Monday, October 19, 2009

How successful would a football coach be without ever having played a single game of football?

Not very, right?

And yet constantly, people (a business owner, a manager) try and manage the production of something they have never had an ounce of experience producing themselves.

I get asked a lot by friends without any experience programming: "how do I build this idea for this software application without any experience?" or "how do I find technical employees or co-founders"?

To curtail the objections, I'm not saying a business owner of a software company needs to be a software engineer. I'm not saying a division lead of a consumer products company has to have run the stirring vats making soap.

Look at Mike Tomlin, the youngest coach to win a Super Bowl and the current coach of the Steelers. He hasn't played a single game of professional football. But he did play college ball.

I'm saying any experience in the thing you are trying to lead or manage will pay extremely huge dividends.

So if you are a "business guy" and you want to start a business that makes a new iPhone app. It would behoove you to buy the most basic iPhone building tutorial you can and try to at least get past the first chapter.

You don't have to work on the application you intend to build. You don't have to finish the book. You don't have to raise your blood pressure or feel even successful at the tutorial.

Just that smallest iota of that book: downloading some tool, making the iPhone beep or print "hello world", gives you a huge leg up in what you are trying to accomplish.

A great example of this is Adam, one of our founders and CEO. Adam isn't a developer. But he's learned a bit about Ruby, the language Inkling is developed in. It saves him an enormous amount of time when a little thing needs to be tweaked. He can do it himself rather than wait until a developer has the resources available.

Secondly, he has a much better idea of the effort many of the tasks might take that he needs to manage, design for, and communicate to our clients. His effort in experiencing the pain of development has been an investment he's made with a big return.

At Inkling we manage many functions being a small business. We aren't lawyers or PR people or trained marketing people, but we have experience now doing these things for ourselves. So when we do hire the experts to work on these things with us, that experience makes the conversations and projects we manage 100 times better.

The struggle and challenge you go through doing this type of exercise, will change your perspective about the people you want to lead. You'll have much more knowledge and confidence working with the people you now have to hire to actually get the job done well.

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