

Oh, uh oh. I wanna say it's like six or, no, it keeps going up. It's, it's under 10, I'll tell you

Peter Akkies: I 10. Okay, so above two and under 10

Yeah. I think it might be eight, but I don't, I honestly don't remember. I'm trying to think. Um, yeah, I think it's around eight people.

Peter Akkies: Okay. So how have you gone about. Adding people. And I'm particularly interested in how do you divide work and how do you communicate about work? Because it's one thing if you're working by yourself on a project, right. Um, in terms of keeping track what needs doing, um, outstanding issues, all those kinds of things, how have you translated that into bringing other people onto the team?

Do you have, for example, informal zoom chats or whatever? Do you have a very formal software that you work with? What's the deal there?

Yeah, so firstly, we're very mindful about the type of role we're bringing on. So for example, imagine we need help with seo. Um, do we need help full-time or do we just need that retainer, that consulting relationship. So for example, SEO isn't a full-time position for us because, um, we don't need it right now, but we just have a, a part-time there.

But with development, for example, then we, we get, um, huge development bottlenecks cause it was just me. So we hired another developer, and then it's a case of, Oh, hold on a minute, what's my, uh, how can I best spend my time? Is my time best spent on development? Or is it best spent on doing support tickets?

And it's like, well, it then becomes clearer and clearer saying enterprise sales, that sort of thing. So that's the first thing is we, we are very mindful. What needs to be delegated full-time or part-time, um, in the business? The day to day really, we have a signal group and it's the Fathom water cooler, and we all just, we talk in there.

And then for, if I'm working with our developer, I'll go onto two pool and we'll screen share and then pool will be involved if there's stuff that he's working on. And, uh, we do everything over linear as well, which is a project, I think I mentioned that to you in email. Um, project

Peter Akkies: Yeah.

it feels like it's, it's for software more so, so we use linear because of the, like tickets and, and everything else.

And so that's pretty much it. There's nothing special about what we do. I, one of the things I'm obsessed with though is checking in with how people are, Um, everyone's been in jobs where I think of my early, early, early jobs where it's just, you don't feel that great about the job or you feel like something's missing, I don't really know.

And no one really checks in on you. And so I'm kind of obsessed about that. So my like, number one priority is making sure. Every month or so, Like, are you still having fun? Is it, is everything still good? And, and I'm, I'm a person where, um, I want to hear criticism. If you are not enjoying something, I want you to tell me there's no backlash.

Like, I'm here to work with you, for you to, cause it's people first. You're a person working at our company. You're not a co in a machine. So your mental health is basically number one over everything else. Like you need our, I think our time off policy is literally if you're, if you need time off, take it.

There's like a minimum. Like we have a minimum, but if you need time off, I'm not checking when you take time off, just let us know if you're gonna be away for a period of time. But if you need to recharge, you are human. And we put, we don't work with people that will abuse that. Like that's the, that's the sweet spot.

Cause a lot of people say, Oh, you have unlimited vacation. It's like with approval by a manager. It's like, okay then that's not really, um, with ours, it's literally the person comes first, Get your work done. You can do whatever you want. Like very free and um, I got this from Paul, and Paul has always said he, he will pay like a premium to work with the people that were self-managed, the top performers.

And I think we're similar with employment. We work with people that can self-manage, that will ask for help, that will give ideas that will be brutally honest. We value those people. We don't just want a cog. We want people that can can perform and communicate when things aren't working, when they feel run down, that kind of thing.

Peter Akkies: Well, this sounds like a really healthy philosophy. Um, I can imagine from the point of view of someone looking for a job, you know, looking at a, a company where the job is described this way, it could be really appealing. So how do you hire people then? Do you get lots of applicants or do you sort of know people that you approach And once you tell them you have unlimited time off, how do you, how do you go about identifying who is the person who will not abuse this?

Yeah, so I am not the, I'm not the hiring expert, but I can say, yeah, I posted on Twitter that we are hiring developers and that's something that's still sort of up in the air. I got so many cvs, but it's tricky cause I have a developer audience, right? And so I got, I was completely overwhelmed. And so the way, I'll tell you my reaction to some of them.

The people that wrote me a custom message that knew about Fathom had interacted me with me before, Perhaps they were a customer, perhaps like they liked a mission. Um, gave a little bit of background on them. Those people, I thought, Oh, this, I, I want to talk to this person. The people that sent me a generic cover letter or said, you know, I really want to work at Phantom, they spelled

Peter Akkies: Oh, nice.

Yeah. So instant, instant, no. So I like people with personality. I like people that are good communicators, good written communicators, cuz we do a lot of a sync work, right? Yeah, because you can get that from the get go and usually at that starting point. Cause I, I do feel that if someone could communicate, like if me and you had an issue, you can communicate, I can communicate, we could talk it out and work it out.

I value that, that level of self-awareness and communication. So I look for those things. I, it's funny, I would rather hire, and this isn't, this is no reflection on a developer, uh, you know, on our team, but I, I'm just making clear that I would rather hire someone who is a great person and perhaps like 80% level developer, if, I dunno how you quantify it.

That, but to me it's all about personality. It's all about just attitude. And some people are, some developers are souls. I mean, if you go on Hacker News, they're absolutely horrendous, And so I want the people that are nice and great to work with, and I'm really kind of clued in on that. And if I talk to someone, I can usually get a vibe.

So that's how we do the hiring, um, with people like, Oh, we just hired someone full-time customer success. Um, he, he's a listener of our podcast. He emailed our support. He said, You heard you were struggling with support. Um, you know, I'd love to get involved. He spoke with Paul, got on with him, great. I spoke with him, great vibes, really nice person.

And, uh, similar, like, similar values. You're never gonna have a complete value match of people. We can talk about things, you know, me and you might have a 50%, who knows. But, um, I care that they're good, they're good to people and that they're a good person, you know? So

Peter Akkies: It sounds to me like a theme in your company is ethics because the, the way that you are describing that you deal with people. Yeah. And, and also, uh, for people who don't know much about Fathom Analytics, the whole point of it is, is a very privacy focused analytics tool. Right. Maybe you can tell us a little bit more about that and, and then answer my next question.

So, I'm kind of interested in whether focusing on ethics ever runs. It gets you into trouble. Whether, whether you can sort of be too nice, you know, like it could be, it could be something like we're giving those unlimited vacation days, people abuse. It could also be something like, you know, maybe you are too generous with refunds or something like that.

So I'm kind of interested in, in, in whether that has caused any problems, but may maybe first tell people a little bit about the privacy aspect of Fattom. Cuz I find that interesting. I think all people like, Oh, I wanna know how many people visit my website and what they do On my website. I'm gonna use Google Analytics.

But of course you guys are, you know, very antigo analytics.

Yeah, so I'll answer the question about the, Can you be too nice quickly?

