When you’re a start up, almost by definition you are creating an organisation that is doing something that at some level hasn’t been done before, or is at least a variation of something that has been done before. If you’re going to be successful then, you need to be able to adapt which means being able to learn. This applies to Cyma as much as it would to any other start up, so what have we learnt in the six years we’ve been operating?
There are many things, but the ones below are some key ones. None of them should come as any surprise to anyone who has been running a business for any length of time.
Be very clear about the real problem(s) you’re solving
When we started Cyma our intent was to create a consultancy that would focus on delivering high value information systems architecture services. What we mostly did though (and still do an awful lot of) is ensure that technology projects are successful by providing proven, high quality people who can own and guide the technology elements of the project. The problem here is not architecture - that is part of how we solve the problem.
There are actually multiple problems:
Internal solution architects are often already working at (or beyond) capacity
Proven, high quality solution architects are extremely difficult to find if you don’t specialise in that space. This leads to further problems:
It can take a long time to find the right person - projects don’t usually have that time available
Project/programme managers and/or architecture teams then don’t have the time to interview multiple people when they need temporary, additional solution architects
We solve all of these problems by providing a trusted, proven service based on our knowledge of the organisation and the industry.
So it turns out the problem isn’t anything to do with architecture at all, it is a set of interrelated business problems that we happen to be able to solve. Understanding this has allowed us look at the capability we have built and solve other problems that are related but different.
Don’t compromise on people
When your organisation is growing and you are under pressure to address a gap in people capability or capacity, it can be very tempting to compromise in your hiring practices. Anyone who has done this and then had to address the consequences will tell you it is just not worth it. For ourselves, we’ve been tempted, many times, but to date have managed to largely avoid this trap. The temptation is always there though, especially in a market where people of the calibre we look for are so very difficult to find.
Cash is king
So very many businesses have come unstuck because they haven’t been able to manage or address issues with cash. In many ways we are lucky, our clients generally all pay us on time and we have extremely little in the way of bad debt. As you grow though, the amount of cash coming and going out of your business gets larger and larger so if things go wrong, they can go wrong very quickly. Tools like an overdraft become very important but need to be managed carefully.
These are just a few of the things we’ve learnt over the past six years, there are many more, perhaps for future blogs.