In 2019, Ross Andrew Paquette (CEO of the tech company, Maropost) read an article written by the Fast Company. The article was titled, “Why ‘do the best you can’ is terrible advice” and it changed everything Paquette thought he knew about how he built his multi-million-dollar enterprise.
“Do the best you can… Oh, it’s bad advice alright,” Paquette told me when I interviewed him for this article. “In fact, no. It’s horrible advice. But… Well, it worked for me!”
Maropost is an organization built off of a decade of history in marketing automation. It has been known as being one of the fastest-growing and most profitable tech companies in North America for years. And it supports (and is supported by) big-name brands like Warby Parker, Livestrong, Mercedes-Benz, Haymarket Media, Newscorp, and more.
So, how did Paquette turn this ‘bad advice’ into millions of dollars? Find out below:
Does ‘Do the Best You Can’ Promote Mediocrity?
Before anything else, let’s talk about this so-called “bad advice.”
Do the best you can. I’m sure most of us have heard it at least once. It’s meant to be encouraging. Something that you might tell a nervous kid (or in this case, entrepreneur, hah!) to help calm their nerves so that they can do whatever it is that they’ve got to do.
But, according to Fast Company, it’s more of encouragement towards mediocrity than actual good encouragement. After all, by telling someone to do the best that they can, you’re giving them leave to apply themselves to the job within their self-imposed limits.
So, rather than do THE best they end up doing their best.
Okay, but enough wordplay, let’s get to the point. Why is this advice so bad?
Well, to keep it simple, a person’s best… may be mediocre. May just be, “OK.” And by encouraging them in this way, you’re pretty much telling them that it’s “fine to be just okay at something” rather than to be the best at something.
Suffice to say, if you’re a business owner or, even, just a small-time team leader, that’s probably not what you want to do.
Unless you’re Ross Andrew Paquette that is, and somehow… you make it work!
Is It Okay to Be Just “OK”?
“Have you ever heard someone say: ‘if you’re not first, then you’re last? These days, I subscribe to that kind of thinking. But that’s not always been the case. Especially not at the beginning, when I was trying to independently bootstrap Maropost at home.” – Ross Andrew Paquette
“It’s not that I promoted mediocrity back then,” Paquette starts off by saying. “I’d argue the opposite, actually. Seeing as it was because of the mediocrity going around at the time that I decided to start slowly funding the development of Maropost with a friend of mine from college.”
He goes on to say: “I was a witness to just how fast the digital marketing space was moving, and just how poorly all the so-called ‘solutions’ at the time were catching up. All of the companies that I worked with, for example, were more than comfortable sticking with the status quo. That was the way it was back then. Everyone was content to continue filling their pockets while the customers were left to suffer from lackluster support.”
And so, not being able to look away from this poor showing. Paquette decided to tackle the issue right at the core by creating a solution that would be able to constantly evolve along with the rapidly changing digital marketing landscape.
This is obviously the furthest thing from promoting mediocrity, ever.
The only reason then, that the ‘do the best you can’ advice applies to Maropost’s success, is because he went about Maropost’s development with no expectations of the company growing past a small lifestyle business that would support ten customers at most!
That’s why, during their first year, Maropost functioned with a team of only three people (Paquette himself included, of course.) They also spent very little time (or capital, for that matter) on marketing their product – instead, relying rather heavily on ‘word of mouth.’
“I was satisfied with just doing what I thought was my best in the beginning,” Paquette said. “I had no big expectations or delusions of grandeur. I had a goal. I knew I wanted to build a solid solution that would be able to withstand the test of time. And so that’s what I set out to do.
Looking back now, I maybe should have gone about things more proactively. But, I can’t say I regret it. After all, it was because I thought that way that we were able to fully realize our goal. As a team, we devoted ourselves to the development of our infrastructure and we handled every single one of our clients like they were our only one.”
And now, because of this approach, Maropost is a successful, multi-million-dollar company that is renowned internationally. Even more than that, it’s an organization. One with three products in its name (and more incoming it seems), and hundreds of supportive clients.
And its CEO, Ross Andrew Paquette, well, he has big dreams for the future. And he fully expects Maropost to keep growing from here. With his latest projections for Maropost breaking into the $100 million range in revenue by the end of 2021.
“I feel no shame in saying that the bad, horrible advice that is ‘do the best you can’, has gotten me very far,” Paquette said to finish off his story. “But only because now I understand the difference between my best and the best and can make the most out of it.”