This past week has been rather encouraging despite all the news of record unemployment. I’ve had additional VC meetings that went very well. I’ve had analyst meetings supporting what I’ve built in a company. And I’ve had conversations with some of the largest companies wanting to use the products I’ve largely designed. What’s not to like? Well, during the course of the meetings, I’ve realized that my currently philosophy of do as much as humanly possible is a good one to have right about now.
Let’s see what I’m currently doing:
- Designing new version of our company’s OS
- Testing the new User Interface
- Tweaking business plan
- Redesigning company website
- Testing and working on deployment of new update tool
- Designed and now testing new de-duplication tool
- Working on file-system enhancements
- Looking at new backend storage options for a potential consulting client
- Fleshing out details for a new email company I’ve had floating around in my head
- Fleshing out designs for a new social networking site
- Family man, father and husband, etc.
Anyway, you get the idea. You can’t simply trust that different people will take care of their areas. And you can’t underestimate your ability to do more than one thing. I am convinced that we’ve really become lazy in America. We don’t want to really work. Give us a list of tasks and let us work 9 to 5 and only 5 days a week and we’re happy. Well, that attitude hasn’t worked well for me since doing my first real startup company, NetAttach. Back then I was still primarily a marketing person. My engineering expertise was mostly tied to designing hardware. I got pulled into doing software by accident. We were designing the industry’s first NAS appliance based on Linux and open-source and my sales guy wanted to see Appletalk supported in the first release. Well, my VP of engineering told us both that it wasn’t possible. This was one of those open-ended impossibles. It wasn’t just impossible for the first release, but also indefinitely. Ever get that type of news, only to feel rather dissatisfied?
Well, I went away over the weekend and came back that Monday to demonstrate the feature. This was rather difficult for me back then. I had tinkered a little with software back then. But doing kernel work was a little over my head. But I got the point across, though. And the example was sufficient for my VP of engineering to have a path to get Appletalk designed into the first release of our product.
This wasn’t my first example of having to undertake such work to prove a point. I think the first real example of doing this with software was when I was hired to run product marketing for a company called HolonTech. I can’t even recall how many weeks went by where our engineering team failed to show any progress on our management software. We wanted something that would be cross-platform capable and Java looked to be the tool of choice back then. The primary topic of debate was the inability to create drop down menus in Java. Seriously! This was back in 1994. So, that week I went and bought myself a copy of Visual Cafe’ and I came back with a rudimentary GUI for one of our products, complete with drop-down menus. It was crude, but I didn’t get pushed around again in that Monday’s meeting.
Now, there are a few different spirits with which to do things like these. Back in my earlier days, I did things a little out of spite. I have always hated to be told what couldn’t be done. These days I do it with a much different attitude. I’ve been around a little longer and have hence seen things that others haven’t. This provides me a unique perspective. I can visualize a problem and a solution. I do my work with the intention of allowing others to visualize what’s in my head and to see a path to the solution. Sometimes what I do is very sufficient. Sometimes it needs to be enhanced a bit. And that’s something that I have had to learn to deal with– giving something up so that others can own it. Otherwise, you risk alienating your engineering team. And no company can afford that.
Well, these times are a bit more challenging than some of the ones I’ve previously lived through. And I believe it’s necessary to dig into the extra reserves. I’m absolutely resolved to make my company successful. And to do this, it’s going to require diverting every little bit of capital to sales. And that means taking on additional personal work to ensure that can happen. When you consider the fact that there are 168 hours in a week, it’s amazing how most people operate on the notion of merely working 40 hours per week. When you get rid of all the unnecessary breaks, chewing the fat, going out to lunches, etc., it’s actually quite easy to find the extra time to do more than one job. But it requires an excessive amount of determination and discipline. This reminds me of an old skit from In Living Color. Remember the Hey Mon family? Take a look at this clip and enjoy!