DIY (It’s in our DNA)

By Edward Armstrong

When we first started Lab3 (4 years ago! Time has flown…), we were a very different company to the one we are today. We had a lot of time on our hands, but, like many startups, cash flow was a problem. So, like many before us, we did a lot of the things a growing business needs ourselves. Accounts, branding, marketing and payroll were all figured out only as we needed them. Things weren’t efficient, but we had plenty of time, so this wasn't a problem. At that early stage, it was important to be doing as much as possible without spending any money (a philosophy which has been hard to let go).

However as much as we would have liked to be able to keep doing everything ourselves, we got to a point where we realised we needed more experienced hands working on these things. As your company matures, you realise that you actually become more productive if you save your time to provide a better service to your client.

However, despite the fact that it makes more sense for our business today to not do everything ourselves, we learnt a lot from doing this in those early months and years. Learning about business processes outside of simply developing software for clients has had great benefits, and, in turn, these benefits improve our software development. Our struggle with managing our own accounts has informed our understanding of the way finances work in many small businesses. Our struggles with trying to develop our brand and our marketing strategy, before we brought in outside help, helps us empathise with clients who are anxious that the software we make for them represents their brand in the best light. Setting up our email servers and website hosting on a budget gave us a great understanding of setting up domain names, and mail for clients - and the value of not always going cheap. Learning these business functions helps us, as developers, to understand how our clients’ businesses work, and ultimately leads to us making better decisions about the software we are making for them. Which makes for a happy client.

Our journey into working these business services out ourselves has also been great for determining who will be a good provider of these services too. The rudimentary understanding we managed to pick up was great for realising that ‘okay, this person will do this a lot faster and a lot better’. We now realise that you can’t know or be good at everything, and that’s ok - there are other businesses who are good at those things. We focus on what we are good at - developing quality software.

The only long-term solution for company growth is to build process, to delegate and to trust others. Making yourself obsolete becomes the way to make progress, it frees you up to focus on the real issue of improving and growing your core business.

Article by Edward Armstrong