Improving

Jeffrey Scornavacca
Improving

What Matters Most to Clients

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If you were to look my business card from 7 years ago, you would see a list of technologies: Oracle, MySQL, FileMaker, JavaScript, PLSQL, ODBC etc. This is what I thought our clients (and potential clients) valued. I thought I needed to demonstrate our depth in technology. Our business pitch was the same; focused on us and technology. As we are writing project stories for our website we thought it would be great to ask clients what they valued about the service we provide. Hopefully, this is going to matchup to what I thought we provided. We ask each of our clients these questions. In an effort to get more honest answers, I asked an associate to do the interviews. Here’s what we heard back: “You cured our pain!” No one mentioned technology. No one mentioned cost. Wow! What happened there? I put what I thought were our best wares on display and it turned nobody cared about those things! Turns out I really didn’t know what our best wares were. What did the clients really value about the work we did together? We cured their pain. We solved their problem. How did this change our messaging and our business […]

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Lisette Wilson
Improving

Permission to Fail… and to Succeed

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As small business owners, we must have some self-confidence to strike out on our own. If not, we would still be working for someone else. But, that does not mean we do not lack confidence in some situations or that we do not suffer from imposter syndrome. How do we get past this? If you are still in-house and wanting to make that leap, how can you develop the confidence to jump? In early years, I had the confidence I could learn what I needed to know but lacked confidence in both my technical and business skills. I knew I had a lot to learn, but also had the good fortune of a safety net. My boss at the time was willing to let me keep scaling down my hours as I developed my business, and I do not have children to support. Over time, I gained confidence in my technical skills, yet shied away from opportunities to grow beyond a solo shop because I lacked the confidence in my business skills. I knew I would rather code than manage other coders. I knew I had systems that work for me, but these systems would need to be formalized for a […]

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Improving

Work / Life Balance

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When Molly asked me if I would write something for her blog, my first thought was, “What excuse can I come up with to get out of this?!” Then, after about 30 seconds of soul-searching, I knew I had to do it. See, the problem is… I love my work! As a kid, I loved making models. I built model airplanes and hung them from the ceiling in my bedroom, complete with cotton trailing behind them like smoke. Making models was challenging and fun, and I never lost the joy of building things. My first career was as a recording engineer. I recorded music for TV and radio commercials. Again, I was building something, although it was less tangible than physical objects; I was building an audio environment. After 25 years as an engineer, I decided to make a change. I loved engineering, but I missed making something of my own. So I struck out on my own as a FileMaker developer, not even knowing if there was a market for such a thing. Now, over 20 years later, I still wake up every morning eager to work. I have a small stable of loyal clients who I have worked […]

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Illustration by Sam Falconer
Improving

Learn More by Doing Less

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Two years ago, my daughter was gearing up for a move across the country to enroll in the Ada Academy, a Washington-state program geared towards improving the participation of women and non-binary people who want to become software developers. She was concerned about her ability to absorb, integrate and apply the new information at the accelerated rate that the program expected. She found a method that resonated with her, and she shared it with me. She gave me a book by Professor Barbara Oakley called A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science (Even If You Flunked Algebra). After reading the book, we both took advantage of a companion online course at coursera.org, titled Learning How to Learn. Dr. Oakley’s approach focuses on understanding the mind’s limited capacity for retaining and integrating new information. Over-learning (trying to retain too much information, over too little time) is often counterproductive. For my daughter, limiting her conscious focus to shorter bursts, she was able to retain more information, understand key concepts, and – most importantly – better understand the relationships between the concepts to know how and when they complement each other. With some adaptations, this has worked well for […]

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Adam Aronson
Improving

Expect Change, Be Prepared to Adapt

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Because they’re up against similar challenges to us custom software developers, I’ve grown a soft place in my heart for general contractors. Recently we had to replace the roofs on the front and rear porches of our 1926 Sears home. My wife Rebekah and I met with a contractor to survey the work and come up with an estimate. After some measuring and requisite scratching of a pad with a pencil, he tossed out a number. Prior to his arrival, Rebekah and I had played our own numbers game. We came up with a range that we thought would be needed to get the work done. It turns out we were close! After the initial elation that we had prepared ourselves well, I asked the roofer a question that demonstrated that we – homeowners and GC – were in it together. “What kind of things might you uncover that would impact that estimate?”After some back and forth about rot and flashing and decking materials, I put a bow around our collaboration, “Surprises suck, eh?” I thought he was going to hug me. In my 25 years of consulting, I’ve never met a business owner who loved surprises, and custom software […]

