I’ve learned a valuable lesson over the past 12 months. Namely, running a software company isn’t like running a professional services company.
As the owner of my HR/marketing consultancy, I’m 100% responsible for everything that happens in my shop. From business development to the quality of my work, the results are the outcome of my efforts. Even when I outsource different parts of my deliverables, the consequence is the same: the customer’s entire experience falls on me.
Running a software company is a little different. Priorities vary widely. Software engineers tell you that anybody can write code, which is sorta right. It’s the company’s culture — along with a good business strategy — that needs a CEO’s attention. The people in operations will tell you that culture and strategy are vital, but there’s no company without an uncomplicated codebase that’s secure and stable.
As the founder and CEO, all of that is true. Getting my business in sync with itself and launching a product is the challenge of a lifetime. And the compromises that I make right now can have far-reaching consequences that I won’t understand for years to come.
So, yeah, I’ve learned that compromise is the name of the game. Even in the most sophisticated organizations, there are limited funds and attention spans. People are passionate about one aspect of the business and have no interest in another. And having worked in seriously complex organizations throughout my entire career, I also know that throwing money at a problem rarely works unless it’s a problem that needs money, which is fewer than you’d expect. Most predicaments require brainpower, delicate communication, and compromise.
(There’s that damn word, again.)
Compromise is tough. It’s good to know who you are and who you aren’t when having crucial conversations that involve time, money and ego. It’s good to know what you value in your co-founders and partners. And it’s best to work with talented people who are kind, compassionate and accountable. It makes compromise less uncomfortable.
So maybe running a software company isn’t all that different from running a services company after all.