(tl;dr: Answer a few easy questions to see if I can help your startup!)
Do you have a startup company that’s not yet all the way started up? Not quite done with the software tech product that defines you? Not sure how to finish it, or where to go next? Are you still stuck for a platform? Worried about funding? Afraid of making expensive mistakes?
I’m hearing you.
So you have this small business. You probably just started it. You’ve got a pretty good business plan, you’ve stashed some money to keep it going until it breaks even and can pay you, you’ve worked out health insurance and stuff… or maybe you’re keeping your day job and working a lot of nights and weekends to get it together. And it’s a cool idea: some product or service that people are definitely going to want to pay money for. It’s exciting and terrifying, because you don’t know what could go wrong, but you’re also a little apprehensive about how it will go right in the end.
Does this sound like you?
Maybe this is your first business. Maybe it’s your sixth.
And there’s a software piece that’s essential to what you’re doing. It might be something special about your website (aside from just having a really nice website!) or it might be a new internal application you rely on for competitive advantage. It could be customer-facing or not. It might be some nifty mobile app that’s your customers’ gateway to using the product you’re selling. The point is that it’s critical to making the business work. It might be the business’s reason for existing, or it might fulfill a wildly essential support role, but the point is that you can’t just buy Quickbooks and be done with it. It’s strategic.
You’re not equipped to carry the project to completion on your own. As usual, cash flow is an immediate concern. So you have to get the help you need at a reasonable, predictable price–and without giving up the Big Idea and the vision that are making you want to do this in the first place.
Welcome to startup world! It just gets better from here.
I know what this is like. Over the past 25 years, I’ve worked with over fifty different micro-businesses, individual startups, freelancers, nonprofit organizations, and big established companies of all kinds. A lot of times they come to me with what I fondly call “Software Projects That Suck!” because they suck away all your time, money, and motivation. Wouldn’t it be great to get on the right track before your project starts to suck, and takes your business with it? That’s what I’m here for.
What you’ve tried already
You probably already hired a programmer (or two) but that person got stuck on some technical issues or simply didn’t have the time to do things right. You tried to hack something together yourself with FrontPage and a VBA macro, or found a way to get Microsoft Access and a Perl script to do something vaguely in the neighborhood of what you wanted.
Maybe it’s two or three (or seven) applications daisy-chained together in a Windows batch file. I have seen these things in real life! And had any of those approaches really solved the problem… you wouldn’t be reading this. So keep going.
What’s actually wrong…
…is that most software developers don’t speak your language. Why should we? You don’t speak ours either.
Improvements in craft (like pair programming) and coordination (like KanBan) come about slowly and aren’t always accepted right away, but they make a big difference in the quality of work. It’s not your job to know about these things, and you’ve got enough to think about.
You don’t even exactly need a “consultant” or an outsourcer. You… kind of need someone to hang out with and figure this out together.
Let me help.
That’s what I do. If you want to stay in control of your business, if you’re thinking of the big picture, if you’re depending on a defining software project? You need a partner who’s been around a lot of projects that have gone well (and badly), who knows how to make stuff work but also knows when to cut the complexity, who gets what your business is about and respects where you’re going with it.
You need someone who’s interested in your business and committed to your success, but detached enough to understand what’s realistic and know when it’s not working out. It’s kind of like having varying combinations of a coach, a therapist, a wisecracking sidekick, a freelance hacker, a project manager, and Mary Poppins, depending on what you need at the time.
With me so far?
Good! My new “All Up” plan is totally for you…
- …if you’re ready to go with your startup company or new product right now! Better yet if it’s already out there.
- …if you feel good about your business ideas but aren’t exactly sure how to deliver the computer-y part.
- …if you have gone through a couple of contracted developers who haven’t worked out.
- …or! If you like the ones you’re working with but haven’t been able to finish properly!
- …if you want to keep driving but are willing to be surprised by how we get to the destination.
So here’s the All Up plan:
- First, I get All Up in your business with a questionnaire that you can fill out online–so we have the same information about where you are, what you’re doing, what hasn’t worked for you so far, and where you want to go.
- Then, we talk it over on the phone for half an hour at a time convenient to you.
(Bonus! If you’re not too far from Cleveland, forget the phone! We’ll hang out at your choice of fine beverage locations!)
- Only then if you’re ready to go forward and we both feel that working together is a good fit, let’s shake hands and find a way to make it work.
- I’ll help you choose the technology platform and a general direction for the software or web project you want to do.
- I’ll do some of the technical work myself, or bring in partners who are better qualified for it.
- I’m available on the phone and via email for mid-course corrections and general Q&A. You don’t get charged for this; it’s just part of the relationship.
- We’ll repeat that coffee (or beer) meeting once a week so we can talk over the technical direction of your company as it relates to the software project or product. Again, no extra charge for that. No nickel and diming!
- You’ll get a block of my time for “offline” work: anything like troubleshooting, programming, meetings with your existing developers, documentation, that sort of thing. You need to know there’s a cap on cash flow, so we’ll arrange the block size in advance.
How this works in real life:
All small business are different. Depending on your own technical chops, the other people you have available, the urgency of your development project, the timeline to break-even, and your current level of funding, we could work together in a lot of ways. But here are the essential things:
- We will use that first meeting to plan a path of progress for the first month or two. It will include specific deliverables and priorities, and we’ll tentatively agree on how long we’ll need to work together to get the best results for you without breaking your resources.
- From that meeting and further research, I’ll produce a document analyzing your technology options, including platform choice (if that’s still an issue for you), the resources you’ll need to get the project done, and a shot at predicting the things that could go totally wrong.
- Something I need from you: The Guarantee! (see below)
- I’ll provide ongoing access and connections to qualified contractors who can actually help with the work.
- As above, you’ll have me available on the phone and via email for checkins, advice, and Q&A.
And there’s a guarantee.
At this point you’re probably wondering how this works out if you’re not satisfied with the All Up plan. Is there a guarantee? The answer is yes, and you get to decide what it is.
Because part of the project plan we make at that first meeting describes what success looks like and your personal commitment to making it work. The All Up guarantee is simply this: if you fulfill your commitment to the All Up plan as we established, then I will do what it takes to meet the corresponding success criteria. Or you get your money back with no hurt feelings.
It’s really that simple: You establish what you need out of each month’s work and process, we make a plan to accomplish those things together, and we’re both accountable for holding up our end of the deal. What could be better?
Okay. That’s a lot to take in.
So give yourself a moment to breathe, and then how about reading this over one more time and seeing how it lands for you.
Are you ready to get to that welcome questionnaire right now? Great! Do you have more questions first? That’s cool too. Call me now at 216-661-2000 or email <firstname.lastname@example.org>!