Peter Akkies: Okay.

We talked about that with Paul the other day. If someone's abusing vacation, uh, we're using the word abuse. So they're, they're taking the piss out of us, basically. Are they getting their work done? If the answer's no, then there's a, there's a conflict that's not going to stay.

The whole thing is you need to get your work done. Um, but if, uh, if they're getting their work done and they're taking time off cause they need to recharge and like they're feeling a bit burned out, reasonable people know what reasonable looks like

Peter Akkies: Yeah.

the, the, the time off isn't just, Oh, I'm gonna take six months off work.

Like, you still have to get your work done. But if someone's, you know, we've all been there, we've been burned out from a bit of work, I need to just decompress. That's where it's reasonable. So. Yeah, if people abuse it, we'll, we'll see. They're abusing it and then there's a conversation to be had. But then it's all transparent peop people don't like at bigger scale, I think you see more abuse when it's a small company and you kind of know the person.

You're communicating with them regularly, you're checking in with them. You don't get that abuse. Like, I can't even imagine that happening with the size, the company as you know, It's just not, so, Yeah. But as you get bigger, I don't know. We've got a kind of mental cap on where we'd go in terms of size of the company and it's sort of, it's before Convert Kits level, but it's, you know, it's up there.

Peter Akkies: How does that work though? Like if your company gets more, if more you get more and more users at some point, don't you need to start hiring more people?

Ah, dear. I don't know. I'll have to, I don't know how it's going to

Peter Akkies: Yeah,

we don't run, Neither of us want to run a huge company, and I don't know if at that point we bring in a coo, but then how do you maintain the ethics? Don't have the answers for you here. We're still very much a work in progress, but we are, you know, we'll see what happens.

You know, you'll, you'll watch and you'll see what happens.

Peter Akkies: Yeah. But so, you know, this gets me back to what Fathom actually is. It's an alternative to Google Analytics. I guess when you guys started, you said you had like somewhere in the low couple of thousands monthly revenue, but you guys are a lot bigger right now. Um, Are you able to still feel like you can make decisions?

Say, I want my privacy app to be like this, You know? And are you able to respond to customer requests quickly? Um, you know, and, and, and tell, Just tell me a little bit about what is it like to actually be like the premier alternative now to Google Analytics? I, I think it's a fair way to say it, right?

that. That's a good testimonial. Yeah, we we're still able, like the things that are changing, the big things that are changing are, we're getting emails. You know, multibillion dollar companies that want to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars with us on a plan. And we're having to kind of adapt to that and then also work out what we want to do.

Like do we want to spend however long doing SOC two compliance, or would we prefer to just say, stay small and diversified? There is room for enterprise, but if it's gonna compromise our day-to-day lifes, we're very much a lifestyle business, so we very much think about what we want to be doing. We're not in business to try and get this big cash out or unicorn.

We're not, that's not what we're about. We're about sustainability. And so if, if we mentally aren't sustainable because we're grinding out on SOC two compliance or ISO and we don't want to be doing that and it's stressful, that's not sustainable and that's not a lifestyle business. Um, yeah. So p people really, with the whole Google analytics thing, people got sick of sending data to big tech.

We got sick of it and then more and more stuff came out, um, about what Big Tech was actually doing with that data about Google discriminating against various people. And like, it just doesn't feel good to be sending an advertising. Visitor browsing data, like that's, it's gross. You're basically following them around the web.

And so where Fathom comes in is we anonymize those users. You're not seeing, I'm not seeing that Peter or, or this IP address in, um, Amsterdam is going here, here, here, and here. We're not profiling you like Google would. We don't even keep your IP address. And we intentionally work to kind of skew the data.

So when we hash up a user signature, we factor in, and this is for the nerds again cuz I'm sure you've got some nerd listeners. We factor in the site ID as part of this like a assault. And so look, we intentionally, we don't want to know that this person visits multiple sites. We're obsessed with that. If we can see that an anonymous person in Amsterdam visited a few pages of one website that's contained to that one website, what I don't want to do is build up a profile of you as you are browsing around the web, because that's your privacy.

Why should I profile that? Cause I want to sell you adverts cause I want to learn more about what markets are emerging and blah, blah blah. That's gross. And so people are now. They don't like that. And website owners have also got their customers that are demanding better of them. It's now a, it does not look good if I'm using Brave and I can see that you've tried to track me using Google Analytics that looks bad on the website owner.

So there's a whole thing going on right now where the consumers are actually demanding change. And it's not just the radicals either. It used to be just the radicals start tracking me. Now we've got more mainstream understanding of it all. We're having people in the mainstream saying, I don't like that you're sending my data to Google.

And I hilariously, there's no politics to this. Every, like, people care about their privacy and uh, and, and they should have privacy. So, um, yeah, And, and with the GDPR and things like that, we're a GDPR compliant alternative like Google Analytics. I've written about this. They're, they're getting enforced against in the EU right now.

And I wrote an article titled Google Analytics is Illegal. And it, it, it's, I, I basically wrote Why that is. And so with that happening, fathom becomes the obvious alternative. And that's a separate thing. Even, even without the privacy law, we would still be doing the same stuff because it's a fundamental belief.

The privacy law is sort of a thing on top where people have to comply and, and that sort of thing. But my personal thing is we, we comply with the privacy law, but that's not my core drive. My core drive is taking data away from an advertising company that has got a, a history of privacy scandals. That's my core drive of this

Peter Akkies: Yeah, I find it very interesting because, you know, I have a website. I don't do that much with it. I, I used to blog more than, than I do now. I sort of just send a weekly newsletter, which basically an article, and I sometimes post it on my website, so I'm not as into it now. But I remember spending a lot of time evaluating analytics apps for my website because I had the same feeling where I went to my own website and my browser was like, Yo, you're being tracked.

And I was like, This doesn't look nice. This doesn't look good and it doesn't look good for other people visiting my website. Um, but I still think that most people, if you ask them, do you, you know, do you wanna be private? I think they'll say yes. But I, I, I, I feel like for the average person on the street, there's a bit of a disconnect.

I think you mentioned the gdpr. I, I, you know, I think a lot of people see those cookie banners, right. And I think, I think that's one way in which people now. Yeah, are thinking a little bit more about privacy because if, if you're, you know, in the US maybe you've never noticed this, but if you come to Europe and you go to some websites, the very first thing you'll see the first time you go on a website is like, can we place a bunch of cookies on your computer and just track everything that, that you do, and then you click yes or no.

Um, I think a lot of people just try to get rid of it, just press the X as quickly as possible. That, that's, that's my guess. Um, but it's, it's more in people's minds.

and that is like, that's disturbing cuz people don't understand this. And a lot of the time the banners aren't informative. They annoy people. It's like, fathom, we don't use cookies. There's no cookie banner for fathom. That's a huge selling point. Like people get this fatigue from these cookie banners as well.

