An Episode to Help You Think about Your Long-term Dreams with Tracy Hazzard from The App Guy Podcast with Paul Kemp
The entrepreneurial industry is not for the faint of heart. If you want to achieve your long-term dreams, you’re going to need to find your why. Why are you creating your app? If you build your business without a goal, then you won’t last long-term. Tracy Hazzard joins Paul Kemp from the App Guy Podcast to share how she founded Hazz Design and succeeded in the printing business. Learn some more tips from Tracy on how to build your company for the long haul so that you can avoid making critical mistakes and end up cut short even after just getting started.
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In this endeavor, I have a contributing writer to Inc. Magazine. She is the Founder of her own company. She and her partner run this company as well. She also has a podcast. It’s called WTFFF?! It’s about 3D printing. We’re going to have a good chat about what we can do to avoid risking everything. Let me introduce Tracy Hazzard. Tracy is the Founder of Hazz Design. Tracy, welcome to the show.
Thank you so much for having me, Paul.
Your podcast, WTFFF?!, you have to remind me. What does the FFF stand for?
Fused filament fabrication, which is 3D printing. It’s geeky.
We love geeky on the show. We’re absolutely obsessed with anything geeky. We’re able to chat about 3D printing. What’s your involvement?
We were a product design and development firm. We product design and develop anything consumer retail, hard products or things that you buy at the mass market at Walmart, Target, Costco and that kind of thing. We started 3D printing as a part of our prototyping process several years ago. We’ve used it for a long time but the desktops made it so accessible. What we discovered was after many years of designing in CAD, everything we knew had to get thrown out the window. We had to learn how to design again in a totally different medium.
A lot of people do actually design hardware that attaches to the phone. I love the fact that you mentioned prototyping. We can use 3D printing for prototyping.
One of the most interesting things is that the app growth in 3D printing is huge because one of the limitations is that it’s difficult to drive your printer, search for designs, and do a lot of things in a world in which we’re so accustomed to our tablets and phones.
Can you share with us the most futuristic thing we can do with our phones in one hand and the 3D printer in the other?
For your average consumer, the exciting part is that for once, we don’t have to buy everything in black. We’ll be able to download and print out whatever we might want as a gift or something for our home or even kids experimenting and downloading a whole different set of Transformers or something like that. That’s exciting and fun. All of a sudden, we are the producers and manufacturers. Driving that off our phone is the logical solution or maybe even driving it off our Alexa. From a technological standpoint, in terms of industry, the idea that we’re going to be able to have zero inventory manufacturing is the most futuristic advanced idea because it’s going to blow all the different things we can do with it.
I’m sure you would be getting rid of all the sales as well with the excess stock in our world.
Isn’t that terrific? We have a much more sustainable environmental impact across all of our retail stores and all sorts of things. That’s going to be fabulous.
It’s definitely an exciting area but I digress. You have an eight-step process called Prove It. You are planning to chat about phase one. Can you elaborate a bit on your Prove It process?
Over the years, we developed about 250 products and they generated about $750 million for our clients. We have what we call a commercialization rate. Meaning the success rate of how commercially successful those designs are and we have an 86% commercialization rate. We got that through refining our process by how we design and develop products. It’s for a couple of designers because my husband is my partner.Most products fail because they're either the wrong product for the right market or the wrong market for the right product. Click To Tweet
We are analytical about how we approach it and we developed these seven plus a bonus step, so it’s eight steps. We do things in a different order. The sequence is what makes it different. What we discovered was that most products fail because they’re either the wrong product for the right market or it’s the wrong market for the right product. When you get the majority of those and you can fix that, then you have a higher success rate. That’s why we do Prove It first. We don’t make anything before we get a market or product proof on it.
This is reminding me of a chat I had very early on in this show a few years ago. It’s in relation to apps where you get almost all customers for the app first before you even build anything. You get the proof of concept first. Is that where you feel we should go?
