I was attending the The Colorado Springs Web Design Meetup Group last night and a round table debate started on the basic things you need to know as an entrepreneur (for a primer, read my Business page). During these types of debates, I usually ask “what feeds are you subscribed to” or “what podcasts are you listening” to. When I get a puzzled look or the sound of silence from the crowd, I become concerned. For those hungry for more information, here are some good feeds/podcasts/pages to study in order to broaden your knowledge:
- Paul Graham - If you haven’t read any of this work, then time to start.
- Fred Wilson - A VC out of New York. Has lots of wisdom and shared experience worth paying attention to.
- Startups for the Rest of Us - A couple of entrepreneurs/developers who are sharing their start-up experiences (failures and successes). Perhaps on of the best I’ve listened to in some time.
- TechStars - Boulder, as they say, is the San Francisco of the Rockies. David Cohen, Brad Feld, and others are helping foster startups and seem to be doing a rather good job of it.
- TWiT - There are many shows here worth checking out, browse through and pick the ones that are of interest to you.
- The Dev Show - A good show if you just want to pick up a few good links, tips, news, etc. in a range of languages.
There are many others I could list but that is probably a good start. Again, read my business page for even more info.
While I’m not a Cocoa/Objective-C developer, I do have respect for Kevin Hoctor, the developer, founder, and mastermind behind MoneyWell - a handy personal finance application for the MacOS. Its a good app, doesn’t serve all my needs, but works for now.
He wrote a post on his site recently about Indie Multitasking which got me thinking. Two items in particular: multitasking and global location.
Multitasking, which despite the buzz over the years, is not really possible. Anyone who knows how to be productive also knows that multitasking only works if you chunk the large pieces that you are working on into sequential slots in time. Sure, you can multitask the little things but when it comes to hunkering down and working on complex problems only to be interrupted, switch to another complex problem, and then finally switch back to the original complex problem then you’re not impressing anyone. You are spending more time getting your head around each problem when you could have focused on the original problem, solved it faster, and making better use of your time. Another way to think about this is focusing within a specific context but if you want to learn more about that then read David Allen’s book on Getting Things Done and then buy OmniFocus for the MacOS and your iPhone/iPad.
Being productive takes discipline and many, unfortunately, seem to not realize this (that or lack the motivation to stay focused and disciplined). My daily routine is probably an extreme version of what most people’s work habits are but I take interruptions very seriously. I know how destructive they are and make every effort to reduce them when possible. I’m sure my fellow co-workers, family, and friends would like to reach me more throughout the day but if you don’t hit the right window in time, then I will catch you when the next time slot rolls around.
In addition, he also talks about being a global located company where it simply doesn’t make sense to rent office space and pay for employees to work in one location. I completely agree and is something that gnaws at me more and more as time goes on. This is the Digital Age, people, not the Industrial Age. The era where you need to commute to the big city, stamp that punch card, and work under supervision of your boss is over. It is also wasteful, eats up time, kills the environment with unnecessary CO2 emissions, and can kill your motivation. No, this is the era of the New Rich where everyone is digitally connected to everyone else on the globe with real-time information and instant access. Where you can live anywhere, be anywhere, work how you want to (and at odd hours). If I was your boss, I wouldn’t care. I only care about your productivity, reliability, and your ability to get things done. How you do it and where you do it is up to you.
Anyway, read Kevin’s post for more to think about.
Google Profile, if you have not made use of it yet, is a service where you can easily maintain information about yourself. Think of it as the Google version of your about page per se. There also is a Social Graph API where you can do more interesting things with this data. All of this is free to use with minimal effort to setup and maintain. Here is my profile as an example.
The other benefit is that when people search for your name, your Google Profile will show up the search along with your avatar picture. Although, at the moment, your profile info only shows up at bottom of search results. Bummer. I would think this should be the very first things you see in Google search results but maybe they’ll correct this soon.