And another thing, people on the street don't know about their privacy and how it's being invaded. And even the incognito thing and not understanding that if the average person that your audience knows this, but if, um, if I'm in a regular browsing tab and I, I hit Google servers, they've got my IP and stuff, if I hit an incognito, they get my IP again and then Google can see that that IP is doing this stuff.

Like I don't like that. I think that we need to have that privacy and we need to protect those people that don't understand it. Oh, but you can use an ad blocker. Okay, that's great. That's great for us. Who, who understand? But I don't know, like my nan wouldn't have understood ad blockers. I dunno if my, my mom didn't use an ad blocker.

To my knowledge, there are all these things and so yeah, ad blockers, there's a whole topic on ad blockers I'm not going to get into. Um, but we need to protect the people that don't understand it as well, not just the tech experts.

Peter Akkies: Yeah, for sure. And I think that's one of the nice things is you just mentioned you're already developing in this direction, and if you know, law, for example, EU law pushes other companies that are your competitors to, you know, go more in your, your direction of analytics. That's just a, a boon to you, right.

You're doing the right thing. Anyway, what I wanted to ask you a little bit more about is something that, that you said earlier, cause now now we load a little bit about what your company does and, and you've got sort of somewhere between five and 10 ish people working in various capacities. Um, and, and you said, Yeah, we just have a signal chat and we kind of, we gotta talk there.

Um, I imagine for a lot of people, if you dunno what signal is, it's just a messaging app, kind of like WhatsApp or something. Um, I use signals. I like it a lot actually. Very privacy focused also. Um, but that sounds very unstructured. That sounds like a very unstructured way to do work. Um, is there no place where you go and say, Okay, this week I am focused on this.

You other person are focused on that. We can kind of see what everybody else is up to.

No, that's a good question. I didn't, I just said linear for software. I never expanded on that. So linear, we do have a roadmap and we do have a rough plan, and then we have it broken down into teams. So like SEOs in one section, developments in the other. So we do have it structured in that way. Um, I guess it, it's funny.

So yes, this has been a thing like unstructured thing and people working in different directions, like especially in development, which is just, there's only two of us, but we're working different directions. He's built Google Analytics import and that's now ready. But I've got to get my head away from this into that and that sort of thing.

We have started doing a weekly meeting every Monday, uh, for the product team. And so anyone involved in product, we all catch up for seo. Uh, pool manages seo and it is usually just working on one piece at a time. It kind of gets approved, but again, people go off and do their work. We don't work with people that need handholding.

Um, we work with people that. Value autonomy that want to structure their life the way that they want to structure it. Um, like, you know, if they want to work in the evening cuz they want to look after their kids in the day, like just go and just get the work done. So there are points where we communicate what work needs to be done, but if someone hasn't got any work, they would soon say, Oh, we need some, what's next?

And then at that point we then plan it in. So I suppose, yeah, it is unstructured. There isn't a kind of formal, I don't like too much structure. I don't think that like it, it's tricky. Some people it can help, but if they want that they can get the structure. Our job is to, uh, unblock people, uh, to kind of help with direction and assign the work outside of that.

I'm not going to micromanage how they do it. We're here to give feedback and to support them, but we're certainly not going to structure them in any way. So yeah, we do have these check in points, I suppose, these kind of planning points. So we do have that piece of structure. But outside of that, we do believe in full autonomy.


Peter Akkies: And I think that's partially also a, a factor of the size of the company, right? You can imagine if your company had a hundred people, even if they're not all employees, but half of them are contractors, is, you know, you get into, you get into this point, I think where, where an unstructured way or even a weekly meeting might not be enough.

I completely agree, and so I am talking specifically to small businesses like ours. You know, big in terms of revenue, but small in terms of team size. I cannot comment on how that scales. I don't know if we'll ever get, I don't, we don't want, It's tricky, It's tricky to say this. How do you artificially limit your scale if you don't want to go beyond a certain size?

I don't have the answers, but we are very, very mindful. It took us so long to hire on support, even though we knew we should have done it a while back because we're so conscious of not expanding the team too much. Cuz then before you know it, it would then soon be mine. And Paul's job would be to just manage people, which isn't something we want, which again, ties into that autonomous, We hire people who are, uh, just going to look after themselves and do their work.

We're going to support them, make sure they're happy, make sure they're challenged and everything else. Um, but we're certainly not going to be in a position where, you know, there's managers in the offices that just, can I get an update on blah, blah, blah. And it's just, their job is just to talk a bunch and talk to their boss.

And then management like never wants to be that Paul wants to design, wants to write content. I want to code and write. So why would we gotta be careful about not getting ourselves into a position that we never want to, wanted to be in Again, this is a lifestyle business and it's very sustainable. Um, it's doing fantastic, but it, the lifestyle of the people that work on the product come first doesn't mean it has to be a detriment to our customers.

Absolutely. It doesn't, You actually get better customer service by people being happy with their jobs. Um, but yeah, people's lives like that's, and that's such a nice thing to be able to do. We can pro, we can give people jobs where they can have the flexibility, like an example, their kid doesn't, they can spend time with their kids, like things like that.

It just feels good to be able to offer that. And we have that benefit as well. So, and, and, and it's not this big, like yes, there's competition, but this isn't a, a zero sum game where there can't be multiple winners. Right. And so we're very aware of that. So yeah, lifestyle business used to be a, a kind of rude insult or derogatory term.

Not d but you know, a rude term. Oh, it's a, Oh, you're just a lifestyle business. Like Yeah, we're a lifestyle. So what I mean, Yeah. You've only got one life.

Peter Akkies: I, I love the term lifestyle business, to be honest, cuz that's, that's what I do.


you do. Yeah.

Peter Akkies: yeah, and it's funny because so often I talk to people who have big problems in their life. You know, they're like, I wanna spend more time with my kids. Um, or I used to play a lot of tennis, but I barely have the time for it.

Now. I'm like, Okay, well what do you do? Yeah. I work as a, as a lawyer at like a fancy law firm, you know, or like as a, as a consultant or something. I'm like, Your problem is you chose work where that is not possible because as I'm listening to you, right. In, in the software as a service space. You have a small business, you can work whatever way you like.

Users don't care as long as the product is good, Right? They don't care what goes on behind the scenes. May maybe they appreciate that you're sort of like nice people in some way, but I think for most people it's like, is the product good? Whereas if I talk to people or lawyers, consultants, et cetera, there's very specific ways that people in those industries work.

For example, there's hourly billing, cannot get away from hourly billing. People will refuse to not not pay you hourly. Right? That's one thing. Um, I, yeah, I think people try. Yeah. A friend of mine has, um, just started this sort of, uh, accounting practice of his own in, in, in the us and I talked to him about this sometimes.

