From owner to employee
Generally any business owner has three possibilities for their business, 1 – failure, the most likely outcome by a big margin unfortunately but these days it should come as no surprise 2 – IPO, the dream of most founders is to take their business public on the stock exchange, strictly speaking this isn’t an out but that’s a subject for a different essay and finally, 3 – acquisition, of the successful outcomes for a start-up this is far more likely to occur than an IPO, let’s be honest.
Once an acquisition occurs, it can be a difficult time for an entrepreneur, essentially they made it, they took their idea and built a business successful enough to attract the attentions of a buyer. Now we all know that not all acquisitions are financially lucrative, but even if the business is making a loss and the buyer is merely agreeing to pay out debts and keep the business afloat, the founder has still made a business that is successful enough for someone to want to do this with, let’s face it NO ONE acquires a business just because they feel sorry for the owners, they buy it because they like what they see and can see the potential, even if it hasn’t quite made it yet. So as a founder, it’s a win!
Transactions are rarely without hiccups, but hopefully when it’s complete you’re happy with the outcome. Make sure you negotiate yourself an employment contract you’re happy with, a suitable salary, bonus and holidays, it will certainly not help the transition if you’re already unhappy with arrangements from day one and hopefully the new owners will understand this too.
Once this is set then comes the tricky part – still working in ‘your’ business but as an employee rather than an owner.
It’s a strange feeling and probably not one anyone is expecting when they give birth to their world changing idea. Depending on the terms of the transaction you may be morally and/or financially locked into continuing to work as an employee for your new boss(es) for a period of several months or a year or more.
Every founder should realise before the terms of the deal are agreed that regardless of what the new owners say or your intentions to keep working on your baby forever, it’s probably not going to work out as you want or expect. Generally new owners will want to run the business their own way and eventually with their own management team and more than likely, the original founders will be some of the first to go when it’s time.
This is understandable from the new owner’s perspective, the founders are the people that have driven the business to where it is and existing and remaining employees will always look to them for guidance and direction and so if a founder doesn’t like the direction new owners are taking with their business they can become quite disruptive either accidentally or more maliciously and so new owners want to prevent this. So letting the founders go first makes sense to prevent instability in the business if the direction changes or the founders become unhappy for another reason.
During the early period after the transaction, founders will need to continue what they’re doing but also be mindful that it’s no longer their business, and while the new owners may welcome their input on strategic or operational matters, ultimately it is with them that the buck stops and so they must do what’s best for their new business.
It’s a strange position to find yourself in and I don’t think I’m alone when I say it takes a bit of getting used to, you need to continue to do your best work but ultimately you don’t get the final say anymore and in some cases it might not even matter what you think.
To overcome this strangeness I think it’s important to keep reminding yourself that you still want to leave your successful business as a legacy, if and when you finally leave and so to this end it’s still important that you care about the business and that it remains successful under new ownership.
You should also be prepared for your ultimate exit and as difficult as it may initially sound start preparing yourself for succession. This process may be forced upon you or you may decide to expedite it, but you need to be ready for the day when you’re no longer indispensable!
I believe it’s important to be realistic about the amount of work you do in the business after acquisition, you should stop working 80+ hour weeks and start spending time with your family and friends again and probably thinking about your next adventure. It actually makes more sense for the new owners not to get used to you working unsustainable hours simply because they’re unlikely to get anyone else to replace you who will put in the same effort, and so it’s a reality check for them too.
Hopefully at the end of it all, you can chalk up the win on your inspiration board and move on to the next big idea, with more knowledge and experience to make the next business as successful or more so than that one.
I’d love to hear from other founders who have been through this and their experience on how things played out.
Mobile app or responsive website?
The future of web development
Recently I’ve been thinking about the future of web development and how different technologies fit in.
Of course there is never going to be a one-size-fits-all solution but the more I contemplate this the more I am convinced that front and back end development will diverge.
Taking the experience I’ve had whilst at the Start Here group – moving from a website to a platform used to host several properties on a common back-end, the more I see this as the future of web development. Back-end developers doing what they do best, the business rules implementation and front-end developers doing what they do best, perfecting the user experience.
I predict that businesses will increasingly produce APIs supporting the business logic and leaving the front-end to another team or business altogether.
