Running An IT Startup in DFW

I wanted to talk about some of the challenges and lessons my business partner (Todd) and I have shared while running a small IT startup in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

Let me go ahead and get this out… DFW is a great place to start a business. There are plentiful businesses with deep pockets that are growing fast. This leads to a healthy potential customer base that you could then sell your products to, especially for the way we decided to build our business.

 

Our Path

Todd and I decided to start Idea42 as a consulting company then transition it over time to being a Software as a Service (SaaS) company. We are right now running healthy as a consulting company, running profitably enough where we can support a team of people internally to build out internal offerings. With a software product nearing completion, we are well on the right path toward our end goal.

Now, the question some people may have about this path is, was it easy? My answer is “easy is relative” because in this industry, it’s really about who you know. More and more do I realize how true this is, and realize how naive I was, thinking I could make it in this industry based only on what I could do. I honestly was thinking I could just code my way to success without talking to people.

If you know enough people, this path is easy follow. But, if you don’t know a lot of people, this path is hard to follow because to build a solid consulting company, people have to trust you. This means someone would have had to work with you in the past to know what you are capable of OR see a constant stream of successes from your company to feel like you’re a safe bet. Idea42 is still young, so we don’t have a lot of successes in our company yet, because we haven’t done a lot yet. However, we have successes, but not enough to give people the warm fuzzies based on our company’s reputation alone. This is where the “who you know” part comes into play. People know Todd and I, they trust us, they trust we won’t lead them astray, so they give our company the chance to shine.

 

Our lessons learned

Something I learned later in life is that you cannot have success without struggle. Life is indeed like checkered pavement. And because I want others who will follow in our footsteps to also be successful and help them through some of their potential struggles, I will share some of the struggles that we had to overcome over the last 1.8 years.

 

Build out your network… It’s all about WHO you know in this industry

This is the most important thing you can ever do for yourself and your business. It’s something you hear every entrepreneur talk about it, and that’s because it’s the core piece of entrepreneurship. Networking is not my strong suite, believe me… However, I’m trying, and those efforts have led to success and potential leads for our company.

Have a coffee every once in awhile, talk with people, get to know them, get to know their business, get to understand their businesses problems, and try to present solutions to those problems. This whole process takes time and energy, so don’t let yourself fall too far behind, because it’s way harder to catch up. This leads me to my next lesson.

 

Never let working for your company become more important than running your company

This is a lesson that Todd and I are still trying to implement in our organization. You may have also heard this from others as “Being a business operator vs. Being a business owner”. Obviously, Todd and I started this company by ourselves, and were definitely “business operators” since we were directly involved with day-to-day operations of our business AND were still billing ourselves out to our customers. Together, Todd and I grew Idea into what it is today, and now the company, with the help of our team, is helping us soar. This now brings me to my next lesson.

 

Build a team of people you trust sooner rather than later

This is one of the most important lessons of them all, and something that EVERYONE will struggle with. Building a team of people you trust. I was once told by a good friend of mine that finding good employees is difficult, because no one will put in the effort you will put in to your company when it’s needed. I didn’t understand what he was meaning by this until now. So far, we have been lucky to have talented and motivated people working to make our company a success. Everyone has given 200% or more to make sure this company survives, thrives and grows. Currently, everyone we have brought on realizes that this isn’t a job, I wouldn’t even say that this is a career. Idea42 is an opportunity to make something out of nothing and be tied to that forever. The success of Idea42 means that we have all succeeded, and thus makes this a little different than a typical job. However, there’s a lot in that statement that Todd and I have to live up to, which leads me to my next lesson learned

 

Make sure you know what you are going to do, and how you are going to do it, before you start your business

Not too long ago, I was taught an important lesson. “Know Thyself”, because how can you figure out what you are capable of until you have contemplated on your own capabilities? How can you know what you need until you have contemplated on what you have needed?

It’s important for anyone wanting to go into business for themselves to understand the industry, understand their competition, understand how they want to do business, and have a defined culture and set of values that you will look for in everyone that you bring into your organization. Trust me, it’s way easier to sell your ideas to a person IF you have your ideas defined.

 

Conclusion

I’m not going to sit here and think that I know it all, because I don’t. However, I have learned a lot and I’m willing to share. If anyone wishes to ask me more questions about Idea42, about our struggles, our lessons, or whatever, please feel free to send me an email and I will do my best to answer. ryan@idea42.co

Why a well put together Gulp file means everything

For any beginner developers out there running a server during their development phase there seems to be a commonality of constantly shutting down the rebooting the server. The reason why this happens so often is because while a server runs it doesn’t track any new changes made. So, now this brings us to the most annoying key combo of any developer, ctrl + C, up on the arrow key, then enter. While this seems like an easy combo image doing that over and over and over again during the development lifecycle to see what changes were made on the screen. This process can become very irritating over!

A solution for this is to use a task runner. While I’ve been using Grunt during my development cycle, I decided to switch it up for my next project and use Gulp. Right off the back a Gulp file just looks ascetically better than a Grunt file. Gulp to me reads more like english because it looks more like normal Javascript functions as compared to Grunt which has is own syntactical sugar. The project that I used Gulp for is a MEAN stack application. This being a project where I have to account for both the front and back end during development let’s get into how I set up my Gulp file for success.

While in the past I’ve used frameworks like Rails to help build my projects, using purely JavaScript to build this one was a little bit of a hurdle. While doing all the main things like concaving and uglifyingt my files the two things that really bulked up my Gulp file where Browser Sync and Nodemon. Let’s talk about Browser Sync first. Browser Sync is a library that allows your application to connect to a browser. While you can do a couple of different things with this the main thing that I used this library for was Live Reloads. If you aren’t familiar with what a live reload is, it is when your application detects changes and then automatically refreshes the browser without you having to type ctrl + R! This is great because just like starting and shutting down your server this process of constantly refreshing the browser can be just as irritating!

Now to deal with that dreaded shutting down and restarting the server. Enter Nodemon! What Nodemon does is monitor all server side filed on your application. Whenever Nodemon detects the a change in a file it automatically restarts the server and applies the changes to the file. Now in the Gulp file all you need to do is Nodemon to be run on the Browser Sync task and voila! You now have a strong Gulp file that will make your development life cycle a breeze because trust me. Those simple key combinations start to really build up over time.