Posts tagged Entrepreneurs

Maker and Manager Schedules and your Startup

In 2009 Paul Graham posted on his blog about Makers and Managers. I don’t know if he was the first to blog about it but this was the first time I read about it. When I ran across that article in 2010/2011 I really didn’t understand it. I was a full time developer and wantrepreneur so I really didn’t ‘get it’. Fast forward a few years and with a partner Jason Jarrett we launched Resgrid and my perspective changed.

weeklyschedule

The Maker/Manager issue is about context. A Maker (Developer/Programmer) has a different context then a Manager (Supervisor/Owner/Executive). Context switching is a well known issue for developers, every time you need to thing about something other then what you’re currently working on there is a cost, your brain needs time to adjust, so if you’re constantly switching contexts you will never get in a flow.

In either context (Maker/Manager) you can get into a flow, which is important. Based on our history/skills we will gravitate to one or the other naturally as it’s more comfortable for us. However, this can cause huge issues for startup founders.

The Maker

When your in Maker mode your looking at features, bugs or whatever and trying to figure out how to do them, which patterns do you use? What architecture would you implement? How is the UI going to look, etc. Your then going to go ahead and implement it.

In the Maker mindset your going to just create and find reasons create. Don’t like that pattern/code refactor it. Oh that feature may be good for 1% of my customers, spend a week implementing it. A Maker’s context is creation and implementation.

The Manager

In Manager mode, your looking at direction and hopefully utilizing analytics and real paying customers to drive your decisions. You will plan out features, set schedules, work on a budget and gather/document requirements. At the manager level your doing business work, working with customers and growing your business.

In my mind the Manager has much more to juggle, but it’s because I’m far more comfortable being a Maker. Managers don’t handle implementation and will tend to get themselves into analysis paralysis if they aren’t careful. A Managers context is business oriented and the ‘30,000 foot/high level picture view’.

Why set a Schedule?

The issue is that we will all lean toward more one then the other. In my own experience with Resgrid I’ve spent far more time developing then growing the business. Everything I do somehow leads back to more development and more code. As a startup founder you can’t just write code and actually this could be the least valuable thing you do.

So setting a schedule where you will dedicate days to being one or the other will help force yourself to do something your probably not comfortable with. This will help you get into flows and ensure your not letting part of your business stagnate. If your naturally a Manager, maybe your not going to write code on the Maker days, but getting more involved with your product’s guts is important.

Setting the Maker/Manager day doesn’t mean to totally neglect the other. For example of your on a Manager day and the production system has a critical bug you should fix it. But don’t work on feature development don’t develop or write code unless it’s fixing a problem. The same goes for when your in a Maker day, don’t neglect your customers support emails and calls, but don’t work on marketing strategy or budgets.

What am I doing

One of my goals for this year is to get into a Maker/Manager schedule. Monday, Wednesday and Fridays are my Manager day, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturdays are my Maker days. Resgrid deploys every Friday, so part of that day I’ll be in ‘Maker’ mode. Sundays will also be my light/off day I’ll only be working on major issues.

My goal is by Q2 2015 I’ll be fully on this schedule, I’m going to ease into it, due to the amount of work I need to get done on the Maker side.

Mobile Apps for Micro Entrepreneurs

As micropreneurs we are always working. Even on my ‘days off’ I’m on the couch with my laptop working on code or business issues. Businesses with lots of staff have the luxury of ‘someone else will handle that’, in our world we are that someone else. So being able to work effectively and efficiently on the go is important, with the rise of smartphones and apps this is a very realistic option.

iphoneappsOver the last few months I’ve started collecting apps on my iPhone\iPad to help me keep in touch with my business when I’m away from the house. My business is Resgrid which is a SaaS product deployed on Microsoft Azure, providing logistics and management tools to first responder organizations like volunteer fire, career fire, EMS, search and rescue, public safety, disaster relief organizations, etc. It was founded in late 2012 by myself and Jason Jarrett (staxmanade). Serving first responder means that we can’t really have much downtime and we need to be as responsive as possible, both are challenges for startups.

So here are my top mobile apps for micro entrepreneurs to run our businesses, respond to issues and keep tabs on everything on the go.

Cloud Magic (https://cloudmagic.com/) FREE
Android: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.cloudmagic.mail&hl=en
iOS: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/cloudmagic/id721677994?mt=8

Cloud Magic has replaced my default email apps on mobile devices. It’s a free app that connects easily to Microsoft’s Exchange (Outlook 365) and much more. If you sign up for their service it will sync your email settings and accounts to all your devices. I like it for it’s clean interface with helpful color hints. I can easily see all my email from multiple boxes and work through them quickly. Overall the CloudMagic seems much faster then the default email clients.

Quicklytics (http://escoz.com/quicklytics/index.html) FREE (IAP $9.99)
iOS: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/quicklytics-google-analytics/id354890919?mt=8

Quicklytics is a great mobile app for monitoring your Google Analytics account. View multiple date ranges, active visitors, multiple Google Analytics accounts (I have it tied to 2 different Google accounts, one personal and one business). The app looks great on iPad’s as well, gives a nice display and uses the extra screen real-estate very well. I use Quicklytics a lot to determine how marketing efforts are going on the go.

Azure Management FREE (PRO $0.99)
iOS: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/azure-management/id826446897?mt=8

Resgrid is built entirely on Microsoft’s Azure platform, so being able to monitor our Azure instances and platform on the go can be extremely helpful. I’m using the PRO version, but for 99 cents it’s a great deal. At this point there isn’t any nice charting, I would love to see my load/response times on the fly, but you can do pretty much anything else for Azure Websites, Azure Cloud Services, SQL Databases, Storage and more. I use it to check the heath of my cloud service web and worker roles, reboot an instance if needed, I can even scale from the app.

