So often many of us who have been in IT for a number of years think of software services as something getting done off shore by a large staff focused on their screens with their ‘blinders’ on. This could not be further from the truth. We have many extraordinary software development experts today focused primarily on the customer experience while using the ever improving technologies that make sure customers are no longer frustrated with websites being down, product availability advertised being untrue, or any number of issues we all encounter that causes our blood pressure to rise.
It’s that time of year so many of us look forward to; celebrating with our family and friends around the dinner table, and thinking through how to hide those presents we’ll be giving out soon. It’s also that time when I look back and reflect on how Bridge360 became 16 years old last month.
By Brenda Hall CEO, Bridge360
Hiring managers in Austin know how hard it is to find local talent to fill our technical job openings. In fact, the past couple of hires at Bridge360 were recruited from out-of-state, adding time and cost to our hiring process. This challenge led the management team at Bridge360 to create and implement the ground breaking program:
By Brenda Hall, CEO
Here’s some great news: despite whatever views we may have of how unemployment figures are determined, the economy continues to recover. In many parts of the US, a number of jobs are not getting filled; this also holds true for offshore staffing companies. I know many recruiters who are having difficulty keeping up with demand and finding an adequate number of candidates with the skills employers need.
Frequently, as businesses grow and need to scale, owners and managers find they have too much to do and not enough time to do it, so they pay less attention to the offshore/outsourced resources available to them. Taking your ‘eye off the ball’ here can cause havoc with your teams, both locally and offshore.
Some questions to consider:
How does offshore sourcing affect your productivity and product quality? What will you do when release schedules are missed, or worse, your software is released with issues? How does this influence your corporate strategic goals and customer satisfaction? Continue reading
by Brenda Hall, CEO
I’ve often been asked, “How hard was it to start your company?” My answer continues to be, “It’s not hard to start a company; it’s hard to grow it!” Simply said, anyone can start a company as long as they desire to. It takes someone willing to take risk, believes they have something someone else is willing to buy, and believes passionately enough in their idea to push other, more ‘stable’ options aside such as working for someone else for a paycheck. Getting started isn’t difficult. There are endless examples of people baking their products at home and selling them through local outlets. Or, perhaps you know someone who has exceptional knowledge in a specific area (think software development) who is keen to develop that perfect app for our phones. A short cruise across the internet can provide the applications to fill out for the Secretary of State for your local state, open a business account at your bank, and without much more ado…you’re in business.
Growth, however, requires tenacity, dedication, gathering smart people around you and hard work day-in and day-out. There will be times when mistakes are made, and standing up to them to preserve your reputation while ensuring your clients don’t pay for them is paramount. You will never grow if you don’t have delighted clients. Here are a few, key lessons I’ve learned that will help any entrepreneur get off on the right foot.
- Make sure your company values are visible to all of your employees. Even more, try to hire employees who SHARE your values. Values are important because people need to work with other like-minded people. For example, you want people who not only respect your leadership and believe in the mission of your company, but also people who ACT on those same values especially when challenges enter the picture. Not every effort or client engagement will go smoothly or perfectly. You need to have people who will quickly work to fix errors and repair relationships. You need people you can count on to Do The Right Thing.
- Speaking of employees, I’ve learned it’s critical to hire well. Take your time to find the right person. It’s not always about whether you like someone, or assume someone is a good fit because they worked at a major company before landing in a chair in front of you for a job. WAIT…do your due diligence. Make sure you investigate their background thoroughly. Talk to people they worked with. Check them out on LinkedIn. Check them out on Facebook. I learned from a dear man who utilized LinkedIn to garner as much ‘intelligence’ about a potential employee he was planning to hire. Then, he went to Facebook to find out what kind of person he was planning to hire. Good advice.
- Surround yourself with people smarter than you. This is extremely important, and there is no room for ego to get in the way. Networking is essential in order to meet the kinds of people you would hire if you could…but necessarily can’t. For example, I’ve met several, extraordinary people through the years who have become trusted friends and mentors. They’ve guided me through tricky decisions, helped me sort through the noise and chatter to achieve specific goals, and continue to support my company’s growth in a way that brings efficiency as well as success.
- Listen, listen, listen to your clients. For me, the sales process is very personal. I’ve no professional sales experience, but I learned a long time ago that sales is truly about listening and keeping the lines of communication open and active. Once you make a ‘sale’…don’t forget that sale involved someone trusting you to deliver the goods. Make sure you deliver them. Make sure you follow through with your client to see if they have any questions. The world is ripe with people who feel let down after a sale was made. Don’t let that happen. If you want your company to grow, you’ll need strong referrals, testimonials and REPEAT business because you did well the first time around. You LISTENED to your client, you did what you said you were going to do for them, and you made sure they were delighted throughout the experience. This is a formula that should NEVER change.
