What industry do you believe is going to have the biggest advancements in technology in the next 5 years, and why?
I firmly believe that the 3D printing movement is going to be the single biggest industry 5 years from now. Specifically, getting to the point where we will be capable of 3D printing human organs will be life changing! Imagine no more waiting on the donors list … need a new lung, or kidney, or liver? No problem, I’ll go print one out!
What is one thing I can add to my online purchasing/checkout process that will improve sales?
Instead of looking for things to add to your checkout process, I think it makes more sense to look for things to remove. Make your checkout process as simple and quick as possible. Users want to feel safe and secure, so design your checkout to look professional and trustworthy and then concentrate on allowing users to get through as quickly and painlessly as possible.
What is one valuable way you break down a complex technical project using PM software that has benefited your team?
Decomposing technical projects is about separating the project into logical components. First, I begin with a requirements gather phase where I speak to all relevant stakeholders to find out WHAT abilities the project / system / feature will need. I usually use a simple notepad app to jot things down and I’m very careful to not ask them how something should work, and I stop them in their tracks if they start to talk about implementation details at this phase.
Next, I put together a functional spec, which is a more formal description of WHAT the project or feature is, written in terms that engineers can understand.
From the functional spec, I can then start to work with engineers to design the architecture specification, which is a written description of HOW we are planning to build the feature or project (this is a more engineering centric document and often gets rather low level, whereas the Functional spec is more high-level).
Once we have the Architecture spec, the project is typically in a place where we can see what logical components will need to be created or modified and are able to split up the work and put it in our sprints.
What is one way a bootstrapping entrepreneur can increase innovation while keeping costs low?
Give your employees ownership of their projects or areas. Putting someone in charge and giving them free reign without micromanagement is the best way to inspire innovation in a productive, cost-effective manner. People love responsibility, and if you’ve done your job correctly they should be qualified individuals who do not need a lot of hand-holding. Set them free and watch the outstanding results that will come forth!
What is one tip for ensuring every meeting is a meeting worth having?
Meetings can be productive if your team is vigilant and disciplined. To start, all meetings should have an agenda as well as an organizer. If you give someone the responsibility of setting the meeting topic, then they should also be responsible for setting the attendee list. Everyone does not have to be at every meeting, so the organizer should be mindful about only including people in the meeting if they are absolutely necessary.
What is one tool you use to better screen potential hires? Explain what it is and why you love it.
For engineers, I’ll actually take a current problem that I’m working on and either ask them to work through it with me, or have them sit down an pair program with me on a new feature. Giving someone actual work that they will be required to complete is the best way to determine how that person will perform as an employee in your environment.
What is one thing all effective leaders do a lot of?
Effective leaders are experts at making informed decisions and always surround themselves with great people. They realize it’s unrealistic to be an expert in every subject, so they hire qualified people to make up for their weakness areas and empower their teams to be autonomous. In other words, they’re effective at putting good people in place and then staying out of the way instead of getting in the way.
What is your favorite alternative venue to do business outside the office? Why?
Nearby co-working spaces are my favorite alternative offices. When starting my business, I took the entire engineering team off-site every Thursday. It’s amazing how that translated into our team spending more time interacting with each other and really gelled the team quickly. There are many factors to consider when building your initial team, and chemistry is one of the most important. Having a team that feels comfortable interacting / sharing (opposing) viewpoints yet still enjoys socializing with each other outside of work goes a long way to setting your company culture off on the right foot. Having off-site days at alternative venues is a sure way to help your early team grow together.
How did you get started on your current business? (Longer answers welcome.)
CoachUp solves a pain point that I experienced first hand. When I was younger, I played sports that neither one of my parents knew much about (sailing and skiing). When I wanted to get serious and really start competing, it was obvious that practicing on my own and with my team was not nearly enough to get me to the next level, so they opened the phone book (there was no craigslist or other services we take for granted now) and found me a private coach.
The experience of working with a private coach over the course of a couple seasons fundamentally shaped my life and was the single biggest reason I decided to compete in college. After graduating, I met up with my co-founder who had a similar story of finding a private coach by chance, which ended up fundamentally shaping his life as well. Together, we knew we could build a better way for people to find reliable sports coaches, so we set out to build CoachUp.