The climb

Software Agency Survival: Fight or Flight

Whenever new and unfamiliar experiences come our way, our first reaction is either fight or flight. We could reject the experience totally or allow it to become a part of our lives after a while and possibly after a lot of negotiation. How we choose to fight is dependent on our past experiences and how much we’re willing to compromise in order to become changed by the experience.

How we choose to fight is dependent on our past experiences and how much we’re willing to compromise in order to become changed by the experience.

Two months after launching Cluency and pursuing the path of independent software contracting, I’ve been able to witness firsthand how my previous 3 startups experience have played out in my work. They have made me realise that different behaviours and thought patterns need to be undertaken for sustainability, survival and success. I call these thoughts shifts and the major ones are highlighted below:

1. The shift to long term thinking

Software Agency survival is in a huge part dependent on the amount of revenue received either from clients, or solutions the company itself creates and sells off. This is required for payment of salaries and office expenses, but if that’s the domineering thought, it quickly leads to what I’d call a “Sweat shop mentality”.

The sweat shop mentality goes something like: “How much more work should we take in to increase revenue?”

When the train of thought shifts to a long term thinking, we begin thinking about our Agency’s vision and how each action undertaken to get there matters. The long term train of thought asks: “If we were to be relevant 10 years from now, how would we carry out ourselves from today?”

That way of thinking automatically prompts the Agency to engage in unorthodox practices, some of which may not be revenue generating immediately. For example running a community group for a certain technology, committing to supporting an open source project, blogging it’s solutions to the world, changing the type and quality of the projects they take, partnerships with like minded Agency’s e.t.c.

Yes I do want my agency to survive month to month and make the bills, but I also want it to remain sustainable and relevant after 10 years.

2. The shift to valuing networking

As a person, I may be full stack when it comes to a technology but I am surely a half/quarter stack ;) when it comes to perspectives on many issues, both professional and life related.

This means that an Agency has to network to stay relevant. Not should, not might, but it has to and as it does it has to stay true to it’s vision while it’s creating those links.

The world is a small place and given the six degrees of separation, your Agency’s opportunity is definitely locked up in another person. This doesn’t mean you treat people or other agency’s as ladders, it implies that you treat whoever you meet in your professional circles without bias regardless of how they appear to you at that moment.

It’s a hard thing to do as I’ve found out because we humans are naturally geared towards comfort especially when it comes to relationships. However, this comfort can be unlearned as we allow ourselves to intentionally become exposed to unfamiliar environments where we may not have the upper hand in the conversation. The unfamiliarity will cause us to embrace the reality that we are indeed insufficient on our own and need other people.

3. The shift to doing extra now and harvesting later

Intentional above average delivery and service leads to a different thought pattern in how we work, hire and deliver as an Agency. When you read about the great lengths of engineering Apple goes to in creating some of its products, there’s a level of comfort and trust you develop in them.

A restaurant, airline, supermarket, car manufacturer (insert industry here) that gives above average to its customers has a right to charge above average and will make above average returns for a company in its industry.

Doing extra is NOT immediately rewarding and has no standard template of how it can be achieved given the available resources(people, information, time and money) the Agency has.

It doesn’t have to be expensive and can be as simple as; providing exceptional support to a client, researching their industry issues beyond the convenience of the information received from searching the web, or after building and shipping the entire product to the client, adding an update of a needed feature that wasn’t requested.

Extra goes noticed because as different people in your industry are tried and tested, your exceptionalism will slowly start sticking out like a thumb.

In closing
The shifts above are progressive and hard for me to make and will definitely take time to manifest. I urge you to take up and commit to at least one shift.

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