First let me say that I released MoneyWell 1.0.3 yesterday and I'm ecstatic about it! The release is a very nice version, but I'm more excited that it is out the door so I can focus on a patch for Debt Quencher and the next release of MoneyWell. It took me longer to release this patch than I wanted, but sometimes you just don't have control over decisions like that—you have to hold off shipping software until the bugs are fully squashed and you can't do anything else because customers are in pain. I hate knowing that my software could cause anyone any pain so this decision was a no-brainer—get the patch done!
Other business decisions aren't so cut and dried. Deciding the best way to market your products or handle the sales or when to bring on new employees is tough stuff. There's no single right answer. Even now I have to make decisions about my time. How much should I spend updating the website? Should I explore new ways to market my products? Is my time better spent writing code for new versions? How shall I punish my daughter for trashing the kitchen last night while I slept?
Okay, that last one has little to do with business except that I run my company out of my house and the war zone that used to be a fairly clean kitchen is a huge distraction. So let's put a pin in that one and get back to it later.
For every other business of mine, I've had a partner or two. This meant that business decisions were either a tad easier (you handle that one) or much, much harder (I really don't think we should go that direction). Now that I get to make the final decision, the business of business is much more fun for me. My focus has always been on making great software and providing fantastic customer service. That may sound simple and obvious to most of you, but over the years I had to fight battles over compromising functionality to appease strategic alliance partners, supporting craptastic versions of Microsoft Windows (we really should support Windows 95 in our new 2005 release), staffing and outsourcing, and my biggest fight: designing better copy protection.
If you've read my earlier blog posts, you know I despise copy protection. It's one of those necessary evils in the software business, but I don't want to spend all my time fighting the bad guys who try to get free software, which in turn, punishes the good guys who are my customers waiting for cool new features. Now I've been able to control that decision and put just enough protection in my products so the honest folk will get a gentle nudge to pay for the product but after that, they just don't have to deal with it. There's no business partner screaming at me to plug more holes to stop the software theft.
To be perfectly frank, I really do have a partner this time; but my wife, Judy, is still working her full-time job so she's more of a silent partner. Hah! (the water I was drinking almost came out my nose) I guess that's a bit of an oxymoron. Judy is anything but silent and I thank God for her strong opinions. She has saved me from making stupid decisions more times than I've had to yell at the kids to do their chores. The difference is that she trusts my years of experience in the software business and believes that I have learned from my mistakes. I know that she has our best interest in mind when she challenges one of my choices or suggests a new direction and I have learned that she is very skilled at presenting an alternative perspective. When there is a high degree of mutual respect between partners, business decisions are easier to make and delegate.
So it's the day after the patch and the dark valley that was last week—when I couldn't figure out how to solve a couple of frustrating bugs—is over and I'm ready to make some decisions and write some new code. Life is good.