43 Pithy Quips On The Business of Software

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43 Pithy Quips On The Business of Software

 

My favorite conference both as an attendee and as a speaker is the Business of Software Conference.  I've spoken there for the past three years and am once again speaking this year.  There's a full video and transcript of my 2010 talk.

To give you a sense for how much I like the conference, I will share this embarrassing piece of data:  Though the conference has been held in Boston for a couple of years (and again this year), and I live in Boston, I still stay at the conference hotel.  I do this for one very simple reason -- I just enjoy hanging out with the BoS folks.  They're my peeps.  describe the image

Note:  I do not make any money promoting the BoS conference.  I don't even charge for speaking there (note to self:  I probably should charge and just donate the proceeds or something).  The only reason I write articles like this one, is I enjoy the conference and think others would too.  I'm selfishly trying to draw in as many cool software people to the conference as possible, for my own amusement and enjoyment.

One quick word of warning:  The registration fee is not cheap (the ticket price is currently $2,295).  The show is just about sold out, but I have a discount code for OnStartups readers that brings the price down to $1,895.  Use the code OSBoS11 and register on the Business of Software website.

In terms of price, I think the time you spend attending a conference far exceeds any registration fee.  BoS does a great job making the most of your time.  You will not hear speakers making sales pitches.  No sponsored speaking slots.  No booths.  No multiple tracks or boring panels.  Just great attendees, great speakers, in a great venue and well managed.

The conference is coming up (Oct 24-26) in Boston.  If you can make it out, you should.

Here are some of pithy insights learned from prior Business of Software conferences (to whet your appetite)

Pithy Insights From Business Of Software

1) The right time to hire the first person is when you think you are going to die. [tweet]

2) Do what you are naturally good at. Starting up is hard enough as it is. [tweet]

3) Be prepared for serendipity. Viagra was originally a failed heart medication. [tweet]

4) Don't reward people with bonuses. They don't remember them. Give them experiences. [tweet]

5) HubSpot has an unlimited vacation policy. No one has abused it. If someone did it means we hired the wrong person. [tweet]

6) Long term thinking: I've always wanted to build something that will survive beyond me. [tweet]

7) One model doesn't take you through. We had to move from generalists to specialists. [tweet]

8) If no one is copying it try harder next time. [tweet]

9) Venture capital is not a necessary evil. It's neither necessary nor evil. [tweet]

10) Tech support is sales. [tweet]

11) The power of being ready to walk away is amazing during M&A. [tweet]

12) Forget about competitors! You want to create something so good people will want to copy it. [tweet]

13) Developers like email, sales people prefer the phone. They're just a different kind of human. [tweet]

14) Negotiation 101: "Shut up" [tweet]

15) Build your software with your customers. [tweet]

16) You set the rules in your start up. Don't live inside someone else's box. [tweet]

17) If selling your company having multiple offers makes it easier not to have to compromise what's important to you. [tweet]

18) Ask simple direct open questions and LISTEN! [tweet]

19) At Squidoo every job that can get written down is done by a freelancer. [tweet]

20) Be so good they can't ignore you. [tweet]

21) B2B tribes are much more valuable than sexy consumer tribes who won't pay you anything. [tweet]

22) Companies spend about 10% of the time hiring a person compared to getting rid of a bad one. [tweet]

23) Different & Crazy can look the same at first. Real difference requires some risk. [tweet]

24) Don't change the model! Change your management practices! [tweet]

25) Don't follow a map. Make a map. [tweet]

26) Founders bring with them personalities and philosophies that set the tone for the company culture. [tweet]

27) Great ideas are fragile at birth because they are indistinguishable from crazy stupid ideas. [tweet]

28) If you can write it down I can have it built cheaper. [tweet]

29) If you invest in the experience (not just the product) everybody wins. [tweet]

30) Just because the tide is out doesn't mean that there's less water in the ocean. [tweet]

31) Passion is an extreme version of caring and believing. [tweet]

32) Love your inner salesperson. [tweet]

33) People like to be sold to in their own language not yours. [tweet]

34) Pricing is a lot about psychology. $25 and $35 feels the same to people. [tweet]

35) Problems should be the currency in your company. [tweet]

36) Prototyping helps figure out what to leave out. [tweet]

37) The factory is about interchangeable parts -- and interchangeable people. Factories don't work in software. [tweet]

38) Customers will always tell you how to improve but not how to be different. [tweet]

39) Southwest Airlines value people who 'get it' vs people who 'know it'. [tweet]

40) Steve Jobs doesn't go home at night and boot up Windows. [tweet]

41) Traction requires friction. The mini cooper chafes. [tweet]

42) When selling your company walk away at least two times or you have probably been screwed. [tweet]

43) Work definitely feels like work unless you're passionate. [tweet]

Hope to see many of you at the conference.  If you're there, please say hello.

And, if you've been to Business of Software before, how did you like it?

