By Brian Christner | August 28, 2018
Bootstrapping a Family Friendly Technology Company
Back in January this year, Darragh and I launched our startup “56K.Cloud”. Darragh and I took time to write down our core values which were both from a company perspective and our experiences important to us and our families, as both of us, are married with kids. The risk associated with founding a company along with maintaining a manageable work-life balance meant allot to us. Being technology neutral and focusing a “remote-first working culture” gave us a level of autonomy to strike that balance. That said, we try to re-iterate those core-values every now and again, as reality-check. It is to ensure we don’t lose track or lose focus on what is truly important to us.
Almost nine months into this journey and we are still working hard to maintain those values while trying to build a profitable business. For sure, this has been challenging, just ask our families. Having been vital from the start that communication is key to making this work. It might come as a shock to some, but I am more on the verbose side in chats, emails, and general communication and have to rein myself in to ensure I don’t flood people with too much chatter. However, keeping everything out in the open has made it easier to keep the company direction clear and the momentum moving forward.
Maintaining a work-life/family-life balance has been a critical piece at 56K.Cloud. Darragh enjoys using the label Daddy as a Service or for short DaaS for days we off work looking after our kids. It all boils down to sound time management and planning. Not as easy as said, however, we made some exceptions when required, so fare we are quite happy with how we as a company are managing, but still there is always room for improvement.
Family Startup Life
It is a common misconception in the startup world that one should be pushing 100 hour weeks and have no life outside of that. Honestly, this is not the case (at least all the time) as we still manage life outside of work. I even take time to sneak in mountain bike rides over lunch (very important). However, what came as a surprise to me is the amount of time required for non-technical tasks, e.g., administration (accounting, paperwork, setting up business services, bills, and following up with invoices) all required to run a productive business. One does not just start a business and code for 8 hours a day but the day to day tasks to keep the business moving also require quite some attention too.
This year so far has tested us in many different ways through new partnerships, customer acquisitions, and at the same time trying to expand the company. It has become more evident that we are heading down the right path as customers, potential hires, and partners have helped to validated, our values, and our technology focus. It has been great to receive feedback at client meetings, meetups, and conferences that people are watching our progress and support us on our journey.
As we enter Q4, we can already reflect on the accomplishments and progress so far, but we are very much in our infancy. It is an exciting time to be a startup with so many possibilities, but it adds to the complexity as well. The challenge is narrowing the focus on the technologies and skills which bring the most value while still aligning with our values.
56K.Cloud is now a large startup of three ;) with the intention to grow at a manageable but steady pace. Remote First, is one core value we push for but is not limited to just working at home. We intend to enable 56K.Cloud to be remote/digital nomads. What do we mean by that? For example, if we want to work from the mountains of Switzerland for hiking and skiing to the beaches of Southern Europe, we arrange this as part of our schedule and private life.
Why remote? One primary reason has been; Commuting, much time is wasted and adds unnecessary stress on people. Additionally, being onsite at a customer can be easy to become distracted and pulled into different discussions, meetings. Combined with the context switching which takes away from our tasks at hand. Our goal is to deliver our services for a fixed price/time. It is somewhat counter-intuitive from traditional consulting but is much more predictable for the customer as well as us. In essence, we are turning consulting into a SaaS solution. It allows us to be remote and build up a library of tools and managed services which enables faster delivery times with predictable pricing.
This model fosters the Remote First methodology. Yes, we realize that some customers would rather have people on-site, but it goes against our values and our vision of building up a company that is not dependent on one sitting in a particular location. As the world continues the push to a more connected society, it only makes sense that we embrace this and encourage and adapt our customers for this change.
Our daily schedule varies from week to week, but we try and maintain a no meeting Monday policy. Monday is typically the ramp up day for the week catching up on tasks from the previous week and prioritizing tasks for the week. It works quite well, but sometimes the random customer meeting is required to sync on a topic or fix something. Very rarely do we communicate via email internally. Our communication is primarily with Telegram for real-time communication, and anything that needs action gets added to our Trello Board which gets assigned a label, due date, prioritized in a list, and an assigned person. Using these tools works well and reduces much unnecessary email back and forth.
Time management and structuring the day is vital for me personally to tackle the day ahead. Usually, I am up at 5-530am to mentally prepare for the day ahead and have some focus time before the family wakes up. I must admit I was never a morning person until 3 years ago I adopted a new morning routine which I still follow today. When you structure and organize yourself, it gives back more freedom. As the famous Navy Seal Jocko Willink says “Discipline equals freedom.”
First, is preparing our end of year planning to start setting milestones for the rest of 2018 and start focusing on 2019. Next, a full branding workshop to update our website, documents, slide decks and image. Generally, update our overall message through all communication means. Finally, and probably most importantly is to start scaling 56K.Cloud to start preparing for future projects. Since we are a bootstrapped company a slow and steady growth is more important than rapid scaling which allows us to search for candidates that fit not only our company culture but are passionate about the technology.
We are still early on in our journey, but it already feels like we have gained an enormous amount of experience in this short time. Transparency is vital to the direction of the company. It is not only a great way to track progress, but it also helps with reflecting on our thought process. If this article resonates with you, then reach out to us and let us know.
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