As a software developer, our biggest costs are employees. Our U.S. offices are virtual — for example we have sales and support team members in Oregon and Rhode Island. We couldn’t afford to have all of our development staff if they were all based here in the Bay Area. The bulk of our development and QA is done out of an office we have in Eastern Europe. A few years ago, we actually leased an office overseas, and we hired a head of the office and recruiter to help us build out a really good team there at a fraction of the cost that would be in the U.S.
Q | Good developers are the lifeblood of any successful, sustainable software company. How do you ensure MicroBiz is hiring the right ones?
One of the biggest challenges with hiring developers is that most resumes look great. They’ve all been exposed to 30 different technologies; they’ve all had great experience. So, we say to candidates, “Your first 90 days here are a probation period, and after that we’re going to evaluate whether or not it’s a fit.” That really weeds out the people who aren’t confident in their ability. We find a lot of developers who will be very engaged during the interview process. We explain to them that we’re going to have a thorough review after 90 days, and we’re honest about how not everyone makes it after that. Some candidates just disappear once they learn that, and most of those are the ones that we didn’t want to hire anyway.
Q | Your company has been around for 20+ years, but what advice do you have for much younger software companies about being smart with resources?
Just be very focused when you start off . That means you shouldn’t listen to just one customer or just one partner and get pulled too far down that path. Do not try to create the perfect mousetrap. It’s better to develop by iteration, where you come up with an MVP, show it to some customers, get some people signed up, get feedback from them, add a little bit here, and a little bit there.
Q | What advice do you have for companies that want to speed up new feature development but don’t have the resources to do so?
Don’t be afraid to ask for help funding development. We’ve had situations where a partner or a customer said, “We’d really like this feature,” so we’d ask them, “Okay, how much is it worth to you?” Now, you need to be careful that what you’re creating is on your road map. We’ve made lots of mistakes around trying to create a perfect solution or a perfect feature, only to then find out we’ve spent six months developing something that’s only being used by a handful of customers. Those decisions have a lasting impact, because once you develop something, you have to support it.
KEVIN KOGLER is the founder and president of MicroBiz, a cloud-based POS and inventory management software company with more than 25,000 small and midsize retail partners worldwide.