 

Posted by Dharmesh Shah on Wed, Sep 28, 2011

COMMENTS

Dharmesh, thanks so much for the post. Last year, I took notes from all of the sessions - you can see them here: <a>http://thebln.com/2011/09/organised-notes-index-of-business-of-software-2010-talks-links-to-videos-and-transcripts/  
 
This year, for some reason I find myself organizing the event so I don't think I will be able to spend as much time writing stuff down. I would really like it if we had someone that could though. If any of your readers can get to Boston and can take decent notes, get in touch and the first one that can show some ability to blog will get a free pass.  
 
mark-businessofsoftware.org

posted on Wednesday, September 28, 2011 at 5:51 PM by Mark Littlewood


Thanks for the quips. Thanks also for the discount code. I'd love to go to this, but I'm too cheap to pay the full price. :-P  
 
The discount might help change my mind. It would be great to meet up in person!

posted on Wednesday, September 28, 2011 at 6:54 PM by Andy Beal


I'm a web designer and some of these lines made me smile, some are really insightful, but all are comfort knowing that I'm not encountering problems that others haven't been through before.

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I went through and responded to each quip with a counterpoint, initially because I disagreed with the first point, but eventually to just force me to think about each one. Not all are in disagreement, and many are just deliberately contrary or describe a different, equally valid concern. 
 
1) The right time to hire the first person is when you think their production will justify their expense. 
 
2) Do what you really love. If you work hard at it you will get good at it, and you're more likely to do that if it's something you want to do 
 
3) Don't expect a lucky break. What did Edison say about perspiration? Hint: it wasn't "I bet we can bottle this and convince the French to use it as perfume." 
 
4) Monetary incentives are the best incentives. Everything else (that you can buy) can be bought with money. PS. even the best company parties suck more than the after-parties 
 
5) Fear is not a great incentive. Positive peer pressure is a myth, but fads like "unlimited vacation policies" are a sure sign of negative peer pressure at work. Plus, if you think everyone puts your interest before theirs, you're probably being hoodwinked in more ways than you think. Better check that office supplies budget. 
 
6) Necessity is the mother of invention. Short term always triumphs long term. Do what's needed now, but think about consequences. 
 
7) Finish what you start. Specialists need generalists to apply their expertise. 
 
8) If someone is copying, pivot. It costs you less momentum to change direction than a follower. Crack the whip! 
 
9) Agreed. But the institutionalized system we call Venture Capital these days is toxic. 
 
10) Keep sales out of tech support. Good tech support creates loyal customers. Loyalty creates referrals. Referrals don't need sold. 
 
11) The will to walk away gives you power. But being able to walk away comes from being in a position of power. Debt takes away your power & will. 
 
12) Seek out competitors. They've done your market research -- and usually have a bunch of customers looking for a better niche. If you don't know your competitors, you don't know your market. 
 
13) I hate email. But I hate phones too. If I get a phone call, it better be important. If it's important, don't tell me via email. 
 
14) Good advice for more than just negotiating. I should follow it. 
 
15) Be your first customer. 
 
16) Don't hide in a bubble. Your startup exists in the real world and you ignore it at your peril. 
 
17) If your company is important to you, don't sell (unless you're losing money.) 
 
18) Listen first, and ask follow up questions. It proves you were listening if nothing else. 
 
19) If you can describe what needs done, it's half done. 
 
20) Be so good they don't even notice you.  
 
21) Ironically, every B2B customer is unique. Consumers are all the same. 
 
22) Don't waste time finding the perfect candidates to hire, fire bad people quicker. 
 
23) Crazy is often the status quo. Being different sometimes means becoming mundane. 
 
24) Be consistent in your management practices until you realize what's wrong with them. 
 
25) Make a map, and then follow it. But don't be afraid to go see where the Dragons live. 
 
26) Company culture is going to change with every hire. Adapt to it. Hire for achievement, not personality. 
 
27) Great ideas are indestructible, and impossible to suppress. 
 
28) See #19 -- Go JOE! But remember a lot of things are half the battle. 
 
29) If somebody wins, somebody else loses. TANSTAAFL! 
 
30) Check your tide tables to make sure it's just the tide going out. 
 
31) What's compassion then? And why is it often at odds with passion? 
 
32) But don't become him. 
 
33) People don't like to be sold to. 
 
34) That might be true for an individual impulse buy, but commodities are different. If you think you're not sell a commodity, what makes you different? Apple is selling a commodity, and they're killing Bentley and Ferarri in sales. 
 
35) Other peoples problems that is. You sell solutions. 
 
36) Prototyping helps you figure out what not to make.  
 
37) I hate Java design patterns too, but factories make smoke, and we all know that electronics run on smoke (when the smoke comes out, it doesn't work.) Software is a factory. 
 
38) Customers will never tell you what they want, except by giving you money. 
 
39) If you have to "get it" to understand something, you don't really know what you're talking about. 
 
40) I heard Steve Jobs still uses DOS 6.22 but occasionally fires up win.com  
 
41) Friction creates heat. Mr. Bean had a mini cooper. What 50-something teenagers drive these days are really just GEOs made in Mexico sold at BMW dealerships. 
 
42) If you're happy with what you're getting, you're not getting screwed 
 
43) Work always feels like work. If it's not hard, you're probably not doing it right. 

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-Hire passionate people 
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-Use your own product 
-Build products customers really want 
-Make it easy for customers to contact you 
-Allow innovation to flourish in your company

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