Panel of the people on this page, also listed below. Sorry for lack of attribution for each comment!
How has managing a Drupal firm changed over the years?
- the focus of a firm is often inward; as Drupal has changed they've had to shift to focus outward. As Drupal grows, community grows and you have to be a part of it in order to be successful. Volacci has a partner program where they form relationships with other shops, build and nurture relationships as communities grow
- Used to have to sell Drupal to clients harder, but that's eroded and changed over time - people started calling them
- As Drupal shops start to appear & Drupal gets higher profile, more competition forces shops to innovate and do things better
What are some of the best decisions you've made in your shops?
- working with Drupal is the obvious one
- team relocated from small town in Virginia to a larger city - able to attract and maintain good talent more easily
- a different attitude towards telecommuting
- process is important, but it's also important to show your clients how your internal processes add value for them
- focus a lot of time on getting team to dance well together - it's expensive, but everyone who comes into Development Seed gets Getting Things Done and Made To Stick. It's very difficult if you don't create a culture, have a consistent base within your organization, creating a GTD culture and having a common lexicon. Two other books for management specifically: Good to Great (prevent burnout!) and Getting to Yes (help decision making process as a team)
- Eric Gunderson, Development Seed: 17 people
- Dave Terry, MediaCurrent, 12 employees, started focusing on Drupal in Fall 2007
- Jon Clark, design group, 6 member team, denver, 4 years in Drupal
- Ben Finklea, Volacci, 60 person firm in Austin
- Jeff Walpole, Phase 2, 32 people, founded in 2001, Washington DC
- Glenn Hilton, ImageX, 12 full time, founded 2001, started Drupal in 2005
Where do you go to recruit good people?
- As an owner, start with culture and vision of the company
- Get a lot of great people from Craigslist - Volacci finds lots of people who do good stuff that's not Drupal specific well and teach them Drupal
- determine what percentage of management time is appropriate to dedicate to recruitment
- get the wrong people off the bus, get the right people on the bus.
- Always be recruiting, always on the look out
- Keep feeding work to freelancers and look for people to bring onto your team
- Read a book called Who
- call up colleagues & other companies to see if they have good leads on new talent
How to retain employees over time?
- find good fits, self-motivated communicators
- foster a good work culture & environment
- client work is training; product work can be more rewarding. Product culture is essential for staying sane.
- Need to find good structure early on for crafting contracts
- Development Seed basically fix prices solutions that they deliver, which is terrifying.
- Figure out a way to fix scope and be stubborn with clients
- It's your job as a manager to facilitate your team; crazy client stuff will break down your team
- key to keeping employees is the direct relationship with owner or supervisor - that's what will make them stay or leave. That comes down to communication. High salaries won't do it.
- One perk: $2500 per year tuition or education reimbursement. Continuing education is a bigger perk and advantage than money. Send people to DrupalCamps and DrupalCons, get books, etc. Ask for knowledge share in return - e.g. 15 minute debrief at staff meeting.
- Culture of open communication and truly open debate. Not just token opinions, but real debates that change the way company works fosters ownership.
- Hire slowly, fire fast - don't keep people who don't work well.
- Volacci has no vacation policy - don't track vacation, yet to have anyone abuse that. Go as long as you want to, but don't drop the ball and get your work done. Have a weekly Volacci University - someone teaches a 30 minute course to the company on anything they want. Every Friday is WIFLE - What I Feel Like Expressing - each person has an opportunity to express anything they feel like expressing. No one can talk while you're talking, everyone thanks each other for sharing, opportunity to get issues out and off chest. Rule that you leave it in the WIFLE. Also have weekly kudos meeting. When you get a kudo, you get to take a Pez dispenser from anyone in the room white elephant style
What's the most useful technique for getting/increasing sales?
- Must create relevant, fresh content - blogging, white papers, whatever
- Form partnerships and alliances. Some of your best projects will come from other Drupal firms. Outreach to larger firms, ask for their leftovers, work on smaller projects which lead to bigger engagements and form alliances
- Contribute back to the Drupal community
- Blog posts take time, need to be strategic. You can make concrete, specific posts about technical problems and how they've been solved
- Errant volume in sales is as destructive as errant volume in recruiting. Better to grow slowly to get the right sales and the right clients, otherwise you'll lose focus and go where they want to go and not where you want to go.
- Find a niche and be the best possible firm in that niche