Most small companies start with either a very small team, or just one person. As the company starts to grow, it will start to experience new pains or a desire to grow outside of the Entrepreneur’s skill set. At this point the company can either slow down its current progress, and learn a new skill to handle the pain or grow to a new depth of understanding to tackle harder projects. But at some point, the company will have to hire something to do the job better than the founder, or simple to offload the work.
In today’s service based economy, the entrepreneur doesn’t have to hire an HR expert to help off load the burden. She can instead employ the services of a company like Gusto or KinHR to help move the load to a system that “makes it easy.” Anytime I hear “make it easy” I know, and expect, to lose some flexibility as the system will attempt to hide some amount of complexity from me.
Types of Complexity to Hide
Some times we hire people or systems to hide the complexity from us. Maybe we don’t care about the 1,000 ways you COULD solve the problem, we simply need the problem solved. I understand their are millions of ways you could handle filing your own taxes, each one having a different optimization that could benefit my business if I only understood each one. But, I’m not going to, and I simply don’t care. I just want to pay my taxes, and not get taken to jail. So, like most people I hire the basic accountant and just have them do the basic work. Sometimes they will find an obvious deduction I can take, but most of the time I assume I’m getting the basic package.
Other times, we will hire someone or a service to help shield us from the shear volume of interactions we will have. Another early hire can be around “Customer Service”, a way to shield the Entrepreneur from the volume of customer calls that will need to be answered as the company grows. While each individual call is typically very simple, handling the number of calls can drain you. This can get even worse if you need to maintain some kind of relationship understanding with these customers. A dedicated service like HubSpot or Salesforce can help keep the complexity down, and speed up the answering of quesitons, but someone still have to do all of the work.
So, why does this matter?
I find that taking a look at your organization this way can help reveal some things that might be interesting to the software engineer. Why does your company have the systems they have? Did the order of acquistion have an impact on other systems? If you are in a position of leadership and trying to understand where your company needs to move next, looking at the types of complexity you need to handle might help you choose a better system.
I also find it pretty interesting to understand where a company first started to grow its human head count. These are typically areas that the company finds more valuable than others. Employees after all are one of the most expensive resources in a company.
On the other side, where a company started to hire out services or software can be an interesting guide to the calcification of a company. Without adequate IT support, those systems can be running for years and experience no change. Everyone is too afraid to touch it, let alone change it. These are the areas that can be ripe for process improvement.