Many start-up founders have found themselves challenged to instill a ‘sense of urgency' into a lone developer who's building the first version of their product, but what motivates a developer!?
Start-up founders wonder:
Our developers have been doing a good job so far from what it seems, but we're falling behind schedule. I've been trying to instill a sense of urgency, but it doesn't seem to really process with them yet that the sooner we get this built, the sooner we demo with potential customers. My company has everything riding on this!
That certainly reminds me of the bad ol’ days!
I spent some of my early career as a freelance developer stretching myself too thin, and disappointing clients with my inability to meet expectations.
EXPECTATION, n. The state or condition of mind which in the procession of human emotions is preceded by hope and followed by despair. —the Devil’s Dictionary
A developer begins excited over sketchbooks and meetings, to solve the problems of the future. But hours later, alone in front of a computer, untangling problems far too esoteric to talk about with any non-developer, it's just.. not the way to do great work.
While great at engineering, inexperience solving business problems can reveal developers’ time to be infungible.
This "how to motivate a developer" challenge is both unique (compared to other business problems) and all-too-common (among modern businesses).
The simplest useful thing I could share is that, in my opinion, creating a 'sense of urgency' for a developer is futile.
I've been on both the urging and receiving side many times, with and without cash and/or equity involved— The results have been consistently negative.
In my opinion, great developers are hackers at heart.
There is an essential paradox facing all endeavors to pay another person to do high quality software development. Many of the qualities that make an individual great at developing software, also make them less motivated by financial gain.
How does an independent start-up founder create incentives for developers?
The best and perhaps only incentive for a developer is the opportunity to solve fascinating problems, side-by-side with more-skilled craftspeople they can respect & learn from.
I've had the honor of working first-hand with many start-up founders, all passionately endeavoring to build successful ventures. A small percent of the wisest succeed.
Many patterns signal doom. Certain crucial patterns sow success.
As described in this field guide to recognizing over-owner syndrome, some founders are just stuck in their assumptions, burning capital like rocket fuel.
Certainly, a start-up can burn raised funds like a rocket, stage after stage, consuming resources in a wildfire of founders' optimism.
Yet in fact, wiser founders expend capital preciously, like breathing air. A successful business is a machine that captures maximal revenue in exchange for value delivered, at minimal cost.
Do you want to found a start-up, or start a business?
Being able to read and write “code” is a surprisingly tiny portion of the trade acumen of being a software developer. It also takes years of experience to be an effective manager of software development, including the ability to determine whether a developer is full of B.S. (not Bachelor of Science).
Instead, hire a veteran solution architect like Charney Kaye—
It may not be necessary for your company to develop software at all.
What’s your business model? It’s almost certain you can get it off the ground by purchasing the individual services required to run it, instead of building custom software.
Your business can probably be operated from the right spreadsheets. Most software is just a user interface bolted onto something like a spreadsheet anyway.
From a legal standpoint, your “customer portal” is just automating the process of creating contracts between your company and your customers. Do the math every step of the way. Would it be faster to just email each new customer yourself? Do you have a million customers, twenty-three customers, or zero? Is your process already so venerated that you are ready to codify it? Do you gain a lot of opportunity value from remaining fluid in the early stages?
Don't allow progress to be blocked by your guns-for-hire. Do it yourself. Either the full-time founders are the absolute center of the value of the business, or pushing boulders uphill.
If this is thought-provoking, let’s talk.
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