Entrepreneurship for Developers For Developers

Build Your Business Like Software

(I wrote in-depth pieces about how Your Business Is like Software here and also have another 8 Similar Principles Between Business and Software Development here.)

Build. Ship. Iterate.

I love iterative software development.

It’s how I’ve seen good software ship and become great software over time. I adore how it is all about continuous improvement. And I fully embrace it for my business.

If you’re moonlighting with your entrepreneurial endeavor, then you’re in beta. That’s not a knock, that’s awesome because at least you’re making progress. When you go full-time, it’s v.1 because you’ve launched this bad boy.

As of this writing, iThemes is at v.6. I label it like that because we’re in year 6 and each year we’ve sought to do better and better than the previous year by fixing bugs, optimizing the system and processes and always iterate to grow in an organic, healthy way to do and be more for our customers. 

My next tip in the Entrepreneurship for Developers series is this:

Approach and build your business like software.

Here are some quick thoughts on how to do that:

  • Have a roadmap for your company. Know where you are going and communicate it with your customers and team. We’re in the process of doing all of this for our team and community. In the past we’ve asked our community to Make Waves with us and this year we’re asking them to Go Far Together with us as their key partner for building their businesses and dreams online.
  • Know and communicate how you’re seeking to change the world doing what you do. We call this Making People’s Lives Awesome. It’s more a mantra than a mission statement. We try to be intentional in all that way do to show how we’re seeking to change our customer’s lives (and the world).
  • Test ideas to see what works and what doesn’t. Business is all about experimentation. Just make sure you understand what you’re testing and the impact and results (for better or worse) it could have on your business. We’ve been bold and sought to innovate in many areas … but always with the thought of not doing something that could doom us.
  • Always be systematically improving and optimizing your business. Do this for yourself, your team and your customers. Don’t stagnate or coast. If you’re successful and profitable, someone is gunning for you and your customers. We’re always seeking to optimizing what we do to be better for ourselves and our customers. 
  • Recognize that failure is just learning. It’s a bug you need to fix and a lesson you need to learn for next time. I love pushing new developers to ship a product. It’s the best learning environment and learning doesn’t happen without failing.
  • When bugs crop up, prioritize them, then fix them. The biggest fires that come up will always involve people. Because business is always personal. Bugs crop up in three areas typically: either you’re not doing the work you were personally meant and gifted to do, you have the wrong people around you, or you serving the wrong people. Or else some process that has to do with those is off. Find the big bugs and fix them fast.
  • Open source what you’re learning. That’s what I’m seeking to do here. Learn and grow, then teach and share. Blogging, speaking, mentoring, however you want but share what you’re learning with someone else.
Entrepreneurship for Developers For Developers

Marketing Isn’t Evil, It’s Your Best Ally

This is a post in my series titled Entrepreneurship for Developers. (Get it delivered via email here).

Too many of you awesome developers think all marketing is evil and all marketers are sleazy. As such, you stay as far away from it as you possibly can.

That’s a huge mistake. And here’s why I believe that:

If truly believe you do great work that can change people’s lives for the better, then you have an obligation to share that with the world in the biggest, broadest way possible that is most authentically you. 

If you believe so strongly in your software that it can help people — even at the basic of levels — then as a human being, I believe you have a responsibility to share your gifts and talents with those who need it most.

Marketing is simply telling others about what your product can do for them that will help make their lives one notch better.

If you can’t get over that, then you might be destined to irrelevancy, being overlooked and being beaten by people who have crappy software but actually tell people about it.

I fully agree that marketing shouldn’t be sleazy, or dishonest or deceptive. All marketing should be honest, straightforward and educational. 

But you have to tell people about your work. You have to communicate how and why it can change people’s lives to enough people who will come see what you have to offer and then some of whom will purchase and support your business so you can keep iterating and making the software that keeps making their lives better and better.

