Dog in a suitAs a business owner, it’s important to realize that the engine of the business (the people and processes that allow you to make the product or service, whatever that is) is as important, if not more so, than the product of the business. This changes over time, of course. When you are just starting out, the product needs to be made, otherwise you won’t have anything to sell. But over time, the other aspect, the business structure, will come to the fore. This is because as a business scales, you need to be able to recruit new talent, market your product, and spread knowledge throughout your company.

I was reminded of these facts by this post, “My Biggest Regret”, from Marty Haught, of Haught Codeworks. He’s kind of a big deal in the Ruby community, but reveals that he was a bit … lazy when it came to business development. From the post:

Apparently, I’m not the only one with this impression. You commonly hear that business owners need to work on the business, not in the business. I loved building software so much that I just wanted to stick with that.

That’s the perennial issue with building a business to give you freedom. Be aware that the bigger the business you build (the more successful) the more you’ll be taken away from building the product and the more you’ll be pushed toward building the business. (There are exceptions, but they require a certain scale. I’m aware of a couple of technical founders who stepped away from business management and focused on development/new initiatives, but that’s rare enough that it is worth commenting on and it also requires a team of about double digit size and margins to allow that to happen.)

The business principles of the solo consultant apply to big companies too. Doing the work is only part of building a business. Ignore that fact at your peril.

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