Ty Tucker | Crain's Orlando

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Ty Tucker

Background:  

Orlando-based REV is a big data and analytics platform that lets businesses and employees create actionable insight, learn from their peers, and align to companywide goals. REV uses a proprietary blend of business intelligence, performance management, and gamification to empower teams to use data to make better decisions and drive performance higher.

The Mistake:

I didn’t realize the need to get anything and everything on paper.

I have been involved in startups now going on seven to eight years. I’ve been involved on the investment side, been the person taking the funds, in contract negotiations for consulting hours – a variety of different mechanisms where I may have just taken people at their word. And sometimes you really do need to put pen to paper.

We got to a point with one client where I was $400,000 in receivables because we were still working on some legal wording. And that eventually adds up. We had a contract in place but were looking to do a change request, and we didn’t have everything in place. But we didn’t want to stop work and disengage from the project. So we kept going, thinking, “We’ve got a relationship here and we don’t want to tarnish the relationship.”

Sometimes you get so excited that you just jump head-first into something. And you maybe don’t flush out the requirements around everything. In the technology world, requirements are key. They are your saving grace to keep the scope in check, to make sure your development team is doing exactly what they should be doing. But at the same time, you need to understand that getting too far ahead of yourself can get you in trouble – whether it’s budgetary, deadlines, timelines. Or simply just mistakes going on that could have been avoided if you sat down and discussed a little bit more with the client or with the development team.

Sometimes you get so excited that you jump head-first into something.

The Lesson:

Sometimes you really do have to put yourself and your company first and foremost and realize that the client’s doing the same thing for themselves. They’re going to make sure that they’re taken care of. If you take the time to make sure that you’ve got some legal backing, the process is a lot smoother. Communication is more effective. The accountability is there.

And I know that it’s cost me, financially, a significant amount to just go with it and say, “Let’s just get started here and we’ll figure out the legal stuff later.” It all comes down to [the fact that] you can’t let your excitement about whatever cool thing you’re doing take over and maybe result in some bad decisions.

I think when you’re on the sales side, the fear of losing the client and disengaging is very much on your mind at all times. How do you keep the contract going? What’s the next body of work you can do for them? And even if it is a fixed contract and there is no work at the end of the contract, you still want to leave on good terms. And unfortunately, the legal stickiness of it all can sometimes leave a bad taste in someone’s mouth. It goes back to expectations.

Someone told me a great story [that applies]: "What if you could create your own planet? This is your planet, and you can bring five things that you want. Chances are that you’re probably going to say, 'Okay, well I want to bring my family. I want to bring my house. I want to bring food and a nice new Ferrari. And I wouldn’t mind a beach while we’re at it.'”

That’s the kind of conversation that happens between business and technology. The problem is that the technology team is going to say, “You forgot to bring air and water, so you’re dead. But I built you your Ferrari and your house and I brought your family.”

At the end of the day, you’re never going to account for everything. We’re not crystal ball readers. So you also should build that flexibility into your scope. If we don’t have to use it, no one has to pay it. It really is about managing those expectations right from the onset.

Follow Rev on Twitter at @GetRevApp.

Photo courtesy of Ty Tucker

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