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I Failed Some Plans and I Need to Try Harder!

I know startup is hard, to be a leader is hard and I failed some plans. Let me tell you the story about the plans I failed.

I started Teracy with a team member from my ex-company where I worked as a team leader/ technical leader. We have some common passion about how to create a good home automation system. As working together before, we have some good understanding of how we work well together, so I decided to start Teracy with him as co-founders. I decided to spend all my savings to work full time and my co-founder works part-time.

We were very excited, we have vision, we have mission and we have plans, too. To get to the defined mission, we have to have short-term plans and it’s not hard. The hardest thing to me is to build a team, a dream team that we could work well together.

When working on my ex-company, to find a suitable candidate to join the ex-team is hard. I interviewed many candidates, around 2-3 candidates per day for several months and only some could pass it to join our ex-team. I was stressed and did not want to interview anymore as all I wanted to do was to develop, not to interview.

Recruiting to join the ex-team is hard, but recruiting to join our startup team is a lot harder as we do not have much money to pay, we are not known brand yet and we’re very small. So we should find good designers as we’re all developers now, and trainable students/ young employees to join our team. And that’s the feasible plan we thought that it should work.

To start with a good designer, I have a friend working as a designer from my ex-company. We’re good at friendship, and she is a good designer to me. So I contacted and got her to join our startup team to work part-time (~7 hours/ week) and we paid for her work.

And to start with trainable students/ young employees, we started to offer free training program for students to join, they will be trained to work with Python and web development. Several students joined; after a few training weeks, students dropped out gradually as my requirements and training program went bigger and bigger. It seemed that they lost interests and passion. After several pushes, I did not push anymore and I did not hear their feedback anymore, either. I failed to recruit any trainable students/ young employees. I could not pay and give any promise to them when they did not finish any task and the training program.

Loosing some potential early employees from free training program was ok to me as it did not involve any emotional feeling, however, loosing a potential friend-designer employee did.

We started with the brand logo first. I took us 2 months to get a good logo after many iterations. I really need a logo that is created by geometric shapes. She proposed some logos and there was a logo that is good enough for us. That logo was hard-drawing without geometric shapes principle so I requested to have it for the logo. It took her 2 weeks and no result was achieved, she said that design was not supposed to be like that and she could not do it so I re-created the logo from geometric shapes myself by taking her hard-drawing logo and that was the logo we’re using now.

I know that design needs creation and passion, and I think that design needs rules, too. To break the rules, designers have to explain it instead of saying that it’s not the way design works or they have different way of design. I could see there are common rules and principles for design, and geometric shapes principle is one of them. We started to have different points of view and some conflicts, I thought that it was ok as long as we could achieve the results, we could work well together along the time when we understand the way we work better.

So after the brand logo task, we moved on brand style guidelines. I proposed some well-known work from http://www.logodesignlove.com/brand-identity-style-guides , especially from Adobe http://brandcenterdl.adobe.com/Corpmktg/Brandmktg/Campaign_Assets/guidelines/corporate/corporate_brand_guidelines.pdf . I expected our brand guidelines should be somehow as much detailed as those. I proposed agile development workflow, every day after 1 hour of design work, she should send me any result for us to make adjustment. But she declined, she wanted to work on result-oriented workflow. So I said ok, as I try to make the workflow as flexible as possible. With result-oriented workflow, I had to wait every 2 weeks (~14 hours for designer work) to review and give feedback. This is very slow progress comparing with agile development. I gave feedback, commented, and she gradually lost passion, I had to push. It was bad development experience for us and after 2 months, we did not finish the brand style guidelines. We got worse iteration results. We failed to deliver it.

That collaboration experience is bad for us, she lost passion and I lost patience. So I had to decide, a very touch decision I had to make. I really did not want to end up like this, especially when it was involved with friendship. It was really really hard but I had to anyway to pursuit the best opportunity for the defined mission. So today I said we should stop collaboration, it did not work as expected. The longer we worked, the worse result we would achieve. And that was sad, very sad.

Friendship and work collaboration are separated to me. Good friendship with bad work collaboration is ok on friendship side, and bad friendship with good work collaboration is ok on work side, too. The reverse is not true. It’s ideal to have good friendship and good work collaboration and I’m still finding the ones who match this.

I failed the two recruiting plans above due to my bad decisions and execution. I know that I will have to make more toucher decisions in the future. This is the first time that a touch decision involved so much emotional feelings. I feel very sorry for this bad collaboration experience.

Well, life still goes on and I need to try harder anyway…