He's like, I just really don't think they would go for it, you know, like any of his


I will tell you its interesting topic. Our lawyers using Canada do value-based pricing,

Peter Akkies: Oh really?

fixed price. Yeah, I think they're right. They're still hourly in, I'm sure they're still hourly in there. And our accountants, we also do a value based price. It's a fixed price. It's not hourly.

It can work, but it's very, very hard. You just said about the concern that person had, like they wouldn't go for it. I com. I feel that a lot of people would not go for it. , everyone's used to hourly, aren't they? And yeah, if you are in that realm, then you can't detach your time from money. But to be fair, I mean, lawyers make a good amount per hour at least.

Peter Akkies: Well, yeah,

work less hours. Right.

Peter Akkies: but

I think. You know, for those people who are like, I don't get to spend enough time with my kids, I can't play tennis. I do think sometimes the answer is literally, you're in the wrong industry. You chose the wrong industry. You know, also talk to people who are doctors. And I'm like, I, I just, I never have enough time for my patients.

I'm always this or that. And I'm like, you know, it doesn't feel good. And I'm like, unfortunately you chose an industry where that is generally how it goes. Maybe you can carve out a niche for you in that industry where you can have a more pleasant lifestyle. But maybe the answer is not, cuz this is sort of why they talk to me is often like, what app can I use Peter to become more efficient?

And the the thing is, no app is gonna solve these problems for you because you have a fundamental issue with the kind of work that you're doing. Um, And, and, and so, you know, I think for for many people they, they sort of think of work life balance. I always find that a really weird way of thinking about things, because to me, you have one life and, and part of your life you're doing things for money.

We call it work, but that has an enormous impact on your lifestyle. So if the business is not allowing you to have the lifestyle that you like, or, or your work is not, um, better get on that

No, for sure. I mean, software can help. I mean, I, I've used a video on Apple Notes and you showed how to scan receipts in and you could search those. That was life changing for me. I

Peter Akkies: Oh, really?

expenses, like, you know, massage therapy or whatever it may be, I've now set it up, even my wife's doing it, she'll scan it in and it will sync through.

Cause I do the claims stuff. Like, that's like, and, and you know, even using things, three things, three now has all my personal things. I followed your course, all of my personal things to keep track of. So we're talking about my work stuff like personal, personal life. I used to used to drop the ball all the time.

So things three has solved that for me. Um, I will say, so there's a plug for your course that

Peter Akkies: Well, well, well, thanks. I, I'm very happy to hear that, but so you don't use things for work then?

I, I like, okay, this is, I'm so glad we're talking about this. I don't see a way So we can have tasks, right? They get broken into multiple tasks. They can have attachments, they can have comments, they can have, um, like synced with GitHub, uh, the pool request on GitHub, for example, where you got to review the code.

I don't see how we can sync that with things. And I think you had the idea of, oh, just sort of high level in things. Talk about what you're going to do. And I think that's great. So that's what I started doing. Um, I've got to go back to an enterprise customer like that can go in things. Um, kind of just staying aware of what you've got to do outside of that kind of quite packed linear, that software.

So having a high level overview is very helpful, but I don't see a way of using things for all the details with my work. And I think that's fine with, with Fathom work. And I think that's fine.

Peter Akkies: Yeah, that's, that's exactly right. This is a question I actually get quite often, you know, maybe I should do a video about this every time, but I, uh, I hear about something now. I just feel like I should do a video on this. Um, but it is completely true that. For certain types of work, you have to really track lots of details.

And this could be if you're a software developer, something like your issues, you know, um, bugs that need to get fixed, those kind of things. But I also hear from people who are like, Hey, listen, I need a crm, customer relationship management software. I need to keep track of like 300 contacts that I speak with every now and then.

How can I do this in my personal task manager? Like things. And I'm like, Don't, don't, don't even try because it's not designed for this. And people are like, Yes, but I want it to be the one place where I have all the information. And I was like, I understand this desire, but don't do it because I, I'm a big fan of using tools in the way that they're designed for the purpose that they're designed for.

I think it's the safest thing to do in the long term. It allows you to. Use a tool and, and feel comfortable using it and, and not forcing anything. Um, it means it's not gonna break on you if you try to use a tool in a way that's not meant that, that, that particular use case may break at some point in the future.

Cuz the developers don't keep it in mind. And so it's exactly what you're saying. It's like, use a different software to keep track of the detailed, what are all the issues we have, you know? But at a high level in your personal task manager, I recommend everybody use a personal task manager. Unless maybe you are like very rich person and you have like secretaries for everything or so they're like personal assistants, whatever.

Maybe not then. Um, you know, but basically everybody, um, keep, keep track of those things. And this, it is just like you're saying like get back to enterprise customer X and then you can have your notes on that somewhere else. Maybe you can link to the notes or if, if there are a bunch of things that you need to do that you need, you know, a bunch of things that you need to resolve for that you can keep those things that you need to resolve somewhere else, especially if you need to work together with someone else to resolve those things before you get back to this person.

So not everything has to go in one place, but I do think there has to be a representation of everything inside your task manager, in your case things three, um, at a high level to, to remind yourself, Hey, this is something I need to work on.

Yeah. And my brain becomes so full of work stuff that I will forget. Personal things. So my wife's got great memory. She'll remember stuff often without writing it down. If I don't write something down, I'm, and this is, and maybe it's a self freeing prophecy, but it's based on observation, I will a hundred percent forget it.

Cause I'm always, I'm not like, outside of work, it's different, but then I'm still thinking like, time of my kid, I'm not thinking about stuff. Um, so I have to write it down. So for example, if my wife this morning said to me, Oh, could you grab some. Vanilla syrup off of Amazon, I would a hundred percent forget, like guaranteed, unless I wrote it down.

And like, so, so now I know that I, I , I write it down in things. And so I have things like, uh, like I've, oh, that's it. I've got to renew my car insurance. I'd already f it's literally on my desk in front of me. That was not in my awareness and I may have forgotten it. And actually looking at it, yeah, it's gotta be done in the next four days, but things have popped up and said, Hey, you gotta do this.

Peter Akkies: Yeah. Half it is today. Yeah. Yeah.

exactly, having that system in place just really helps me kind of let go and, um, focus on my work with linear, but then also know that things has got my, it's got the kind of entry level into my work stuff and it's got like comprehensive stuff that helps me manage my life outside of, outside of my software development, um, work.

So yeah, I'm a big fan of things.

Peter Akkies: Yeah. No, great. It, it, one of, one of the things that I struggle with is sometimes convincing sort of, People who are not developers to use an app like this because I think the more of a developer background you have or maybe an engineering background, I think people are used to thinking about like hierarchies of data and like how to represent things and stuff.

Whereas if I talk to like a random person on the street, they'd be like, What do you mean? How does this app work? I actually like working with people like that the most cuz they have the most to gain, you know, they have the most to learn from using, using a task manager. Like things three. But even like you're saying, you can have the most developer brain in the world.