I believe this move to be driven primarily by the myriad of user facing interfaces now available, at the very least desktop browsers vs. mobile browsers, but also the proliferation of mobile and soon maybe wearable apps. The front-end and back-end are becoming more divergent than ever.
The proliferation of MVC frameworks are already promoting the separation of the model and controller from the view and perhaps a more physical separation is the natural step considering the dedicated front-end technologies that are around now, like Angular.js.
Considering a new business idea, rather than developing a full front-to-back solution I am seriously considering producing a RESTful API in node.js focusing on the core functionality and speed in delivering that and then outsourcing the website – desktop and mobile and mobile app development to experts in their field. Perhaps even only providing the API as the final product and pushing other businesses into producing user interfaces to utilise this. This approach enables me to consider more carefully the back-end functionality without any compromise due to front-end restrictions or distractions. I can produce the pure business logic and then let expert UI developers do the fancy part.
By becoming a back-end API provider if you like, it’s possible that more innovative ways of using the back-end will eventuate as more businesses focus solely on the user interfaces and API integration.
The dream perhaps is that the back-end logic is broken down into a series of APIs that the front-end simply plugs into and uses as required, so web development as it is today becomes more of a system integration activity, plugging front-end and various back-end APIs together to create the required end product.
Of course the interface definition will be critical and up until now this type of specification probably wasn’t much of a concern to web developers, but as web development matures I feel that the formalisation of these interface specs will become the norm as it is in more mature software engineering disciplines.
I think that by separating front and back end development it will create a more innovative overall solution without the front-end having preconceived ideas of the back-end and vice versa.
Who knows if this will become reality but we’re sure to see new approaches to old ideas almost constantly, these are truly exciting times to be involved in all aspects of digital.
iPhone 4 to Motorola Moto G2
So I’ve had my iPhone 4 (not even a 4S, just a 4) for probably 4 years now, pretty happy with it even though I couldn’t get iOS8 and had noticed it slowing down in recent months, but it’s served me well.
For a few weeks prior when I was in a phone conversation with someone they’d say “you’re so quiet, I can hardly hear you”, so I’d switch to speaker phone and all was good. But it turns out this was the microphone dying and finally the week before last it gave up.
I’m sure you’ve heard these stories of someone taking their flooded, smashed, generally broken iPhones to the Apple Store and getting a brand new one for free, so thought I’d give it a try. It didn’t work! I found getting a Genius appointment tedious and had to do it twice due to an initial miscommunication of the day. The Apple “Genuis” told me that it was definitely a hardware problem and in the 4 the microphone is soldered to the main board, so long and short of it “it’s dead”, no free iPhone offered to me though 🙁 I could get a new (would it really be new) 4 for $180, and even the Genius remarked “you probably wouldn’t want to do that as you don’t get any iOS updates anymore”, go on a plan, the Genius’s preferred option, although it’s easy for him to want me locked into a 2 year contract paying an extra $30/month to get the same data as I’m getting now on my old old Telstra plan, or buy a new phone from the shop, but probably not even getting $100 for my trade in 4.
I wasn’t happy, I declined all three options and left, disappointed not least that Apple wasn’t as amazing at customer service as I thought.
As a side note, I’d never been into an Apple store before (I’m no fan boi, but have always regarded their products as well engineered and their software on the devices themselves (don’t get me started on iTunes on Windows) as perfectly adequate), so the whole store thing was an eye opener, man they get some people through that place, virtually every square metre of the Robina store had a customer in it and almost as many staff, they must be making a few bob 😉
So now I had an iPhone that I couldn’t really call anyone on, so I had to make a difficult decision, spend upwards of $800 on an iPhone 6 – which I really wanted to do but knew that my wife would NOT have been impressed OR go over to the dark side and buy an Android phone!
As a developer I guess I should support the “new kids on the block” of course which aren’t that new any more and have more market share than Apple these days, but to be honest I’ve just never really liked the whole “every phone’s operating system is slightly different”, “manufactures pepper their version of Android with different “bloatware””, “you can’t get OS upgrades if you’ve got this model on this network”, “some apps won’t work on some models”, “apps from the Google Play store having security risks”, etc, it just feels like Linux vs. Windows, on Windows everything just works, on Linux this works on that distribution and that works on that distribution, it just feels amateurish. And I’ve never been impressed with the hardware, the Galaxy range has always felt plasticy and just not a nice as iPhones.
