It has been two years since I decided to start a company with a friend. Along the way, we had some successes but a lot more failures.
Not too long ago, a friend delivered a brutal assessment which triggered a period of reflection. Truth was, we weren’t ready to make the leap from developers to company owners. When working in a company, we got insulated from a lot of stuff we didn’t value. And it was painful failures that forced us to learn and appreciate these stuff.
1. Learn to say No.
If the schedule is not possible, say No.
If the price is not right, say No.
If the project and team is not the right fit, say No.
2. Know your team’s abilities.
Sometimes you aren’t able to do something within a given time frame or can’t accomplish something because of a lack of a certain skill set.
Don’t accept project.
You aren’t doing a school project where you can gamble that you can deliver. There is no grading on a curve. There is no, “just pass can already”.
3. Know what kind of external folks your team can deal with.
If you don’t know how to say No, best not to do projects or work where you are constantly put in a position where you have to say Yes.
Look, it isn’t their fault they want you to say Yes. You are just being a dumb fuck who says Yes.
The onus is on you to say No.
4. Know what kind of software your team is able to deliver.
Once you are honest about your team’s abilities, then you will be able to be honest about the customers you can provide value to.
5. Know the cost and time it takes to deliver project.
If you don’t know the cost and time to deliver project, you will say Yes to stuff that you should be saying No to.
6. Don’t juggle.
Don’t do more projects just to meet cash flow. If the price isn’t right, say No. Each project has to make sense by itself. Don’t lower price just to get a project.
When you juggle, you can’t provide the best work for each project. One, if not all projects, will suffer.
7. Say No.
Really, learn to say No. All our company’s failures stemmed from this simple rule that we failed to learn fast enough.
Finally, while you may do client projects for friends, starting a company and doing client work isn’t a friend-friend endeavor. You aren’t doing favors for a friend. You are being paid to provide value.