I started my career as a software engineer. That wasn’t the title used back then, but it represents what I did and how I approached my work. I shined in that role and loved the creativity it offered me.
I was content to sling code all day long — working away in my little world. People that interrupted me were dumb. That went double for marketing people and project managers.
Knowing what was important came naturally to me. At least my definition of what important meant. Yet no one outside my team shared that definition. …
Who doesn’t want a big customer with a big appetite? It looks like easy money and a sure-fire way to grow your business. The holy grail of business wins is landing a massive customer. A company with impressive brand recognition and deep pockets.
At least, that is what social media and business books love to portray. Yet they do little to highlight the dark side.
Sure, you will likely grow, but it won’t be all sunshine and rainbows. Why? Because big companies eat little businesses for breakfast. Probably, not on purpose, but due to critical needs that don’t align.
What are you to do, if you want to punch above your weight class? …
I knew I was a terrible employee, but I didn’t yet know why. The lure of “being my own boss” was powerful. Even if the fear of failure loomed when I thought of my wife, three kids, and the mortgage.
Can you relate? That irrational fear of walking away from a consistent, “guaranteed” paycheck. The thought of finding your own medical benefits. The weight of your choices affecting your family. The threat of failure.
That’s where I was a decade ago.
I knew entrepreneurship was for me, yet the anxiety of failing my family loomed larger than life. …
If you believe the hyperbole pushed by social media, your business should be a rocket ship. The pursuit of growth at all costs, your main priority. Targeting ever bigger customers for their logos, prestige, and massive wallets.
While I don’t disagree completely, the priorities and motivations are just plain backward. As entrepreneurs, we are force-fed this dogma at every turn. It’s no wonder first-time founders often think they need venture capital at the outset. Before they’ve even started.
That’s why I love to see founders pushing back. Bucking the trends of the day to grow organically. No external funds needed. …
If you had asked me 20 years ago, I had all the answers. It took several years to realize that the more I learned, the less I knew.
In fact, it took moving my family to North Carolina and accepting a job as a consultant to find my listening skills.
As an adult, I had always been quiet unless around friends, family, and good beer. I was content to hear what others had to say. I’m sure some of that was due to a lack of confidence in certain situations, but you get the point.
My quietness and tendency to think before speaking helped me win the respect of most colleagues. Apparently, silence is an art and can even make you look intelligent. I was never one to suck the air out of a room. That was for someone else to do. Offering quick insights and clarifications were my preferred tools of the trade. …
Seventh grade sucked! The town I lived in had no middle school so this was a massive transition year for everyone.
I had spent the first seven years of school making friends and gradually moving up the pecking order. Now it was starting all over again, but exponentially worse.
Junior high was an education. Sure, there was learning within the classroom, but I’m talking about socio-economic status. I quickly learned that I was poor.
Believe it or not, I had no real clue until seventh grade! That is a testament to my hardworking parents. …
Is there an aspect of your job that doesn’t make sense? Do you see opportunities for improvement where others seem unaware?
This was me about 10 years ago.
I was working for a software company within its Professional Services organization. I was rolling onto a large project for a multi-billion dollar corporation. My main responsible was integrating a newer, niche product with the main product.
Most people believed the niche product was unreliable. Yet I had worked with it before and knew others familiar with it. I realized the main product lacked the necessary integration hooks for success. That was the real reason for so many failures. …
Timesheets are a plague that suppresses value. Too much?
Did you know they were never intended to be customer-facing? In fact, the billable hour was an unintended invention, created by lawyers just over a century ago.
It has never made sense to me. The concept of tracking time completely misses the point. Professional service businesses are creative — ideas do not follow a linear path so how can tracking hours describe anything of real value?!
In a nutshell, your customers come to you to solve problems. They don’t wake up in the morning with the desire to make you rationalize every fraction of an hour that your team labored away on a set of tasks. …
In the professional services world, most businesses start the same way.
You begin with billing by the hour, growing revenue by hiring ever more people, and struggling to keep everyone engaged by constantly finding new projects and customers to keep the plane in the air.
Every year, revenue begins at zero and an educated guess as to what is probable based on last year. That century-old operating model is tired, very tired. It’s the opposite of a scalable and sustainable business.
What if there was a way to start every year with guaranteed revenue?
I despise the billable hour and its evil sibling, the timesheet. You probably think customers will reject any creative alternative. So did I, but I was wrong. When I finally got fed up, I had real conversations with my customers. I was shocked by where the conversations went. …
Inevitably, when you price correctly, some clients will tell you that your prices are too high. In fact, if you are not hearing that routinely, you are not charging enough.
So what do you do? Give them a lower price.
While lowering your price, you must also remove value from your solution. It must be a “get-give” trade-off. In other words, you give the client a lower price and they get less value.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t play out this way for most young consulting firms. They tend to relent on price while maintaining much of the promised value.
I’ve done it. I’ve caved on price yet failed to reduce the scope of work. It hurt the relationship. That mistake created an “us versus them” mindset and opportunities for mutual benefit suffered. …