While it derives a healthy percentage of its economy from technology, Colorado Springs, as some may know, is not well known for having the most innovative and creative tech jobs. Due to a heavy government influence and social conservatism, legacy businesses have moved in, causing old technology to hold sway and a workforce mindset that likes to stay the course. Namely, Java and .NET shops which, in my opinion as someone who has experienced the conditions firsthand, are the new COBOL.
While I love many aspects of living here, this stagnancy is the reason I have a negative view of the city’s future in technology and explains why I am up against some heavy resistance for the goals and dreams I have for improving the quality of tech jobs within this city. Yet having made connections in the community that share my understanding, I can say that there is hope.
Today, I met with Dr. Edward Cho, Dr. Bob Sebesta, and Dr. Richard Wiener in an effort to share some of my ideas for the city and offer help, guidance, and mentoring where apt. We are all of the same mindset, which is to couple academia with innovators/entreprenuers and investors. A shining example of how well this can work out is Boulder, CO (a.k.a the San Francisco of the Rockies). The good news is UCCS is already working to make this happen via Bachelor of Innovation program.
So what does this mean for moving forward? Well, the first steps are simple:
- Kevin and I from the Not Just Ruby (NJR) group are to meet with all UCCS faculty soon to explain our vision within two weeks. We would do it sooner, but Kevin is on his honeymoon at the moment.
- Kevin and I will speak to faculty and students during a two-hour lecture luncheon about professional development, entrepreneurship, development hunger and passion, and real-world experience. It’ll be a great chance to educate faculty and students while answering questions and receiving feedback.
- The NJR and hopefully the Colorado Springs Entrepreneur (CSE) group, along with any other groups out there, will work with UCCS to foster new startups, retain local talent, and channel money back into the city.
All of this revolves around thinking local (much like what Kate and I are doing with our Local Dish startup). We can be self-sustainable and make life better for everyone if we all work together. …but it doesn’t happen by hand waving and hot air. It happens by getting things done. It won’t be easy and it won’t happen overnight but its a start in the right direction.
I’ll be sharing the results of these efforts and more on this site as things unfold.
I find it interesting to learn how other people get things done on a daily basis as there is a lot you can learn from studying the work flow of a top software developer, guru, entrepreneur, etc. Not that I consider myself to be in the top tier but it is definitely something I shoot for.
I thought I’d share my work flow in case it is of help/interest to others. Maybe this will open up the discussion for further thought.
Since I’m an independent software developer/contractor, I generally work from home. Although, even when I need to be on the client site and stuck in a cubicle farm, I still stick to the schedule (even though I’m not as productive). Here is my usual daily schedule:
- 6:00am - Wake up, start a pot of tea, check OmniFocus next actions, calendar, and syndicated feeds.
- 6:30am - Work out while listening to a podcast (sometimes I watch video if I’m on the elliptical via the iPhone).
- 7:30am - Eat breakfast, clean up, and prepare for work.
- 8:00am - Check email and reduce inbox to zero. Kill email and syndicated feed clients. Review OmniFocus next actions and start work on software project(s).
- 12:00pm - Launch email client and reduce inbox to zero. Launch feed readers and read feeds. Maybe watch some educational videos if there is time (i.e. Railscasts, CSS-Tricks, jQuery, etc.)
- 1:00pm - Kill email and syndicated feed clients. Check OmniFocus next actions and return to working on development projects.
- 5:00pm - Stop work, launch email and reduce inbox to zero, check syndicated feeds, eat dinner.
- 7:30pm - At this point, if I’m not burnt out from the day, I’ll continue working into the night. Otherwise, I try to learn new development tricks, study a software tool, etc.
- 9:00pm - If I’m not toast by this point then I’m definitely getting glazed eyes. Trying to do any further work after 9pm usually turns into gibberish.
My work flow stems from the Getting Things Done (GTD) philosophy. When your an independent/contractor/entrepreneur, you don’t have time to screw around and so staying focused is key. I believe these principals apply whether you’re an employee or on a client’s time. Its amazing how much progress you can make in a day when you reduce distractions and stay focused.
Keep in mind this is my general schedule but I might not always achieve it. Scheduled meetings, phone calls, and/or Skype chats might break the flow although I try to limit these as much as possible. It’s all about high-output even when your client or the situation you are thrown into is a complete mess.
