Year In-Review: 2019

What a year. 2019 flew by and I wanted to take a step back and look at what has been accomplished and reflect on what to do for 2020.

Adventure

You might not know this, but one of the main reasons I started my business three years ago was so that I could travel and work while not compromising on my career. Based on the destinations below, I feel like I did a pretty good job doing just that.

January

January was spent in Chiang Mai, Thailand but we did make a trip out to Chiang Dao, Thailand. This is one of our favorite places in all of Thailand. We stayed at a place called The Nest and had the best Thai food in the world. The view and hot springs were a bonus. 


February

I’ve wanted to learn how to drive a manual bike for the last decade so I learned how to do it on this old, noisy bike.

Given that Cat and I didn’t know how to drive it and learned on our own (with some help from Youtube), we laughed so hard when somebody on the street yelled “SECOND GEAR” at us when driving around. We took his advice and learned to listen a bit better when to change gears. 

We also ran a half marathon for my birthday challenge in Chiang Mai. I think I was the tallest one running. 😉

March 

I love weekend adventures and exploring new places. This was the first time I drove on a mountain with a motorbike. In hindsight, it's pretty funny how long it took me to realize that you need to go down gear when going uphill. Lesson learned!

April

Cat and I took a vacation in Koh Lipe, Thailand. We learned a lot of lessons… The biggest one was to always double check that your place has air conditioning. 

We also did our first night dive in Koh Lipe which was fun. Pictures can’t do justice just how amazing plankton is in the dark. Seeing a million little dots while underwater is mesmerizing. 

May

In May, I took my first dirt bike course and loved it! As a kid, I used to love mountain biking and building ramps to ride off of and this was the next level. I’m still a kid at heart but this was fun!

On May 28th, I published my first book! It felt pretty cool to hold the first version in my hands. I’ll admit, I was pretty worried it would come out looking  as thin as a brochure so I’m glad it didn’t!

June

We went to Doi Inthanon (Thailand’s tallest mountain). One of the things I like best about this place is all of the incredible waterfalls - there’s no shortage of beauty in this park.

Given that it was our last month in Thailand, we went on weekend motorbike rides regularly. This was our favorite place to grab breakfast. The lady who runs this small shop knows how to make the best avocado toast! 🙂

July 

July was spent back home in Hamilton, Ontario before leaving for our next adventure in Portugal. We enjoyed spending some time with our family and making some fires. 

August

August was spent in Lisbon, Portugal. We enjoyed the wine, cobblestone roads, good food, and being near the ocean. 

September

September I led a few workshops and we went on a wine tour with some work friends. This was one of my favorite lookout points. I love seeing the same red bricks on every roof for some weird reason.

October

This was the view from my office window! Although Portugal had it’s challenges, a good view wasn’t one of them. 

Going to SaaStock in Dublin, Ireland marked the start of the conference season and a non-stop travel schedule in November.

To celebrate Cat’s birthday, we did another birthday marathon challenge. We both love doing a long run to celebrate a birthday as it gives you the time to reflect on your previous year and reminds you to challenge yourself for the upcoming year. 

November

In November, we went to Florianopolis, Brazil and I got to meet the first dedicated Product-Led Growth team. They used my book cover as the “flag” for their team which I thought was pretty awesome. 

While in Florianopolis, we made sure to explore all of the incredible beaches. We got lucky and had an incredible Uber driver who we hired to take us to his favorite parts of the island. He was just starting his tour company in the area so it felt great to support him and test out the route he had planned for his tours. This was by far the best day of November!

It even beat scuba diving through caves earlier that week. 

I spoke at RD Summit in front of 3,000 people. It was a blast and really made me want to do it again. Pro tip: if you’re ever nervous speaking in front of people, just tell yourself “I’m excited.” It’s simple but is a great way to combat those pre-talk jitters.

After the RD Summit in Brazil, I headed over to the Product-Led Growth Summit in San Francisco. I was able to meet a lot of the people who had read my book which was incredible. The best part about being an author is seeing how you impacted other people’s lives from writing your book

I was able to take a few days to visit my grandparents in Orange County. It just so happened that my parents were there for a conference.

Every time I visit California, I try to visit my grandparents so I’m happy I was able to make it happen this time. 

I hosted a workshop in Moncton, New Brunswick. On the last day, I was able to visit the Bay of Fundy with part of their team. It was so much fun and crazy to see how much the tide goes down every day. 

December

I hosted another workshop in Toronto on onboarding.

And, most importantly, got to spend some time with my family. 

As the saying goes, always be eating. 