Um, it's hard, it's hard to remember everything. I, I have the, I have the same thing obviously. I spend a lot of time thinking about how to stay, organize, be productive, remember all my things, but I've write stuff down inside things all the time. Um, and sometimes, sometimes someone asks me to do something, I'll be like, Yeah, yeah, yeah.

And then they keep talking to me like, One sec, one sec. Let me write this down. Cuz I, I like, I, you know, I wanna actually do this. If I say I'm gonna do it. Okay. So another thing that, that I really wanted to ask you about is you work remotely, right? Your whole company is remote. Am I right in thinking that,

Yes, that's correct.

Peter Akkies: was that a conscious decision to work remotely or did that just sort of happen?

Oh. Um, that's how we've worked. I've worked like that for years. Paul's worked like that for, it's, I dunno, he's old now. He's a long, long time. Basically, it wasn't even something that was discussed. It was just Oh, that's how, that's how it works. In the same way that I was always going to build it in php, cuz that's what I use, you know, I use Laravel to build the, the, the service side of Fathom.

That's just, yeah, it's non-negotiable. I guess. It's a starting point,

Peter Akkies: I see. And does that generate any challenges for you working remotely? Do you feel like maybe, oh, you don't know this new person as well. Um, does it, is it more difficult sometimes to explain something to someone remotely or have you worked your way?

question. No, that's a great question. Um, when you're sticking to just text based communication, you can run into times where you just think, Oh, I wish I could just spend 10 minutes on a call with this person. I get it all, All, um, explained to them, we jump on tuol, and Tuol is a, uh, remote.

It's a pair programming app, but we use it to show our screens, to walk things through. Um, and you can, you can do video if you want to, but we just do audio for the most part, and then we show our screens. That's how we get past things. So if me and for example, Fathom the Fathom Dashboard is getting a huge upgrade right now.

And so the way me and Paul do it is we discuss on tuple, we, we argue, we go back and forth through all this stuff, then he'll go off and write some stuff and I'll go off and do whatever else. And then if we'll talk it through on the comments synchronously, um, especially when I was in the uk, it was easier to do it that way.

But if there's ever a point where we aren't, like the other person's just not getting it, we'll jump on. So that isn't the primary thing we jump to, but when we know it's going to be easier to talk to someone, we'll jump on two pool. So no, being remote never gets in the way.

Peter Akkies: and what benefits do you experience being remote? I'm interested in hearing about those as well.

I guess I haven't thought about it a ti

Peter Akkies: It's just so natural to you now.

honestly, it is the only thing that I miss from being in an office is that, so, you know, you are hanging out and you're with people. You can go for lunch with them and you can, uh, but then we, we do talk, we still, yes, we're not hanging out in, in, in, uh, physically, but we still talk and I'll probably see, I'll see Paul probably in, I dunno, maybe December.

I don't know. It's just, that's just how life is. That's how life is going. It's not a new thing. Um, I can build a community, I can build a relationship with someone just by typing, like I've got friends that I've never spoken. Over the phone. I know maybe once or twice over like a Zoom call, but we'd still had a relationship beforehand just by typing.

Um, I feel like when you grow up with the internet, that isn't an uncommon thing. You grew up on forums. You might have online friends from various games you have, you know, that sort of thing. I used to play, Room scape was a game I used to play and, uh, HaBO Hotel, these things. And you were used to making friends online.

So when you transitioning as my generation into this, there's no, there's no limitation. It just feels normal. And then you can go and hang out with them and you can meet them at times. And then maybe that's something we'll do. Or maybe there's retreats in the future that we do. We'll have to see what everyone thinks about that.

I don't know. I've got no opinion on that yet, but, um, no, there's, so it's tricky to say benefits and, and the, the downsides cause it's

Peter Akkies: It's just how it

it just is. Yeah. I guess I'd say what's the, what's the upside to working in person? People say, Oh, you can easily talk better. Maybe there's camaraderie. I. I dunno.

I don't, Yeah, it's just, I haven't really got a good answer for you. It's

Peter Akkies: Well, this is,

what, What is

Peter Akkies: yeah, this is one of the reasons that I asked you is precisely because I was curious to see whether you experienced this experience, this, uh, camaraderie point, because that, that's something that for me as someone who creates courses, you know, makes video courses and who makes YouTube videos, that's pretty much my work recently.

Um, sometimes when I tell people about this, like I was at the physical therapist this morning and, and sometimes I, I talked to him and he is like, Man, your work sounds amazing. You just work from home all the time. You know, you can go traveling, blah, blah, whenever you like. And they're like, Yeah, it's lovely.

But then, but then everybody always thinks it's fantastic. But what I experience is it does sometimes get a little bit lonely when I'm just sitting here in my office by myself. You know what I'm saying? And so, yeah, I live with my girlfriend and like, sorry.

That's the only downside I have for working remote is you don't get to be around people. That's the only downside. Yep.

Peter Akkies: Yeah. And so, My girlfriend also works remotely. She works for, for an American company right now. And, um, she does her own thing on the side as well. But one of the nice things is they, they do try to have sort of, you know, get togethers with people in the company a couple times a year, you know, but in the meantime you're still, you're spending most of your time at home.

So, you know, um, and I find that it's just a bit of a different way of living. It's, it's, you have to get your, a lot for a lot of people, work is an enormous part of their social life cuz because they spend like 40 hours a week or more at work, you know? And so you have to fill that in, in other ways. Um, which I actually think is healthy actually.

It's quite healthy to have sort of multiple social networks and not just mainly rely on, on work and everything. Um, but it, it's something that of course, more people have been experiencing, you know, in the past couple of years with the whole pandemic. Um, but, but I also know plenty of people who are so happy that they're back in the office now, you know, just because that's, that's where everybody is.

One of the things I've said in the past is there's like, there's a difference between, uh, people say the difference between being alone and being lonely. Right? Um, I, I don't feel lonely. I feel very engaged and involved. I'm talking to people. We're having legitimate conversations. This isn't just, this isn't just you're doing the work.

We still talk with people. I talk like, talk with Paul. I talk with, Yeah, like development, development team. I talk with, we talk with everyone and so, and yeah, like the encouragement is on, You've got your. Outside life and that's more important than work. And so yeah, the burden does fall onto the individual to make sure that they have those things in place.

For sure. I completely, I completely agree on that. And yeah, why is it their works are cuz workers had to be our main social thing for so long because we're in the office and that's where we see people, Well you're working remote, you can take a break, see your friend anytime you want. If you're both working remote, go for lunch.

Like there's all this stuff that's now enabled. You've got no commute time, you finish work at five or six or whenever you want. You might, some people might go and play games with their, their real life friend. Like I love, for example, with my friends back in the uk, I hadn't talked to them much at all in probably three years.

