No! It’s not a post about MYOB. Or Xero for that matter (but huge congratulations to Rod and the Xero team for winning the Technium challenge).

It’s now been almost two months since a couple of mates and I set up our new business. I thought I’d give you an insight to some of the things we’ve learnt.

It doesn’t just happen by magic

You’d think that setting up a company is a straightforward exercise. Not the case – or at least if you want to do it right. You’ve got to register the name, get incorporated, get a shareholders agreement, get a consitution, get family trusts sorted (if you haven’t already), get an accountant, sort out tax, get a lawyer, get ACC, find premises, get PCs, get phones, get power, get connected, work up a business plan, do some marketing, get a customer, keep a customer, etc, etc, etc.

Our philosophy has generally been “if someone can do it better and cheaper than us, then let them do it”. But that said, there’s still a truck load to do.

None of these things are big, but they just add up. There’s just lots and lots of to’ing and fro’ing. And new things just crop up every single day. (Thanks KiwiSaver).

Setting up a new business takes time, and costs money.

You’re wrapped in cotton wool as an employee

I never realised how “comfortable” it is being an “employee” until having our own company. First things first, you don’t have to worry about dealing with that long list above. You get a monthly salary (as long as you’re competent!). You get sick leave. You get statutory days. You get training. You get health insurance. You can have a bad day, and still get paid for it.

Cash is king

Due to the “invoice” cycle, it was over two months before we saw our first pay cheque. This was particularly tough since we’d all forked out a bit of cash each to set the company up, and we had invoices to pay ourselves, before we got paid. When starting out, cash is undoubtedly the king. It will be for some time.

And I’ve been sick the last three days – remember that when you’re not working, you’re not earning! Watch that cash!

Every second matters

When we’re working for our clients, every second absolutely counts. I mentioned above that as an employee you can get away with having the odd bad day. As a paid “consultant” you have to raise your game to ensure that you deliver the goods all the time.

Because every second can count

But the flip side of the coin is that every second can count. So if you put in longer hours, you can get rewarded for it. Money is certainly not everything, but it helps!

Flexibility kicks ass!

Being your own boss (or bosses) is immensely rewarding and the flexibility this brings is fantastic. It’s one of my priorities to spend more quality time with my young and wonderful family. If it’s a nice day I can go in later, or come home early, to spend more time with the children, and to give my wife a much deserved break. I can then make up the hours once they’ve gone to bed! Flexibility has been a big one for me.

Ownership

Building something from nothing has been hugely rewarding. As is knowing that every decision made has (of can have) a direct effect on the business. Having that empowerment is pretty cool. (but with power comes responsibility!).

There’s a thousand and one other things I can brain dump, but that’s probably enough for now.

Overall, it’s been a really enjoyable past three months. Hopefully the start of a great journey. Business is going well. So far, so good.

I guess we’re minding our own business.

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100pcI use a great little web app called Site24x7 to monitor a couple of our websites.  For free!

Site24x7 has two plans, free (up to two sites) and professional (unlimited sites).  It can monitor sites every 5 minutes.

I’ve been using it for a good few months and its fantastic.

I’ve also been a beta user of FiveRuns, which is a more comprehensive systems management platform.  Very impressive indeed, and if you have no operational tools in place, you probably can’t go too far wrong.

Here’s a bit of web2.0 fun for y’all.

Log onto www.myheritage.com and see who you look like.

The girls used to swoon over Patrick Swayze!!

[Hat tip to Fred Savage Martha]

MyHeritage

CoffeeDoing business over coffee is one of Wellington’s great perks.  I shudder to think about my annual expenditure on the beautiful black stuff.   Somehow, the cafe atmosphere breaks down those barriers and just lets you get on with, well…  business.  Judging by how busy all the cafes are, I’m not the only one that thinks this way.

Here are some of my favourite joints:

  • Espresso Republic – My local.  Great coffee (Mojo), great food, but avoid the 10am rush!  It’s not called ER for nothing!
  • BNZ Mojo – consistently good coffee, at the foot of the old BNZ tower
  • Magnetix – if it’s a nice day, grab a takeaway and sit on the grass in Midland Park
  • Leuven – coffee and their six dollar breakfast is a real goodie

and if you’re feeling like a cool afternoon beer then my perennial favourites are:

Xero IPO

May 13, 2007

Xero IPOSo, the Xero IPO is among us. It will be really interesting to see how this one goes.

On paper, it appears like they’ve valued the company just upwards of about $50m which, considering the actual income earned to date, is a bold move. The word “bubble” is having its fair share of exposure in the rumour mill.

I’ve been a user of Xero for a couple of months now, and there’s no doubt that it is a great web based accounting package. It’s Web2.0 interface is right up there with the best. But is a slick interface, and the ability to share data with your CFO, enough to prize enough market share of the MYOBs, Netsuites and Intuits of this world? Not to mention our beloved Excel spreadsheets. Xero costs $50pm for up to two users, $100pm for unlimited users. So that equates to either $600 or $1200 per year. That’s a lot of money for small businesses. As a rough comparison, MYOB or Quickbooks will set you back between $300 and $500 – one off.

I personally signed up for Xero because it can automatically pull my bank transactions from ASB – that in itself will save me an hour a month, so the $50 per month just about stacks up. Our company is also about building quality web apps, and Xero is a shining example to aspire to.

They’ve assembled a rock-star team which no doubt can deliver the goods, but rock star teams don’t come cheap. And whilst they have a couple of uber-star investors onboard, which will raise huge interest, it’s not as if they are short on cash.

I’m gonna keep a close eye on this one, and its going to be interesting to see the coverage over the next few weeks. Xero themselves acknowledge that this is indeed a “start-up” investment, and reward rarely comes without risk.

I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed for them, as I think it could be a great success story, and will likely inject further belief into the local IT community – which is always a good thing.

Will I invest? That’d be telling 🙂

Coverage:

Update

Tim makes some good comment on his Silicon Welly blog.  There are indeed some big name directors onboard, and this does provide a) a big vote of confidence and b) the right kind of expertise needed.

I took my car for a service the other day. I’ve been taking it to the same place for years.

The guy asked me “when was the last time you had an oil and filter change?”

To which I replied, “I haven’t got a clue. I’ve been bringing it here for years so you should know.”

At that point the car mechanic quickly swung around his PC screen and within a few keystrokes had pulled up my cars details – all the last 10 years of service history. He was brilliant at getting around this app – all keystroke driven. And it was fast, fast, fast.

THIt dawned upon me that I’ve never seen a web app (even one served internally) that operates anywhere near even a tenth of this speed.

The trend is for everything to move towards web based apps at the present, but can we ever get response times like the good old client server? I suspect there will always be the need for both.

The tortoise beat the hare in the long run. Will web apps win out in time?

Broadband Shock

May 10, 2007

I almost sh*t myself today. I got an email through this afternoon from TelstraClear:

You have now used 66 additional block[s] of usage, on your TelstraClear HighSpeed Internet plan for the period to 4/06/2007.

Additional usage blocks are charged at $2.95 per block of 1,024 megabytes, regardless of the number of megabytes you use from that block.

So I thought I’d check out what the deal was on their Internet Usage tool. And got this – thankfully.

UsageMeter

Apparently, I am not alone. I literally would have sh*t myself if I got the shock that Mauricio did!

Sure, people make mistakes, but why have they not sent me an email update, telling me not to crap myself. Easy customer service stuff. And am I gonna call them? Not with their call waiting times!