Blog

2009 June

What’s Your Favorite Quote?

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One of these days I’d like to make a list of our interview questions, one of which is, “who would you have do the voice over to your life story movie?” This morning I was thinking that a new one might be “what is your favorite quote?” Which made me wonder what mine would be, I guess something from Earl Nightingale. I’ll have to think exactly which one it would be, but for now here’s a story that I’ve always liked that I first heard from one of Earl’s tapes:

“The story — a true one — is told of an African farmer who heard tales about other farmers who had made millions by discovering diamond mines. These tales so excited the farmer that he could hardly wait to sell his farm and go prospecting for diamonds himself. He sold the farm and spent the rest of his life wandering the African continent searching unsuccessfully for the gleaming gems that brought such high prices on the markets of the world. Finally, worn out and in a fit of despondency, he threw himself into a river and drowned.

Meanwhile, the man who had bought his farm happened to be crossing the small stream on the property one day, when suddenly there was a bright flash of blue and red light from the stream bottom. He bent down and picked up a stone. It was a good-sized stone, and admiring it, he brought it home and put it on his fireplace mantel as an interesting curiosity.

Several weeks later a visitor picked up the stone, looked closely at it, hefted it in his hand, and nearly fainted. He asked the farmer if he knew what he’d found. When the farmer said, no, that he thought it was a piece of crystal, the visitor told him he had found one of the largest diamonds ever discovered. The farmer had trouble believing that. He told the man that his creek was full of such stones, not all as large as the one on the mantel, but sprinkled generously throughout the creek bottom.

The farm the first farmer had sold, so that he might find a diamond mine, turned out to be one of the most productive diamond mines on the entire African continent.The first farmer had owned, free and clear … acres of diamonds. But he had sold them for practically nothing, in order to look for them elsewhere. The moral is clear: If the first farmer had only taken the time to study and prepare himself to learn what diamonds looked like in their rough state, and to thoroughly explore the property he had before looking elsewhere, all of his wildest dreams would have come true.”

Office Space

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Finding office space seems to be as easy as finding an employee – it sucks. We’ve been looking for space for a while now going through the negotiating process a couple of times getting terms turned around on us from what was advertised – what I’d deem a bait and switch. It’s all frustrating. Agents don’t care to represent a company our size since the commission is so small. Landlords don’t care to make a deal so much because there are larger potential clients than little ol’ Volano. All of this detracts from our ability to actually work – which is what pays the bills after all.

But maybe we shouldn’t care about what our office space looks like? I’d like to have open houses in a space where more than seven people can stand – not to mention when we want to invite a potential client to our office for a presentation.

Or maybe we should just work remotely? I recently heard Jason Fried talk at Big Omaha about how this is what 37signals does and productivity is extremely high. I’d agree with that; I’ve spent a day here and there coding from the coffee shop and those were some of my most productive days. But we have junior coders in our shop and we want to mentor them the best we can – I would hope that the most valuable benefit we offer our employees is expanding their knowledge in software development.

So, in my mind, we’re stuck having office space – so it might as well be exactly what we want, just like finding an employee – you need to wait it out for the perfect match.

Company DNA

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I’m so glad the talks from Big Omaha are being posted. It’s giving me a chance to listen to them again and reflect a little more on what I would consider was the best conference that I’ve been to – not that I’m a connoisseur of conferences – but it was damn good. One of the things I thought about today was Gary Vaynerchuck’s statement about how “DNA is one powerful son-of-a-bitch”. This has been my opinion as well, I’ve said that people are wired for certain things. I also believe that only about 20 percent of developers out there are good. This 20 percent are the ones with the DNA, that are wired for it and no amount of practice will make someone who doesn’t have the DNA be part of that good 20 percent. Just like I will never beat Lebron at basketball or Federer at tennis – and there are plenty of developers that I’ll never measure up to when it comes to cuttin’ code and it has nothing to do with practice or training or learning.

How about a whole company? Is it wired to do something and that’s its destiny? I’m not a dick enough to say we’re the best at custom line of business applications, but I’d say we’re pretty damn good at what we do. But I want to have products to push, I want to honestly say that we’re a software company – not a consulting company, because I never wanted to set out to build the greatest consulting company, I want to build a software company that has products that others find useful enough to give us some of their money for.