Here are some concepts and thoughts you need to research and learn more about and put into practice in your business (and maybe I’ll dive into those in future blog posts):

  • Unique Value Proposition — narrowing in on who needs your product and why they should buy it. We’re working on this for all of our products right now.
  • Email Marketing — as of this writing, it is still the single biggest thing beyond product development we did to grow our business. Many of my business friends and competition choose not to use this tool because of its attachment to the aforementioned shady marketing but only to their own detriment. (Start learning with The Rebel’s Guide to Email Marketing: Grow Your List, Break the Rules, and Win by DJ Waldow.)
  • Showing Benefits over Features — instead of writing out your spec sheet of all features (which should maybe go in your codex or history file), focus on the user, the customer and share how your product/service is going to make their life better. Be about them first and foremost, not you. Your product is simply solving a problem or helping them get somewhere they want to go. They care more about themselves than you!
  • Education is the key to good selling —Teach and train your customers and they’ll love you forever.

Here are some marketing books from my Ultimate Reading List to look into:

 But consider rethinking your bias against marketing. If you want to have customers who buy and benefit from your products and services, you’re going to need to identify, reach and tell them about why they should choose you. 

So my challenge is: Use marketing. Use it well. Be an example for others.

If you do, the world — you and your cusotmers — will be an even better place for it.


This is a post in my series titled Entrepreneurship for Developers. (Get it delivered via email here).

Entrepreneurship for Developers For Developers

It All Starts With Getting To Know Yourself

I want to kick it off my series on Entrepreneurship for Developers (get it delivered via email here) with a subject I love most in business but one that is also absolutely key to surviving and thriving as a entrepreneur: Knowing yourself.

In 2008 when I started iThemes, I had a fairly vague inventory of my strengths, skills, talents, my weaknesses and areas I loathed. I did know what interested me most and what did not interest me in the least about starting and running a business.

But for the last six years I’ve had the chance to experience almost every area in business and really understand what I naturally love and am excellent at (few things) and what I hate with every essence of my fiber and that suck the life out of me (God help me – it’s accounting and legal crap).

I believe in constantly optimizing your business and your personal happiness with it. The happier and fulfilled you as the entrepreneur the better and more successful your business will be. Period.

Thus, I’ve spent the last 20 years of my life actively seeking to learn more about myself and I’m still not done. But here’s what what I’ve learned so far ….

Learn you, where your specific genius lies and what gives you the most pleasure and joy in your work first and foremost.

I realize this might sound simplistic, but this is foundational. It’s essential to start here.

If you as the entrepreneur aren’t happy and fulfilled overall, then you’re simply a slave. The master just goes by a different name and the work is exponentially harder because you are now in a prison of your own making. Also, your personal reputation, financial, emotional and physical well-being happen to be supremely affected by it.

Entrepreneurship for me is about freedom to pick and choose the work, the team and the customers and clients.

So if you’re not happy and fulfilled as a whole in your business, your entrepreneurial system has a big glaring bug in it.

But thankfully, that’s easy to identify … either you’re not doing the work you were meant and gifted to do, you have the wrong people around you, or you serving the wrong people. 

But for now, we’re just going to talk about you and the work that you do.

Thus, you need to start learning more and more about yourself starting today. What you’re good, great and exceptional at doing. What you are mediocre and ridiculously terrible at (even though you arrogantly think you’re great at everything). What drains the happiness, joy, energy and life from your body quicker than anything else. What makes you happy and fulfilled. What activities and tasks produce “flow.” What the unique genius you bring to your business that can’t be copied, delegated, or artificially created in a lab.

And then systematically, religiously, ruthlessly, deliberately over time seek to delegate the rest of that filthy crap you’re not suited to do to other people who happen to get their “flow” and joy and jollies from those activities to come alongside and help you. (It’s a win-win for them, by the way, because they are secretly thinking the same thing about what you do!)

There are some things you maybe can’t delegate, ever. I still have to talk to our landlord. I still have to talk to attorneys from time to time. I still have to have to do financial meetings and talk about money. I still have to fire people and sometimes step in and be a manager. I hate all those things and throw a baby fit when I have to do them.

But I put on my big boy pants and still do them. And for the most part, somewhat happily, because I rarely have to do them now after 6 years of testing, optimizing, refining and … yes, identifying people better suited for it and trusting, training and delegating.

I know it’s just part of the gig … and a cheap price of admission for getting to play 95% of the time, doing all the things I enjoy but also provide the most value to our team, company and customers.

