How a Startup Leader Should Work with a Software House to be Successful?

There is a myth making the rounds on the Internet about cultural differences and the lack of understanding of American users by Polish companies. Therefore, a startup leader in the US must always hire programmers in the United States to get a better product.

This basically means that a programmer, on top of programming skills and ability to solve difficult technical problems, has to master business etiquette, and understand needs of users and their business requirements. This is not true. The problem lies elsewhere.

You are the project leader, and at the end of the day it is you, and not your programmers or designers who will be responsible for profitability and performance of the app. Do not think that hiring an external company means you can relinquish the application design entirely and focus on finding customers.

A good leader is one that takes oversees every detail of the application creation process. Please note that even in such a large company like Apple, it was Steve Jobs who was best at doing product demos and knew the company's products inside out.

A serious misunderstanding of delegation

In my career, there have been a number of start-ups whose project leaders transferred all the responsibility to his team (usually consisting of a CTO and a person responsible for marketing / graphics), who maintained contact with the software house and created the first version of the application. At that time, the leader would develop sales strategies and search for an investor.

The client team accepted consequent parts of the application they received them from the software house and everything looked fine until the presentation of the finished application, when the leader showed up and it turned out the application did not meet his guidelines. Such situations have always ended up in escalating conflict with the software house.

You have to remember that working with an external partner, you are primarily working with people with narrow competence, which is actually an advantage!

Your team consists of programmers, graphic designers, usability specialists and project managers (product owners). Therefore, you have to require best possible code from the programmer, and possibly the most useful and matching graphics from the graphics designer.

The product owner is the person who should actually question the leader and advise him according to his best knowledge, and motivate the team to a heated discussion. At the end of the day, however, it is you as a leader who should make final decisions about your product and show the right direction.

If your team was exclusively made of leaders who fully understand the needs of your users and the market the application is intended to launch, they would, just like you, create their startup. But they don't.

What do you expect from a good software house?

Relevant tools and the knowledge how to use them. Let's use a painter metaphor to illustrate this.

In the initial stage of their career, artists would normally study various types of canvas, brushes, paint selection, paint applying techniques, and only then they can decide how epmloy these to express emotions in the form of a painting.

Whether or not their works attract crowds and touch people all over the world depends little on the brush or canvas used, but more on the painter's effort and ability to move the brush and apply paint the right way.

The leader in a startup is like a painter, a person which constitutes the basis of successful cooperation with well experienced and organized software house.

Here are a few tips how to work with software house as the startup leader:

  1. Control your product by demonstrating your commitment and set relevant objectives for your team.
  2. Be present at the meetings discussing various stages of development or, if you work in Scrum, in each sprint summary. Ask a lot of questions. Encourage the team's communication.
  3. Treat the software house team as yours. Require specialized skills and motivate them as much as you would motivate a team within your company.