Hi there 👋 I'm Julien co-founder and CEO at Practice. AMA

Julien Smith
29 replies
Hello! I'm Julien Smith, co-founder and CEO at Practice, a platform that allows coaches to run the entire scope of their business in one place, from scheduling to invoicing. We’re backed by Andrew Chen at a16z, Tony Robbins, Austin Rief, Brian Norgard, Greg Isenberg, Josh Buckley, Lenny Rachitsky, Emily Kramer, Nikita Bier, Shrug Capital, Sahil Bloom and a lot of other great angels. Previously, I co-founded Breather, which raised over $150m, and was its CEO for over 5 years to Series C. Breather was a network of private work spaces built for productivity and was used by millions; I’ve been working my whole career to empower individuals, and the mission at Practice is no different. I’m also a NYT best-selling author, having written Trust Agents, The Impact Equation, and The Flinch. The Flinch is probably my most famous book - it was one of the top downloaded and highlighted books on Kindle since the day it was published. It’s about the moment of fear that holds people back from reaching their potential and has influenced a lot of startup leaders. I also coach a few first-time CEOs as a way of giving back to the startup space. Let’s talk about startups, Practice, coaching, managing fear, and CEO-life! AMA


Hey 👋 Julien - Awesome work! How long did it take for you to write the 📚 ?
Julien Smith
@arbalestpartner Hey Saswat. It's a good rule of thumb that each book you write will take a year, no matter what happens. There are exceptions - my buddy Michael Bungay Stanier is attempting to write 3 books this year! - but the exceptions prove the rule. A book is theoretically around 100,000 words which you can assume take about 100 days to write - you should keep a cadence of about 1000 words a day, whether they are good or not. :) Then, after that, there's editing and all the other stuff and then there's the business of actually getting the book to sell, which can either be very hard or very easy. Hope that clarifies things! I think it's easier to write a book than most people think, but that doesn't mean all books are bestsellers (ours were a combination of good books with good timing, and good luck).
Mark Yeramian
Congrats on all the progress with Practice Julien! We'll have to do a part 2 of your podcast episode one day ;)
Heath W. Black
I interviewed with Breather in...2016 (?) and really loved the team you all assembled and the culture you all had seemingly built! Kudos there. As for my Q: If you could go back and revisit a key decision at Breather, what would it be and how would you have approached it differently? How are you taking that hindsight learning and turning it into foresight for Practice?
Julien Smith
@heathwblack Breather was a business that was successful despite basically everyone in the business (myself included) learning on the job. A huge amount of mistakes were made along the way - it is still a good business model, actually, although I don't know how the economics of commercial real estate would work out post COVID. I would say I would focus first and foremost even MORE on the early team, making sure everyone was supremely excellent. That also means I would fire faster, in some cases. But the biggest error by far was focusing on the small customer of meeting rooms rather than enterprise when we first saw the signals of it being successful. We would have grown even faster than we did. Btw, there are tons of lessons from being a first time CEO that apply to being a second, including the ones above, but the major edge is in the psychology - you freak out way less and you have a really good understanding of what matters and what does not.
Andy Berman
Congrats on the progress Julien.
Keith Nerdin
Hey Julien! We first bumped into each online when I did an animated Amazon book review for The Impact Equation. I'm actually on the lookout for a first-time tech startup CEO coach. I know a lot of good coaches, but none who have successfully been down the tech startup path like you. I'd love to explore the possibility of working with you. If you're not currently taking on new clients, perhaps you'd be able to recommend someone to me? Great to see you here and hope you're doing ridiculously well! P.S. - Just signed up for early access to Practice... which looks really rad BTW!
Julien Smith
@keithnerdin Hey Keith! Wow, so long ago- wild. I know a lot of coaches now that I run Practice, so I can get you a referral or we can chat. Reach out to me at the obvious email address.
Hey Julien! Congrats on your passions. I'm interested to know what your daily or weekly time allocation looks like - from staying healthy, to building a company, to writing, to be present with family. Is there a motto or process you live by? Are you just born with it (or is it maybelline)?