It’s where we’re going but also a little bit of exploration on your why. Why are you making this app? What is your goal? Do you want to have a business? Do you want to make a lot of money right now so you can do something else? You have to think about that because if you don’t develop your criteria for how you’re going to develop your app to fit those goals, then it’s always going to be a mismatch. You’re always going to be trying to force-fit something and that’s a method to failure.
How many app entrepreneurs approached me and said, “Can you promote or mention my app?” It’s almost like pushing something on the world because they feel discovery is the challenge, which we know is a challenge. Sometimes, if there’s a real need, then the app does get discovered from organic means. You mentioned why as well. Apple is famous for giving us why they do things and it has proved quite successful for them. How important is it to have a why in the equation?
It’s essential. When I work with clients who don’t have a why I have to work so much harder because there has to be a screening for your criteria. You have to decide, “Should this be included? Shouldn’t that be included?” In the case of Appleby, this high-level of high-touch design, do I need that here? If there isn’t a why, you don’t know whether or not that’s critically important. You don’t have any way to determine a hierarchy and it has to happen. There are always trade-offs. Your why can tell you where you can make those trade-offs.
Do you have any guidance on how we get to a why? A lot of people have passion projects. They feel like it’s something the world needs. Is there a more scientific way to get to a why?
You have to dig deep and think about your long-term dreams and where you want to go with things. I do think it’s great to dream. This is the step before you’re going to turn it into action and reality. This is the okay part to sit back and dream. My why for why I do everything in my business is to save inventors and entrepreneurs from risking everything on flawed plans, wrong products and resources.
My why comes out of the fact that we’ve done that way too many times. My husband and I started working together because he was such a great dreamer and inventor, but he didn’t have quite the focus to make it all happen. He was risking our family and livelihoods. That why, I know I can provide that structure and process. That’s what I do best and that’s what drives me. In anything that I do, I pull that into it.
Tracy, I want everyone to pay attention now because there are many app entrepreneurs who have seen the big hits with WhatsApp and Instagram over the years. They’ve read the news articles and feel like they can do the same. They’ve sometimes invested hundreds of thousands of their own family money or friend’s money and lost everything. This is why I do this show because it’s almost trying to unravel the truth. How many founders have you come into contact with who have almost lost everything?
It’s probably 1 or 2 a week because I’ve been doing many events and things where I’m talking about my process. It’s at least 1 or 2 horror stories a week. In the consumer product world, you get companies who are preying on that. They’re these marketing companies who get them all in and say, “We’re going to market your invention. We’ll get it licensed.” I’m sure that’s probably going on in the app world as well. It’s a rabbit hole of spending money for no return.
How could we try to prevent ourselves from maybe going down that rabbit hole of spending too much? Have you got any tips for us to try to prevent ourselves from risking everything?
The number one way is that the wrong way to prove that you have something great is to ask your friends, family, employees or consultants. Do not ask them what they think. They are yes-men and women. They will always say it’s great or they will do the opposite and say that it’s not great. Your friends and family who don’t want you to be an entrepreneur will say no to you. You can’t get a truthful answer there. You have to go outside of that.
The second part of that is that too many entrepreneurs think that their app or product is the answer to every problem in the world and everyone should have one. It should be on every device. That thinking doesn’t work in this world market now. It’s too broad and expensive. Apple and all of those other guys can outspend you any day of the week.
What I’ve learned by working with all these big companies is that they make the same mistakes you do. They just have more money to cover it up. I call it launching without a lot of runways. You have the ability to launch your app without a lot of runways. You have to do it with very few resources. We liken it to the Doolittle Raid in World War II. You have a 467-foot runway and that’s it or it’s death. You’re out of money and out of business. You can’t go 468 but the big guys can add more runway.
I love that analogy of launching with a smaller runway. The hardest thing for founders of app companies and others is the ability to know when to quit and say no. Do you find that a big challenge?