In preparation for disappointment at the Apple store (I’m a pessimist at heart) I’d started to research a likely “budget” replacement, and when you mention “budget” you can’t really look at iPhones, so I’d been researching Nokia Lumia 530 (my wife had just replaced her 520 that had a smashed screen (they wanted $100 to replace at the local shop where it only cost me $69 to get my 4’s screen replaced previously) with a $40 Telstra locked 530) as I’d set it up for my wife and didn’t hate it and at $40 that definitely ticks the “budget” box, but I doubted there’d be the range of apps I need to go about everyday business stuff so I started looking at Androids.
I get the OzBargain deal email every morning and saw the Motorola Moto G 2nd generation was on sale at Disk Smiths for $249, so I started to do some research into it, and it soon became apparent that this could be the phone I needed. As it happens I have a UK SIM that I occasionally get calls and messages on and so the fact that the G2 was a dual SIM piqued my attention initially and then I started to read lots and lots of good reviews about them, it’s only 3G which seemed to be the main gripe, but so was my iPhone 4 and internet speed on the Telstra network had never been an issue. Coupled with the fact that the sale ended on the same day of my “Genuis” appointment meant that I ended up walking out of the Apple Store and straight into Dick Smiths to get the G2.
So I’ve been using it for over a week now and I have to say – I LIKE IT! I wasn’t a fan of the phablet phones and with a 5 inch screen this is more phablet than I thought I’d like, but the bigger screen real estate really helps when reading and using websites that aren’t mobile friendly and in fact I’ve even used phpMyAdmin on our live web server via it, something I would’ve never considered on the iPhone 4 simply due to the size of the screen.
It’s quick, certainly compared to my iPhone 4 and has all of the productivity apps that I need and as some of them are from Google they just seem easier to set up on the G2. Occasionally I find that an app will hang, but I just kill it and start again. Occasionally the keyboard will disappear while typing, so again I just kill the app and start again. The dual SIM thing works as expected, you get a call on one SIM, you can answer it, you get a call on the other SIM, you can answer it. Each time you make a call or send a text you can choose which SIM to use, and save that preference, plus there is the ability to easily change that preference. Call quality (certainly from my end) is excellent. Data speeds are the same as on the 4, although with the apps loading faster anyway everything just feels faster.
Would like to get the Lollipop (I do think these names are silly) OS upgrade as I do miss the lock screen notifications – something I find difficult to believe hasn’t been available on Android!
I like the message light that appears to stay on longer the more alerts that are waiting – although I’m not too sure about that yet, so you don’t have to keep turning it on to see if there are any new alerts (emails, messages, calls, etc).
I am stuck in iMessage purgatory at the moment due to the prefered Apple solution to get out of it not working, so basically anyone who texts me via an iPhone will not get a response because it’s picked up by one of the many other devices registered against my iTunes account and not sent as a text to my phone. I still need to try the secondary method advised by Apple but really the preferred method should just work in my opinion.
One thing that needs to be made MUCH easier is transferring data across platforms, contacts, photos, messages, email settings and apps, not as bad moving from iOS to Android but a pain moving from iOS to Windows phone and even Windows phone to Windows phone! Ideally a universal cloud storage solution would be preferable – maybe a business idea! I don’t really use any media on my phone and so don’t know about any hassle of moving music or video across platforms but I’d image that’d be pretty simple.
I’m not sure about battery life as yet as I’ve been using it a lot more than my iPhone during the day simply because it’s more pleasant to browse with and so at the moment the battery rarely lasts the day.
I travel fairly often and until know I used to take my Google Asus Nexus 7 (I think that’s what it’s called) (I did go Android a while ago with that) to watch the Virgin Entertainment content on the plane, but I think with the G2’s 5 inch screen I’ll probably leave the Nexus at home next time = lighter bag 🙂
So, do I miss my iPhone? I can honestly say to this point I don’t, so maybe it’s time everyone gave Android (at least in the form of the Moto G2) a go to see what you could be missing!
Serial tech co-founder.