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Improving

Creating Space

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I was recently sitting down with a young colleague who was seeking some mentoring.  He is also a singer, and, like myself, was very curious to know what advice I could share about all topics as large as career arcs and as small as specific vocal technique. Because of the nature of our work, we talked about roles, scores, music, opera houses…. But the particulars aren’t as important as the truth around repeatedly making great art without becoming boringly predictable or faking excitement. And as we discussed, I realized that what we were talking about did not only pertain to the performing arts, but also to our work. Sometimes at work, there seem to be two warring factions: process and creativity. The process team thinks that you can eliminate risk and establish expectations simply by following the same tools and path that have been followed before. The creative team thinks that working outside of the box, beyond the rules, in ways that aren’t expected, is where the most fruitful work can be found. I’m sure you’ve worked in organizations both large and small with this type of tension between individuals and/or teams. This tension doesn’t need to be at odds with […]

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Improving

Ch-ch-ch-Changes!

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If you had a chance to read Jason’s farewell blog, you’ll know that his plate is full and he’s stepping down from his role at Elusive Moose. A few things that came to mind as we worked through the transition were some of the sessions at our conferences. The first was my friend Mike Carruth where he talked about the “Art of the Pivot”. He talked about how as entrepreneurs we cannot help but seek out opportunities and challenges. Learning how to be aware and embrace changes that present themselves is a skill and it starts with being cognizant of the need for change. Second, I thought about Cris Ippolite’s talk on maximizing performance by “Getting in the Zone” and how in conclusion of his detailed examples on how to get there, he said that you also have to realize you can’t do it all. You need to evaluate your opportunities and know when to punt. Jason and I both had a good laugh at how the content of our conferences was perhaps uniquely tailored to our own challenges. We started Elusive Moose as a business resource for software developers with a goal of helping people like us enjoy their work […]

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Improving

A Grateful Farewell

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It was two years ago this month when Molly and I met for a couple days in Chicago to discuss an idea we had been working on to explore the quest to find happiness and fulfillment in our work lives. We both really enjoyed our careers in custom software consulting and the work we had done coaching other consultants. We both found great satisfaction in our work and were interested in finding ways to share our experiences, further explore what it meant to intentionally pursue a fulfilling work life, and offer a platform for others to do the same.  We knew first hand that it was very possible to enjoy your work, and we wanted to help others know that as well. Our two-day meeting ended with the decision to give it a shot, and Elusive Moose was born. In the two years since, Molly and I hosted two conferences, produced a podcast, conducted a series of interviews, wrote a bunch of blog articles, and connected with some of the most inspiring people I’ve ever known. I personally explored my own work life experiences, shared my successes and failures, experimented with new ideas and ways of being, and gave a […]

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Improving

Freelance Business Success Summit

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Joel Bergeron from The Future is Creative has brought together 25+ of the best experts and industry leaders for a completely free online conference to teach you exactly how to… Start, launch, and grow your freelance business in any niche or industry. Identify your ideal client Brand and position your business Price your work based on value Avoid common mistakes And much much more… From planning your transition to freelance, identifying your valuable skills, positioning your freelance business, branding, pricing, getting clients, and even product or service creation, Freelance Business Success Summit is going to be a life changing event. This summit provides a roadmap for anyone dreaming of creating a life and growing a business as a freelancer. It’s perfect for any software developer currently working for someone else who wants to break out and start a dream business. I’m honored to be one of the speakers for this summit. I’ll be presenting topics around finding fulfilling work as an independent software developer and what it takes to be a successful project manager. You can check out all the details HERE !

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Improving, Podcast

Episode 31: Screw the Cubicle

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Lydia Lee is a transition coach, helping people get to the core of the unique services they can offer the world, and then prepare to leave their unfulfilling work beyond and launch a business they can love and really believe in. All of the details about what Lydia does can be found at ScrewTheCubicle.com. She called in for this episodes from the island of Bali. You may hear some wildlife periodically in the background. I did ask and it seems that there were no Moose on the island that morning. It remained as Elusive as ever. Hopefully today’s conversation will help you find an Elusive solution to a challenge you’re facing.

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