At some point as a business grows, the company would have to consider making use of modern technology to improve the way their processes work— websites, web apps, or CRM systems are some examples. The challenge is when business executives are more inclined to the business side of things and not very keen on the technical requirements of these projects to make sure the outputs provide the results expected.
This article contains five tips to help you, non- technical founders, executives, or entrepreneurs in general, know your way around working with technical people or teams for projects you are planning to build to help you achieve your business goals.
1. Know what you’re good at and focus on that.
When you build a startup or are running a company that has existed for a while, every aspect of the business is going to need your attention: sales and marketing, HR, design and development… the list could go on. The challenge is you cannot do all of those at the same time. This is why as a founder, you have to know what you specialize in.
This is relevant to the topic because when you know what your strength is, you know where you should commit most of your time and energy to, and leave the concerns of the other business aspects (technical aspect, for example) to your team, given that your team consists the right skill set needed to optimize your business operations.
This does not mean that you are not supposed to be in any way involved in the other business functions— of course you should. This is just a good starting point to realize that those other aspects that are not your strengths should not consume all your efforts.
2. Trust the technical team.
In connection to the first tip, it is definitely necessary for you to find a technical team that you can trust. They are, after all, building one of the things that could make or break your company. Find people whose opinions and expertise you are comfortable believing in.
Trust is something that’s earned, but it’s also something that you can get a strong sense of in your initial conversations or meetings with them. It would be advisable to contact clients they’ve worked with, ask for references from people you know, or look up in the internet and research about them and the work they have done for other clients.
This is to know the strengths and weaknesses of the person or team that would potentially work for you, and if they are the right fit.
3. Try to have a basic understanding of technology.
This does not mean that you’re going to have to know why your developers would want to use PostgreSQL as the database and ReactJS as frontend framework. You are not going to be able to help with those technical decisions. Most founders don’t even know what those terms are, and they don’t have to.
This third tip means that if possible, as the person mainly working with the technical team, you learn the context in which most technical people will generally think. If possible, research the basics like how to code, programming for beginners, watch videos, or take online courses. Squeeze little bits of hours (or even minutes) from your busy day, over your lunch break, to sit down and just try to read, watch, and understand.
This even a little bit of technical knowledge will certainly help you understand how your technical team thinks, approaches problems, and structures solutions.
4. Share business perspective with the technical team.
It is a common tendency for developers, or any technical person for that matter, to do what they think they need to attend to at the moment, or if it interests them— when it comes to them having to choose what to work on first. For example, developers would usually go optimize code that they have previously written in a hurry because they know it’s sloppy, but that’s not a priority for the business on your side.
These things they work on may be important later, but not now. Hence, your technical people devote their time and effort on these things that to them is important, but realistically does not help the business at present.
This conflict is resolved or better, avoided, when you as the business founder clearly communicate to your technical team why you need this product to be built, how this project aligns with your business goals, and why certain features are more prioritized than others.
Give the team something they can look at, like a metric that matters, that they can see, and that they can then experiment or test on to measure the impact of this change they created, and how they will go from there.
For startup founders, ultimately for the startup to succeed, you’re eventually going to need a technical co-founder. This partner is going to actively lead the technical team in the direction of the corporate goal/s. More tips on how to find the right technical co-founder will be released soon on our blog!
5. Understand the rapid shifts in technology.
In the technology industry, things evolve very quickly. It will only take months, if not weeks, for a new innovation to come out, and sometimes it’s even unpredictable.
This is something you as a founder have to keep in mind when you work with a technical team. When you solicit for the opinions of different technical individuals regarding your development project and how your own technical team is working on it, it is possible that you would get varying, and sometimes conflicting opinions. You have to realize that opinions like these come from limited information and you only have a small piece of the entire puzzle when you’re thinking about these things.
Just because you have developed one thing and then later you discover something else that you think would have been better to build does not mean that you get to be caught up in the mindset that everything the team has built is wrong and now you have to build everything all over again.
That’s not always true. Technology per se, old or new, is not even the focus. The focus is the product/ market fit. So, as long as the technology your technical team is building is the right fit for your product, for your users, and how they are going to interact with it, there’s nothing to get frustrated about.
In the event that you actually look back and realize that you could have used a different technology or done something else than what you’ve built, those things would probably always be true because again, things in this industry evolve so quickly. It’s hard to see new technology before it’s mainstream. No one could have predicted some of the changes we’ve gone through in the last 20 years of technology use.
You, with your technical team, have to have the same mindset in going about these perspectives and decisions. You should not be intimidated by technology, but understand that it is an asset to your business, and there are ways to take advantage of it.
Working with technical teams, like every other working setup, is not always as simple as it appears to be. However, it could always be made easier and more effective when the team and the founder are able to understand and collaborate with each other.
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