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To the non-entrepreneur: Everyone is running a business, including you (blog.sidu.in)
70 points by jasim on June 18, 2012 | hide | past | favorite | 12 comments

I've found this line of argument can really help open people's eyes to the opportunities around them.

Even if you're an employee (or job seeker), you are running a business. Your product is your skills. Your market is all your potential employers.

What are you doing to market your product? What are you doing to improve it? Are you selling to the right market? What would it take to develop a different product or adapt it to a market you'd rather be in?

Everybody who works for a living is in business. Some people just don't realize it, and therefore do it really badly.

> Everybody who works for a living is in business.

That is, to me, a very depressing thought. I'd much rather write code or come up with ways to solve problems (related to code or that can be coded) than have to think about business.

In my head, I translate that as "I don't want to think about whether my code actually helps anyone."

Because if you do care, you necessary need to (1) learn what someone's problem really is, (2) figure out how to solve it, (3) explain your solution to them so they use it. And at that point, you're "doing business".

Business is not accounting. It's problem solving. It's designing algorithms that run on people and processors. And you measure the performance of your algorithm in money, because money is the best measurable proxy we have for "what people value".

It's completely possible to _care_ about whether your code actually helps anyone without ever thinking or worrying about it yourself. All you have to do is trust someone else to make sure you're not wasting your time, whether it's your boss, CEO, or co-founder, and perhaps they can make this determination better than you. It sounds like you feel you have to be in charge of the business to know you're not wasting your time, but not everyone feels this way.

I support a world with strong organizations and separation of responsibility, where designers can design, programmers can program, and chefs can cook lunch, and if the company fails, well, at least lunch was delicious. It's not the back-end programmer's fault for not spending his shower time thinking about the business model. Most people aren't looking for a financially risky job; it's on the entrepreneur to take the risk.

Alternatively, let's just get rid of salaries and everyone can work for equity. Then they'll _really_ be thinking about how much their work is helping the customer.

Sometimes you want to do things just for the sake of doing it without thinking about its use/utility. There is nothing wrong with that. Not everything you do needs to have a purpose but that may/may not lead to great things with purpose later. Richard Feynman was famous for working on the physics of wobbling discs that led him to a nobel prize later.

But if you consider your technical skills as a product you are selling to the companies who want a software solution you are upgrading your product/skill offering whenever you come up with a new and more reliable way to solve a given problem. Contribution to open source or writing a technical blog post is marketing. Learning new programming language is exploring a new market segment.

If you are passionate about programming, you are already doing one or more of these things for fun.

All the code or problem-solutions in the world aren't worth anything if nobody uses them.

Business is about taking those problem-solutions and getting them into the hands of customers, and getting feedback from customers that lets you improve those solutions. Even if you're just a coder for BigCo, you'll be a lot better at your job if you can work with your customer (boss) to understand their requirements and their goals, and deliver well-targeted solutions.

I think the most useful concept is to think of you as a business and whoever pays you as your customer. Then think in terms of providing value to your customer. As long as you provide value, your customer (or another like them) will keep paying for it.

If you work for BigCo pushing paper around, figure out why BigCo thinks that's worth money, and then figure out how to provide them better value. Whether it's pushing paper faster, reducing the amount of paper that needs pushed, training others to push paper more efficiently, or whatever, the point is that if you're providing clear value to BigCo that's worth more than what they're spending on you, you can keep them as a customer as long as you want. Even if BigCo goes under, as long as HugeCo and all of their competitors need the same thing, you can get them as customers.

That's where real "job security" comes from -- having skills that customers are willing to pay for.

Sales people instinctively understand that you can't just rationally provide value to your customer; you also have to persuade the customer's decision-makers that you're providing value.

At BigCo, this means you can't just do what's good for the company, you also have to make sure your boss is happy about what you're doing.

This pitfall is especially tempting to hyper-rational programmer types, who think that providing value is sufficient, and that no company (including their personal "company of 1") should ever need sales or marketing departments.

There is a strategy to the rational approach, but it's rarely stated: if your organization can't recognize value without undue effort, then it's going to lose to one who can.

To put it differently, if your job is the ship's lookout, you don't try and convince the captain that he needs a lookout. You try to find a new captain who won't sink the ship.

Yes, but in my case it's the kind of business done out of interest rather than to turn a profit. Like running a second-hand bookstore in a building you own in Paris, opening at lunchtime and spending the day swapping chit-chat and literary references over coffee and chess with a handful of regulars and the occasional wage-slave who sneaked out of work.

My favorite Jay-Z lyircs: "I'm not a businessman. I'm a Business, man!"

Or like that one book by Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha - The Start Up of You....its interesting mindset to view your career as a start up.

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