Payment Terms

Money

Recently, a fellow small business owner asked me how I handle billing. For a small business, money is often one of the biggest concerns. Without a steady flow of cash, you can’t meet your business objectives or your personal financial requirements. As a small business, you have to determine when to bill and how to bill. Even worse, you have to define how you deal with delinquent payments – which can kill your business.

When To Start Billing?

The first question to answer is when do you start billing? This is particularly true if you’re billing by the hour. Does the clock start ticking at your first meeting? After the project requirements are defined? After the project is complete? For my business, anything after the initial project meeting is billed to the customer. I think it’s important for a customer to understand that project planning, requirements gathering, and any other tasks completed before any actual code is developed is an integral part of the development lifecycle. I typically bill the first of the month after any billable hours have accrued. I’ve found that the longer you wait, the more the bill increases. Then, you risk the customer suffering from sticker shock when you finally send the bill after months of work.

Late Payments?

When I started my business, I was so pleased to have customers that I didn’t worry about late payments. I assumed that my customers respected me enough to pay me on time. I was incredibly wrong. What I’ve found instead is that many companies will put me at the bottom of the list of payees. Why is that? Well, I think it’s pretty simple. The customer knows they have to pay their lease on time or risk eviction. They know when they fail to pay their internet bill, they won’t be able to perform their mission. What happens when they don’t pay you? Likely nothing. Additionally, they know you don’t have a collections branch and are unlikely to use a collections agent. Thus, they have absolutely no reason to worry about when they pay you. I have learned to include verbiage in my contracts defining payment terms. I give customers a 5 day grace period, and after that the customer is charged a late fee. Additionally, all the customer’s projects are paused until payment is received. If you continue to work, you end up months behind on payment and continuing to work for free.

What About Equity?

I’ve had many ‘customers’ offer to pay me in equity. I do the work and they will give me a percentage of the revenue generated by the software. I have a very simple answer for this kind of relationship. No. While an individual may think that their idea will generate millions, they rarely do. Even worse, you’ve now wasted time developing software that you will never be paid for. The original ‘customer’ lost nothing. You lost countless billable hours to a project that will never be profitable.

Conclusion

Money is the lifeblood of any business. What I’ve learned is that it’s imperative to have clearly defined payment terms and procedures for your business. When you fail to make those terms clear to customers, you will quickly find that your business struggles to get by and that you are spending more time nagging customers to pay than you do performing your business’s objectives.

Social Media Etiquette

Social Media

Today, social media is increasingly being used as a tool for marketing and advertising. However, if done poorly, you run the risk of tarnishing your brand and being viewed as a spammer. Here are a few simple etiquette rules for social media.

Avoid Follow/Unfollow

Today, I was notified that I had a new follower on Instagram. After seeing that it was a local business, I decided to follow back. Trying to develop relationships with local businesses is an important aspect of my social media efforts. It wasn’t until a few hours later that I had an opportunity to visit their Instagram page. But when I did, I noticed that they had already unfollowed me. They had no actual interest in my content or in developing a relationship – they simply wanted to show me their products. This isn’t much different from spamming and does not present a positive view of your organization.

Create Content Not Advertisements

People are unlikely to follow you on social media to see what you have on sale this week. People want to see your personality, what your business stands for, and who you are. Of course, all businesses will occasionally create content that advertises their goods and services, but if that’s all you do, expect to be unfollowed. Social media is for growing communities – not a new tool to spam me with ads.

Stop Nagging Me About Services

On LinkedIn, in particular, this is common. Someone friends you and – wanting to grow your own circle of connections – you accept. Then, you get a private message about the services they offer. Viewing it for what it is – spam – you ignore the message. A week later, another message. Then a month later, a message asking if you got the previous message. Yes, I got them all. I chose to ignore them because I wasn’t interested in your product at this time. Additionally, I now am distrustful of you as I see you too are a spammer.

Like/Know/Trust

Want to develop your social media the right way? Use the like/know/trust model. First, users like you. They see your posts, enjoy your photos, laugh at your jokes. After a while, users feel that they know you. The’ve seen your stuff, they know what you stand for, and they feel that they understand you and your company. Finally, users trust you. They have seen you in action and know you’re knot a spammer. They recognize that you provide valuable content they want. They know you’re someone they could reach out to if they need your services. That’s the formula for success. You develop community and relationships, and people see you as a valuable asset instead of a spammer.

Do Unto Others

The golden rule applies to social media just as it does anywhere else. When you’re engaging in social media efforts, ask yourself how you would view another business if they used the same tactics. If it’s not favorable, don’t do it.

A Programmer’s Purpose

Today, it’s becoming increasingly popular for programers to be ‘opinionated’. In the software world, to be ‘opinionated’ means to believe your way is the right way. Other ways are wrong, and your way is right. There’s nothing wrong with having a preference, but the truth is that there is little room for opinion in software engineering. Software projects need to meet requirements such as budget, programmers available for maintenance, stability, etc. Championing a new language or framework may be fun, but when you leave, are there other developers available to support the project? Even if your preferred framework is better, it’s of no concern to a client when the language dies for lack of users and they have to pay to have the application rewritten.

A computer science student I know is all about Julia. Honestly, I’ve never met a single Julia developer or even seen a line of code in that language. On the list of popular languages, it’s not even a blip on the radar. However, this student insists that Julia is the way of the future. I’m not sure where he’s hoping to find work, but it won’t be in the local area. I remember the same thing when Scala came out. Every video I saw spent half their time attacking Java development. As above, I know absolutely no projects written Scala nor do I know any local companies either using it or planning to.

How should we select frameworks and languages?

