Monday Motivation from Dan Maccarone, Co-Founder, Charming Robot
Mondays can be rough, and sometimes, we can all use some motivation. That’s why we’re launching a #MondayMotivation blog series bringing you tips and life hacks from industry leaders and some of the most creative entrepreneurs out there.
We sat down with Dan Maccarone, Co-Founder of Charming Robot – a digital product shop – to learn how Dan stays motivated.
What inspired you to start your company, Charming Robot?
When I was leaving the last agency I started, Hard Candy Shell, I wanted to get back to what made my career interesting from the start which was splitting time between helping media companies figure out how to be relevant in the digital age while also helping startups get off the ground and launched. After getting advice from a bunch of colleagues in the vc and startup world (including Jenn and Jenny from Rent the Runway), I decided that another agency with a focus on empathy and a true mission of collaboration was the way to go. So, I asked one of my closest friends, Chris Pace, who’s also an amazing designer to co-found with me as the creative director. And off we went.
What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?
In any startup, you end up wearing a bunch of hats. As we’ve grown it’s been harder and harder to be both the CEO handling the overall vision and biz dev side of things while also running the User Experience group in parallel. Over the past year, slowly releasing the reigns of UX to the rest of the team, but that’s such a core of who I am that it’s hard to truly step away. Oh, and of course, the other challenge is just keeping things going on the revenue side. You’re always looking for that next great project.
What’s been the greatest reward?
This may sounds cheesy, but I get to walk into an office everyday and spend time with my friends. My team is a group of people that Chris and I cherry picked from the past 15 years of experience in NYC. To know I have a group of people who have my back personally and professionally everyday, who I trust pretty implicitly blows my mind.
You’ve worked with a variety of companies to build or re-think product design for the digital age – from Hulu to Rent the Runway to The New York Times, among many, many others. How do you help each company understand the best way to design a product for their users?
The first step is understand what the business goals are, who their users are and what the users want. The important thing for any company to understand is just because you want someone to do something doesn’t mean they will do it. You have to take yourself out of the picture sometimes and figure out what problem your solving for your customer and work backwards. Thinking of media, someone who’s reading the Times is looking for something different than if they are reading CNN or Buzzfeed and once you understand how you’re helping them and get out of your own head, it’s a lot easier to see the right path to success.
For an entrepreneur just beginning the product design process, is there one thing you would encourage him or her to consider before beginning the process? What about before launching their product for the first time?
Well the first thing is that whatever you’re working on, you are not the audience. You may be an audience of whatever you’re making, but remember you are creating this product for other people to use. Secondly, don’t be afraid to launch. So often we see founders have launch paralysis because they are looking for perfection or are worried their product isn’t good enough. There is no such thing as perfection. Strive to make your product better everyday, but the only way you can do that is by learning what you did right and what you did wrong. And you will be wrong. A lot. And that’s ok. I’ve been wrong in both my digital and offline endeavors and I’m the better for it. Just don’t make the same mistake twice.
As an entrepreneur yourself, who or what motivates you to keep going, even when things get tough?
Life should be fun. Even when I get stressed about conflict with a client or a disagreement with the team or if I don’t know where the next project is coming from, I think to myself, I actually get to make things up for a living. I get to use logic and my imagination to create things that other people use. And every time something new that I worked on launches, I get that same feeling in my stomach: excited, nervous, giddy. What will happen this time? There’s nothing more exhilarating than that.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give to another entrepreneur just starting out?
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You can’t be an expert on everything and starting a company is hard. There’s way more involved in it than any of us think. Talk to other people who’ve done it, figure out who can help you, and, more than anything else, know that there will be amazing ups and hard downs. Have a support network that you can trust. My fellow agency founders and I, we all know each other, we all have the same struggles and while a bunch of us are often competing against each other, we also go out for drinks and talk about our challenges and help each other. Know that other people are going through what you are going through – good and bad. Take advantage of that.
What do you do every Monday morning to prepare and motivate yourself for the coming week?
I don’t know that I have a Monday routine, per se. But I have a morning routine which is a combination of writing a lot before I get to the office to get whatever’s on my mind onto paper (or a computer screen). And I run. Running in the morning gives me time to think about whatever we’re working on or whatever I’m going to do next. Between those two things, my focus is definitely much more honed.
Catch our podcast featuring product design tips Dan shared with us at our 2016 Weekend Intensive.