Winning! (and its consequences)

Hi everyone - I have a new blog post that went live this morning about the consequences of winning. Check it out here: https://beyondthechaos.biz/winning-consequences-productivity/

What are some ways that you have been weighed down by your own successes?

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I think many solo developers have a fear of ‘winning’. I know it sounds strange but I’ve been told by multiple solo developers in the past 18 years that they don’t want to get too much work and have to hire employees or contractors. At that point they want a ‘job with flexible hours’ but it usually falls on deaf ears. But then again most of those solo developers leave the market after a few years of barely surviving.

I count ‘winning’ as having to hire a new developer or bringing on a contractor. It’s more management work but the more developers that are busy (and being billable) the more winning we have.

@Bob Keeney @Dave S - thanks for your patience. I have updated the link. Not sure what happened when it was pasted in, but it is fixed now.

[quote=443564:@Bob Keeney]I count ‘winning’ as having to hire a new developer or bringing on a contractor. It’s more management work but the more developers that are busy (and being billable) the more winning we have.

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I’m with you. I want to build a business, and that can’t be done if I’m doing everything. I want to work and be busy - AND manage! (And be able to go on vacation!)

Maybe they enjoy creating software but not managing people?

I am at an age where if I get laid off I will likely be retired involuntarily from my profession…

I have fantasies of supplementing Social security with income from using Xojo… but I know i have don’t have the business acumen, sales skills nor even the coding skills to do it… (though I am a good problem solver in general)

If I tried, I know I would be very much afraid to bite off more than I can chew… Worst than having no reputation is getting bad one!

  • karen

Well, sure. Coding is the fun part. But as a business I realized that having two developers allowed me to do more and have more income. Three and four was the same way.

As a solo developer you really have to be good at juggling multiple clients and projects. That isn’t an easy skill and, as you said, some would rather just code then manage people. Having additional developers means that we (collectively) don’t have to code for profit all the time. We can work on products, training videos, blog posts, etc. without having to worry about the next check from a client. We usually figure that if half of staff are billable 50 percent of the time then we break even. Everything above that is gravy.

Well, if you get to that point drop me a line. I’m pretty picky on who I hire but I never know when I’ll need someone with any particular skill set. After doing this for 18 years I don’t have a problem managing developers (though I let Carol deal with the HR stuff).

It’s been my experience that solo developers don’t bite off enough and therefore can’t grow. But like I said, I think many really desire a job with better hours than having a business and don’t price their services accordingly and plan for vacations and retirement, etc.

That’s the same formula we use.

I’m finding a lot of what you’re saying to be surprisingly relevant to me. I always told myself that I would never want to work for myself. My father did that, and there was too much uncertainty in that for me. I couldn’t put my family through it.

However, since February I’ve started selling an app with the intention of just covering server costs and stuff like that. You know, having the hobby pay for itself. Things have been going better than I could have imagined, and now that the blood is in the water, I’m exploring ways to expand. I couldn’t replace my regular income with it yet, but it’s not that far off.

But there was absolutely hesitation to “get my feet wet.” Users would ask why I don’t charge for it, and would say I just didn’t want to deal with the hassle. But I took the plunge and I don’t regret it. So I’m trying to look for ways to bite off enough to grow, as you put it.

[quote=443571:@Bob Keeney]
Well, if you get to that point drop me a line. I’m pretty picky on who I hire but I never know when I’ll need someone with any particular skill set.[/quote]

If I wind up in that situation I’ll let you know!

Thanks,

  • Karen

I’ve seen a number of things that say the children of business owners tend to have their own business so you might be doomed. Both Carol and I had business owner fathers. Our son is doubly doomed considering how much he networks now.

My father ran a business for a while and failed miserably at it. But then my mother was never really on board and while not sabotaging the business didn’t do much to help either. But you’re right, there is often a LOT of uncertainty in our type of business (hell most businesses to be honest since 80% fail within two years). Cash flow is always an issue and you have to be just as careful of spending too much when cash is flush as when you don’t have a lot coming in. And growing with more employees means dealing with health insurance and if that doesn’t turn into a fan of a single payer system I don’t know what will.

I ended up getting a contract where the job was much more than what I could handle, and I had to go to the client and politely decline the work. Finances and payment for the job was good, and the only part that was a problem was that this work had never been done before. After a couple of years of thinking about it, I still can’t figure out a way to make it work as it was a mixture of R&D and program modelling. Programming was the easy part and cloning (chuckle) myself was the hard part. Developing the algorithms, physical testing (not programming testing) was the difficult aspect.

The occasional small job comes up and it gets done, and I tend to shy-away from larger jobs. I am used to working with large organizations where support for the work is much better, but takes significantly more work.

Yep, this article of being successful rings-true in my world.

We tend to get a lot of referrals with projects like this. Having a staff really helps because we can throw a lot of bodies at a problem in short order. Our biggest project was 3 full-time Xojo developers for a year and half with a 4th called in as needed. That was a cash-flush year and a half. :slight_smile:

I used to think that too… until I realized that when you are in charge of you, instead of someone else, you actually have a lot more control.

[quote=443571:@Bob Keeney]Well, sure. Coding is the fun part. But as a business I realized that having two developers allowed me to do more and have more income. Three and four was the same way.
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I understand that.

People management is for sure a very different skill set than coding.

For almost 20 years I managed a group of about 3 chemists (Masters and Bachelor’s level). The people stuff can much harder than solving technical issues for sure!

The hardest thing i had to do was fire someone whom i knew was working hard, trying their best and needed the money, but was just not cutting it. While I know I should not have because I gave him every chance, I still felt miserable about it.

Upper management wondered why it took me so long to do it.

  • Karen

[quote=443601:@Karen Atkocius]Upper management wondered why it took me so long to do it.

[/quote]
Hire slowly. Fire quickly. I learned that from a very smart manager. When someone isn’t cutting it, they pull down the rest of the team too. It took me a while to realize the relief that came after firing someone who wasn’t a good fit. But, in all likelihood, that person wasn’t fulfilled either. Almost everyone I fired ended up somewhere else that was a much better fit for them.

Firing someone is often the hardest thing you have to do as a manager; especially if the person is one you yourself hired. It makes you wonder if your judgement of a worker is flawed or that you were fooled into believing they were right for the job when they actually weren’t or that you failed to manage that person correctly.

These doubts are normal but shouldn’t get in the way of you correcting the situation. Firing a worker who is not performing well gives you the opportunity, hopefully, to replace them with someone who will fit better.

[quote=443693:@Dale Arends]Firing a worker who is not performing well gives you the opportunity, hopefully, to replace them with someone who will fit better.

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Completely agree. Plus, it sets them free to find something that suits them better as well.

Firing does make you question your judgment, but if you have a hiring process, and you follow it religiously, you can add steps in there to try to identify whatever flaw you discovered for the next time. Of course, there is always the bad apple. I had one guy who lied… ALL THE TIME. Just not something you can necessarily screen for!