I have seen it happening in almost all the seminars and conferences that I have attended. As businesspersons, we enjoy the opportunity of networking that breaks of coffee and lunch between long sessions and powerpoint presentations provide us. Plates and glasses in hand, small groups form on the floor of the recreation lounge; and light to moderately intense conversations blossom forth. Talk to these groups about anything under the sun: be it planning, be it the latest regulation or ruling on taxes, be it the latest opportunity in some exotic venture, be it the latest rumor about some takeover or acquisition, the participants are brimming with it all, eagerly exchanging notes. But, the moment somebody utters the word “software”, you can almost see visions of high-tech computer labs, of nerds and techno-geeks banging their keyboards, of difficult-to-pronounce words and heavy jargon, clouding the visage of most of the listeners around. It is as if there is an invisible barrier that breaks the steps of these otherwise very techno-savvy, and very, very computer-literate people. Taking that one single step, from using somebody’s program to run one’s business, to developing perhaps an even better program and then selling it and making money, is in reality simple, but psychologically daunting.
An Exciting Domain
Yet, the business of software development is today one of the most exciting domains, with every new day throwing up new models, newer ways of doing things, and newer technologies that keep the broth in the pot stirring. As in any other business, it has its share of stunning successes as well as mega failures. The challenges that an entrepreneur faces in a software venture are the same that any businessperson gets to face in any other venture: competition from new products on the market, market regulations that define how you play the game, customers with fickle loyalties, threats of acquisitions / takeover (in case you are a public holding outfit), … yes, the terrain is quite similar, alright.
It is the presence of certain uniquely topographical features on this terrain that makes the domain exciting. As entrepreneur and businessperson, you have to simply understand these unique features in order to make your journey both enjoyable and profitable.
Unique Aspects of Software Development Business
Here are a few of the unique aspects about this business. If you are on the crossroads of what business to do next, reading on might just change the course of your life!
– While almost every business on earth deals with goods that are tangible; meaning, they can be seen, touched, and felt, the business of software development deals with an entity that is intangible: ideas. This implies two things: One, that you really do not need lotsa startup capital to launch the venture. Just a standard desktop, a broadband connection, and a good working ambience around you, and you are in business. And, the second point is essentially a corollary of the first: in case you ever want to exit from this domain, the exit pain is minimal (only the emotional tugs at your heart will continue to hurt for some time). If you have entered into legally-binding contracts with your customers or vendors or any other agency in the course of your business, then obviously, extricating yourself from them will need some deft footwork.
– In the business of software, there is a level playing field for all the players. So it does not matter if you are a one-person outfit operating out of your kitchen or a deep-pocket honcho who flies in their own Boeing around the world, with an army of programmers working for you. It is the idea that you are working on, it is the software that you have produced, that matters. If your idea has the potential to change the way the world functions, or if it can do things in an incrementally better, more productive, or saves on costs, then your product takes less time to reach your customers than it takes you to blink! With internet becoming ubiquituous and bandwidth speeds burning optical fibers across continents, information about your product and its unique advantages can reach the far corners of the world within no time. By the time your competition, big and small, scramble to cobble up a solution that mimics your product’s functionality or betters it, you would have reaped the benefits of being the first mover; and its impact on your bank account is definitely handsome.
– It was in the domain of software that outsourcing as a model was first devised and implemented. Today, and this is very important, you need not be a software specialist or programmer or coder yourself in order to run a software business. You have the option of hiring people who are experts in the profession on monthly or on project-by-project basis, and that too on the best rates. Since the “goods” that these people produce is in the form of software that can be transferred to you over communication wires (or through wireless ether), they may be sitting half-way around the world for all you care.
– Software is not a use-and-throw consummable like a can of coke or the battery of your watch. People use it, and use it again and again. In fact, the more they use it, the more your product becomes indispensable to them. The “shelf life” of your products is, theoretically at least, infinity. But human beings as they are, you will invariably begin receiving complaints and suggestions about how the product can be improved upon further. This leads you to generate a new avatar of the same product, one that has more bells and whistles than its predecessor. The moral is this: if your customer is satisfied with your product and becomes used to your product, and if you keep them happy with newer versions of the same (at an incremental cost that goes easy on their wallet and also brings food on your table), your customerbase is steady.
I can come up with other aspects that make this line of business unique; but you get the idea. The market is full of how-to books on how to go about setting up a software business and make it a success; a quick browse through the results that Google throws up will lead you to them. I came across one book that was written in 2001. Written by Benjamin Prater, this book’s style is typical of American marketing campaigns: lots of hype and lots of hoopla. But if you cut away all hype and hoopla, and dip into the contents, there are a lot of gems that you can take away with you.
Introspect. Turn inward and ask yourself searching questions. It does not matter if you are not a technogeek or a nerd. It does not matter if you cannot understand computer programming. But if you are an entrepreneur at heart, if you have the guts and the perseverance to take on a challenge, you will find plenty of it in the business of developing and selling softwares. You will of course find plenty of money in this business.
All the best!
About the Author
Sanjay Agrawal is a Business Coach, counsellor and self-development enthusiast. His blog can be found at – http://www.success-mantra.blogspot.com, and and his business URL is – http://www.wcclnetwork.com.
Benjamin Prater’s book can be picked up from – http://www.ultimatesoftwaresecrets.com/outsourcing/.