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Why starting a company as a developer is hard

Hey IH 👋,

I’m a developer that's started a business with a couple buds to solve niche problems.

TL;DR

Being a dev and a founder is hard because you tend to want to work on dev related stuff as much as possible (because that's what you're at ❤️)

Background

I’ve recently read the classic The E-Myth Revisited and realized how much of that books is true for me.

The core Idea I want to look at today is that when you create and run a company as a technician you’re gonna have a bad time (or at least are more likely to 😳)

The book makes the point that being a technician (developer, designer, marketer etc.) is good, you work on a core competency and you’re good at it but that’s also where the problem lies.

Why?

If you want to be truly successful starting a small business you also need to think about being a Manager and an Entrepreneur and you need to balance these roles carefully.

Because you want to only do the things you’re good at like developing, designing or marketing and why is that?

Because you’re good at it and you know it. But that means jumping to code to early without creating a vision of where you’re going (Entrepreneur) or without someone to hold you accountable that what you’re working on is actually the right thing to do (Manager)

What I have learned

I kinda realized that for myself I gravitate to doing dev work and not spend enough time looking at and improving our process, reflecting on mistakes or do the things that are not in my comfort zone, like writing, creating content, talking to people etc. but those things are just as important, if not more important as the code itself.

Actionable steps I have taken for myself (I try to work 12-16 hours per week part time):

  • Allocate 2 hours per week (one timeblock) to look at our vision
  • Allocate 2 hours per week (one timeblock) to look at processes, analyzing goals, reflect on what’s going on
  • Step out of your comfort zone at least once a week (like writing this article 🤔)

    Do you agree? (Insert LinkedIn Meme)

(Insert random SEO link) 😎 Jk

Thanks for reading 🎉

  1. 1

    Thanks, that's what I needed to hear again today because I again wanted to code instead of talking to users first.

    Apart from being able to do some things while you build the product because you can talk to users and immediately build it, there's also a little helper that helped me to get the right mindset for the day:

    Like you already mentioned it helps to allocate timeslots to different things. It also helps me a lot to wear different hats each day I work on a product. A friend and fellow solo-maker told me that she uses a few post-its which just have one "role for the day" on it. If it's time for distribution she picks the "Marketing"-Hat and just focuses on tasks relevant for this role for the day. This way you even visually have a reminder on what to focus on.

    1. 1

      Like you already mentioned it helps to allocate timeslots to different things.

      Amen

      A friend and fellow solo-maker told me that she uses a few post-its which just have one "role for the day" on it.

      Sounds pretty smart.

      Funny thing I actually made a weekly planner that works like that but I haven't looked at it from that angle of splitting your role as a founder into multiple roles (dev, marketing etc.) 🤔

      I always think about it like this: Work is one role and for example being a friend is another.

      I might dog food it for that usecase 😁
      Here's a link if you're interested.

      Sorrey 4 spam lel.

  2. 1

    Reading through this thread and sharing many of the same issues I imagine there would be significant value in a specific community for developers who are looking to build companies.

    It seems many resources out there, at least what I've come across are for either agencies focusing on partnership development, product-focused where content is aimed at growth for companies with a specific product, or freelancer focused.

    I've had my own business(https://tucanoo.com) since 2011, however, have for years been comfortable working on quite varied but large projects for very few clients, which is a good thing in one respect, but it's not my grand ambition.

    I'd love to have some online community to go to and engage with similar individuals who are looking to grow their business so we can share experiences good and bad and learn from each other.

    Typically I try and try and reserve my Friday afternoons for non-client work, whether that's writing content, other marketing tasks, or skill building for my own benefit so my skills don't become obsolete.

    1. 1

      Typically I try and try and reserve my Friday afternoons for non-client work, whether that's writing content, other marketing tasks, or skill building for my own benefit so my skills don't become obsolete.

      Sounds reasonable.

      Haven't done any research here but maybe it's time to unbundle reddit some more 💪😁🤙

  3. 1

    I think it has its ups and downs. As a solo-entrepreneur and a developer, here are my thoughts.

    The ups

    • You're a native craftsman, therefore you don't need anyone (not essentially) to build something. Just you and your laptop... And some music, coffee, and water. 🙂
    • You are hardwired to create solid, crash-free products.
    • It's easier to draw a roadmap because you already know how long implementing a feature would take.