- Enjoy the journey. This isn’t about how big, how much, how well known your company becomes. This is about making sure you recognize the achievements of your people, the successes they’ve brought with each client effort, and how well they’ve made your life — and kept the breath of life in your company. I don’t believe anyone gets very far on only the leadership of a few people at the top; it takes a team. I once went to the top of the mountain to visit Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, Germany. The road is very steep and the wagons we rode were pulled by a team of strong (and beautiful) draft horses. I thoroughly enjoyed the journey, but I’ll also never forget the hard work those horses had to give to provide me that enjoyment. Enjoy the journey, but don’t forget your team that brings you success.
There is so much more to share, but I believe if you adhere to these 5 guidelines, you’re well on the way to building the solid foundation that gives your company all the growth potential you will need through the years.
by Brenda Hall
All the noise and chatter over the ability to sign up for healthcare under the Healthcare.gov website is a clear indicator of one of the things that irks me the most — websites that don’t work. Online experiences such as shopping, planning for vacations, or any other effort requiring interaction with a computer or mobile device, that doesn’t deliver a successful experience is very annoying. It’s also detrimental to the lifespan of the product and ultimately the parent company responsible for its operation.
I see an elevating trend with people getting plain fed up, and in most cases the issue can be pointed directly to ‘buggy’ software. As in any effort to build a website, the need for an experienced team under the guidance of strong leadership is critical for success. The “team” is vast and varied… not everyone is there to write code. Business Analysts working with the user (in this case everyday Americans from many walks of life) should be making sure the requirements given to the technical team are clear and well documented. “Leadership” will include people who have built e-Commerce websites in the past. And project managers are there to assemble the project plans that deliver a successful result on time. The failure of this contractor to deliver a health care enrollment portal may involve many ‘gotchas’ along the way… but Quality was certainly the sacrificial cow on the altar.
Any experienced project manager will tell you projects are driven by three pillars: Cost, Schedule and Quality. If one of those elements goes awry, the project is at high risk for failure. And far too often, pressures on cost and schedule force quality to draw the short straw. No time to test? Really? So it’s okay to turn your customers on to something that isn’t working? Testing is a critical part of producing good software (and websites.) Testing is expensive. Testing takes time. Testing is hard. Testing takes experienced professionals to execute.
The experience so many people had with trying to sign up for healthcare is a modern-day example of what so many of us have come to tolerate, but not be happy about. “Why did I get all the way to the end and then get stuck? Why did I get bounced out just as I entered my credit card data? I haven’t changed my password….why isn’t it working now? Why is my data lost every time there’s an upgrade?” The complaints go on and on. I think people are fundamentally fed up with bad software in the market, and this most recent fiasco has voices in volume.
There really is no good excuse for Healthcare.gov to have gone ‘live’ in the condition it was in. We can ‘sidewalk supervise’ all day long, but the message is clear. Someone dropped the ball on Quality. It just wasn’t important enough and a lack of Testing is the reason this website failed to deliver. Costs have now skyrocketed with all the media attention and ‘24/7’ effort according to President Obama… far more than should have been spent if the job had simply been done right from the start.
However, Healthcare.gov was one enormous advantage over most projects — it’s being built by the government using federal tax dollars. As crippling as this failure has been, it will still move forward. A similar fiasco by a company in the private sector would undoubtedly result in such a reputational disaster that the software would be doomed to failure beyond repair.
by Brenda Hall, CEO
They say the US and the UK are very much alike, and only separated by a common language. Although this is intended to be humorous (which I think it is), there’s a little more to it. Anyone who has taken a taxi in New York City, and then somehow managed to experience a taxi ride in London can attest — there’s just no comparison.
Did you know London taxi drivers usually spend anywhere from 2-4 years learning and being tested (written and oral) to achieve the position of a London taxi driver? I didn’t until I started to write this blog. My point is that London taxi drivers take their role and position very seriously. Their taxi’s are uber clean, the driver knows exactly where he needs to go without calling back to his garage for directions, and they don’t use navigation systems. That’s right — they must memorize over 2500 London streets to pass their exams. They see themselves as professionals, and mini-business owners. They care about the fare they carry, their luggage and even though most of them are not ‘touristy chatty’, all of them want to ensure visitors and non-visitors alike move around London under their watchful and careful driving.
