Do you have a startup company that's not yet all the way started up? Is your small business not quite done with the software tech product that defines you? Not sure how to finish it, or where to go next? Are you still stuck for a platform? Worried about funding? Afraid of making expensive mistakes?
You have this small business. You probably just started it. You've got a pretty good business plan, you've stashed some money to keep it going until it breaks even and can pay you, you've worked out health insurance and stuff... or maybe you're keeping your day job and working a lot of nights and weekends to get it together.
And it's a cool idea: some product or service that people are definitely going to want to pay money for. It's exciting and terrifying, because you don't know what could go wrong, but you're also a little apprehensive about how it will go right in the end.
Maybe this is your first business. Maybe it's your sixth.
And there's a software piece that's essential to what you're doing. It might be something special about your website (aside from just having a really nice website!) or it might be a new internal application you rely on for competitive advantage. It could be customer-facing or not. It might be some nifty mobile app that's your customers' gateway to using the product you're selling. The point is that it's critical to making the business work. It might be the business's reason for existing, or it might fulfill a wildly essential support role, but the point is that you can't just buy Quickbooks and be done with it. It's strategic.
You're not equipped to carry the project to completion on your own. As usual, cash flow is an immediate concern. So you have to get the help you need at a reasonable, predictable price—and without giving up the Big Idea and the vision that are making you want to do this in the first place.
Welcome to startup world! It just gets better from here.
I know what this is like. Over the past 25 years, I've worked with over fifty different micro-businesses, individual startups, freelancers, nonprofit organizations, and big established companies of all kinds. A lot of times they come to me with what I fondly call "Software Projects That Suck!" because they suck away all your time, money, and motivation. Wouldn't it be great to get on the right track before your project starts to suck, and takes your business with it? That's what I'm here for.
You probably already hired a programmer (or two) but that person got stuck on some technical issues or simply didn't have the time to do things right. Maybe you tried to hack something together yourself to do something vaguely in the neighborhood of what you wanted. Maybe it even kind of works, but you find yourself getting sucked into computer work instead of building your business.
Maybe it's two or three (or seven) applications daisy-chained together in a Windows batch file. I have seen these things in real life! And had any of those approaches really solved the problem... you wouldn't be reading this. So keep going.
...is that most software developers don't speak your language. Why should we? You don't speak ours either.
Improvements in craft (like pair programming) and coordination (like KanBan) come about slowly and aren't always accepted right away, but they make a big difference in the quality of work. It's not your job to know about these things, and you've got enough to think about.
You don't even exactly need a "consultant" or an outsourcer. You... kind of need someone to hang out with and figure this out together.
That's what I do. If you want to stay in control of your business, if you're thinking of the big picture, if you're depending on a defining software project? You need a partner who's been around a lot of projects that have gone well (and badly), who knows how to make stuff work but also knows when to cut the complexity, who gets what your business is about and respects where you're going with it.
You need someone who's interested in your business and committed to your success, but detached enough to understand what's realistic and know when it's not working out. It's kind of like having varying combinations of a coach, a therapist, a wisecracking sidekick, a freelance hacker, a project manager, and Mary Poppins, depending on what you need at the time.
Good! My new "All Up" plan is totally for you...
(Bonus! If you're not too far from Cleveland, forget the phone! We'll hang out at your choice of fine beverage locations!)
You're pretty awesome at those things, taking monumental things and chopping them down to size.—Beth Kujala, Micros & Macros
Every small business software project is different, so your goals and accomplishments will vary. But after a month of the All Up program, you should see these stark improvements:
You know that awful feeling of being at the mercy of the schedules of a couple of part-time programmers, when your business is on the line? That's what goes away.
All small business are different. Depending on your own technical chops, the other people you have available, the urgency of your development project, the timeline to break-even, and your current level of funding, we could work together in a lot of ways. But here are the essential things:
At this point you're probably wondering how this works out if you're not satisfied with the All Up plan. Is there a guarantee? The answer is yes, and you get to decide what it is.
Because part of the project plan we make at that first meeting describes what success looks like and your personal commitment to making it work. The All Up guarantee is simply this: if you fulfill your commitment to the All Up plan as we established, then I will do what it takes to meet the corresponding success criteria. Or you get your money back with no hurt feelings.
Smart, direct, occasionally confusing but always fun.—Paul Winkeler
It's really that simple: You establish what you need out of each month's work and process, we make a plan to accomplish those things together, and we're both accountable for holding up our end of the deal. What could be better?
So give yourself a moment to breathe, and then how about reading this over one more time and seeing how it lands for you.
I've set up a short, easy questionnaire that you can fill out online—so we have the same information about where you are, what you're doing, what hasn't worked for you so far, and where you want to go.
After you submit it, I'll read over your responses and get in touch in whatever way is convenient for you.
It's email@example.com. I check this address more or less constantly.
I like talking to people! Just call +1 216-661-2000 right now. (Unless it's after midnight Cleveland (same as New York) time, okay?)
We'll talk about what you're working on, what you've tried so far, how it's going, and where you want to see your project in a month, or three months, or a year. But still, within about twenty minutes we'll both have a good idea of whether (and how!) the All Up program will work out for you.
Maybe you don't feel like having that conversation right this minute. That's fine. Let's plan a time then. When you're ready, I'll call you. Plan on having at least twenty minutes of undistracted time so we can discuss the basics of your company, product, and project. And then we can see what the next steps are.
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