I think just a few who back and forth. And I dunno if it's typical with guy friendships, but like, we're still really good friends even though I haven't, What, we started talking weekly cuz we're playing Xbox. And I was like, how fun is that? And even things like that. We're not in person, but I'm still having a good time and I, I noticed, uh, A significant, uh, increase in like a, just an area of my life because I was suddenly talking to, um, my friends from the uk.

It was like an enhancement on my life and I never thought about that. It's like, Oh yeah, play Xbox. So, and then, and then yeah, back in the UK and I'll go and hang out with them and it's like nothing's changed. So you do have to make that effort. You, you touching on that? Yes. If you're working remote, do make an effort to replace that social aspect you might have got.

And you get to choose who you hang out with. You

Peter Akkies: yeah,

exactly. That's a big one.

people , but how amazing is that? And people do misunderstand and remote working cuz you know, they think you just kinda, it's a dole and it's like, it's still still work. It's not just you're sitting at home doing nothing, you still have to work.

Um, so yeah,

Peter Akkies: I, I'm so glad you brought up the getting to choose who you hang out with because I, because earlier also you mentioned that you guys have a, a weekly check in, or I guess a periodic check in with a product team, and I meant to ask about that, but it slipped my mind. So I'll ask now, but first I, I need to tell you, So APAs company that my girlfriend worked for, um, they had daily check-in meetings, but not just one.

The team that she, she was in had two daily check-in meetings. So there was one at like nine 30, I think in the morning, and they would talk about what's everybody gonna do today? But problem is the manager just like, took it as like, basically for him, that was like his soapbox. He would just spend that time complaining about, And often I could hear this stuff cuz she, she was just sitting there and I would like listen in, sort of whatever this guy was going on about.

And there'd be another check in meeting at like 1:00 PM or, or one 30. And then in the meantime, often there were other meetings with like smaller subteams. And so, and so one day she was in the morning meeting, she was in a smaller meeting with a subteam afterwards. And then in the afternoon meeting the guy was like, What have you done this morning?

And she was like, I sat in meetings with you And so

it is so painful. And eventually she, she quit that job because one day she was like, Listen, can I skip the afternoon meeting because like, I need to actually do some stuff. And he was like, No, sorry. It's very important that you're, that you're there. She was like, I, I'm done with this, you know, I'm done with this.

And it's good because now she works at a much better company, you know, where, where people are used to working remote, she's really empowered and stuff. Um, so, so I just wanna make sure that your weekly check-in meetings are not like this, you know,

Oh, that's so funny. No, this is, I hate this. I hate being chased for updates. I, I, I just, I hate that stuff and I'm, I've actually communicated it with, you know, saying, is everyone okay with this? Is, is once a week too much? Making sure everyone's okay with it? Cause I remember how I used to hate the catch ups.

Um, if I hadn't done work, I don't wanna have a, if I still had stuff to do, I didn't wanna have a catch up about it. Let me just write you an email. Um, God used to hate that

Peter Akkies: Yeah. I also, yeah, I was just gonna say, I, I've sat in a lot of meetings in my life when, when I was working as a consultant in the us you know, and it's not even about the catching up, it's also about like, the size of the meeting. I feel like often I feel like people feel important when they get to lead a big meeting and then, you know, sometimes it was much better.

So, Some managers were not like this at all. I worked in consulting, so it was project based. So you're constantly working with sort of different managers. Um, and, and sometimes it, you know, the person in charge would be very good at this, and other times they would bring eight people into a room. I would say something for three minutes, and the rest of the meeting was not relevant to me.

And you sit there for an hour and a half. And so at some point I I, I was like, this is a waste of my time. And I just started telling people, Okay, by the way, guys, the rest of the meeting is not relevant to me. Like I'm heading out. And people are often like, Whoa, you can just do that. And I was like, Yeah, you could, you should do that.

It's a waste of your time.

Yep. So this is, um, you'll know more about this than me, the, the agile method. Isn't there like a, a stand up and isn't that encouraged as part of this agile working

Peter Akkies: I think so. But I've ne I've never been at a place where they work that

Okay. So that's, that's funny. You're the productivity guy and you're not even that interested in the agile stuff like that.

That's interesting to me cuz like, do you need these daily check-ins? Is that conductive to productivity? It's just, it doesn't feel like it is. We definitely don't do that. Our weekly thing is to make sure that if, if the person starting in support, for example, um, is he's advocating for what's coming up lots.

He's making sure that we're going back to people. He's basically like ensuring that his area is good and then we can say, Oh yeah, we can fit that in this week. And it's like getting that team together so we can all support each other. That's really what that's about. It's not a meeting that just goes.

It's meant to. It's, it's like a little, meetings are a grind. Like, you know that meetings are gonna be a grind. We don't like meetings, so it's gonna be a little bit of a grind, but that's just it once a week. And if we find it's too much and everyone's like, Oh, just this is too much. Once every two weeks, we're listening to people.

It's not just, Oh, I've got an ego and I, it's got to be this way, my way, it's gonna be this way. It's like, no, people can actually, what works for you? The, the, the thing is like everyone can do their work in different ways. Whatever works for them. If someone didn't wanna be on that call, I wouldn't care.

Like freedom is in case you haven't worked this out. Freedom's my number one value, not just for myself, but people that work, uh, for us as well. Like, I'm like obsessed with that, but then they have to get the work done. That's literally, that's literally it. Freedom if you get the work done,

Peter Akkies: How, how do you measure whether people are doing their work? Do you, for example, ha you can imagine that you have sort of periodic, um, goals, almost like, you know, OKRs or something where you say, Listen, for, for the fourth quarter of this year, you know, your job is to do these things. Do you do anything like that?

Or is it more a sense of whether your employees are doing the work?

no. So it is a sense, um, I'm definitely, so I, I talk, think about development here. I'm not looking to kind of optimize you to the maximum possible output I can get from you. I care about are you doing things that's moving the company forward. I'm not trying to quantify that. Have you done X tickets versus y tickets or, um, or what have you.

Are you getting the work done that I'm giving you in a reasonable time? I'm a developer. I know how long things take. So is it being done in a reasonable time? Are you happy? Um, and like the other day, I asked our developers, How are you enjoying everything? You been the well now you stills. Absolutely love it.

So happy every day. Those are the measurement points. But really I lead with, I lead with happiness.

Peter Akkies: Yeah.

I really, really do. Cuz I think that the best work comes from being in that place. If you've got people that employ you, that care about you and want you to be happy and to have a good life, you generally are going to do good work.

And like, it's not a trick, it's what I want in my life. I want that freedom. I'll do my work, but give me the freedom. Don't try and, you know, ask me for updates every day. And so, yeah, if there's someone that doesn't work with that, if someone needs rigid structure, well they're just not going to be a good fit.