Highs

  • Publishing my book was a huge highlight. It was pretty stressful getting it done in the time period I gave myself with everything else going on, but I’m so happy I pulled through and finished it. Writing a book is a lot like running a marathon every day for over half a year. It takes a certain degree of insanity to make it happen and stay motivated.
  • Learning how to drive a motorbike was pretty sentimental. I’ve had this dream for the last decade that I’d be driving through a mountain with a bunch of curvy roads on a motorbike and now I can say I’ve been able to do just that. 
  • Onboarding workshops. Leading onboarding workshops was something new I started to do at the end of the year. After trying a bunch of different ways to package my services, I found that workshops are one of the most impactful ways for my clients to see value from my methodology so I look forward to doing more in 2020.

Lows

  • Traveling isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Although on the surface it looks incredible to visit so many places, it can be really challenging. The job in Portugal didn’t work out for Cat so we learned a hard lesson to pick the opportunity and not the location when deciding where to move next. 
  • An opportunity is just an obligation that looks good. I tend to bite off more than I can chew. In May I had way too many irons in the fire and tight deadlines. It took me a while to realize that I control the throttle of my life. Every little thing I signed up for was because I agreed to it. Just knowing you are in control of the situation was pretty liberating. 
  • Diamonds are formed under pressure - the same applies to you. This year I was under a lot of pressure to grow the business and as much as it was stressful at times, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I learned a ton!
  • If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. I spent way too much time trying to move fast in my business. You can do this until a certain point don’t get me wrong, but eventually you become the bottleneck that prevents the business from growing. To prevent my business from stalling, I will be hiring an A team in 2020.
  • Prioritize health over everything. One of the reasons we left Chiang Mai, Thailand in July was because the air quality was so bad. It really is a shame how some countries still burn their crops in order to fertilize the ground. But given a lot of the farmer’s financial situations, I can see why they do it. However, I’m glad we left and prioritized our health. Otherwise Chiang Mai is an absolutely incredible place in this world!

Favorite Books

When it comes to reading, I used to read a lot of books from different authors but now I find it’s way better to just find an author who’s incredibly intelligent and has the kind of experience you want and read everything they’ve written. 

That way you’re not wasting your time listening to crap. 

Moral of the story, instead of going wide, go deep when reading.

In 2019, I read a few books every month but made a conscious decision this year to focus on re-reading some of the most impactful books in my career again. It’s amazing how much you can learn from a book the second or third time around.

Here are some of my favorite books:

  1. Key Person of Influence - This is a classic which I’ve read a few times and have found the strategies helpful for positioning myself as a leader in Product-Led Growth.
  2. Profit First - Taught me a stupid simple method to run the financial side of my business.
  3. 33 Strategies of War - This is a long one but perfect for long flights. I really like how there are so many similar strategies between war and business. 
  4. The Power of Full Engagement - If you want to manage your energy better throughout the day, read this one.
  5. Can’t Hurt Me - I loved this story of a navy seal who refused to give up. He made me want to challenge myself more. 
  6. Storybrand - Dead simple framework for branding.
  7. Million Dollar Consulting - Worth listening just to hear Allan’s opinion on what wealth is. 
  8. Positioning - Kind of self-explanatory what you’re going to get out of this one, right? 
  9. The Silva Method - Another great book for flights. If you want to get better at using both sides of your brain, this book walks you through techniques on how to do just that.
  10. Sprint - I’ve led a bunch of workshops this year so found the sprint process quite handy to remix and apply to my workshops.
  11. Killing Marketing - I really like Joe’s perspective on how he uses marketing as a profit centre in his business. 
  12. I Will Teach You To Be Rich - No BS personal finance advice that you need to listen to.
  13. Who - The best book on hiring I’ve read so far. 
  14. The Magic Of Thinking Big - Not groundbreaking by any means but has so many great reminders for how to live a rich life.

Favorite Podcasts

I have a confession. I've become a podcast addict this year. Almost every morning I spend at least 30 minutes listening to a podcast before starting work. But lately, I've been finding it so hard to stop because the podcasts are just so good. 

So, I'd like to share some of my top product podcasts in hopes that you'll become hooked just like me. I'm evil, I know

  1. Working Without Pants - The majority of the guests are all location-independent entrepreneurs so I really enjoy hearing the stories behind the person running the business. I’m always amazed at how some of these entrepreneurs have built million dollar businesses that you can work on without pants. 😉
  2. Noah Kagan Presents - Noah is a no bullshit kind of guy and I find it refreshing to hear his take on business and life. Recently he’s been doing teardowns of other business owners and I almost always walk away with one or two tips on what I should do for my business.
  3. Growth TLDR - Kieran Flanagan and Scott Tousley from HubSpot run this podcast and it's just as fun as it's informative. The whole focus for the podcast is to understand how people go about building product-led businesses.

