June 27th, 2012 §
So this post comes to you after me reading a string of one too many “Life of a CEO” or “What its like to be a CEO” posts.
I’m about to hit you with a major dose of REALITY, and you might not like it.
If you’re dreaming about being the CEO of a company you probably aren’t fit to run one. If you think its a lavish lifestyle filled with private planes and swimming pools full of money, you might just have a rude awakening coming.
The life of a CEO is not always glamorous. TechCrunch would like you to think so and so would many of the people who write about it on Hacker News but the reality is you probably are the CEO in title alone. When your company consists of three people but you sign documents as the CEO you should probably put that in prospective, you are TECHNICALLY the CEO but what kind of real power or reach does that give you. It means you were the most capable of a three person team, or perhaps just the one with the most generalized skillset and since you had no specialty CEO was the interim role you filled.
This post first crossed my mind several months ago when I was talking to a startup CEO who I will leave unnamed. he and I were talking about interns and their role in a small organization(this particular one was less than 5) I was encouraging him to be open and let interns have full insight into all facets of the business, openly present ideas and consider them.
I’ll never forget the response he gave me. “Zach, I want you to think about this, how many interns get to go sit down and talk to the CEO of a company about its inner-workings every day? it just does not make sense”
At that point in the conversation I knew it would end soon and in fact it already had in my head. Someone who did not understand something as simple as being humble enough to realize that his small organization needed all the help it could get from any parties interested and invested in giving feedback would probably never see my point of view.
When you’re the CEO of a startup you’re the person who will do ANYTHING, and I do mean ANYTHING to make it succeed.
And here’s how it is in reality:
If you want to be a CEO in the sense that you dream of them you should remember to be the Fucking Janitor too.
What I mean by this is simple and I’ll illustrate it in a quick story when a slightly younger version of myself sat down to get a small business loan at a young age.
As we sifted through the paperwork it took to do a loan the question came up. It was the first time anyone had ever asked me, but its not one I’ll soon forget.
The loan officer looked at me and said “So Zach, what’s your title? Are you the President? The CEO?”
It didn’t take too long for me to spit out what came next. In a tone that could only be used by someone with the inexperience of a person my age (19 or 20 at the time) I looked at him and said “Ryan, last night when I was sweeping the floor I was the Fucking Janitor”.
Ryan laughed, then paused shook his head and said “We’ll go with owner on this one.”
The story is one that displays a combination of things, some arrogance, lots of inexperience and some humility. But one thing I still take away from that years later is that no matter what I do I will always be the Janitor.
My employees never looked at me as a boss but always as a colleague. They knew that if they didn’t pick up that broom to sweep the floor then I certainly would and that led to a much more productive work environment. Everyone knew of the willingness of others to do anything necessary to help make our business a success and that is the kind of attitude that makes winners.
I’d encourage you the next time you start thinking of yourself as the CEO to also remember to always be the Janitor too. It’s great to become someone who is looked up to, or to make an impact, but its even more important to remember where you started and stay true to who you wanted to be before you got to where you are.
So I hope if you’re reading this, you’ll remember to always be the Janitor.
September 24th, 2011 §
Like many of us that spend way too much time on Hacker News I have recently begun to feel a bit of concern for how success is viewed.
Today so many people talk less about the small successes like Patio11’s bingo card creator in favor of those founders who hit home runs or who sold a company.
As someone who sold a company, let me just tell you. You are measuring success the wrong way.
I’m 24 and I made something happen once. Does this make me a superhero? Nope. Many people are surprised to hear that I do not think I am even a particularly good programmer. Chance and Circumstance are the two words I would use to describe an exit for most people.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that I suck at my job or that everyone who sells something is incompetent. What I am saying is simply this.
Winning (in code) should not only be measured by those who do something huge. It’s the small victories that allow great things to be born. And many of those things come from something with much smaller ambitions. Having a sucessful app that pays your bills and allows you to chase your dreams is just as powerful as an exit.
You may not drive a Lamborghini or dine in the finest Restaurants in NYC but make no mistake about it. You ARE a success.
Lately when I talk to people they always seem to think I should feel like some sort of greater being or that I should cast myself as a mentor or someone to look up to. In reality, I look up to those that are trying to create something just as much as they think they should look up to me.
It’s HARD to go out on your own take a risk and put yourself on the line when that’s all you’ve got.
I’ve been at hard places in life, I have chosen between toilet paper and toothpaste (seriously, and dont ask)
And I know what it’s like to be in their shoes. Those guys are a success story.
Failing is what all entrepreneurs do before they succeed. The guys you’ve never heard of know that you only haven’t heard of them YET.
So here’s to you and your success story! Be proud of yourself and what you’re doing. Chase your dreams and live a little. Life is short, if starting a company or having something all your own is something you’ve always dreamed of make that jump.
One way or another you will become your own success story. The truth is those of us that have failed can tell you that we learned a lot more from our failures than our successes.
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October 18th, 2010 §
So for those of you reading this post who aren’t developers I am truly sorry, this post just may not appeal to you. For those of you that are I think you should make some time in the very near future to acquaint yourself with codeigniter. It’s a lightweight framework that is fast and efficient. I have experimented with all sorts of different frameworks over the past few years (CakePHP,Zend Framework,Apache Click,django) just to name a few, however I was immediately taken by codeigniter’s ease of use and speed. I think you will be too!