But if I had to do those other things EVERY day for MOST of the day, I’d quit. That’s a waste of my time, strengths, skills, passions and energy. 

I’ve found though that all this often has to be learned over time and with experience. It’s often trial and error, which can be somewhat costly. Sometimes you think you’re really good at something and the fact is you actually suck very very badly at it. In fact, the best way to learn to delegate for those who have control issues and simply just can’t let go … is to be miserable doing them for a long, long time.

Here are some tools and resources that have helped me the most:

  • StrengthsFinder we have our entire team take this discovery tool and reference our Strengths almost daily. It’s one of the best tools I’ve found to figure out my personal “flow” and best as well as others on my team. Knowing these can help shape how you fit best in your business.
  • Myers-Briggs Personality Test (Kiersey Sorter) — I took this in college and it’s something I’ve referenced and thought about almost every week of my life since. Again, knowing you, how you make decisions, gather information is so helpful.
  • 5 Love Languages this is more a relationship tool but it has rich benefits for you and your business. Knowing how you give and receive love is so key to success, happiness and fulfillment. We all want to be loved, including the team you recruit and gather around you.
  • Coaches and counsel — we currently engage about 4 coaches in our business. But having outside, expert, honest perspectives is so helpful. Find people who are truth-tellers, but want your ultimate best without regard for their selfish gain.
  • Purposeful Paychecks: How to find Lasting Career Happiness (PDF download) — the book where I talk a lot about work-life alignment a lot

Once you start learning more and more about yourself, then you can begin to figure out how you and your unique talents and gifts fit in with your overall business goals and plans.

So get to know you better. So you can be you at your best.


Get the Entrepreneurship for Developers series delivered via email here

Entrepreneurship for Developers For Developers

New Series: Entrepreneurship for Developers

Based on input I got about a series for developers who are also wearing the hat of entrepreneur, founder, CEO … I’m going to be intentional about blogging some tips, thoughts and experiences in 2014 and I’m calling the blog series Entrepreneurship for Developers. (Get it via email here.)

Here are some of the topics I want to weigh in on and share what I’ve learned as the founder of iThemes (which I started in 2008):

  • Knowing yourself
  • HR / Accounting / Payroll / Taxes / Legal — the crap work I hate most
  • Marketing
  • Mentors / Coaches
  • Culture
  • Team Building
  • Process
  • Finances / Money
  • Communication
  • Missions, Purpose, Values, Belief, Philsophies
  • Rest, Recharge, Retreat
  • Work-Life Alignment
  • Customer Service
  • Delegation
  • Managing People
  • Leadership
  • Partners
  • Project management

And if there’s something in particular you want me to write about, ask me here. I love questions. They are great prompts for good writing in my opinion.

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Career Advice For Developers

Essential Career Advice for Developers Ebook is Here

dev-book-cory-417x540Back in August, I wrote a post that turned out to be very popular and got some good response titled “Dear Developers, Here’s Some Advice for Your Career.

Because of that response, I decided to take those core ideas and expand on it and put it into ebook form. Today, I’m excited to announce that I’ve finalizing it, gotten some great help with a cover and layout and am releasing it today. (And I’d love it if you’d share it with your networks and friends!)

Download the Essential Career Advice for Developers Ebook Here

As I have said previously, if software is eating the world, and I believe it is, we — the businesses and startups focused on creating that software — need good, solid, dependable, knowledge, collaborative developers and more of you.

With this book, I want to help developers connect and adapt so that you can thrive in our startups and organizations, so that together, we can build software that changes the world.

In a nutshell, here are the 10 essential keys to having a great career as a  developer:

  1. Build Your Portfolio of Cool Projects That Work
  2. Get involved and contribute to an open source project.
  3. Remember, always & forever: It’s all about people.
  4. Good communication skills are almost as valuable and important as programming.
  5. Ship
  6. Park your arrogance at the door.
  7. Get out from behind a computer screen and meet people.
  8. Make sure you power down regularly.
  9. Always, always, always be learning and exploring.
  10. Pass it on.

Download the Essential Career Advice for Developers Ebook Here