Limit[ed/less]

Over time, there is an infinitely small likelihood that I would be capable of talking about this blog individually to everyone who will ever be interested and invested in the content. As more content meets more people, time would inevitably run out. Fortunately, with the help of technology, here we are. The limitations of the internet are not the same as the limitations of my mouth, and upon this foundation comes some game changing ideas.

While the internet provides much better potential to reach more eyes and ears, nobody wants to give up the benefits of using their mouth to speak. Nobody wants to upload their entire life to YouTube either. If humanity would become incapable of speaking, however, the way we think about even the smallest aspects of everyday life would change, similar to how the internet has impacted how we interact with the world. This leads into what we can learn  and apply to tech and business.

Regardless of individual circumstances, people have areas where they are presumably limited more or less than others. For instance, the fact that I am 6’4″ implies that my height is much less limited than most. But how would things change if we alter the conditions? You might be pleasantly surprised at the result if you consider questions like this in a variety of circumstances.

When applying this thinking to finances and business growth, the effect becomes clear. Say a business operates on $200,000 per year. What would be done differently (and why?) if the business had an annual operating budget of $100,000? How about $400,000? Putting businesses into these hypothetical situations will inevitably help foster a mindset of growth by overcoming presumed limitations in a practical way.

Circumstances will certainly change over time, for better or worse. By asking these questions now, you can gain a better understanding of why you might choose to take one course of action over another. Hopefully this entire process will help you more adequately prepare for your next big decision. After all, with preparation and execution people develop and grow.

“Best” Sales Tactic

As someone with a B.S. in Business Administration, I can say with confidence that most people with a considerable level of business education and experience would argue the importance of a top notch sales person. While sales is an incredibly important role to fill, I would suggest a more practical and important focus, particularly for small businesses. Investing available resources into ensuring the highest quality of a relevant product or service often yields far greater returns than overemphasizing hiring for a sales position and shifting the focus from what’s most important, creating value.

Rather than finding the “best” salesperson, why not concentrate on being the best at what you do by a considerable margin? Quality sells, and more importantly, paying attention to the issues that are relevant to clients and consumers will take your business to the next level. Too many times business owners fail to prioritize their endeavors properly, prohibiting optimal growth both short-term and long term.

How can your business implement this advice? Perhaps you were planning to hire too early. Nobody knows your own business better than you. Focusing more intentionally on bringing your best to the table will, in turn, yield a substantially better product or service allowing your businesses competitive advantage to sell itself.

Microsoft AppCenter

Several years ago, I needed to find a way to distribute mobile applications to test users. Ideally, the solution should allow for anyone to access the test application. This would include internal users as well as key stakeholders within the client organization. The distribution channel should support Android apps as well as iOS and, optimally, any other application type I would like to deploy. After searching, I found HockeyApp. What an amazing tool HockeyApp was. Not only did it meet those requirements, but it also allowed for integration of their API to include advanced features. For years, I used HockeyApp without issue. Apps are built by my automated build platform, pushed to HockeyApp, and users are notified of new test versions.

Fast forward to today, and HockeyApp is now owned by Microsoft and being moved to AppCenter. To be honest, I’ve never been much of a Microsoft fan. I could point to countless reasons such as lack of good native development tools, poor support for scripting or automation, their hatred of Linux (even calling a cancer), Internet Explorer which worked differently from every other browser for developers, and now I can add their horrible transition to AppCenter to the list.

Today, I received a notification from Google that one of my apps was removed from the store. It appears to be a mistake on their end, but I need to verify and respond to Google. So, I uninstall the copy of the app from my phone and go to AppCenter to download the app onto my phone. The first thing I notice is that I have multiple copies of the app but none of them are tagged with the appropriate build type. I can’t tell free version from paid version or beta version or anything else – just a bunch of apps with the same name. After clicking on the individual versions, I find out that none of them are available for me to download. After digging around, it appears I need to release the app to a distribution group. It had been setup properly for years, but now it’s broken. So, I go to the website to check the distribution groups. Guess what? There is no way to change them in AppCenter. I can see that I have a few groups, but I can’t even tell who is in them. So, to fix the problem, I will need to go to every single app I have (a total of 28), add them to a new distribution group (with unknown members), and rerelease them (generating 28 emails to each member of an unknown distribution group). What a horrible experience for both me and my team members. As a small business owner, I don’t have the time to waste to make all the necessary changes, updates, reconfiguration of continuous development pipelines, etc. What an absolute nightmare.

Maybe my experience will be better once I get everything transitioned to AppCenter. Perhaps these are just short-term growing pains. Regardless, this is just another example of why developers have always been skeptical of Microsoft – and another reason I’m glad I use Bitbucket instead of GitHub.

