Tuesday, January 29, 2008

I'm Really Not Good at Some Things

Yesterday was a full day of visiting with my CPA and his staff to get my tax paperwork and corporate bookkeeping current. I really suck at managing IRS paperwork and dealing with corporation stuff. It's not that I can't figure it out or don't see what needs to be done, but given the option of putting some cool new features into one of my software products or reading through tax information, I'm afraid I'm always going to choose the former, so I'm always playing catch-up with the latter.

Now that would be fine if our government rewarded me for good intentions and gave me a break for being busy but, the last time I checked, that wasn't the case. They are rather fond of just tossing late fees at me.

So here's my "do as I say, not as I do" advice for fellow microISV owners (and small business start-ups in general): Get a really good CPA—one you are comfortable with and can trust—and do it at the inception of your business. And, if you're an immersive individual like me, outsource the corporate bookkeeping/paperwork so you can focus on what you do best. It's okay to spend money on help running your operations if it frees you up to do tasks that make you more money.

Hopefully, I'll take my own advice.


Saturday, January 19, 2008

Quicken taking on MoneyWell?

Okay, this is too funny. I just got done being interviewed by Scotty about Battling Big Iron Software Companies as a Micro-ISV and then I read this article on MacRumors about Intuit rewriting Quicken to be more Mac-like. Like MoneyWell, it will be Cocoa-based and use CoreData for storage. Unlike MoneyWell, it will only be for Leopard.

Here's the quote that killed me:

Because the application is being built from the ground-up, it will initially contain only a subset of what is currently found in Quicken 2007 for Mac. While it will fully support cash-flow accounts (cash, checking, savings, credit cards), it will start with extremely limited support for investments, though you will be able to track your balances and holdings and calculate your net worth.

I'm sorry, I really don't think Intuit is looking at No Thirst Software and getting worried, but it's just a cool coincidence that yesterday I talked about how MoneyWell is young application and doesn't have as many features as Quicken, but takes better advantage of Mac technologies like CoreData and Cocoa and now this announcement comes from Intuit.

All I can say is bring it on!


Friday, January 18, 2008

Chatting with Scotty

I had the pleasure to be interviewed by Steve "Scotty" Scott today for his Mac Software Business (MacSB) podcast. If you develop software for the Mac, Scotty's podcasts are invaluable. In addition to this business focused podcast, he also produces Late Night Cocoa and Mac Developer Roundtable. I've learned so much from all of these!

You can find this newest podcast episode here on The Mac Developer Network site. I haven't listened to it yet, but I'm hoping something I said will be helpful to another developer. It's great to be able to give back a bit.

Thanks Scotty for making the interview so relaxing and enjoyable! It's gotta be your accent.


Monday, January 14, 2008

Enlisting Digital Helpers

I really love having to solve problems that come from too much business. I had a business partner one time that bragged one year about our company not having to pay taxes. I said, "You're excited about not making enough profit to have to pay taxes?!?! I think we have a problem here."

Since the last week of 2007, sales have doubled overall. Don't ask me why; I can't find a solid statistic to justify this but my best guess is that I used prMac to pump out many more press releases for the MoneyWell 1.2 release. It could be that it was a cumulative effect (as Guy Kawasaki likes to quote, "Let a hundred flowers blossom"). In any case, with increased sales (yea!) comes increase support requests (ouch!) and I haven't managed to sell off any of my teenagers, so my available time has remained static. You do the math.

There were a couple of potential solutions: I could either hire someone to help with tech support or improve my efficiency with better software. Since sales and support emails aren't really high enough to warrant a full-time tech person yet and I happen to write software for a living, I chose the latter.

I took a look at the most common support questions. There turned out to be two basic categories of problems:

  1. "I didn't get my license email," and

  2. "I can't figure out how to..."

Even though there were more "missing license" issues, each of these weren't very time consuming to handle and the solution was more technical and, therefore, more time consuming. The second issue could be solved by recording more video tutorials and the videos can be used for marketing as well as training so that's what I did first. The only hard part about doing videos is having to continually redo them because MoneyWell is evolving so quickly. Judy and I managed to get a few tutorials done over the Christmas break.

I tackled the first issue this past week. This is not a developer blog, so I won't go too deep into geek speak. From day one, I've used code from Lucas Newman (AquaticPrime) to generate a license file and attach it to an email to the customer. My web server takes care of this so that the customers don't have to wait on me to get their licenses. As soon as their payment clears, the email gets sent.

In theory, that should be all there is to it but in the age of spam, spam, spam, and more spam (cue the vikings), many people block emails with attachments—including MoneyWell and Debt Quencher license emails. Unfortunately, many customers don't even realize that their license has been blocked and wait days before letting me know that they have a problem. This was unacceptable so I had to get rid of the license file attachment on the email. The best way to do this was to have our software get the license directly from our web server.

It took a little effort to add a database back end and rework the emails, but I'm very happy with the result. Now when MoneyWell or Debt Quencher launches, the customer sees a "Trial Mode" window that also doubles as a way to get a license.

The customer simply enters the Receipt Number that is located in their confirmation email and MoneyWell locates and installs their license. No problems with spam filters, no corrupted attachments, and no loud vikings. It's all good.

Now I have more time for development and to handle the tech support issues that directly relate to the software instead of an email server. As a bonus, I also have more tracking and reporting ability for No Thirst Software sales activity.