The question of whether a computer can think is no more interesting than the question of whether a submarine can swim. Edsger Dijkstra
These are two very important business skills. A “know how” person has the skills and motivation to get things done. A “know who” person knows how to identify, hire, organize and motivate “know how” people. The best entrepreneurs I have met have a balance of both of these skills.
A Technology Evangelist is a very persuasive sales person without a quota. A decade ago I heard a great pitch from Guy Kawasaki where I observed first hand the persuasive power of a great technology evangelist.
Many managers choose to make important decisions by themselves after some discussions with the team members involved. Companies desiring a consensus management culture pass the decision process to the team itself. The downside is that decisions can take a very long time with the corresponding negative effects upon schedules.
A powerful solution that I learned from Dave Brown in my first two startups was his practice of setting a deadline for an important decision. He would say, “You guys make a decision by 10 AM on Tuesday. You decide on time or I will.” This method simultaneously delivers timely decisions and positively reinforces the company culture.
Steve Case makes a strong case that the major reason for startup failure is the use of the classic Product Development management process rather than the emerging Customer Development process. The Customer Development Model is an excellent slide show on the subject.
I am considering how to apply these concepts to “Saxworks”, my new small business.
Abrevity, the start-up company I co-founded in 2003, was shut down during August for many reasons that I am not going to discuss here. I purposely delayed this post until all interested parties had time to officially hear the news.
When we started Abrevity I was both emotionally and economically comfortable with the handful of probable start-up outcomes which are:
1. A Huge Success
2. A Moderate Success
3. A Living Death (The company has enough revenue to be alive but cannot grow.)
4. A Complete Failure
I would highly recommend that anyone involved with starting or joining a start-up company should clearly be able to visualize the personal consequences all of these outcomes before joining a start-up or starting a company.
My enthusiasm for new companies is still strong as I have recently restarted one of my earlier small business companies “Saxworks” and filed a patent application for its new saxophone accessory product.
In Paul Graham’s blog he introduces the concept of a maker’s schedule vs. a manager’s schedule. A quick glance at the concept suggests that people getting things done perform best without interruption while while managers are constantly being interrupted. Personally, I have spent significant time on both types of activities. Upon reflection my most creative moments have occurred when I was working on a maker’s schedule.
In my youth I was highly engaged in amateur car racing. One of the many challenges of this endeavor was the management of the unpaid volunteers who were helping to prepare the cars. Later, as a manager of professionals I came to realize that a person’s best work is always voluntary. Being paid does not automatically compel one to deliver excellence. Creating and maintaining a company culture where individuals ‘volunteer’ their best work is one of the major activities of leadership. How are you inspiring your ‘volunteers’ to deliver excellence in your organization?
I recently received a link to a compelling blog article on continuous deployment at IMVU. Continuous deployment methodologies are really capable of disrupting the traditional enterprise software release cycle. To me this is another checkmark favoring SaaS for enterprise software applications. Existing SaaS web applications already provide the software vendors with direct daily feedback about actual end user behavior. When this insight is combined with rapid deployment, the user experience will improve dramatically in ways that will never be achieved with traditional software license sales. These compelling benefits are in addition to the lower deployment and development costs of SaaS. Traditional enterprise software licensing is on its deathbed.
Google announced earlier this week that it was developing an internet operating system based on its Chrome browser and Linux. The press and blogosphere are having a field day predicting mostly that the Google Chrome OS will fail to replace Windows as the dominant desktop/laptop operating system because of legacy application compatibility issues and user expectations. But this is all in-the-box thinking. Google has made a major broadband investments which includes O3B networks a company who is planning to launch satellites next year to ultimately serve the world’s three billion people who do not currently have access to affordable broadband internet service. Will these first time broadband users become the primary market for the Chrome OS? Only time will tell.