The SaaS Podcast
How to Turn Frustration Into a Million Dollar Software Business (Part 3) – with Shane Melaugh 
This is a 3-part interview with Shane Melaugh of Thrive Themes.
- Part 1: Finding & Validating Your Idea
- Part 2: Building a Team and an Audience
- Part 3: Failures and Lessons in Entrepreneurship (You Are Here!)
Shane Melaugh is the co-founder and CEO of Thrive Themes, a company that creates conversion-focused WordPress tools such as Thrive Content Builder and the Thrive Leads plugin.
Thrive Themes was founded in 2013. It currently has over 35,000 customers around the world and generates over a million dollars in annual revenue.
Highlights and Key Takeaways
Dropping Out of University
- Only made it to university, because a teacher Shane hated said that ‘you'll never be able to make it'. So he wanted to prove him wrong.
- I was never good at school. I was always on the verge of failing. I was always on the verge of repeating a year. I was the opposite of a ‘model student'.
“I was the opposite of a ‘model student'”
- After school, Shane thought about getting a job, saving up and traveling around the world. That plan failed at step 1, because he couldn't find a job.
- After 2 years of failing to find any kind of employment, Shane decided to go to university. His parents were getting worried. “I had to do something“.
- He started studying psychology at university, but it soon became clear that he'd never make it through 5 years of university. He just wasn't interested.
One Business Failure After Another
- Shane had the itch for a long time to do something of his own. He'd always been interested in teaching and creating something himself.
- He started an incredibly awkward process of finding a business to start. It was a painful experience but necessary now that he looks back.
“Even if you know nothing about entrepreneurship, you are more qualified now than I was.”
- He had experience teaching and giving presentations. So he thought he could coach people how to become better presenters. That idea came crashing down because he had no idea how to get in front of his potential clients.
“How do I get hired? I had no idea.”
- That experience continued to happen for years i.e. I'd have a product or service to sell, but no idea how to get it in front of customers.
- At one point, Shane decided to build and sell computers. He sold some on eBay but again struggled to find customers.
Going from Nobody to Online Expert
- Shane eventually got interested in water cooling components for computers. He became obsessed with the subject, setup sophisticated component tests and wrote extremely detailed product reviews online.
- In this small niche, he went from someone who knew nothing about the subject to a well known expert in about one year.
- People started to get to know him i.e. his name would be mentioned in forums as an authority, his content would be shared by people etc.
“It made me realize how I'd gone from zero to an authority in the niche by being totally obsessed with something.”
Worst Business Decision to Aha Moment
- Shane signed a contract with a water cooling parts distributor which seemed like a great opportunity at the time. He would run the Swiss version of their online store.
“That business turned out to be the worst decision I ever made.”
- He was locked into a 2-year contract and overwhelmed with work. And to make things even worse, he made no money. After expenses and taxes there was literally no money left. He ‘worked as a slave' for 2 years until he was able to get out of the contract.
- That was one of the worst low points for Shane. He was going through a really tough time and financial problems.
- After years of tough times and failures – he had a lot of self-doubt. He didn't feel good about himself.
- Shane eventually realized that the one thing that was always missing was marketing.
“Eventually, it dawned on me that I need to learn about marketing.”
Most Important Entrepreneurship Lesson
- When people are confronted with how difficult entrepreneurship is, it can be off putting. But the question is what else are you going to do with your time?
- Shane spent years on personal development to improve his skills and character. At the time, there didn't seem to be a payoff. It just seemed like he was spinning his wheels.
- Eventually his hard work paid off. It took many years, but it paid off because he didn't take the path of least resistance or give up completely.
“I have a better life now than pretty much anyone I meet – thanks to the hard work I've done over many years.”
- Shane offers the following advice to aspiring or early stage entrepreneurs: 1. It's going to be way harder than you think, so be prepared and 2. Don't worry about it. It's good to go through the experience and it will pay off eventually.
1. What's the best business advice you ever received?
- Listen to what people want and create that.
2. What book would you recommend?
- If you're starting out – Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip & Dan Heath
- If you have a growing business – Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don't by Jim Collins.
3. What's one attribute or characteristic of a successful entrepreneur?
- Work ethic.
4. What's your favorite productivity tool or habit?
- Exercise – it's break from work, it helps you be more productive etc.
5. What new business idea would love to pursue one day?
- Food business. Build vertical farms or a health food franchise.
6. What's an interesting or fun fact most people don't know about you?
- Spent several years learning medieval sword fighting.
7. What's one of your most important passions outside of your work?
- My work is my passion.