When I was young, my dad left the corporate world to start his own business. I witnessed the long hours invested in realizing his vision; calling on prospects, taking orders, making deliveries, and paperwork. Real paperwork, you know… pen… paper… carbon paper! Sometimes it’s hard to remember life before technology! What possessed him to leave a comfortable corporate sales job for the instability and risks of entrepreneurship? Furthermore, what possesses any of us to do the same?
The entrepreneur sees opportunity and is willing to risk failure in order to share their vision with the world. Entrepreneurship is not for the faint hearted. Those who overcome challenges such as limited budget, limited resources, flexible business model, and rapid growth will succeed. Partnering with entrepreneurs to mitigate these challenges allows SpringFin to make a real difference in the world. Following are a few specific challenges that we see most often in software projects.
It’s all about the money. Hiring a quality CTO ensures that you are headed in the right technical direction, but can be cost prohibitive. Even a highly skilled developer may be a tall order. After all, that salary isn’t disappearing once the software project is over. Also, there’s no guarantee that the first hire is the right one. The monetary and time risks involved with hiring are very real. Engaging a consulting firm specializing in technical direction and development expertise can be a very cost effective route, long term. You pay only for what you need and can expect quality results.
“Good, Fast, or Cheap. Pick two.” You’ve surely heard this rule of thumb. The only problem is that an entrepreneur doesn’t have this luxury. The entrepreneur has one shot to get it right, often within a tight deadline. Time to market can make or break a new product. Cheap in this case only refers to upfront costs. In our experience, thoughtfully crafted, high quality product requires minimal maintenance. Whereas poor quality absolutely cripples organizations with ongoing maintenance costs. The reality is that an entrepreneur can’t afford “cheap.” Survival demands good and fast. There’s always someone who will do it cheaper.
Flexibility is a blessing and a curse. Big corporations only dream of responding to changing market conditions like the entrepreneur. Although entrepreneurs thrive in a changing environment, beware of ballooning costs related to changes. A trusted advisor can help by asking the right questions at the beginning of a project. This activity will help reduce the possibility of changes along the way, but inevitably it will happen. It’s certainly easier for a home builder to move a window in blueprints rather than waiting until the walls are up. In the case of software, a development team adhering to agile methods using good code quality and structure will help minimize the blow of changes.
Growth happens in small business. In fact, according to the SBA, small business is responsible for 16 times more patents than large firms! Along those same lines, small business created 64% of all new jobs from 1993 to 2011. While small business may not necessarily mean entrepreneurs, it’s safe to assume that entrepreneurs are a significant part of the small business community. An entrepreneur is always balancing today’s needs with a vision for what tomorrow may bring. In software, it is critical to build a solid foundation which performs and scales well while still being flexible enough for the inevitable changes. After all, a million orders doesn’t do you much good if you can only process 10.