    The downs

    • You can't be just a dev anymore, you gotta improve yourself in other areas as well. You have to learn and handle stuff like marketing, CRO, ASO, etc. But I believe knowing that people will download & use your app is one of the best part of building. Otherwise why bother?
    • You have to have a designer eye. It can be improved by daily checking design inspirations (I use dribbble).

    Not sure if up or down

    • You may find yourself building various new products instead of optimizing the previous one, because building is fun! I'm in this hole personally. I've built more than 20 products over 3 years. It definitely gets harder to give enough attention to make them profitable.

    There are probably more things but these are the ones that popped into my mind first.

    Good luck on your journey!

    1. 1

      I agree and I mean in the end as devs we build things for people to use them and get value out of them, that's why we do it (at least me)

      You may find yourself building various new products instead of optimizing the previous one, because building is fun!

      I think this depends on your goals.

      I have learned that more focus is better so if you aim to build a sustainable business focusing and optimizing is probably the way to go, if you want to build projects and have fun I think building and launching stuff might be better but building something and throwing it out there barely works for business sake unless you already have established yourself as some sort of authority or attractive character / have an audience.

      Good luck to you too Efe 🤙

  4. 1

    I completely agree although I’m on the opposite end of the spectrum. I have the sales, management, and process experience but not the dev skills. Every time I take one step forward in learning more about development it seems like I take two steps backward on the business development side (the pipeline dies…)

    While I’m tempted to keep taking classes I’m realizing it’s just not likely for any one person to do everything well. Then the real challenge became how to attract others with the skills I need when I don’t have a pile of cash to offer them?

    1. 1

      Yeah it's tough and it's tough to do everything yourself.

      As I said we're also a team and I'm lucky enough to have some support in areas that I'm not that good in like marketing, sales etc. but I still also want to force myself to do these parts because I think I should be doing them as well.

      I am lucky enough to have friend that complement my skillset so that's what I went for, it was easy to attract them but I think there is a couple threads on here that talk about how to find a tech co-founder if you think that's the right move for you.

      It kind of all depends on what the vision for your company is but there is a reason if you look at a lot of funded startups that there are usually are multiple founders, it's just a bit easier also mentally to deal with things.

      It is good tho to understand the other side of the table (tech if you want to get a dev) so I think learning about it and/or for example building a low-code, no-code solution first might be a good strategic move as well.

      Basically you will want to aim to hire someone you can delegate things to rather then hire them and let them do their thing (Manage by delegation) if possible.

      This is also a part in the book :)

      Here's a group that you can check out to partner up with someone.

  5. 1

    Totally agree! Developing is my safe place; it's just me and my brain making code, nobody else judging me, things get done (quickly), and I can get lots of "productivity" endorphins from cranking away at features and bug fixes in my backlog.

    Everything else -- marketing (wow espesh marketing), big product decisions, networking, cold calling/emailing leave room for rejection and analysis paralysis (neither are fun).

    A product friend of mine said it best when he gave me some advice recently. He said, "Some of the work is less glamorous and fun, but you just gotta do it."

    Good luck friend!

    1. 1

      Your friend is spot on.

      I see it as the things you hate doing the most are the ones that are most needed because you've probable neglected them the most 😁

      Good luck to you too Stephanie and thanks for reading 💪

  6. 1

    This is pretty good and I like some of your recommendations.

    Where I struggle with running a company is even more basic though. Just the admin of having a company exist is time consuming and a chore. Not even anything to do with “your” business, but just having “a” business means tonnes of admin, filing, compliance etc with all the relevant govt bodies.

    It’s hard.

    1. 1

      Yeah you're absolutely right. It's definitely not to be underestimated especially if you do it all yourself.

      Even without touching on that part there's already enough to worry about 😅.

      One exercise of the book is basically setting up an org chart of your company when you think that's how big it should be ideally (lets say in 5-10 years?) and you might be able to structure this into a role that you aim to hire / replace yourself out of first.

      For example one thing I don't really have a clue about is finances, financial modeling etc. and we're basically pulling things out of our asses right now but down the line I have planned to hire someone to take over this role assuming things go well ofc.

      I also plan on replacing myself as a dev as part of that strategy.

      Not sure if this helps you at all if you're always trying to stay small/solo but maybe it can give you some ideas 🤔

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