Top Five Questions Founders Ask – Part 1

Kelsey Brennan ·

As a full-service software consultancy, we at Carbon Five get lots of questions from clients past, present, and future. We’re passionate about sharing our industry knowledge, so we sat down with our leadership team and got some advice for aspiring founders and product leaders as part of an ongoing 6-part series. You can see all the interviews here.

First up are some practical answers from Partner and COO Don Thompson on lessons learned from 15+ years of collaboration on client-driven technical projects and insights into how Carbon Five’s process enables companies of all sizes.

When do I build my internal team?

Beginning day one is our preference. The happiest clients are the ones that have a team in place to take over before we’re done. It doesn’t have to be a CTO–that can simply be a junior developer. It can be a struggle for clients to make a junior hire if they have more confidence putting a senior person in place. They feel a Director or VP will have more confidence in some of the decisions they’re making early on, and can build out their own team. From our standpoint, either approach can be successful.

Where do I find my talent, and how do I attract them?

That is really tough. The early hires will often establish and shape a corporate culture so it is important to get it right. In addition to the roles to hire for, we encourage our clients to consider making diversity a hiring goal. Creating a balanced, inclusive team takes more time and effort than most company founders expect. When our clients do begin to ramp up hiring, we’re happy to help with writing a job rec and shaping a job description. We’re happy to help review resumes. We’re happy to interview people and really be that advocate for our client as far as where people can fit into the organization. We’re happy to give them desk space once they’re hired. We have a recruiter, and we’re happy to make introductions to on the behalf of our client.  While we still encourage people to reach out to their own networks, remember to reach out well beyond it. Don

In addition to the roles to hire for, we encourage our clients to consider making diversity a hiring goal. Creating a balanced, inclusive team takes more time and effort than most company founders expect…while we still encourage people to reach out to their own networks, remember to reach out well beyond it.

I’m a non-technical founder, and how do I assess and hire technical talent? Does Carbon Five help with that?

I can think of other past clients that took a while to make the decision to hire us, and once they did, they were all in. They trusted us to play that CTO or senior technical role on their behalf, until they were ready to take over. That worked awesome. Then we led the charge on bringing people in, and we would still rely on them to help source candidates, but we would help vet individuals. The thing I think that is really nice about the way we practice Agile is that it’s self-selecting. It creates a certain type of environment and it is a certain type of individual that matches that environment.

How do I determine the MVP (minimum viable product) for my project?

It’s the simplest thing that will provide value to a set of their customers. We’ve certainly built simple, low-fidelity products for an initial release.We have also built a set of features that looks much more automated than it is, something much more Wizard-of-Oz style. With this approach, a user is able to go through a flow that seems very seamless, but relies on a lot of manual work on our side (or our client’s side). Then, our clients will layer in that automation as they understand what they’re trying to automate.

I’m a large company and I don’t know how to implement [insert-buzzword-here] into my teams.

“Agile” is the biggest one, especially for large companies. That’s still a favorite buzzword. I think that the biggest thing for me is having buy-in or support to work that way, high enough up in a company. Years ago, we experienced a handful of enterprise clients that wanted to work in an Agile way within their organization, but they wanted to shield their business teams from that process. But you need to follow some sort of process that’s embraced by the entire company. If you don’t have that support from both the technical and business teams, and you’re trying to do it on the down low, it’s a little reckless. It’s really difficult to make that change only from the bottom up.

What about from the other way around? Top down?

You won’t normally have that, but we have seen it in the past where teams of developers and designers reject Agile, even though their higher-ups are asking them to try it. We have worked with some more mature startups and growth companies where senior management has been interested specifically in process change  to make their teams more productive. Teams can be reluctant in accepting organizational changes. Pair programming with client developers and designers can be a great way to introduce changes in process and level up team skills.

Stay tuned to hear perspectives and advice from the other Carbon Five Partners in the coming weeks. In the meantime you can follow Don on Linkedin

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