Friday, October 5, 2007

It has been a year already………… “much more fun but much harder” (part 2)

In part 1 I was reflecting about the past year and summarizing the hardship part of the sentence that summarizes the year, let’s now talk about why it has been much more fun and also summarized in 5 points (even if it has taken me more than 2 months to have the time and energy to write this down and we are now at the 15 months mark almost)

1) Seeing the team grow and our unique culture being settled finally making a difference
During the past 18 months (this goes before I even join) we have rotated almost 100% the development team. There have been many reasons for this but in most of the cases although we had lots of good talent in the developers there was clearly a lack of fit with the people. Sometimes it took external offers, sometimes crisis, but we did realize little by little, developer by developer. It is also true that being a team that has mostly come from managing consultants (in large numbers but consultants) either from big 5 or from strategy houses (in my case I did have the privilege also to manage an entire department at Vodafone CZ), we did apply initially the recipes we have learned and we realize after a number of mistakes and events that it was not the right one.
Starting this January we went back to basis and we started almost from scratch. Little by little we recruited a completely new team (except our war veteran and senior developer Santi “DJ San”) and we changed the way we manage the team in terms of communication, time management, incentives, management roles and why not to say proximity and affinity to their needs. In most of the cases we have recruited young people but very talented, knowing that this will demand more coaching on our side but in the mid term if will be much more fruitful for the company, and the results are coming
You can see how people is much more excited working today, how they go the extra mile (while still trying to respect their time needs and their life outside work) to deliver to the clients, they enjoy working together, there is a sense of a “team”, finally ☺ We are finding which things do they appreciate on our side (e.g. they really value that we pay the English classes that they take at lunch time 2 days a week). Lately we have even introduced a new but very exciting ingredient. We recruited some foreign developers (which did not speak Spanish) and

2) Enjoying each piece of good news as never before
I reflected about trying to manage not to take defeats personally. Well let’s talk about the good news and the wins. There is an amazing feeling on every day good news: from having a candidate accepting an offer (after a month of interviews, offers, negotiations, doubts, etc…) to winning a project or seeing the number of downloads of one of our clients go up month by month. You really have a sense of accomplishment on each of them but also a feeling of “well done team”. I believe very few times you just think “great job Cristobal” but “great job team”. No matter who takes the main role vs. a secondary role on a particular process (sale, recruiting, partnership) we will not be able to get of those great news without the proper teamwork both from management and the different team members. It may also this being the reason why when there is a piece of good news the first thing you want to do is to call Fran, Carlos and Pedro and the people that has helped you on a particular event to make things happen and to share with them those day2day satisfactions

3) Surviving is a virtue and an ambition to grow a way of living
As in every startup you have to be humble enough to know that no matter what you do, think or dream the first thing it has to be on your head is survival. You know how important is to make a sale, or to recruit that person to help you deliver a key project or implementation or to getting paid an invoice on time is key for the cash flow. Adapting to a survival mode is a virtue that not everyone I believe has or has the capacity to acquire. Many people are so uncomfortable with such notion (as they work in large companies where survival is only a political game but never your worry at night) and can’t live on a startup environment with a managerial role. I just have found always very intriguing while people ask you for more money to mitigate the risk of a startup. First payment people more than the market ask you are a way to limit our survival options. Secondly just the notion that a larger salary makes you more comfortable living in such environment is just not real

Furthermore you can’t just aspire to survive but need to have and nurture the ambition to grow driving you and your team (even if the later is even more difficult). For many people it may be difficult to dream about becoming a powerhouse when they know surviving next month will be difficult. Indeed it is not easy but it is the only way to make it. If you think just because you are small you can’t dream of pitching larger clients, that because of size we will never be able to beat BAH, AT Kearney or ADL for a consulting engagement or Ericsson, MusicWave or GrooveMobile for a digital media service implementation then it will not happen. And if you give up the first, second or third times you lose with them, and you just think size is the only thing that matters then you will continue just losing. Growing is hard and doing it with less resources or brand that your competitors remarkable, but that is what make this adventure fascinating and more than worth it. The capacity to dream that we can make it where we ambition to go

4) Feeling proud of what I do (and what we do as a team)
I am very proud of what I do and what we do as a team. It is always an unbelievable feeling after several days or weeks traveling to come to the office and see if full of faces looking at you that you have convinced to join and you keep convincing to stay. It is amazing to count how every office day you have more people there and that we start running our of space again on our office. And you know that apart from the necessary luck, this is possible because 4 people (and their support network) believe in an idea and a company and keep fighting to find ways to make it happen. Remember “Luck favors the persistent”, Napoleon dixit

5) Passion is the name of the game and sharing it among the management team a pleasure
I have shared with you that keeping the management team riding together as one and in an effective manner is one of the main challenges we face. However there is one thing you can always smell when you face or sit with us on a sales pitch, an investors pitch or an interview and it is that we share the passion for what we do
I love the feeling to arrange a management meeting or a management day when we meet to discuss future strategies or make decisions. No matter how the conversations goes (and sometimes to very heated destinations) you just can smell and sense the passion to make things happen, the passion for the company needs and growth and not for the individual to impose his ideas. It is always a fascinating exercise to share hours and discussions with my partners and there is always something good that comes out of those meetings

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