I used to run a computer games company, called Intelligent Games, and occasionally I get emails from people who played our games. That’s always a pleasure and I had one today from an Australian architect (and SimIsle fan) who is just starting out in his new practice. He made the flattering mistake of asking if I had any advice for him. Here is what I wrote and this is what I might have done differently if I had known then what I know now (it’s also what I’m trying to do now at Articulate and Turbine):
Hiring people is very expensive
They are ‘sticky’ in that it’s hard to unhire them when you can’t afford to pay them or don’t need them. Keep flexible and hire contractors, freelancers or remote workers as well as full time employees. Also – and someone said this to me when I was 20 and I ignored it then but it’s very true – don’t hire someone until you need two of them.
You’ve got to plan for the long term
We didn’t really anticipate the shift to multiplayer games or console games or the internet. We could have exploited any of these opportunities to grow the business but instead stuck to what we knew – PC strategy games. So you need to be a step ahead of the market and constantly looking for the next new thing.
Find something that you do exceptionally well or find a way to create some branding or intellectual property or proprietary technology that gives your business value beyond the cost of just hiring your staff or other employees like them. For an entrepreneur this is the most important thing because it will help you differentiate your business from its competitors and it will build value in the business so that you can earn the option to sell it.
After emailing him, I thought of another tip:
Spend your time on the good people
Once you have a reasonable number of employees, some of them will cause you problems. They’ll want pay rises, make complaints, threaten to leave, underperform, break the rules etc. It happens. As boss, you end up spending a lot of time dealing with these people. But you should try to keep that stuff as efficient and brisk as possible and spend much more time on your good people. Pay attention to them, help them get better, recognise their successes. Generally be a good boss to good employees.