Is Your Ice Too Nice?

(Listen to this post, here.)

I might be exaggerating, but I bet I’m the only person in my entire town who woke up yesterday morning happy that it was just three degrees out.

Three degrees is cold, even for New England. But when I jumped out of bed, ran over to the thermometer and saw 3.2 on the screen, I could hardly contain my excitement.

Was it because I left $50 worth of fresh shrimp in the backseat of my car and forgot to bring it inside? Was it because I have extra oil in my basement that needs burning? Or is it just that the number three is my favorite of the digits?

I applaud your creativity, but your guesses are all wrong.

I was happy because I possess a backyard ice skating rink – 2,100 square feet (35×60), thank you very much – and good ice requires really cold temperatures. The colder the better and three degrees is about as good as it gets around here.

This is our eighth or ninth year building a rink and I don’t mind telling you, it’s become somewhat of an obsession for me.

Building the frame, laying out the liner, filling the rink and keeping it shoveled and resurfaced with fresh water (every other night at least) throughout the winter.

For me, it’s more than a hobby, it’s a lifestyle. And while I don’t mean to suggest that standing on a rink in the dark, holding a hose gushing hot water while I watch the steam rise off the surface is the highlight of my existence, it’s definitely in the top five.

But here’s the interesting thing: I don’t really love skating. Or hockey. Or cold weather.

What I love is “perfect ice” and the daily challenge of keeping it that way.

It’s kind of an odd arrangement if you think about it. I do all this work, all winter long, to create and maintain something whose practical value has little interest to me.

That’s not a problem for a leisure activity. But it’s not a smart way to market a business.

Here’s what I mean…

Many of the solo professionals I come in contact with are obsessed (to a fault) with process. They love caring for the ice; they don’t spend much time skating.

They hold off on launching a new web site until it’s “just right.” They organize and reorganize their contact lists. They fine-tune their bio, redesign their logo, fool with their pricing and rewrite their newsletter again and again and again without ever sending it.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing inappropriate about putting your best foot forward and making sure your marketing materials and presence are well done.

That said, perpetual table setting – without inviting any guests – is dangerous. It feels like activity – it is activity. It’s just not the kind that by itself will ever bring you the avalanche of clients and money you want.

At some point, the benefits of incremental tweaking are outweighed by the cost of never taking action. And it’s action – visible, real, scary action that comes with the possibility of failure – that you need.

So go ahead. Build, organize, prepare, polish. Just don’t let your preparation become an excuse for not lacing up your skates and stepping out on the ice.

After all, only a fool would build a rink that he never intended to use.

16 thoughts on “Is Your Ice Too Nice?

  1. Robert Widdowson

    Hi Michael,

    I was a bit spooked by this podcast. It felt like you were describing me to a ‘t’. I’ve been obsessing about my new website – each page, each post, etc. I’m like a deer in the headlights.

    You’re right. I’ve finished prepping the darn thing, it’s time to unveil it.

    Thanks for the boost.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Boo! I mean, I’m glad it hit the spot. And I understand the feeling too. What’s so nice about 21st century business though is that just about everything can be changed and modified after the fact. In fact, I think not only is there little risk in getting things wrong, it’s easier to change as you go than to get it right from the outside looking in.

      Skate away Robert! (And keep us posted.)

  2. Katherine Andes

    Excellent business advice as always. And I love that websites are so easy to correct if you make a mistake. Random questions: hot water on ice? Why? and where do you get hot water? Do you hook up your hose to a hot water pipe? Hot water on ice. There’s gotta be another analogy there for another post ….

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Ahh, very observant of you Katherine. Hot water is better because when you put it on the ice, it melts all the little bits of snow and ice that are there. Even though we scrape it by walking back and forth with a shovel before putting on the water, it’s not perfect. If you put cold water down, you get all these rough bits when the snow freezes which, while skateable, are not great. Hot water turns it into a perfectly smooth surface!
      We hook it up through a window in the back of the house where the laundry is. Disconnect hose from hot water of laundry feed and away we go!

        1. jack Pignatello

          Obviously Katherine has never seen a Zamboni up close and personal! And Michael, I followed the link and was hoping to see you demonstrate your skating prowess (as much as you dislike the activity).

          I know in my case, I’m getting to the age where I can’t be falling down for the hell of it, so you’re not going to see me on ice!

          1. Michael Katz Post author

            Hello Jack! I was on for about an hour this afternoon with my wife and some neighbors. Beautiful day. I’m not much of a skater, but enough to go around.

            But … here’s a little video montage of my son and his friends that I shot last night!

  3. Lisa Jensen

    What a great analogy. I also like the quote “Better LIVE than perfect.” It helps to remind my website clients that the sooner they have a website, the sooner the search engines can find them.

    Your ice story reminded me of a friend’s solution to maintaining his backyard skating (hockey) rink – a homemade Zamboni that his kids can operate. I thought you might enjoy the 2-minute video:

  4. Michele

    Wow! I had a little “downtime” during a seminar today, and I was exploring your site instead of just reading your awesome emails when they reach my inbox. Anyway, this title caught my eye, and it was THE PERFECT THING TO READ AT THE PERFECT TIME! I’ve started a new venture and I’ve been stalled – waiting until everything was “just so”. Now, I know it’s time to just go for it!

    You are spot on, and it’s nice to re-read something from a couple of years ago that is still so timely. Well done!

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Hello Michele!
      Usually when there’s a comment on an old post it’s spam, so it was nice to see that it wasn’t! Glad it was on time and on target for you today.

  5. Maya

    The most effective way to do it, is to do it. -Amelia Earhart


    The longer it takes to develop, the less likely it is to launch -Jason Fried, CEO of Basecamp


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