No-one knows what they are doing

When I was a child I assumed that all the adults running the world knew what they were doing. Now that I am an adult, I am under no such illusions. Just look at the current British government. They clearly don’t have a clue. A more mediocre bunch of individuals would be hard to find.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Most of us who are running businesses had no real idea what they were doing when they started, and still struggle with decisions now. I’ve been making a full-time living selling my own software since 2005. But when I launched my seating planner software, I really had no idea if I would sell a single licence. After 17 years I know a lot more about my market and running a software business. But things are constantly changing and I still don’t know day-to-day if I should be spending more time on SEO, partnerships, Youtube videos, new features, a better website, or thousand other things I could be doing. A lot of guessing and gut feel is still involved.

It is easy to read 20/20 hindsight accounts of successful businesses and assume they they knew exactly what they needed to do at each stage. They didn’t. Running a business involves making a lot of decisions under great uncertainty in a constantly changing environment. So if you want to start a business, don’t be put off by not knowing what you are doing. No-one does.

10 thoughts on “No-one knows what they are doing

  1. Charly

    I absolutely agree. It is easy to be seen as a smart guy that, when something was accomplished, explain the reasons behind that, why it was done etc. Like if there was a plan. But connecting the dots backwards is easy.
    The contrary is also true. When something fails we tend not to talk about it too much.

    Zoom out and everyone is under the illusion that the others know what they are doing.
    The realisation of this only comes with age.

  2. Toon

    In my experience this is also linked to building software on your own. Other than the fact that it is often hard to see the impacts of your work. Especially for SEO where things take a long time to take form. Thanks for sharing.
    PS: your post is on Hacker News !

    1. Andy Brice Post author

      I’ve been writing blog posts for years. But I never have faintest idea which ones will resonate on places like HN. Which I guess proves my thesis.

      1. Charly

        I am the guy who sent this to HN. After reading your article I thought that, well… this seem to be the kind of article that people on HN love.
        I follow that site almost daily and somehow, unconsciously, my brain has built a pattern of what resonates there… May be it is something like “tech-minded people writing about social things”. not sure.
        Anyway. Congrats Andy for the great post.

        1. Andy Brice Post author

          Thanks for posting it. When an article hits front page HN you always wish you had added a bit more polish and nuance. But then, perhaps it wouldn’t have resonated in the same way.

  3. wahyudinata

    I saw your post on hn and also checked out your seat planning software, I’m very inspired by your journey, making a living by selling software has been a dream of mine (startup or lifestyle doesn’t matter). Would you mind if i reach out to you for a 30 minute coversation? I’m going through the initial phases of the software selling business and i would like to learn from your experience.

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