Basically, codeigniter is a great and easy to use web framework, that should make for a simple start to just about any project. I have a few complaints with security but I think that is something that can be easily tuned and tweaked with minimal effort. I want to give a shout out to @HartMichael for giving me the heads up on the framework. (I’ve been using CakePHP almost exclusively for a while on php apps) After about an hour toying around in the documentation and tutorials I jumped to work on my first codeigniter app and so far, am extremely pleased with the responsiveness of everything and over all feel of it.
I hope to write a more detailed review soon, but if you know me personally, you know I am in the middle of a new startup venture and I have been working fairly tirelessly on that. So this is it for now. Check back in the next few weeks for more info on the startup, just to give a hint, if you are wanting to sell something online in the near future, but would like to get a little more for it than you can on eBay or Craigslist shoot me a message on facebook or on twitter @zbruhnke or just use the Contact page to give me a shout and I will set you up to be a beta tester for the new site if you’re interested.
September 19th, 2010 §
EDIT: Let me start our by saying I did not expect this post to reach nearly as many people as it did, thanks for the emails, contact requests etc. However i think there are a few points worth clarifying on my end since some people seem to think i live in some sort of dreamland.
1. I think I already clearly acknowledged in the post that this was not solely against intel. Although this article was titled with such notation. What irks me as a consumer is the idea that companies set pricing along no guidelines besides making profit. Most companies were started because of a love or interest in something. However inevitably at some point nearly all companies lose sight of their love for a product and fall in love with money. I would be willing to wager that intel once built the best processor they could for the best pricepoint they could. This article simply states that these companies lose track of those ideas at some point. Again, I did not say this was new, or that several companies were not involved in these processes. As an opinion I simply do not think it is right. Are we all not entitled to an opinion?
2. I do not think my view of the world is either romantic nor naive. I was simply raised with a different mindset. Make no mistake, I have sold software, I have made a premium on some of that software I sold as well. But I did not sell the software to customers with scaled back capabilities and tell them that this is basically a “lite” version of what they could get if they paid “x” amount more dollars. Maybe that makes me a bad capitalist, or just dumb, but that is how I have always operated and it has made me a fairly nice living at a fairly young age. What i have done in other instances however is tell companies that if they would like other features added I could work to add those features at an additional cost. Maybe that is my real rant here. At least if Intel sold these processors at face value telling end users that they were so called “upgradable” processors before they were ever purchased then I would not have as much of an issue. i simply believe in buying and selling products at face value. So perhaps my problem actually lies in the idea that these were sold at face value as one thing and then weeks, months or even just days later they were told, oh but wait, we could also make it do this if you wished, but that will cost you $(insert arbitrary amount here)
To anyone who cares to listen i am writing this letter not solely as rant, but also in disgust of what this market has become. As a developer who loves software and who loves the freedom one can find behind a computer monitor, I am truly disappointed in something i discovered yesterday. While it has long been thought of as common knowledge to many high end computer users that computer manufacturers and the makers of the parts supplied to them were often limited in what they were “allowed” to do this is the first direct confirmation of that in some time.
Intel’s decision to limit their hardware leaves me in disgust of what they as a company are doing to the free market. The computer industry is one which is still a bit shell-shocked by the decision of so many major companies to charge for both software and hardware support, in some cases even in the short term. Companies like Microsoft, Dell, Apple etc. to charge for the support of the very products they already sell for a profit was disappointing on many levels. These companies, whose very excuse for selling software for a profit was so that the time spent on the software could be recouped, have trended towards limited warranties and high-cost, low quality tech support. If the outsourcing and automation of most tech support was a step in the wrong direction over a decade ago then I cannot begin to describe what Intel’s latest move will mean to the market. Any decision to limit features already built into technology unless an additional fee is paid is not only malicious, it is immoral. This is an insult to the employees who have worked hard to advance this technology and a slap in the face to the loyal consumers who have bought their “latest and greatest” products that are often released in very short cycles anyhow. To Intel I have one message:
Just as the title of this article states, I have a simple message for intel. SUE ME! As a developer of technology and lover of all things tech I truly believe Intel has become a massive company by making good products. This is something they have exceeded at without a doubt. However almost inevitably every large company at some time gets to be too large for their own good. It seems obvious to me that Intel has reached that point and eclipsed the point of reality entering a zone in which they apparently believe morals no longer matter and profit is everything.
Consider this my warning to Intel: I WILL dedicate a significant amount of my free time to unlocking EVERY capability of your processors and I WILL supply those capabilities free to end users of your products. If this angers you, please refer to the picture above, and if you go to the contact page and fill out my form I will gladly send you any information needed for the certified letters and empty threats from your lawyers. I hope to hear from you soon.
To the end users and dedicated supporters of Intel products (others like me) I am sorry you have spent so many years giving back for a company who wants nothing more than to take from you. I am sorry that a company you believed in apparently never believed in you. Perhaps more importantly, I assure you all that if we cannot take Intel down all on our own, we will do it the only way I know how, one user at a time.
Until Next time.
Find me at @zbruhnke or on Facebook