TC (Team City) Companion (http://teamcitycompanion.github.io/) $2.99
iOS: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/teamcity-companion/id851337369?mt=8

Here at Resgrid we utilize Team City on our backend, for CI, deployments and even production monitoring. You could say that Team City is our back of the house catch all system. All of our deployments are automated and failing builds and tests can have a huge impact on our deliverables. The TCCompanion app is amazing, I can kick off builds, monitor runs and history, visual failed/successful builds, look at the logs and more. Doing this from my phone, on the go, allows me to kick of staging and production deploys and keep tabs on production all from one app.

Quixpanel (http://www.quixpanel.com/) $0.99
iOS: https://itunes.apple.com/app/quixpanel-analytics-on-road/id720738517

While we use Google Analytics for our public facing analytics we utilize MixPanel for pretty much everything else. MixPanel is a great and very powerful analytics platform we utilize it for our product interfaces (the website after you login to Resgrid and all of our mobile apps). This allows us to see what features are being used. Quixpanel allows me to see our MixPanel analytics on the go, spot trends and view reports so I can correctly communicate what’s being used in our system. Nothing beats good, actionable, analytics for business owners.

Slack (https://slack.com/) FREE Apps (Service may cost $)
Android: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.Slack&hl=en
iOS: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/slack-team-communication/id618783545?mt=8

Slack is a communication service, but it can be way more then that. With the integrations is has to services like Trello, BitBucket, GitHub, etc Slack can be your core information repository. Say you pipe system notifications though Slack and a system goes down. Now you have one location where your personnel and meet to work on the issue, no more trading emails, keeping people on the loop, loosing information or getting out of context. The slack app gives you a great interface to work with Slack on the go so you avoid degrading to email.

These 6 apps have helped me be productive on the go from my phone. If I start using any more I’ll make sure to post them.

Step 1: Collect Underpants

As developers and technologists we always seem to have great ideas for new products or services. Some times we white board them, and think of how cool they are. Other times we even start spiking a prototype. Rarer still we even put something out on the Internet for all to see, we might even advertise to the world of it’s existence outside of our friends and family.

I’ve done more of the above then I can count. I have a whole product pipeline with all the tools to squeeze out a deliverable, that’s how many times I’ve done this. Over the last 5 years I’ve worked on at least a dozen products and services. Some making it to the light of day only to get abandoned, others being turned into Open Source projects that I maintain with increasing rarity.

 

But every once and a while an idea comes along that’s so pure, so simple that it just has to work, and as developers and technologists we are almost predestined to attempt. For me that project is Resgrid, a cloud based logistics system for first responders. Your will be something different, how will you know when you got that idea? I don’t think there is a definite answer, the heavens might open up and harps will play, or there could be pin drop science.

Bounce the idea off someone familiar with the problem domain. I can’t tell you how many times I talked with technologists and non-tech people alike and nodding heads and affirmations that sent me in the wrong direction. Your idea is like your baby, you want to protect it and keep it from harm.

But really your idea is more like a battle bot. You’ve got to shove it into the octagon and get beat up a few times to iron out the issues and perfect it. The adage is “Fail Fast” and failing just past inception is pretty fast, and that’s exactly what you want. Failing does not imply giving up, although knowing when to give up is an art form, it just means getting your ideas worked out as quickly as possible.

So bring your idea to people who know the problem domain, and chat with them, search them out in person or on the Internet. Don’t force an NDA on them, just talk with them, get their feedback and have them gage how useful it is, do they have any suggestions? Try getting feedback from a few people, I think I talked with 3 to 5 people at length about mine before I really got the whole picture and my idea had some new armor.

Focus it down, be selective and minimalist. This one is hard for me and I think is probably hard for a lot of developers. We want to throw the kitchen sink at our projects, leaving flexibility for every conceivable (and unconceivable) future need. It’s hard, but focusing in and dialing it down to a handful of features will allow you to focus your time on those features that directly solve the problem or need.

Chances are you’ll be working on this in your spare time. You’ll be developing one of two things, features that directly impact the users or facets of the overall architecture that do not. I’ve spent many nights hacking PowerShell build scripts, getting team city humming along just how I wanted, and all along I could have delivering functionality. I am by no ways saying that you should have good build scripts, a CI server, unit and integration tests. But those can wait.

Start with a spike or prototype that has the features you need and start refining from there. Build out and refactor from that core, get your system solving the problem or providing the service at the prototype level without the noise so you can fail fast and fail cheaply.

Do it for more then just money. I know there might someday be a VC or investor reading this that might balk at that statement, but I can tell you there will be many more that will agree with it. The money you get from your product or service should be a byproduct of the process. I’m not saying you shouldn’t make any money, or that you shouldn’t have a good business plan. But If you whole goal of the product and service is just money your probably going to lack the passion and perseverance needed to continue when times get tough, and they will.

Your passion needs to be solving the problem or providing the service. Not the technology, or implementation or event the money, it’s being customer centric and devoted to providing that product or service.

 


I have by no means made it by any stretch of the imagination. I’m not even making money off my idea yet. But I feel that we learn far more from our mistakes and failures then our successes and boy have I made my fair share. Having been though those experiences I’m doing my best to avoid the traps that got me in the past and lead to a successful outcome.

My next number of a blog entries will be about my experiences, failures, ideas, thoughts and products and services that have gotten me to this point. Stay tuned and stay frosty.

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