I like to be analytical about it. You get a little caught up in that your inventions are your babies, but after as many designs as we’ve developed over the years, we started to develop a detachment from them. That’s a good place to be if you can detach yourself from this thing that you’ve been working on day and night for weeks, maybe even months. If you can detach yourself enough or find a way to get some quantitative data that says, “I should do this or I shouldn’t do this,” that’s probably the easiest way for you to have that objective view of whether or not you should go forward. I know a lot of people think, “I’m 3 feet from gold. This is going to happen. It’s so great if I get this one more thing and this $5,000 more.” I know how that ends and it usually ends badly.
A lot of people reading this do go and read maybe my past episodes where we’re talking about companies like Y Combinator or 500 startups. They’re all these incubators and they encourage founders to dream high in big numbers, “It’s going to be a billion-dollar company.” The reason they do that is because 90% of them fail. They need to go after the ones that don’t and win big. Is it wise to have massive ambition at the start?
It is wise to have massive ambition but you have to have a qualifier. I have a review process at the end of the Prove It phase. After we’ve gone out and gotten market proof in some way, shape or form usually through both the combination of market research and product research, we do both at the same time. We don’t design anything at this stage. We have a big dream concept and a few things we want to test but we haven’t made anything, so we haven’t spent a lot of money.
What we’re doing is we’re developing our criteria. Instead of going for a minimum viable product, we’re going for, what does the market care about? Will this market that might care about this feature or design I’ve dreamed up value that? When we look at those two areas of things, we design a criteria list for the maximum valuable product we could possibly develop.Try to save entrepreneurs from risking everything on flawed plans and wrong products and resources. Click To Tweet
Tracy, there are two more things I wanted to cover before we say goodbye. One is that I would love to know about you as well personally because you are a contributing writer to Inc. Magazine. You are running your own company. For anyone who is thinking about maybe becoming an entrepreneur or starting their own company and we have had quite a few people who have done this, is it a lifestyle that you would recommend?
It’s not for the faint of heart. Every day is a roller coaster. Even I still have because our business is very seasonal because it’s driven on royalties for the mass market. We have a heavy Q4 every year. It’s always got its up and downs. Some days I wonder like, “Why am I doing this? I have my rent in a week and I’m still having trouble paying it. I know the money will come. It’s just not here today.” It’s frustrating. At the same time, it’s rewarding.
I’m in charge. I’m completely responsible and accountable for how things grow in my business. I’m not hampered by the corporate process in that or things that are holding me back. I can change that and make that happen. You have to be that kind of personality. I feel lucky in that I have a partner. A lot of partnerships don’t work out well. We’ve been married for many years.
Your partnership is both in marriage and business.
Which is scary for a lot of people and it goes wrong for a lot of marriages I’ve heard. Everyone is always very shocked that we do this, but we have a balance in what we do. It’s not like we’re tripping over each other’s decision-making process. That’s not how it works here. When you have someone else to rely on and someone else who is supporting you, it’s great.
What I found was that when we weren’t working together and he was an entrepreneur and I wasn’t, there was a lot more dissension in our relationship and a lot more problems that happened because I wasn’t quite as supportive of the risks he was taking because I wasn’t involved in them. We’re involved in our risks. To anyone who has an entrepreneur for a spouse or a better half, you end up in that business whether you like it or not. If you can’t embrace it, you better have that discussion early on.
I love that because we have had quite a few couples on this show who run their own companies and have been successful at it. I’ve experienced this as well, where the support of the people around you, especially your wife or husband, is essential. For me, personally, it was a hard switch going from expecting a monthly salary and having a nice and comfortable career to then a roller coaster of a ride, which is entrepreneurship. The final thing is this is a show about apps. I can’t let you go without asking what’s on your phone if you have 1 or 2 apps. If your phone is handy, pick it up. Maybe you don’t have a phone.
