My most popular essay to date, with over 12,500 pageviews, was What's A Non-Programmer To Do? which outlined my day-to-day activities. As my job is always changing, I thought I'd add some of the new responsibilities that have further expanded my role in 2010. It looks to be a huge year for Carbonmade and with it new tasks for me to take on.
As I announced on December 9th, 2009 in Carbonmade's First Hire, we've hired a new guy named Grant Blakeman to help us out full-time over the next few months. It's starting as a contract job, and we'll discuss further along whether or not he'll lengthen his stay with us or move on to other things at the end of this first term.
The hiring process is something I'm familiar with, as I did all the hiring for my last company: one designer and two software engineers. I think I take a far different approach to it than most. Most companies announce their job availabilities on their blog or Jobs page. I usually just reach out to people I know and see if they'd be interested in working with my company. So far I've been four for four in hiring, so naturally I still believe in my approach.
I start by sending out a short e-mail to gauge the interest of the person I have in mind. Because I know these people in some capacity I usually know beforehand whether they'd be interested. Dropping hints helps. I then talk about what we're looking for to see if we're on the same page. Then we discuss numbers, and we're done.
I understand that as we begin hiring more and more people, this process probably won't work forever. We'll run out of people in our network who happen to be looking for jobs. For the time being, though, I hope to be able to continue to hire through our network. I already have a rapport with these people, so things tend to go more smoothly.
While Grant is the first person we've worked with on Carbonmade, we plan to hire more people in 2010. With that comes new responsibilities — the biggest one being aware of everybody involved and keeping the team moving forward. I don't mean holding their hand or coddling them, but making sure that we're on the same page and that everything goes smoothly.
Dave is mainly directing Grant, as Dave is our Creative Director and Grant is a designer and therefore falls under his auspices. However, there are other sides of management that are more behind-the-scenes. For example, Dave and I had long discussions about what exactly we'd have Grant work on and how best to handle things.
Other more specific things for me to do are: (1) making sure employees are happy day-to-day, (2) getting them paid, (3) handling their accounting with the accountant, (4) dealing with the contract and negotiations, (5) making sure they understand the overall vision of the company, (6) getting them healthcare, and (7) helping them acclimate themselves to our work patterns and our culture. You want everyone to be comfortable and make transitions as smooth as possible.
With Jason moving here in May and at the rate Harvest and we plan to hire in 2010, we are going to outgrow the office space we share with them sometime this year — sadly enough, considering we just moved here in September 2009. I've begun working out the details of finding us an office of our own, and it's much more of a time sink than you'd think.
Not only will finding a new office take a lot of time, but I'm anticipating all of the details surrounding the lease and maintaining the office to take up a big chunk of my time during 2010. There will be buying furniture, paying the lease, hiring the cleaning service, paying the electricity bill, handling any legal work, working out sublease contracts, buying food and drink, and the general maintenance of things that will inevitably crop up. Danny Wen has clued me in to most of these headaches.
It's just the nature of the beast that as your company grows, more and more people want to talk to you and meet with you. Meeting new people is something I always find value in — and I'm a sucker for saying yes to nearly any meeting. While I took a lot of meetings in 2009, in January alone I'm finding myself taking 2-3x more meetings a week than before. Just this week alone I'll have nine scheduled meetings (three lunches, one dinner and five coffees).
I don't regret having any of these meetings at all, because it's part of my role as Carbonmade's CEO to meet as many people as I can, within reason. It's actually one of my favorite parts of the job, but it is definitely time consuming. I love talking about Carbonmade, spreading our brand, and meeting amazing people. 2010 is definitely our year for making major moves, and the more people I can meet, the better.
Along with the increase in meetings due to our company's increased exposure, I'm getting more and more partnership requests. I actually had a really interesting meeting with a company a few days ago about the possibility of working with them. Things are certainly heating up, as our userbase continues to grow substantially month after month.
It's nice being the company being pitched to rather than having to go out and pitch to other companies for partnerships: being the largest online portfolio website certainly has its advantages. I've always been a proponent of doing things in-house for as long as you can, but as we grow I need to come to terms with the idea that we may need to work with other companies, because we simply won't be able to do everything ourselves.
While it's up in the air whether or not we take on any funding, I'm beginning to meet with more investors. And if we do, it'd be a large round — we're well beyond any type of angel or seed funding. I'm beginning to have more meetings of the “getting to know you” variety with investors rather than the pitch variety. I've met with four of the best-known venture capital companies in New York on that basis over the course of the past month.
I usually go into these meetings laying out what we've accomplished, what we're currently working on, what we plan to work on, and — if we were to take money — what we might do with it. I don't give details about our revenue or anything too specific, but I do paint a nice picture of everything. They come back at me with a lot of great advice and “let's talk specifics down the road when/if you plan to take on investment.”
We're focused on getting our new portfolio application out and have everything we need to do that, so we don't need their help right now. We plan to rethink the wisdom of bringing in investors once we see the numbers that come back after our new launch. The best-case scenario is that we can do everything we want to do without taking a penny.
It's been over four years, and we've never sent out a single newsletter to our customers, whether updating them on our progress or simply to engage them. I plan to change that in 2010, beginning with a newsletter I'm sending out to our Whoo! members sometime in the upcoming week or two.
I'm actually ashamed that we haven't taken a more proactive stance toward engaging with our customers with newsletters or surveys. We do engage them over e-mail, but I think we can do a much better job of informing them about what we're working on and keeping them up-to-date. This newsletter will be the beginning to something I hope to do more frequently (opt-in, of course).
We've generally avoided talking to the press, because we didn't think we were ready for that kind of attention quite yet. Things are definitely changing in that area for 2010. I've already done a few interviews this month that should be appearing online shortly.
I'm no longer trying to keep us hidden from the press. I'm now fully supportive of whoever wants to interview us, write about us, etc., whereas before I generally said that we weren't quite ready to be under the microscope, please check back later. Please e-mail me directly if you want to write about Carbonmade.