The answer is actually pretty simple. Commercial software development has one purpose – to support some business use case. As such, frameworks must be chosen to support commercial business. What things make a language or framework commercially viable? It should be stable, have tools available to support commercial usage, and be widely used such that new developers can easily be found in the future. Additionally, it should have adequate resources available to help when you get stuck.

Commercial application development is no place for experimenting with new frameworks or basing your decision on an opinion about what is better. Find commercially viable frameworks and save yourself the hassle of supporting your new framework that may be dead in a year.  A programmer’s purpose it to write commercially viable software – period.

Do What You Want*

So many businesses today are doing what they DO NOT want and confusing it as the right thing to do. Maybe they feel like they need employees to follow the 9-5 workday to achieve success. Perhaps they are doing things just to “fit in” with other businesses, and at their own expense. Even still, most businesses that I’ve encountered have some aspect of their work that adds no productivity or value, yet they continue to “go about their business” anyway.

However, I need to be clear… the asterisk in the title is there for a reason. The message conveyed is both good and right in its true nature, not to be confused with or distorted into a message of business driven by greed, hedonism or self-gratification. So long as a business’ goals and core values promote good in an ultimate and absolute sense, it’s hard to go wrong. Simply consider how each decision relates back to the mission and vision of the company.

Personally and vocationally speaking, my efforts are focused on helping other businesses, organizations, and individuals to do exactly what I’ve suggested. If we don’t want to do something, we’re certainly not going to be capable of doing our best work. We can put on a good show and do enough to get by, but the world would be so much better if every business and every person was operating at peak potential for the sake of making the world a better place. Let me know what you’re doing that you shouldn’t be, and I’ll do my best to help you do more of what you want* in any way that I can.

Leverage Networks

Over the last several months, my mission has been to focus on company scalability. As a community minded individual, implementing a business model that would encourage Talixa to grow only when we help others do the same has always been a priority. I would argue that this is the reason we saw so much growth so quickly. In April, Talixa transitioned from a part-time company to a full-time company. By July, we had enough projects to keep us booked full-time through the end of the year.

Initially, those were my goals. My work revolved around doing whatever I could to ensure that the company was an asset to the community. As we’ve brought on more team members, I needed to redefine what specifically I could do to allow Talixa to become an even greater asset to the community. What I’ve realized is that I need to make myself available to the rest of the community so I can see more of our community reaching their potential, through Talixa’s infrastructure.

Tom never needed me to help him grow his company. I firmly believe that. However, in looking at what happened as a result of my decision to be a part of the company’s growth, I realized that the element of collaboration, transparency and accountability could explain the rapid growth. When other people can see what we’re working on, we can get the necessary feedback to make the right decisions to position ourselves for sustained growth.

With all that said, Talixa Software & Service, LLC is offering a brand new service… one that I’m particularly excited to share. As far as social media is concerned, our community overall does a fantastic job of utilizing facebook to spread the word and market the products and services that are locally available. However, I have seen very few people utilizing twitter to its fullest potential. People like Elon Musk (Tesla, Space X, Boring Company) are utilizing twitter to accomplish unbelievable things and reach the masses, despite claiming that it is the most difficult platform to conquer.

I have been in the process of tearing the platform apart, breaking down every bit of information I can understand, in order to come up with a process to leverage our local networks and scale our community, catering to our strengths and capitalizing on them. Our business model has worked incredibly thus far, so I don’t intend to change it at its core. Talixa will only scale by helping our entire community do the same. For this reason, we have created twitter business packages to deliver exceptional value, and the reason we can offer the service at the most competitive price is because we’ve created a win-win scenario… a blue ocean.

If your business is on twitter, send us your twitter handle (e.g. @TalixaSoftware) and we’d be happy to give you some extra exposure through our twitter, even if you aren’t actively tweeting content. If your business isn’t on twitter, make an account right now! Otherwise, you’ll miss out on the huge potential to accomplish immeasurably more than you’d expect. If you’d like to learn more about our service, check out this link: bit.ly/2MuMPoF

If you have any questions or feedback about what we’ve ventured into, please reach out! We’d love for you to be a part of what we’re doing and reap the benefits alongside us.

Contagious Generosity

Social experiments are rather interesting. Looking back at my high school senior project from a number of years ago, I had almost finished preparing a research presentation about how collaboration, gratitude, and generosity are integral to the success of individuals, businesses, and organizations. As I stared at my screen, however, I felt as though something was missing. While the research was both accurate and interesting to me, I had my doubts that anybody else would care. Why would they? After finding out that I would be one of the first presenters, I quickly devised a plan that involved some scheming and a trip to the store.

From the start of my presentation, the other students could see that I brought a few shopping bags full of something, and it caught their attention. When the time came I unveiled the great mystery and passed around several different bags of candy to different groups of students. To go along with the candy were some very specific instructions. I not only gave each group the option to do with their candy as they pleased but also informed them that groups would go one at a time.

The first and last groups were the most interesting to watch, because the first group had the opportunity to set the trend of sharing their candy, while the last group had complete freedom to keep their own candy in addition to what was shared with them. Everyone willingly shared, and they ended up with a better variety of candies than they started with. As others presented in the following weeks, quite a number of them brought in more candy as well. I was pleased that a simple activity caused my presentation to become more memorable and effective.

In applying these principles to helping businesses develop and grow, I can’t help but relate this experience to what I see with Talixa. We hire people who offer something unique in certain areas and constantly fill in our gaps. The company has grown by focusing on serving others to the best of our ability, while delivering maximum value and doing the job the right way the first time. Our team has proven time and time again that our services greatly exceed the minimum requirements. I urge you to start implementing new ways to reach more people with your generosity, and prepare to watch your business grow.

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 or not we are acting as good stewards of 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.

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.

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 locally, serve globally. If we can achieve these three things, we can have a small part in making the world a better place!