Navigating the Unknown

Difficulties often come alongside making important decisions pertaining to business, profession, and life. While some choices can be made with ease and peace of mind due to their simplistic nature, others demand more time and attention, and rightly so. Every person has twenty four hours to spend each day, which is one of the most fascinating and terrifying aspects of constantly receiving new meaningful opportunities. We can say yes to good opportunities, even great ones… until we can’t.

These more complex decisions commonly occur when people exceed their presumed capacity to put more on their plate, because the resulting consequences inevitably alter day to day life. This is one of the reasons why I place such a high value on flexibility. In our humanity, we cannot fully know, understand, or control everything that will happen over the course of any given day, week, month, or year. As such, we need to readily make room for the unknown, carefully evaluating and reevaluating how we spend our time, energy, and resources.

If you find yourself in this position in life, don’t worry; you’re doing something right! Do everything in your power to hold on to the amazing things you have managed to accomplish, while remaining open to new opportunities that will help you continue to develop and grow.

On the other hand, if you still have plenty of room on your plate, don’t be afraid to pursue new endeavors. There are people out there who NEED your gifts. We can always accomplish more today than yesterday, and we can manage more tomorrow than we managed today… until we can’t.

Competent Investing

Regardless of social or economic status, as human beings we have the ability to invest our time, energy, and resources into a wide range of opportunities. Whether we invest in people, projects, or something else, there exists a responsibility and an importance in exercising reason and assessing our own competence beforehand. Using a bit of common sense, this should go without saying, though emotions can often cause people to overlook sound logic in many circumstances.

While this may seem obvious, people should address and assess competence when investing so that they can be prepared for various outcomes in light of uncertainty. Take cryptocurrency as an example. About a year ago, cryptocurrency news stories were finally flooding the mass media. Everyday people heard stories of investors who gloated a twenty fold (or more) return on their initial investment. Without understanding much of the history of cryptocurrency or its benefits and flaws, people started investing their life savings, mortgaging homes, and other unthinkable decisions based simply on their fear of missing out. Absolute mania.

In all honesty, a case could be made that these same people backed out on their investments when the market took a rough turn. In most instances, our investments fluctuate, growing sometimes and shrinking others. The difference between investing in stocks versus cryptocurrency, however, is that cryptocurrency investing is much more volatile. An increase or decrease of ten percent in a matter of hours is fairly common, whereas with stocks, it generally would take months, even years to see a price change that significant.

The reason I write about this topic today is not to influence anyone to invest or pull their investments from cryptocurrency. Rather, I simply hope to help people sincerely think about why they choose to invest or not invest. What do we value most in life? Do our investments align with these values? If not, it begs the question of whether we are acting as good stewards our influence. On this Thanksgiving Day, we should consider what we’re truly grateful for. After we’ve done that, there’s only one thing left to do. Appreciate it.

Definition of Done

A few years ago, when the company I worked for at the time switched to agile development, I remember my boss saying how important it was to define ‘done’. I thought that sounded silly. Don’t we all know what done means? Do we really have to define it for the team? But as we discussed the idea, I realized it wasn’t as strange a question as it sounds. For instance, if I ask my wife if she’s done with the laundry, she might say she is. So, I assume that I can go to the closet and grab my favorite shirt. However, when I get there and don’t see it, I’m frustrated. Why did my wife tell me the laundry was done when it clearly wasn’t? Obviously, she and I had defined ‘done’ differently. To me, it means washed, folded, and put away. To my wife, it simply meant washed. We had both defined ‘done’ using a different criteria.

This same thing happens in software development. When we talk about software being done, we may mean that the development has been completed or that it’s been tested. Or, maybe we mean that it’s been deployed to a staging server or that it’s been through User Acceptance Testing. Maybe we mean that the source has been checked in to a branch or that it’s been merged to master. All of these things represent a drastically different definition of done.

As a customer of software services, you need to be able to define what you mean by done. If you don’t, you run the risk that your development team does not perform to your expectations since you were both defining the endgame differently.

Progress, Reflection, and Refocus

Over a year has passed since I started working with Talixa. When I look at how far the company has come, I feel a need to take a step back and reflect on the progress and positive change taking place. From the outset, I have maintained a bold confidence in Tom’s ability, both as owner and chief engineer, to consistently deliver top-notch service and capitalize on key relationships. These have helped to build a foundation upon which the company will develop and grow, though we only continue to grow after helping our clients do the same.

At the beginning of this year, I transitioned to take on a new role as business strategist for the company. While I won’t get into the specifics regarding our goals and ambitions, we quickly realized that Talixa was growing much faster than anticipated. I can’t stress enough how Tom’s hard work and dedication to the Talixa team contributed to the company’s continued success. With work pouring in, the company went from part-time to full-time, and “Team Talixa” has since tripled.

