Gant Software Systems

Small Business Advice

Book Review: Start Small, Stay Small

A Developer's Guide To Launching A Startup

Every so often, a book comes along that exceeds my expectations (not going to bury the lede here, this book absolutely gets a 5 star review). This one is certainly in that category. Start Small, Stay Small is an excellent guide to getting a product-based business going as a software developer. From the outset, Rob Walling doesn’t make the assumption that you have a large amount of money from investors or that you are playing the start-up lottery. This book is about building a sustainable business one step at a time, usually while working a full time job.

Your Value Is Not Your Profession

One thing that separates successful career programmers from those with a bit…less success (we won’t call it failure, because it usually doesn’t manifest as abject failure, but rather as stunted potential) is their ability to figure out their value to the people who are retaining their services. Regardless of what that job posting says, what the recruiters tell you (more on this in a minute), or what you’d like to hear, you are NOT ever hired into a position simply to write code. You are hired to solve a problem that someone has, with the expectation that your solving of said problem presents an advantage greater than that provided by simply keeping (or using elsewhere) the money required to hire you. It’s a simple thing that is missed fairly frequently when discussions of programmer salaries come up, as well as when programmers sit and complain about the messes they deal with at their jobs. It also happens in just about every other industry. I’ve had similar discussions with people in other industries. The fitness industry, for instance, is loaded with people who live under the belief that the fitness program they are selling is actually the reason they have clients, instead of what the clients are actually there for, such as losing weight, gaining muscle, just the feeling of accomplishment and pushing past obstacles, etc. The dividing line between the successful ones in that industry and those who are unsuccessful is also remarkably similar, in that the latter fail to line up their offerings with what their customers are actually buying, versus what they think they are selling.

10 Ways to Unintentionally Screw Your Clients

Contract software developers have to deal with a lot of issues, especially if they are honest. There are loads of scam artists out there who can’t code particularly well, but will throw an application together for a client quickly, often disappearing shortly afterward. I’ve cleaned up lots of code from that sort and it’s a headache. This article wasn’t really written for that sort of developer, however, as I believe it’s very easy to accidentally screw a client over, even when one is otherwise trustworthy and honest, simply because you don’t think through all the implications of what you are doing. Here are ten ways I’ve seen developers screw their clients, without intending to do so. This is aimed more at solo developers, although a number of these points could apply to larger companies as well.

The Rant Is Overdue

Probably at least once every couple of weeks, I get into (sometimes heated) discussions with other software developers about their careers. I see so much helplessness, so much hopelessness, and so much dependence on others and it’s all entirely unnecessary.

So, it’s time I said some things that need saying. It’s time to smash some ugly, easy lies so that beautiful, subtle (and often difficult) truths can flourish. It’s time for me to have THE TALK with you (no, not that one, this one). It’s time for me to tell you why you are absolutely nuts as a software developer not to be making progress towards self-employment. After more than a decade in this industry, I can tell you that the best time to have gotten in business for yourself is five years ago. The second best time is right now. Below are some very good reasons. It may sound like I’m bashing employers; I’m not. It’s just that their concerns and yours are increasingly not intersecting. As a consultant, that is fact number one in your mind; as an employee, it should be, but is easily ignored until it can’t be ignored.

The Anna Karenina Principle in Software Development Environments

All healthy companies are much alike; all dysfunctional ones are dysfunctional in their own way. For instance, every healthy company I’ve worked at has fairly consistently spent time and effort to make sure their employees are appreciated and productive. They’ve spent time involving the employees in the process, giving them workable goals to progress towards, and generally making sure that their people are taken care of so that they can take care of the company. And while such stability is laudable and makes the places fun to work, if you really want the good war stories, you have to work at a dysfunctional place.