"We had a very complicated business and we were not doing a good job," says Max. "Our financials weren't in order. We were making money, and it's not like we had receipts in shoe boxes or something, but we didn't know exactly how much each book cost because the way were paying freelancers and stuff it was hard to reconcile accounts.
"Or the way we were hiring and on-boarding freelancers — the good ones were doing a great job and the bad ones were creating horrible customer experiences for our authors," he tells Altucher. "Our authors hated them.
"There were a lot of things that we just weren't doing right."
It all came to a head when Max and his co-founder, Zach Obront, invited one of their clients, J.T. McCormick, to sit in on a management meeting.
Max, a self-described "difficult and overpowering" person, got upset about something minor and started yelling at his general manager. McCormick, who at the time was president of software company Headspring Systems, jumped in to defuse the situation.
It taught Max a valuable lesson. "Basically what he did was he made me see what I was doing," he explains.
First, McCormick misdirected, to get Max out of his "spin cycle of anger," says the founder. Then he asked Max, "Why are you doing this company?"
After Max told McCormick about his mission, McCormick asked, "When you yell, does it help your goal or hurt it?"
"He kind of painted a picture of the company a few years in [the future] doing really well," says Max, "and then something happening and me blowing up and basically causing really important people to quit.
"He said, 'Would you want that?'" No, Max wouldn't. "'Can a CEO have that?'" Max says McCormick asked. No, he can't.
McCormick saw Max screwing up in so many ways – ways that McCormick knew he himself could fix. "I know this can be a billion dollar company," Max says McCormick told him, "but you guys aren't going to do it. No offense."
"At first I was like f--- you," admits Max. But McCormick was right.
"He made me understand that what I was doing was destroying what I was trying to accomplish," says Max.
Not long after, Max fired himself as CEO and hired McCormick.
"I had to ask myself the question, 'Do I want to have a great company or do I want to be in charge?'" explains Max on the Altucher podcast. "Is it about me or is it about our mission?"