And there's no harder feelings. But we have a very specific, um, philosophy for working at Fathom. And if you fit into that, like someone's like, Oh yeah, cool, I get to look after my kids two days a week and then I can work in the evening and then I'm still gonna get my work done. Everything's good. Like, and you're gonna get your work done well, you'll fit, you'll fit right in.

Peter Akkies: Yeah.

specific, and again, I don't know if this scales like, I have no idea if it scales. I could be talking to you in four years time saying, Peter, we should never have done Um, but I

Peter Akkies: Stop growing your company when you're at 10 people.

Yeah, I don't, I honestly dunno what it's going to look like, but right now this is really working for us.

And I, and you know, it may change, but I feel good about it. We care about people. When you care about people, it's hard to go wrong. Like, yeah, I feel like, I don't know, if you need a good intentions, things usually go well. Um, obviously not always, but like, it's going well. Let's just say that fun to think about, man, like we, we talk about this a lot and this has been just ongoing and reviewing things and discussing things.

It pulls out of his comfort zone as well. Paul wrote Company of one. He, you know, it's about staying really small.

Peter Akkies: Right? Right.

one person, but it is about questioning growth. And so we are always questioning growth. His philosophy, you know, bled off on me and I've got my own philosophies.

So it has been really interesting. But so far it's going really well. We are really happy and the people that are working with us are really happy and. I don't know, like, yeah, we're not gonna try and what's it, Royal mail and try and optimize every little

Peter Akkies: Sure. Yeah.

are just cogs and squeeze out optimization and track your time when you start this and report on how much time you spend on this ticket.

I would, I would leave that job and so I'm not going to do that for people that work with us.

Peter Akkies: Uh, it's interesting that you mention not tracking time because you do not just work at Fathom. You also have your own podcast and you make and sell courses. So I'm actually curious how you divide your time between those things and whether you do do any tracking for this.

No, I don't drink any time. So, uh, if I'm doing a course. So it is tricky cuz my course also benefit fathom, the, the highest spending customer at Fathom was a CTO who came through my course.

Peter Akkies: Hmm.

And so they know who I am. So it is a weird kind of mix of things. Um, I don't know, like I can do my course cuz you know, it's like it's equivalents taking time off I suppose and working on the course.

My course is tricky though cuz it's, it's not, it's not the financial incentives with the course. Cause the course, you know, courses are bunch of work. You wouldn't just do a course. It's because I get emails, I literally get so many emails and I want to help people, but I can't. So I get to a point where I say, I've got you, You know exactly how this is.

I've got to make a course to address this because I cannot keep up. I've got nowhere to send people, I cannot keep up with the demand and the questions. And I, I enjoy when I've really struggled with something and it's caused me a lot of pain. I enjoy being able to help others not go through as much pain and, you

Peter Akkies: Yeah. People can't see this, but I'm nodding cuz I'm like, I feel you.

Right? Yeah, yeah. Your course is a great example of it. Pe you know, throughout our lives we are benefiting from things other people have done and they've suffered the pain to aid our lives. And I just, I feel like I have an enormous duty to people to do that. And I, you know, I'm grateful that I have an audience.

I'm grateful that they promote Fathom, They do all kinds of things. And I feel like I just, just give back and I write pre blog posts and I do, uh, paid courses and Yeah. And have a community in Slack and that sort of thing. So there's no formal split. I mean, the courses are secondary. I will work on them in a fixed block of time. I don't do regular updates. I do updates maybe twice a year. So

Peter Akkies: Right.

Whenever it feels right to work on it

Yeah. And I don't have as many. I think you have. How many courses do you.

Peter Akkies: right now, but four,

Exactly. So, and your courses are I think a lot longer than mine. Your you do video. Yeah, you do video. I'm sure you, but you have better production quality. So mine are very nerdy

Peter Akkies: I do. Maybe

I don't know, like your yours, yours are better than mine in terms of like quality and um, I feel like that would be a lot more work.

Mine is just, I've got all this knowledge in my head from all the programming stuff I just wanted like dump it and that's like how I approach courses and I just talk. I think, um, production wise there are a lot of people you included who do better, but it's not a constant round the clock thing. And I don't do any consulting.

I used to, I did some consulting and it's, it's great cause people now seek to work with me again. You probably have the same thing. I know this because I'm watching you and I'm like, I was tempted at sometimes thinking I've gotta email Peter, should I do this? I, um, can I ask you a question?

Peter Akkies: sure.

Do you, I was, um, watching something on ADHD yesterday.

Your product, you do a lot of productivity stuff. Do you ever cover any ADHD stuff?

Peter Akkies: It's very interesting that you asked this cuz I. When people buy my course, they get an automated email, which by the way, some, some of my students don't realize this is an automated email. I always find this very funny, tends, tends to be a bit older people cuz I, I do have quite a segment of my students who will email me and be like, Thanks so much for checking in, Peter, I really appreciate it.

Um, I just retired, blah, blah, blah. There's a lot of people who buy my courses who just retired. It seems like the time to go and get organized. But anyway, um, I like this cuz I really like hearing from my students. Like who are you? Tell me a little bit about your background. Just like what do you do for work and like where you're from and stuff.

And some, some people write a lot more than others, um, and sometimes people will be like, I have ADHD and I like, cannot get organized. I like stuff is all over the place. I kind of focus on anything. And I think sometimes those are the people who benefit the most from writing down everything they need to do and having one system because those are the people who are most likely to get distracted.

Um, I never mention anything like this because I don't. I really get quite upset personally when people give medical advice over the internet if they're not qualified to do it. And I wanna, I don't want to go anywhere near anything like that. Um, just because I don't actually know what helps people with ADHD more than others.

I, I, I, like, I, I have a theory for myself, but, you know, if someone tells me, Listen, I have adhd, I like, I can't keep track of everything. I'm all over the place. Will this course help me? I'm like, Probably, But like, you know, don't, don't think it's gonna solve any medical issues, you

know? Um, and yeah, and like, it's, it's a bit different with other things.

Like if people are like, I'm feeling really overwhelmed, I'm feeling really stressed. Could this help with that? I'm like, Yeah, you know, it might, um, you should still probably go talk to someone if you're feeling, feeling really stressed, you know? But like, it might, um, but with something that's very specific, like adhd, I really try not to even mention it.

Interesting. I, um, I've been questioning myself and whether I have ADHD since we had a psychologist on our podcast, she says that in entrepreneurs it's more common to see adhd. And I, I've been thinking it through and, um, yeah, it, it just, it fascinates me. And then could you do productivity? I was thinking about that, but if you say, Yeah, no medical, um, advice that does make sense.

A lot of people talk out of terms. I know exactly what you mean and you have got to be careful. Um, No, no. I was just curious. I was just curious.