If you take a taxi in New York City… not so much. You will usually get a driver that speaks English… though likely with a strong foreign accent, but that’s okay. They will get you where you want to go and often by using technology (navigation systems), or calling back to their garage for additional help. The taxi will likely be well worn; many without shocks because potholes really do a lot of damage to them… so they just don’t replace them. Most taxi’s are quite dirty as well. It’s sad, but that’s my experience for the most part, and I am in NYC quite a lot.
But the real difference, and the point I’m making here, is work ethic. London taxi drivers will do more than simply take you from point A to point B. Returning to the US recently, one actually dropped me at Heathrow and told me to wait in the car while he made sure Virgin Atlantic was open at that early time of morning. Then, he helped me with my luggage; and not just out of the trunk and onto the curb, but in through the terminal door, and pointed me in the right direction to the counter. I don’t see any NYC taxi driver doing that! The message? You’ll enjoy your London experience even more with the help, support and guidance of taxi drivers who really care about your experience traveling in their taxi!
It’s all about customer service! Pure and Simple! And, you know what? I gave the London taxi drivers better tips, too.
by Brenda Hall, CEO
I’ve been an entrepreneur for over 12 years now and thankfully have made quite a few mistakes. That’s right—thankful, because I’ve corrected those mistakes when I could, and I’ve learned from all of them. Of course, reading words of wisdom from those who have gone before me was helpful, but I’d like to share of few thoughts of my own that you won’t learn from your accounting department or your CFO.
Bridge360 is a global software services company. We believe software can do anything, and I do mean anything. Technology is a marriage of hardware and software, and I don’t think any of us have seen anything yet! That said, we’re in business to grant our client’s wishes, and all of our client’s wishes are unique regardless of the service they ask of us.
Number 1: Each client is special and each has their own special need. Whether they are buying your product or a unique service you offer, each client should be considered according to their own unique business needs.
Number 2: Your clients are likely located all over the globe because they, you, and their business are tethered together like a fast moving zip line crossing rivers, mountains, and cities everywhere. We see evidence of this every day by just looking at the “Made In” labels in our clothing or in the food products on our grocery shelves.
Number 3: And this is the most important of all — each client you have thinks they are the most important client you have. I have a client who mentioned over a dinner one evening that he “…assumed we are your largest account.” Of course this wasn’t true but it gave me pause to think we must be doing something right if he thought that.
by Brenda Hall
So…I’m packing up my office because we’re ‘moving on up’.
Been in this building for 7 1/2 years and it feels a little strange to be leaving it; it feels better though to know our new office space is going to be so much nicer – and bigger!An office move has its challenges, but here are some helpful tips in case you find yourself in this situation:
Tip #1 Make sure you use a good mover who uses recyclable plastic bins with rollers. This makes life a whole lot easier than trying to pack, tape and stack cardboard boxes. (most of them will break with the loads of books so many of us have).
Tip #2 Always order more bins than you think you need. A good formula is if you think you need 100 bins…order 150….so uptick by 50% and you should be ok. Besides, a good mover won’t charge you for bins you don’t use.
Tip #3 You’re going to find things you forgot you had….and guess what!….you don’t need it! So, make sure you call in the shred-it guys with their truck and have them show up to pick up these stacks of things. Nostalgia is nice….but keep it limited!
Tip #4 No matter how much extra space you think you planned for in your new location….you’ll probably fill it up right away, especially if you bring all that stuff from Tip #3 above!
Tip #5 Get good people to help you….don’t be afraid to ask everyone to pitch in. At the end of the day, it all comes down to great people banding together to get the job done.
BTW….I learned I didn’t really need 5 wine bottle openers in my desk, so I’m going to take 2 of them home now 🙂
by Brenda Hall
When I moved to Austin in January of 1985, I was working for IBM. I took for granted that everyone working in large corporations was focused on the world, how to work across countries and cultures, and traveling to collaborate with international team members. I was fortunate indeed to have traveled to London, Paris, Copenhagen, Frankfurt and many other international cities.
When I arrived in Austin, I’d already lived in cities from New York to Boulder, to Los Angeles to Ft. Lauderdale to name a few. Austin immediately made me feel welcome and at home. An initial surprise was how much Austin wasn’t on an international roadmap. There were either major corporations like IBM, 3M, Texas Instruments, or there were startup companies like Dell, Austin Ventures and Whole Foods. There didn’t seem to be a city-wide focus on building and branding Austin as an international player. I don’t believe our university system had yet branched out with a focus on global commercialization, and Austin Community College didn’t have a program focused on building a work force with global knowledge and skills. As a matter of fact, that didn’t happen until January 2000 when a few of us were corralled together for a few days to create the framework ACC would then fill in with courseware. Continue reading