Growing your software business, stuck in a rut

The following is a response to the forum question posted here.

I had the opportunity to meet Scott while at the Little Rock .Net User Group, and we talked briefly about my thoughts on how to take advantage of the programs available to software startups.  In particular Scott owns a consulting business and he’s having growing pains.

Scott’s problems is very typical of thousands of small business consultant shops.  He’s busy being the business owner, full time consultant/programmer, bookkeeper, marketing, sales guy, etc.  So how do you start growing this small shop?

When doing consulting my first rule is to set the customer’s expectations.  Since you are my customer, here’s the good and the bad of growing your business.  You will have to relinquish power.  You will have to accept things that isn’t “your way”.  You will think quality isn’t as good as what you can do, but that is typically because they aren’t doing it “your way”.  When in actuality, your customers will be fine with the work being done, and they will continue to give you business.  You have to spend money to make money.

So here are my few tips on growing.  Your first hire should be a sales person.  A part time salesman works just fine and will keep you out of the hole, if you’re worried about finding the funds to pay him.  At a minimum, you will need to guarantee him one month’s salary.  Past that, you need to figure out the salary plus/or commission.  A salesman is only as good as his commission.  Most salesmen work off of a draw against future sales.  For more information on how to setup a commission schedule, talk to a car salesman.

When the salesman has customer calls / visit, you will want to be available.  Let him do all the talking, except when you need to talk tech.  After the customer visit, you should write up the time estimates and as much documentation as you feel is necessary.  Let the salesman handle the quote from there on.

The other tip is to hire a part time bookkeeper / secretary.  I know there are a lot of groans here, but that 10 hours you pay that employee $15 an hour, you could be making $80 an hour.  Time is money, and since you’re the owner and consultant, your time is even more valuable.

Once the salesman finds jobs, then you fill it with insourcing or outsourcing.  But remember to never sign agreements that give your code away to the customer and always have the work done offsite.

Lastly, this has more to do with Microsoft.  The certifications are worthless to a Partner.  Partner level isn’t very important, except for the benefits they give you.  Your customers are rarely going to care about your certs or partner level.  Customer availability, responding to their needs, and exceeding expectations are far more important.

I’ll try and go over some of the Certification and Partner actual benefits in another blog post.

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About Randy Walker

Randy is an entrepreneur, software developer, amateur photographer, speaker and influencer.

Bentonville, Arkansas