March 13th, 2008

"So, what do you do?"

This is a question I get asked fairly often. Normally I just lie and say that I write software - it’s easier. I do write software, but that’s not my job.

My job title is “Company Director”. When most people hear that, they instantly have an image of a guy sat in a huge leather chair, using £50 notes to light giant cigars. Unfortunately, that’s not what it’s like. This post is for people who are interested in what I actually do. If you don’t care and just want to hate me because I have a mortgage and a nice car, and you think that I sleep on a bed of money and boss “normal people” around at work, stop reading.


It’s my job to make sure that the employees that work for me get paid. That’s the core of my job - the thing I’m most responsible for. Everything else, including my pay, is secondary to that. Every time money goes out of the company - to pay for equipment, bills, my own pay - I need to make sure that it won’t affect the company’s ability to support its employees in the future. This on its own is more stressful than you might think, especially over the winter - corporation tax for the company and my own personal tax bills are due within a month of one another, and I need to spend three months prior making sure there’s enough money around to pay the bills. Fortunately, I’ve not come unstuck yet!

So, once I’ve made sure that spending money is OK, I need to make sure the company is earning money. At the moment, we’re sailing along on the income that the two year old version of Music Rescue is generating - but that won’t last forever. Since Music Rescue is an established line of income, we’re hard at work on the next major version of it to bring new customers and upgrade revenue. Once that’s established, we can go to work on new projects.

Stuff I’ve Learned

Small companies must be as efficient with time as they possibly can

This is where one of the interesting issues of the job comes in. If I was still on my own, I could work on Music Rescue at a sedate pace. However, with employees to support it needs to produce quality output at an almost impossibly quick rate, which means pushing everyone to do their best all the time - no slacking off allowed. This means I have to accept being the bad guy - if everyone is pissed off at me because I keep yelling at them for wasting time it means that they’re doing work and I’ll be able to pay them. Being a whiny girl won’t help either - if you get questioned about why they can’t do X, Y or Z the answer is “Because I said so - shut up and get back to work”, not “Well, you know, we really need to get this done soon if we’re to meet targets”.


Once you’ve established a working company, employing friends is a very, very bad idea. Avoid it like the plague. This goes back to the point above - small companies can’t afford to waste money. If you employ some random (but qualified) person off the street and they slack off, you’ll kick their arse six ways to Sunday. However, if you’re friends with the person then they’re more likely to slack off, and you’re more likely to be lenient with them. This continues until either the company is wasting an employee’s worth of pay a year and can’t employ a decent employee as well, or goes bust because it’s not producing any decent work.

Very occasionally, there are exceptions. If the person is genuinely passionate about the projects the company is working on, then it might be worth the risk. The person also needs to be able to not get personally offended when they get shouted at in work hours for whatever reason, and as an employer you need to be able to shout at your friends to get them to work as efficiently as you need them to.


Keep everything quiet until you’ve made a final decision on something important, unless you need to consult with a particular person to make the decision. Obviously, when making important decisions you need to explore every single option in detail. However, if you say to someone “Oh, I’m thinking of doing X” and you end up doing Y, you’ll immediately get asked “Oh, but I thought you were doing X?” If the person is genuinely interested in why you’re taking a particular course of action, they might just be smart enough to discuss it with. However, I’ve found that the words “I’m considering doing X, but I’ve not made a final decision yet” normally get heard as “I’m absolutely, definitely, without a shadow of a doubt doing X!”. Then, when you do Y, that person will think you’re doing random stuff just for kicks and giggles.

If you ever get that impression, fire the person immediately for being stupid. If you get that impression from a member of your family, mentally note how stupid they are and vow never to tell them anything ever again.

For example, it’s got to the point where I try never tell my mother anything at all. Last time I tried, she announced in front of several members of my family, my friend Tim and my girlfriend that I was moving the company and my house to Millbrook when I’d actually said that I “might move the company, and if I do I might end up at Millbrook”. Since I hadn’t mentioned this to my girlfriend, I had to spend several hours convincing her that I wasn’t planning to move miles away from her without so much as talking to her about it first. Sorry Mum, but you had your chance and you blew it. Several times.

Don’t Be A Dick

This is a good idea anyway, but especially if you have a job like mine. People’s perceptions tend to start low if their mental image of your job is what it is, so you have to be extra-normal in order to be accepted as a normal person. It’s also important that your friends understand who you are and what you do. Normally this isn’t a problem, but I was once introduced to someone as “This is Daniel - he owns two cars and a house!” The only thing I could do at that point was turn and walk away - there’s no way you’re recovering from that!


So, that’s a summary of what I do and some of the things I’ve learned. Stressful as it is, I love my job. Sure, I have to make sacrifices - especially when it comes to pay (this year will see my second year-on-year pay cut) - but I’ve managed to make a successful business out of something I’m passionate about, and it pays for my house and a nice car. What more could I ask for?