Julien Smith
@adamcbuchanan i think to a degree people are born and become the person they always were, but the main element that allows you to optimize around that is your environment. sincerely, i think of myself as kind of a low willpower animal who is easily distracted, and i build my world around that. i work a lot, and by that i mean a lot of my day, but it's not intense work all of the time - but my mind is on my job when it is not on my relationship or my family and friends, very likely. i'm injured at the moment, but when i was not, i worked out 3x per week with a focus on lifting heavy things and a focus on protein when i eat - maybe this is helpful? the main thing that i really got right when writing or really at any time was to focus on what mattered most first thing in the morning. when writing, that was 1000 words a day the moment i got up, for example. (ah, a writer's life!)
@julien love it. This is insightful and practical. Hahaha Yes - life of a writer. Thank you for the breakdown.
Johannes Hörteis
Hi Julien, what is something 1st time CEOs haven't usually wrapped their head around?
Julien Smith
@hurty_ Hi Johannes. I think that often, first time founders try to innovate too much. The reality is that most markets (and by that I mean buyers in markets) really want something that's essentially the same as what they wanted before, but easier, or faster, or cheaper, or nicer. Very seldom do they need something completely different. (I believe Ev Williams said this first.) The corollary to this is that most startup ideas should be pretty straightforward, and they get made overly complicated by the founders. A second thing people do wrong is that they sacrifice on team and then are too nice when people don't work out. Ultimately the people you hire are the company you make, so you should not be surprised when something happens at the company you made that was really at its foundations from the beginning. i.e. if people in your company gossip, it's probably that one of the founders is a gossip. A third thing is that there is a lack of focus. In reality, nothing matters except iterating on an idea until people love it. That's it. And it's the founders' jobs to ensure they are able to do that with the capital they have to maximize their chances of getting to the next stage. Easy peasy right? Lol
Zhiyuan Ju
@hurty_ @julien I'm starting the Global Team of API7.ai, a company based on Apache APISIX to provide services. For me, I'm 24 years old with less experience, but I know and mainly focus on Team (Support people and Serve team), Goal (agile goals with the team), Project (track progress), and Data (Data-decision driven). 🎉 Thanks for your sharing and Johannes Hörteis's question!
Hey Julien your story looks interest. I'm curious how does it feel for being a CEO while coaching CEOs at the same time :)))
Julien Smith
@louise_liu it is a weird, unusual thing. i only coach a few CEOs, always first time, but i will say it gives you some clarity into what you, yourself, are doing right and wrong because you get to look at someone else's business with fresh eyes. that's a nice thing. in addition, it really shows me that startups are actually pretty formulaic and you can run the formula and achieve a solid outcome, which is why YC can exist in the first place.
Davor Kolenc
Hi Julien. A very impressive portfolio :o Great to hear about Practice! Can you share/remember how did it go for the first year in Breather. What were the obstacles? How did you acquire your first users?
Roman Vorozhtsov
Hello Julien. Do you think that rest is very important and how do you recover?
simeon samuel
Hey Julian, Would you love to partner on a decentralized platform
Hi Julien , Fab work you have achieved ! well done and keep going and supporting other first time founders and also empower them. Have you thought in giving back to students ? are you affiliate with any campus ? to help them figure out the next step ?
Vasishta Chary
Hey Julien - Congrats on the progress and the kickass work you have been doing My Question to you - I am a full-time founder who also mentors early-stage startups, and I want to get into coaching in a more structured way. Can you suggest where do I start with the same? and i would love to pick your brain and understand how better can i help new age founders.
Tim Hayden
I’ve known you for some time, before “Trust Agents.” With Breather, you were early to the hybrid workplace market, zagging when others zigged “co-working.” What is one major lesson learned for balancing a digital/physical business plan and GTM strategy? As a follow up, how critical must today’s founders respect the arc (years, episodic… ) of behavior/culture change when mapping scale and growth? ^rather than merely identifying a linear near term market gap.