Mike McDerment: Your Story is Your Strategy

March 31, 2009

One of the things I have always underestimated in building our business is the importance of our story. I’m a pretty rational guy, so when I ask myself, “how important can a story be anyway?” I usually tell myself, “well…not all that important”. Turns out I’ve been wrong all these years.

I learned my lesson a few years back when we were working with a consultant. We were toying with the idea of raising money, and whether we did or not, we wanted to put ourselves through the paces and explore the business through the eyes of a third party. There are a whole bunch of reasons why it’s a great idea to act as if you are raising money (i.e. it makes you think things through, kill sacred cows, etc.) even if you don’t choose to do so.

Long story short, we brought in a consultant who had raised lots of capital and had a ton of relevant operating experience. He took us through a series of exercises, the first of which was asking Levi and I to tell our respective stories from the beginning – before there was a FreshBooks.

Part of my story revolved around the design/consulting business I built FreshBooks for (yes, I built an online invoicing service to make it easier to collect from my own customers!). The consultant got fixated on this business, and specifically the way I built that business. I never marketed it and we had no sales people, yet we were constantly turning down business. Why? We took great care of our customers and we over-delivered with the results.

Prior to working with this consultant, I did not make the connection between my earlier business was the genesis for our culture here are FreshBooks. At FreshBooks we believe that we are a service, not a technology, and we try to Execute on Extraordinary Experiences Everyday (4E). Someone else could build the identical product, but the business would be totally different. Why? Because our approach to running the business is so different, and that approach makes all the difference and comes from our earliest days…the ones before there even was a FreshBooks.

about the author

Co-Founder & CEO, FreshBooks Mike is the co-founder and CEO of FreshBooks, the world’s #1 cloud accounting software for self-employed professionals. Built in 2003 after he accidentally saved over an invoice, Mike spent 3.5 years growing FreshBooks from his parents’ basement. Since then, over 10 million people have used FreshBooks to save time billing, and collect billions of dollars. A lover of the outdoors, Mike has been bitten so many times it’s rumored he’s the first human to have developed immunity to mosquitoes.