“Things derive their being and nature by mutual dependence,
and are nothing in themselves.”
I mentioned earlier that when you’re building a business, you should hire well, and this is true across every aspect of your business. A “secret” that I stumbled onto when I started Mission Data is that you have to be strong everywhere: Marketing, sales, accounting, the service you provide, and you even need to have a good lawyer.
A service to sell
The first thing our company had was a service to sell, namely me. At that time I still worked on Unix systems, but I had also worked with three programming languages (C, Perl, and Java), and I wanted to get more into programming.
Handling the books
My wife took care of all the other things at the business, including acting as a receptionist, business manager, and handling all things related to bookkeeping (invoicing, payroll, etc.) and working with our accountant, so we were covered there.
A good salesperson
I mentioned that my first business partner was the best salesperson I knew when I hired him, and that’s true. So we were fortunate, I could provide the initial services, and he could sell.
Whoops, we need marketing
Initially we had no marketing effort at all, it was just us calling on friends and old customers, but we very quickly knew we needed some sort of logo and a brand, and we’d also need someone who could help make good-looking websites. As luck would have it, this salesperson’s wife was in charge of branding for a large business downtown, and for some reason she agreed to join us as well.
A complementary service: design
A funny thing is that although she had just joined our company, she helped us win one of our first large projects. A coworker and I put a lot of technical work into a demo to show our prospect what we could do, but our client seemed much more interested in how our web application looked, not how it worked, and if we hadn’t brought her on to assure them that the application would look better than the demo, we might not have won that project.
More services to sell
Once she came on board, we were again fortunate to hire several very talented technical people who helped to make up for some of my weaknesses, and with everyone working well together, we suddenly had a pretty good team.
Wait, our lawyer sucks
As we grew the business, we needed to consult with a lawyer several times. This wasn’t for lawsuits or anything like that, but just to make sure we had a good sales agreement, good employee agreements, and other small things like that. Our lawyer was always slow to respond to our needs, and despite us asking for the simplest possible legal documents, he kept sending us documents that were insanely obtuse, so we dumped him and found another lawyer specialized in the computer services field.
I, us, we
Throughout this book I often write “I” a lot when referring to my old company, but what I often mean is “us” or “we.” I couldn’t have done all the things we did together as team, and when you’re starting a business, that gets back to the incredibly important point that you should hire well. No matter what department of our little business you looked at, we had good people doing good work, and we thrived as a result.
Based on these early results, and later experiments, the simple lesson is, “hire well across all areas of your company.”