Starting a few months ago, the lead developer for WinOptix, Dave, had less and less time to work on the project, so I was tasked to find another developer to help out.
On my search I went. I emailed developers in my network, posted on discussion boards, and reached out to LinkedIn contacts.
I found a remote developer (let’s call him Steve, not his real name) who looked pretty solid. He had a good resume; he interned at a high-flying Silicon Valley startup and was the CTO at other lesser-known ones. He contributed to open source projects and maintained a coding blog. He was pretty enthusiastic and friendly.
So we brought Steve on board on a part-time basis to work on some front-end styling and back-end bugs.
Steve took a little while to ramp up. We thought this was OK, since getting up to speed can take some time.
But after a while, we realized that Steve wasn’t the right guy for the job. While his code was acceptable, it was not a smooth experience working with Steve.
Everything took too long. Tasks that should have taken 5 hours took 12.
Steve did not push his code (which means sharing his code changes with us to review and merge with the existing code base) often enough. We asked him many times to push his code changes more often and while he said he would, he didn’t comply. Steve would tell us that he was going to push his code, and wouldn’t do so until 2 days later. And when he did, many times less progress than expected was made.
And there were times where we would go days without hearing from Steve.
The launch of WinOptix was already delayed, and our revised deadline for launch was impending. I was down in the dumps because progress was so slow and there wasn’t much I could do about it. While we knew a change needed to be made, we didn’t have much choice but to continue working with Steve, and we planned to do so only until we launched our v1.
In the mean time, I continued to look for additional developers to ramp up our resources after we launched, since we knew we would likely end our relationship with Steve. That’s when I found another developer, Jon, through a mutual friend. Jon agreed to help out immediately.
And Jon has been nothing short of awesome.
He has cranked out so many tasks and has achieved so much more in two weeks than Steve did in over three months. The difference has been night and day. We’re getting really close to finishing v1 and are gearing up to get WinOptix into the hands of about 15 trial customers.
When you’re a small team, every team member’s value, or their subtraction of value, is amplified.
One bad seed can bring everything to a halt. A strong team member can accelerate things quickly.
This is especially true with developers at a pre-launch tech startup. As a non-technical founder, you are so dependent on developers to help you ship your product.
In a large organization, one bad sailor isn’t going to sink the ship. There are others that may be able to pick up the slack and cover for him.
But in a very early-stage startup, where a team may have 3 or 4 members, each person has an outsized impact, for better or worse.
Right now everyone is working part-time on WinOptix, so we don’t have to go through the full commitment of bringing on a full-time employee. There’s no training we have to do, no insurance or salary paperwork to fill out, nothing like that.
But even in our experience of working with part-time employees, we can feel the impact that a bad and really good team member can have.
I now have a lot more confidence in our ability to execute. We’re cranking and can’t wait to get our v1 out into the wild.
On that note, I’ll be taking a break from blogging weekly (a little preview was when I missed publishing last week). With the launch of WinOptix, things are going to get pretty crazy soon. And I have some travel planned over the next few months as well.
I’ll certainly still blog, but it likely won’t be on a weekly basis.
On that note, see you when I see you!
Originally published at www.mikewchan.com