Favorite Courses

  1. MicroAcquisitions Course - Given that I can help B2B SaaS companies improve their free-to-paid conversion rate quite significantly I was curious what the process would be to acquire a company. Turns out it’s not as hard as you think with micro acquisitions.
  2. Authority Hackers SEO Course - The Authority Hacker system is more geared towards affiliate sites, but I found their process of identifying which markets and keywords to go after fascinating.
  3. Virtual Summit Course - Navid is one of the top experts on virtual summits and since I host two summits a year I wanted to learn from the best. 
  4. Joel's Sales Training - This year I’ve spent $1,000’s upgrading my sales skills (or lack of it), but this was one of the best investments I made. Joel’s sales process is dead simple to follow and the entire program is just two hours. Plus, Joel has a great sense of humor so this course isn’t just educational, it’s entertaining! 

Best Investment Of The Year Under $100

  1. Classic Lined Notebook - I use a work notebook every day and it is one of the best planning devices out there. Trust me, I’ve tried dozens of online apps but a notebook is by far the best. Plus, crossing things out when you accomplish them feels so damn satisfying with pen and paper. Here’s the system I use for making the most out of my notebook.

Product-Led Institute

Here were some of the major highlights of growing the Product-Led Institute:

What’s In Store For 2020

What There WIll Be More Of

  • Writing. There will be more of it. This is one of those activities on my list as a founder that I really enjoy so I’m not delegating this one anytime soon.
  • Summits. I’m doubling down on virtual summits and will be investing a lot more in training speakers to put together high-impact talks. 
  • Onboarding Workshops. I love teaching so I’m going to be running at least one workshop each month until I build a team to run these workshops full-time.
  • Travel. Besides traveling for work, I am planning on doing a motorbike trip across eastern Canada in August which I’m pretty excited about. 
  • Partnerships. I love creating win-win partnerships so I’ll be on the lookout for more ways to work with other brands whether that be for events, marketing initiatives, or even sales.
  • Talent Acceleration. This is a word Tobi, CEO of Shopify, uses internally to signify that you must match your personal growth with the growth rate of your business. If you want to 2x your business growth, you need to evolve into a leader who is 2x more badass. 

What There Will Be Less Of

  1. Consulting. I’ve partnered with Ramli John who will be taking over the consulting arm of the business. 
  2. Doing everything to an ok standard. I’ll be the first to admit that I held onto some jobs in my business for way too long before delegating them. I look forward to firing myself from some tasks in the not so distant future and delegating them to A players who can do a much better job then myself.
  3. City-specific workshops. We hosted a few city-specific onboarding workshops where we build out your onboarding experience in one day but with so many different companies attending it was challenging to make the model work. Given that the role of onboarding lives under so many different departments in a business, you really do need to bring everyone together to solve your onboarding challenges. Hence why we’re going to double down on the corporate workshops as we can have a bigger impact.

Bonus: 10 Lessons From The Last Decade

  1. Challenge. Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. Challenge the status quo. 
  2. Go First Class. Whether you’re looking to build a business or hire a new member onto your team, go first class. Why settle for anything less than the best.
  3. Go All In. Whether it’s a relationship or business, go all in. Burn your boats and fully commit to what you’re doing. 
  4. Play The Long Game. Building a legacy doesn’t happen overnight but when you decide to play the long game, you’re able to make better choices in the short-term.
  5. Personal Growth Is The Ultimate Accelerant In Life And Business.  Habits can be your superpower and kryptonite. I pick up habits quickly which is great until it isn’t. Learning to get rid of bad habits is just as important as creating new ones.
  6. Follow Your Energy. When you focus on doing activities that give you energy, you become unstoppable in your career and life. When you follow your energy, people wonder how you have so much energy and are able to do so much and it’s often because they are doing activities that light them up.
  7. Customize Your Environment. We are all products of our environment. If you want to be fat, hang out with fat people. If you want to be an entrepreneur, hang out with entrepreneurs. If you want to have a good workout, go to a workout class where you’re surrounded by fit people. In theory, it sounds simple but in practice this is a skill you have to keep honing as fine-tuning your environment can have an incredible impact on your life.
  8. A Good Job Is It's Own Reward. Take pride in your work. When you look for outside validation as an indicator of doing a good job, you’re only setting yourself up for failure. 
  9. Only Water What You Want To Grow In Life. Want a healthy relationship? Spend more quality time with your partner. Want to hit your savings goal and retire early? Start investing regularly. 
  10. Workout To Remind Your Body Who's In Control. When you push your physical limits, you quickly learn that those limits are mostly mental. You are capable of so much more than you think is possible. Working out is a quick way to find out what you’re capable of.

Thank You for Reading This

Thank you for reading to the end. I hope you have a successful 2020!

Wes Bush
Wes Bush
Wes Bush is the bestselling author of Product-Led Growth. He’s a renowned Product-Led Growth pioneer and has challenged an entire industry to find a better way to approach SaaS growth.
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