The following is a guest post created in collaboration with Steve Mezak, CEO at Accelerance.
When I first started out as a software developer fresh with a degree and a zest for creativity, I always wanted to do all of the work on my own. When people hired me, it was because of my own personal expertise and ability to create well-designed, efficient code. In mid-career I became a contract programmer. Wanting to earn more and more money, I ended up working ten hour days to maximize my capacity, but that was a ceiling difficult to get above. Raising my rates was an option, and one that I took, but that too has a limit – no matter how well-written the code was, there is an upper limit to what people will pay. I was living the “poor dad” life that Robert Kiyosaki talks about in his Rich Dad, Poor Dad series, I was working too many hours without a solid business plan for the future.
I remember distinctly a moment when my realization shifted. I had just been hired to oversee the development needs for a growing software company and I came to work ready to roll up my sleeves and get to code-bashing. Imagine my surprise when my supervisor said “Steve, I want you to outsource this development.”
But wait… isn’t that what I’m here to do?
When I asked that question he responded with a refrain that many Kiyosaki fans will recognize: “Steve, would you rather be software developer or a millionaire?” I realized that the answer was easy, and we immediately began working on outsourced software development.
What I’m really talking about is having the ability to do whatever you love. Whether your goals include having the money to raise a family AND the time to spend with them, the flexibility to travel the world or the resources to indulge your favorite hobbies, you need 2 things: time and money. In my case, I needed to think more along the lines of the “rich dad” approach. I needed to utilize my time and resources better by outsourcing the actual hands-on-keyboards work of software development and focus on my own core competency of managing software projects.
The Business Owner Mindset
In the book “The Cash Flow Quadrant,” also by Robert Kiyosaki, four main types of work segments are defined: the “E Quadrant” for average employees, the “S” for specialists like lawyers or consultants (and independent contract software programmers), the “I” for investors, and the “B” for business owners. Software developers who want to grow within the industry need to begin moving from the specialist quadrant to the business owner quadrant. Thinking like a business owner helps your company grow and scale at a faster rate because you aren’t relying on yourself to be the sole source of inspiration and production.
I’d like to stress that when I was first introduced to outsourcing, outsourced software development companies were at a different maturity level than they are now. While back then it was necessary to provide detailed instructions, modern mature software outsourcing is about partnerships that generate innovation and high-level concepts that you might not have devised yourself.
If you’re just outsourcing the code creation, you’re missing out on a key benefit to outsourced software development.
The “Rich Dad” Approach
Eventually I transitioned from being the technical guy that others hired, to becoming a technical leader. Over my career, I’ve met many people who’ve made this same transition, including one friend who went on to join Yahoo! In the early 1990’s. He grew into a leadership role as the company grew quickly, and is a multi-millionaire from this experience. Having technical skills is important, but growing into a leader who helps others is what can take any software developer onto the path to becoming a multimillionaire.
You can’t do all of the work yourself. You’ll need to hire an excellent outsourced software development team, and you’ll need to position yourself to grow with your company. Begin with a business ownership mindset, and take action towards becoming the success you want to be.