With that being said, we did suspect that businesses in our community had an unmet demand for quality software (and other tech-related) services. One of the challenges, however, has been keeping up with all of the opportunities that arise. I am personally blown away by how often I hear about good news and new projects when getting company updates from Tom. With exciting week after exciting week, the need to refocus and set the bar higher became apparent much earlier than expected. This resulted in redefining roles and goals, since along with meeting goals come new challenges for new endeavors.

A year has come and gone along with its challenges, and a new year is approaching with a new set of mountains to climb. For those of you who read these articles through the end, thanks for being a part of our journey. As you look back, refocus, and look forward, please don’t forget to think of us. After all, we’ll be thinking of you.

Exponential Growth

For entrepreneurs and business owners, trying to build something bigger than the individual poses one of the most challenging initial struggles a company can face. A brand is often represented by a figurehead, whether that be the owner, CEO, or majority shareholder. When the growth of the company is contingent on the amount of time an individual in this capacity can offer at an hourly rate, growth will by nature follow a specific linear pattern, before ultimately reaching a plateau.

In an effort to scale beyond this point, businesses can plan ahead to position and prepare themselves for the anticipated changes and challenges. Structuring the business model in such a way that money naturally flows into the business through multiple streams can create an ecosystem where each specific element supports other elements in different ways. In doing so, the business network can expand well beyond the individual, and the company can scale up to meet the goals necessary to attain sustainable growth and success.

While all of this sounds fantastic generally speaking, the task of specifically applying these principles to a business could seem daunting. Often, small business owners can fairly easily grasp the linear aspects of business growth. However, the road block often comes when the businesses are forced to think differently and realign their goals and focus. Sometimes the solution is both simple and effective. If your business has been struggling through a similar situation, I would strongly encourage you to take a look at your people. The people who are passionate about the work and mission of your company are the strongest agent of change for scalability. Take some time and consider their interests and skills, and invest in helping them find their best work!

What’s My Why?

A few weeks ago, I read Simon Sinek’s Start With Why. As I was reading, I was forced to ponder what my company’s purpose is. The simple answer is that my company exists to make money so that I can pay my bills. But that’s hardly very motivational – for me or for customers. No, I want my company to have a bigger purpose – I want my company to be transformational! What is my why? My company’s why is pretty simple – to make the world a better place. That’s a pretty lofty goal for a small software company. How can I possibly accomplish that? I can make the world a better place by accomplishing three things. First, Talixa will empower and enable customers to solve their business problems. This will enable them to better capitalize on their market which will, in turn, generate revenue and jobs. This improves the lives of people not only directly (through jobs) but also indirectly (through taxes generated for local government). Second, Talixa will work to improve the local community through creating jobs and developing tech leaders. Talixa is committed to hiring local resources and striving to develop the pool of local technology experts. We will work to support, grow, and train the next generation of technology leaders in the area. Third, Talixa is committed to improving the world through philanthropy. Talixa will work to support charitable organizations not only through financial donations, but also through serving and volunteering both locally and throughout the globe. We will encourage all those working with us to do the same.

So there you have it – the why for Talixa. Empower businesses, hire local, serve globally. If we can achieve these three things, we can have a small part in making the world a better place!

Transactional Friction

If you have ever considered where money originated or why we use it, then join the club.

Long before the day of the dollar, civilizations operated under a system of barter where goods were directly exchanged for other goods. While there are a few benefits with this system, people quickly realized the obvious flaws. For example, if a farmer had a cow to trade, they would need to find someone with goods of equal value. Further, there is often an expiration date associated with certain goods, such as a farmer’s milk or a baker’s bread. Therefore, even if a baker had enough bread to buy a cow, the farmer would have no use for that much bread.

These days, most of the world uses government issued currency that acts as a standardized means of exchange. While currencies address many of the issues of the barter systems, they are still often limited by some factors. For instance, if a person wants to spend money online or while vacationing in a foreign country, that spending creates transactional friction. In other words, customers pay fees to a middle man, whether it’s to exchange currencies or process transactions.

As a result, many have turned to cryptocurrencies as a solution to transactional friction, though  cryptocurrencies have not been able to handle scalability for the time being. As a result, using cryptocurrencies for their intended purpose is virtually impossible. For cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin or Ethereum, consumers spend several dollars in fees to make a transaction, rather than the fraction of a penny that they initially boasted.

Consumers around the globe are losing billions of dollars each year to various fees. So what can we do to avoid transactional friction? One piece of advice is to avoid using money where possible. Try to exchange your marketable skills for something more valuable than money. Programmers are continuing to work on some of the scalability issues behind blockchain technologies. In the meantime, everyone else can have a bit of patience and remain on the lookout for the progress taking place.