Peter Akkies: No, that's great. I, I do see a lot of people online that market courses, you know, that will supposedly help you with all of these issues and like, you know, this feels like it should be illegal. To be honest. I, it'd be very difficult to enforce, but sometimes I see stuff and I'm like, you're just taking advantage of vulnerable people.

You're taking advantage of people who are desperate to, to solve some of their problems. They will, they will pay you lots of money because they are so desperate to solve some of the things that are really painful in their lives and they should really be going to professionals, . That's the way that I feel about it.

I, uh, I have periods of hyper focus where I can get tons of work done. That's why I'm just like fascinated about this topic at the moment. Cuz I, I spoke to some people and the way they describe ADHD is they'll have an email in their inbox, they'll have a few emails, and they can't even respond to a basic email.

And that makes me think, Oh yeah, I don't have adhd, but I, I can, I can just sometimes just focus on things for hours and hours and I'll just be in the zone. And other times it's just, it's such a grind to even move the needle ever so slightly. Um,

Peter Akkies: I also, I also personally think that a lot of people struggle with a lot of problems. It's, it's, it's a, a matter of degree a lot of the time. It's not like, you know, there's like a sort of a normal person who can focus whenever they want and never gets distracted by any, you know, like,

no, no. Yeah, no such person exists.

And the question is, is what do you do with it? You know, we all have our challenges actually, earlier you, you mentioned that you used to struggle with, with perfectionism and analysis paralysis, you know, And so that's also something where I think everybody has that sometimes the question is how much.

I think that's, that's the, the thing I have always come back to is you shouldn't self-diagnose. Cause Yeah, you're right. I I do. I that's, and that's the biggest challenge I have in coding. And I tell you one of the things as Fathom's grown, so Fathom has the best infrastructure in the industry and not just, that's not just a marketing like nonsense.

That's true. I am obsessed with uptime. We have a high availability multi, like we actually keep your stats online. Other people just Google can do it. Sure. They're a multitrillion

Peter Akkies: Yeah. Yeah. Right, right,

in terms of the, the normal size companies, no one's beating us. Um, but with. All this traffic coming in, you have responsibility.

And you do get to this moment of, I've got to be careful with every move I take. And I think, yeah, it's every move I, every move I make, there is a chance to break something. But it's not just break something small. It's on a substantial scale. And so you almost need to have safeguards in place. And so you need to have that analysis, but you can't go into analysis paralysis cause you still need to move forward.

And so with a startup, there's this move fast and break things idea, which is a bit, eh, it kind of works and I need to keep things stable because thousands of people, hundreds, thousands of sites rely on us for their analytics. And so that can be quite paralyzing, being completely honest of you. Like as I go from ADHD to, Oh wait and probably isn't adhd, it's probably just that, um, that is the struggle we, that I have at the moment is just the, the sheer scale of it.

Peter Akkies: Well, how, How are you dealing with this?

yeah, so we. I've realized, and I, it's kind of reluctant cause it's so, so, so painfully boring. But we have to put safeguards in place, um, you know, additional environments, um, excessive to the extreme testing, automatic testing. Um, we already have, have automatic testing for ages, but extra testing, I don't know.

Like, it's just, I think it's just, there needs to be a level of comfort when deploying that level of things. We have the, we have ingest, which is our collector, then we have our dashboard. Dashboard. I'll deploy anything cuz dashboard is, it's like the da, if the dashboard breaks temporarily, no problem at all.

Peter Akkies: That's fine, but the, the data intake needs to be correct. Yeah.


Yeah, so it's really, I think guess just adding safeguards and now we're talking about analysis paralysis. Thank you for bringing out, by the way, that is actually helpful cause I do forget about these things. Um, I always liked Tim Ferris's thing of you writing out what could go wrong.

And I remember I was, I was migrating billions of rows, I think it was, it was billions of row. And I'm thinking this could go wrong. And I remember writing out everything cuz I, I'm pretty experienced writing out everything that could go wrong and then suddenly I felt free and like I could just move forward and, uh, yeah, you're right.

Analysis paralysis is, um, is something that would keep you back. You need to just take action and force it somehow.

Peter Akkies: Yeah. You know, I often hear about it in sort of the space of content creation, cuz I know a lot of content creators now, people are terrified of like, putting something out there that's not good enough, or they'll get, they'll get laughed at, or there's some very basic thing that they screwed up. You know, I get people that, that watch my YouTube videos and they're like, Wow, it looks really fun to be on YouTube.

I'd love to do that, but I could never do it because I'd be terrified of what people said if I made a mistake. You know, like, I hear this all the time. Um, and I think it's quite similar because the same thing for you is like, you're, you're wanting to make a change, but you're really worried that it's gonna break something, it's gonna look bad, right?

In the end. In the end we're worried about it looking bad. Um, I, I guess for you it could also have financial implications. Um, if, if you, you know, if your uptime starts to go down,

Yeah, I guess, I guess so. Yeah. Um, content's funny one, I mean, I, I used to be, I used to be unable to write content and I, the first piece I wrote, Paul edited it and I was so surprised that he wasn't like criticizing it cuz Paul's written for years, right? He had that, a big newsletter, blah, blah, blah. He's done it before and he edited it and I'm like, Oh wow, this is actually ready to go.

And it went viral. My first blog post went viral and I couldn't believe it. And now I embrace, Kind of like untouchable and I'm sure you've got to the place to in YouTube videos, there's nothing people can say about me that will affect me if it's someone I care about saying it. That's a different story Round of people on the internet.

You get a, you have to get abuse. Once you get to a certain size,

Peter Akkies: Yeah, you

avoid it. You need to embrace it cuz it means that that small percentage of negative stuff you're going to get has gone up cuz you've increased the good side of things. So I embrace abuse, um, not like death threat. I'm not saying people should get death threat, but for me, like you can't, I don't care.

I'm like, feel untouchable, with

Peter Akkies: Right. Yeah. That does come with success, I think, a little bit. Right? I, I, I think if you are in a very early stage of something and, and, and you hit some mean things, I think it'd be tricky. But once you're, once you've proven to yourself that you can do the thing, I think it's much easier to deal with.

Yeah. No, you're right. A hundred percent. Yeah. You've got that proof that you can do it for.

Peter Akkies: Yeah. All right. Well, it, it's been really fun chatting, um, lot to learn, I think, for people from running a, a small company and, and focusing on the people side of things, the lifestyle business. I, I hope that really resonated with people. Um, I really appreciate that you came on. What are some of the things that you'd like people to check out, um, before we go, whether that's your personal website, any products.

Yeah, sure. So you can follow me on Twitter. I'm Jack Ellis and

Jack Ellis: check out usefathom.com for privacy first analytics that don't send data to Big Tech.

Peter Akkies: There we go. We do not like Big Tech! All right, well thanks so much, Jack for coming on.

Thanks man.