“The object of the game is to hit the pig with the bird.” — Angry, Productive Birds by Mike at Stamen is a great look at designing a system to help everyone on the team to learn from their project scheduling and time usage.
Simpleform, the company I started with my wife, is entering its third year. We built some stuff for clients, we built some stuff for ourselves, and now we’re back to building things for clients and I think we might be doing this for a while. In the past two years I have learned a lot: some about startups, but way more about businesses and running them.
This idea of building business systems started clicking in my head about six months ago as we were returning to consulting. When we were 100% dedicated to MLKSHK we were shipping daily, processing bugs as fast as people could find them, working through features, and had between the three (or four) of us developed a tight development relationship. It was a fantastic system for shipping code for our users.
When that ended I felt a bit lost. We had systems for deploying and determining where to focus, but working for clients is a different thing. So…why not develop systems for client work?
For year three of Simpleform I am trying out three things:
- Open books. Anyone who works here can see what we’re earning and how much we’re spending. If you can push code to the servers you should be able to see how healthy the business is. These things are related and should be signals for making decisions.
- Meticulous project scheduling. The purpose of our business is first to make money and second enjoy what we’re working on. This does that. I can’t enjoy my time at Simpleform if I don’t know how the business is doing and I don’t think anyone else who works here would either.
- Continuous business development. We probably never should have switched to MLKSHK full-time. It was a gamble, but looking back I see we should have kept looking for work. It was too optimistic. From now on we will try out ideas but keep the business going.
Another good post by a co-founder of AngelList called Why You Can’t Hire is the other reason I’ve been thinking about a transparent business. I don’t have ten million dollars in the bank and melting servers. I can’t compete for people who want to work at Facebook or the next Facebook. We don’t have perks, we have a water cooler and a nice plant.
What I do have is an offer to be more than just an employee with a half-of-a-half-of a percent of a business and no real connection to it other than a hope for a quick sale and a free hoodie. Everyone who works here is a partner and will have access and a vote for where we go and what we do. We get to tinker and toy with the business—as long as we are successful—and use what we learned to make our business even better.
I’m currently working through my network to find Python engineers to join us. The profile I’m using is someone with enough experience in startups and non-startups to know this is a good deal. I have one person I think is perfect and a few ideas on some other people, but if I missed you pleased get in touch.