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I Lost Control of My Company. Here’s How I Got It Back

I’m a decisive guy. Sometimes too decisive. I make quick gut decisions and I back myself to either be right, or at least smart enough to see I’m wrong, admit fault, and make a change.

You can’t just do it, though. There has to be something backing those gut feelings, and also the ability to see you’re wrong. In my case, it’s being in business for 25 years and having obsessed over proposal writing, company branding, and helping businesses be more professional for almost that entire time.

But at the beginning of June, something weird happened. 

Someone in Marketing came to me with a relatively simple decision - it was a this-or-that kind of thing. Truthfully, it didn’t matter. Both were good ideas, both stood roughly an equal chance of working. Usually, I’d just pick one and reply.

But this time? Nothing. 

Couldn’t decide. 


I’d even got to the point where I’d realised it didn’t truly matter and to flip a coin. But the point was: where on earth is my gut feeling and why can’t I make a decision? 

This is a problem 

So I do what I usually do when I need to figure something out: drag Sabrina out for a 3-hour walk. 

The conclusion we came to was the reason my gut feeling wasn’t there anymore was because my inputs weren’t what they used to be. Instead of doing a bit of customer support, talking to customers online, talking to partners, designing features, and listening for feedback - I was chatting with my team instead who were completely removed from the situation, yet they’re looking to me for guidance.

Problem was, I couldn’t provide any. So you can see how this situation isn’t exactly ideal.

I thought about the last time I spoke to a customer properly and genuinely couldn’t remember. Years ago. 3 or 4 years ago maybe?

So I did what any nut case would do 

I decided I was going to do nothing for the next 14 days but talk to customers. Not delegating it to someone else. Just me and Sabrina dedicated to that one customer - then onto the next. 

100 proper 45 minute conversations over 14 days. Yes, that’s roughly 7 calls a day. 

Is this sustainable? Absolutely not - but it wasn’t supposed to be. 

I wanted to be smashed in the face with reality and I didn’t want it to be subtle. 

It’s how I work. Doing it in small increments isn’t me, isn’t my style, it’s not how I do things. It’s certainly not me at my best. I’ve learned over the years that I do my best work when I can create an event out of it. The more ridiculous it is, the better. 

That is how I get the results I do - I do things other people wouldn’t even consider. Granted, I have the best business and life partner in Sabrina that I could ever ask for. She handles the boring shit while I do the mad stuff. It works. The fact that I don’t have kids also helps.

But you do have to be a special kind of maniac to open your calendar up from 6am till midnight for 2 weeks straight. 

So what happened?

First of all, we wanted to speak to everyone equally and not “just the big customers”. This was how we categorised it:

  • Starter plan who were just 1 user.
  • Premium plan who had 2-3 users.
  • Premium or Enterprise who had 3+ users

This gave us clear lines. The things I’m getting from single user Starter plan people shouldn’t be mixed with the stuff I’m getting from a team with 185 users but to me, both are equally valuable.

So I did roughly 35 calls of each category. 

Here's what we learned

The most interesting thing I realised was every single one of them bar two were using Microsoft Word before using us. I assumed there would be far more of a mix. Yet, here we were, assuming that 80% of our customers came from competitors. Turns out, our biggest competitor is 30-year-old Microsoft Office. Just as it was 10 years ago when I came up with this idea in the first place.

People love what we’ve built. Hearing this over and over really kept me going when it’s pushing midnight on day 10. Every single person told us that they loved the product, loved our ideas and how we build software, and loved us for doing what we do. I very much needed that.

In fact, the thing that made it hard was when the odd person wouldn’t show up. You’d mentally prepare, wait, and then… nothing. So I hadn’t rested, eaten or I’d got up early or whatever. Then, on top of that, I’ve done neither thing - not rested or spoken to anyone pumping up my social energy. That was hard.

We learned about little bugs or things that annoyed people that we really wouldn’t have ever found out if we hadn’t been told about it 4 times in a row. With the intensity of the calls, every realisation is happening hour to hour, not month to month. It’s so much easier to spot. 

We managed to get a big list of these together and the product team had fixed almost all of them within a few weeks of the calls being over. It felt really good to get that done.

We learned that people buy our product because they want to look better to the outside world and appear more professional. They believe that, by using our product, they achieve that. Absolutely eye opening. 

The last major thing we realised was that we really do a terrible job of telling our customers about the things the product does. Had a customer who had been with us 5 years tell us “It would be nice if there were more font options”.


You’re on our biggest plan. You can literally choose any font in the world. 

100% on us, so we’re going to make more of an effort to not only tell customers about things as we build them, but also educate on how best to use things that have been in the system forever. 

So, we’re starting a simple monthly email called Laser Focus which simply does that. Tells people new things and some best practices on some existing features, too.


I can’t point to too many things I’ve done in my life that I think have genuinely made the kind of impact that this did. I feel like I fell in love with the business again,got back the confidence that we’re on a great path,we understand the problems our customers face, and our approach to solving them is spot on.

If you run a SaaS business and can get on the phone with customers - seriously do it. And don’t do 2 a week. Clear your schedule and do it all in one go. The things you learn are nuts. 

Thank you to every one of you who took the time to speak to us. I appreciate you more than you know.

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Adam Hempenstall's profile image
Adam Hempenstall is the CEO and Founder of Better Proposals. He started his first web design business at 14 and has since written four books and built an international movement around sending better proposals. Having helped his customers win $500,000,000 in the last 12 months alone, he’s launched the first ever Proposal University where he shares best practices on writing and designing proposals. He co-runs a once-a-year festival called UltraMeet and is a massive FC Barcelona fan.