You’re going to laugh. I have an Amazon phone. It’s very unusual because hardly anyone has one anymore because it tanked terribly. I’m a huge Amazon shopper. I’ve been shopping on Amazon since 1998, so I’ve always been a fan. One of my friends developed this phone. He couldn’t tell me until afterwards, but the avatar they created, its name was Tracy. Every time he was designing, he only thought of me. Every time he read the brief that they gave him for the avatar, it sounded like me and that they may have pulled my profile. The phone is designed for me. I think I’m the only person in the world who loves it.
You are in deputy of becoming the coolest guest on this show.
My three favorite apps on here are my OneCast, which is my podcast one. They don’t have your typical podcast player on here but I have OneCast. I love it because I listen to podcasts about everywhere I go. That’s my absolute most used app. I love my Easy Voice Recorder too because I’m constantly in events and other places or doing interviews and I use that all the time. The real personal app that I use is honestly a weight tracker. It’s crazy. I use it all the time. I’m always conscious of what I’m eating and I’m recording it in there. Some people have Fitbits and other things. I just have a weight tracker.
A few episodes before you, we had a guy who had two billion downloads for his app. It was the Talking Tom app. He said, “One of the biggest needs in apps is for us to take care of ourselves with health, weight and food.” That doesn’t surprise me that the weight tracker is one of your top apps.
He is absolutely right. That is such an important thing. The one app that I’m always searching for is a better shopping app like a list app. They’re not designed for the way most people shop. We make lists for the different stores we shop at. We have a list specifically for Costco, Trader Joe’s, our regular grocery store, or maybe a list for the liquor store. We break them down into the places we’re going, not a general list. I have yet to find one that’s great at that.
There’s a challenge for anyone out there if you can recommend.
It’s a simple idea but it’s so missed.
Finally, I did want to ask you. You are a contributing writer for Inc. Magazine. How easy is it to become a contributing writer for a publication like that? Is it worthwhile with the effort that goes into it?
That’s a great question. No one has ever asked me the question quite that way before and I’m glad you did. I stumbled upon becoming an Inc. writer. It just happened to be one of those things. I have a column. It’s called By Design. They put me into the Innovate section and I write exclusively about innovation and design. My goal is to make sure that I write about success by design or things that will make you successful through the use of design. Whether that’s tips for entrepreneurs on bringing design in, designers who want to be business owners and entrepreneurs, and how to help them do those things as well.
What happened was I was giving a talk at an event about makers making profits. It’s the idea of turning from a maker into an entrepreneur and the things you have to think about that are very different from the making process. In this case, you don’t think about the what. You think about who you’re going to sell it to and how you’re going to price it. I gave this talk and it was such an unusual talk. The LA Bureau editor heard it and asked me if I would join this new section, Innovate.
That’s how I ended up doing it. It certainly was a dream for me to be a contributing writer for a magazine, but it was not one of those things where I had gone out there to seek it. What I’ve discovered is it’s an entrepreneurial program in and of itself. I’m responsible for making sure that I get out there and I get as many readers as possible. I’m responsible for driving views through the way that I write my articles and through the way that they get promoted on social media.
I’m responsible for that, not Inc. I’ll get a boost from Inc. like I just got an article that was on the cover of the section of the category. It did tremendously well because of that, but it’s my responsibility to boost my own column. That’s an interesting thing that I hadn’t thought of. Unless you have the time for that and the inclination, it takes a lot of time to write this and not a lot of return for that.Big companies make the same mistakes you do. They just have more money to cover it up. Click To Tweet
What I’ve learned from you there is that it can be beneficial as well from a credibility standpoint. Also, getting yourself out there and speaking about interesting topics, these opportunities come up. That’s how that opportunity is right for Inc. to come up for you. It’s interesting. Tracy, this has been a terrific chat. It’s wonderful. I’ve enjoyed it. How can people reach out and connect with you? What is the best way of getting in touch?
It’s wonderful, Tracy. All the best with your partnership, Hazz Design, Inc. and WTFFF?! It was great chatting with you.
Thank you so much, Paul.
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