Things I Wish I’d Known 20 Years Ago

I’ve owned a software company for the last 20+ years. When I started, I was in my early 30s and fresh from a corporate job.

What I’d like to share with you are 4 things I know now that I wish I would have known back in 1994 when I started my software company.

  1. Busyness doesn’t equal productivity.
    When you start a software company, there are so many things to do. Besides writing the code, you have to figure out how to market your software, how to sell the software and how to keep track of your company’s finances.
    You spend most of your time coding because that’s your happy place. You can get lost in the code like some people can get lost in a good book. But when you own a company there are all these other things you have to do too.
    We, as a society, are obsessed with busyness. We like to brag about how busy we are. When we meet someone we ask “How are things at work?”  “Oh man, it’s been really busy.” “Yeah? Me too, super busy”. I fell into the trap of thinking that being busy meant I was productive. I mean, I did stuff just to do stuff because I needed to be “working” on my business.How do you get out of that trap?You’ll find all kinds of advice on how to be more productive and I have my own opinions.“Slay your dragons before breakfast!”

    “Use this method or that method”.  I prefer the Getting Things Done method because it has worked the best for me and is simple to set up.

    Jocko Willink

    Jocko Willink

    I read a great book recently entitled “Extreme Ownership” by Jocko Willink and Leif Babbin, former Navy Seals.

    In the book Jocko explains it best with his rule “Prioritize and Execute”.

    In war, you have many options when the bullets start flying. To say the least, you’re busy. You have to prioritize your options and execute in order to stay alive.

    It’s the same in business.

  2. Write Code Like You Expect to be Maintaining it 20 years later.
    As fast as things move in technology, I’m pretty sure that you probably think that the code you’re writing today won’t be around in 20 years. Think again. Back when I was writing code in the early nineties, I was sure that all my code base would be rewritten in the next 15 years. I sure didn’t expect it to be around today in its form as it was written then. When you don’t have a long term perspective in your code, you run into things like this:

    IF this.value >= “2012”
       llReturn = .F.
       MESSAGEBOX(‘Invalid year specified,16,’Invalid Year’)
    ENDIF
    
    RETURN llReturn
    

    We’ve all written “fast & dirty” code. Come on, fess up.

    If you’re going to write something “fast & dirty”, because you’re sure you’ll have time to rewrite it later,

    DON’T DO IT

  3. You can’t coast uphill.
    When I started my company 20 years ago, I left a high paying job to a great unknown. In order to keep up our lifestyle I bootstrapped the company on credit cards. I was finally able to pay off the last credit card in about year 5 of the company. Things were going pretty well. After all the 18 hour days I was finally able to cut back and enjoy the fruit of my labor. I went into coast mode.The Uphillimageproblem is….you can only coast downhill.
    In business you can’t coast. Your competitors won’t allow it. They’ll pass you by and if you try to start pedaling on the uphill you’re going to make it harder on yourself.
    You have to continue pedaling and pushing on the levels so you’re ready to head uphill. Luckily my competitors didn’t get too far ahead and I was able to catch up, but it wasn’t fun.
  4. Use The Bacon Method.
    There’s a conference I like to attend every year in Sandusky, Ohio. They used to have a bacon bar. In recent years they’ve done away with the bacon bar because of “fire hazard”. You would think that the hazard would be in cooking that much bacon but it was because of the crowd $30,000 worth of bacon generates.Bacon Method
    To cook that much bacon, I’m sure they had to use the bacon method. If you’ve never heard of the bacon method. Let me enlighten you.

    • Start with a cold oven
    • Place bacon on a cookie sheet
    • Set oven to 400 degrees
    • Cook for 20 minutes.

    This is so awesome and important, it has its own website.

    Baconmethod.com

These are the top things I could think of for a fun talk at the Codemash 2016 conference. I’ll post a longer list in the future.

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By |2016-11-16T14:11:46+00:00January 6th, 2016|Advice|Comments Off on Things I Wish I’d Known 20 Years Ago

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