Find what works for you. Maybe this gives you a blueprint. It works for me at least. Oh, and I suppose it goes without saying, it helps if you love what you do too. I know I couldn’t do any of this if I didn’t enjoy writing Ruby code on a daily basis.
For additional info, check out the following:
I recently subscribed to the Mac Software Business Podcast and finished listening to the eight or so podcasts out there. I am really enjoying the commentary from the talented group of Micro ISV developers from such companies as Flying Meat, Rogue Amoeba, and No Thirst Software to name a few. Even Alex Lindsay of Pixel Corps fame showed up in one of the episodes.
I think I stumbled across this podcast series thanks to Bob Walsh who writes excellent articles on the 47 Hats site. BTW, this is another great feed for Micro ISV news and info if interested.
In news related to this, I wanted to mention that I created a new business page on this site to capture some of the Micro ISV news and tidbits that I am finding interesting. Not much there at the moment but you might find it useful in the future as I flesh it out more.
In my experience, the methodologies and mentalities of corporate management have never been that impressive. That is to say that it is more about them and less about you, the employee. Instead, it should be more like “all for one and one for all!” Anyway, I am not a manager and have no plans to be one (although you could say I am one now as I do wear a bunch of hats these days). The following is a list of top-ten traits I would want to have, or would seek out in or as, a manager:
Top Ten Managerial Traits To Have
- Don’t forget to be human. Remember The Golden Rule.
- Earn and maintain the trust and respect of your team.
- Empower your employees.
- Be aware of the strengths and weaknesses of each member of the team, capitalizing on the strengths where possible. If there are weaknesses, work on turning them into strengths.
- Be decisive but not a dictator.
- Be able to communicate clearly and concisely.
- Be a peer to your team.
- Be additional help when help is needed.
- Be responsible for tasks assigned to the team.
- Have faith and confidence in your team.
Things to Consider
Here are a few additional sources of information worth checking out:
The following is a capture of some useful getting started tips and related resources to help get your new business up and running.
- Study the following web sites for context: Business - a government site for business information, My New Company - pay a fee and have someone else to setup your business for you, and Startup Nation - another resource worth checking out.
- Follow this checklist as a basic guide.
- Write a business plan. Here is an outline.
- Check out the IRS Online Classroom which has a collection of online training videos. They are dry and filmed just like those wonderful driver education videos of years past but can answer a few tax questions along with use cases and examples.
Limited Liability Company (LLC) Quick Steps
Since I am based in Colorado, here are the steps I went through to establish my company as an LLC in the State of Colorado.
- Read the new business checklist or this checklist as found on the Colorado state web sites.
- Register your new business (cost is $50). Tip: There is no need to apply for an Federal Employer ID Number (FEIN) a.k.a. Employer ID Number (EIN) when you create an LLC but if you want to learn more check out the IRS EIN document.
- Setup your business accounts (i.e. checking and savings) for your business with your favorite bank. All you need is your drivers license and the bank will search for your newly created business via the state web site.
- Dust off your recycling bin and prepare yourself for a new form of snail mail spam.
- Delaware Division of Corporations - Probably the best state to create an LLC. Here are some reasons why: Why Incorporate in Delaware? and How to Start, Maintain, and Dissolve a Delaware LLC.
- Delaware S Corp - Reasons for not setting your business up as an LLC should you want investment money.
- More on LLCs - More discussion on LCCs.
© Studio One Media, Inc.
It looks as if the cat is out of the bag as Studio One Media, a startup located in Scottsdale, AZ, has added more info to their public web site that describes the business, what they are about, and how it might impact you. If anyone wanted to know more about what I was working on last summer, now you know.
© Freelance Switch
A while back I attended a Refresh Denver (Web Business Startups) meeting. While the meeting and some of the notes I captured were useful, I was still left with a lot of questions. I then stumbled upon a series of interesting Freelance Radio podcasts. I recommend listening to all of them. They are, however, lengthy (over an hour in some cases) but informative.