Looking Back at the Past Two Years

I want to start this post by thanking Eric Englemann (yes, that is him above!), the CEO of one of our awesome clients, Geonetric. Almost two years ago he took a huge risk and completely changed their corporate structure. But he didn’t stop there, he committed to letting the world know how they were doing along the way. He and others in his company have been extremely open about their results, including how they were doing one year after the big change and again last month.

Well, two years ago Agile For All underwent a big change as well. It went from a single-member LLC where I was the founder, owner, only member and everything else. In other words I was on my own. Two years ago I merged Agile For All with Richard Lawrence’s company, Humanizing Work. We had worked together for several years prior to the merger, but actually merging our companies was a huge, risky step for both of us. How are we doing today?

In looking back over the past two years I think there are 3 main places where we may have made some mistakes, and 5 main places where we have had huge success. Let’s start with the bad, because they aren’t all that bad!

What we would do differently if we could?

  1. Meet more regularly to challenge our ideas and thoughts. As we learned more and more about each other we realized we not only complemented each other in many ways, but we also have the ability to effectively challenge each other’s thinking. Richard is obviously extremely knowledgeable about agility and other topics. Prior to our merger I often had ideas and had to analyze them by myself. Richard is able to easily poke holes in my ideas, and just as importantly, he is able to expand upon my thinking. Often we end up far away from where we started, but it is an awesome place! We didn’t know each other well enough to do this early on, but I wish it had been possible.
  2. Better integrate our content. For better or worse, Richard and I have different styles of workshop facilitation. Because of this it has been, and still is, difficult to integrate our content. As a result we teach to the same basic learning objectives, but in different ways. Interestingly though, we both have integrated something from the other person in our workshops. We both try to use Training From the Back of the Room (thanks Sharon Bowman!) techniques in our courses, so it isn’t a big stretch at times.
  3. Hire Angie sooner! Having a Marketing and Events Manager has taken so much off of our plates that we are able to keep our sanity. Plus, as any of you who have been to one of our workshops knows, she is just flat out awesome at what she does. I can’t even remember the last time something slipped through the cracks and caused an issue. But there are multiple times when she absolutely saved our butts because something horrible happened. How amazing Angie is has become a joke among our partners and ourselves. Earlier this year a partner said “Wow, this thing is amazing. Of course it is, Angie did it. Good job Angie!” So now we all say the same thing a lot, “This is amazing. Of course it is. Good job Angie!” Maybe we need to have that turned into some sort of emoticon just to save time in email? <grin>

What are the big wins we’ve had?

  1. Hiring Angie. Did I mention we should have done that sooner??? Not having to worry about logistics for our workshops has been a big load off of both Richard and myself. Things are there when we arrive, the rooms are properly set up and everyone has been informed about what to do and expect. It is awesome. But that’s not all Angie does. She does everything from answering the company phone line to completely planning our annual conference (more on that later).
  2. Pair-selling. Having two of us involved in the sales process has helped us better meet the needs of our clients. Richard and I have different experiences which allow us to relate to clients in different ways. We complement each other well when on sales calls and as a result we are better able to service clients.
  3. Having a great life/work balance. We are actually able to prioritize LIFE over work. Running a business yourself is hard work. It takes a lot of time and sucks up every minute if you let it. By merging, we have cut the overhead of running our businesses in half (just one business now instead of two). This has freed up both of us to enjoy life to the fullest. Richard takes time with his family to do downhill mountain biking (yes, he and his family are crazy!), while I have taken time to travel and enjoy golf in Hawaii and Scotland as well as other wonderful places.
  4. Working together at some awesome clients. While we can’t publish our client list, let’s just say there are others that are as much fun as Geonetric. OK, maybe not that much fun, but lots of fun for sure. Prior to our merger we worked together, but we still were competitors so we didn’t work at clients together, mostly we just referred business to each other. Now we actually get to work together at some of our clients and it is always an amazing experience.
  5. The Humanizing Work conference. This is clearly the biggest win we’ve had. When we merged our two companies we discussed what to do with the Humanizing Work name and website. We had a vague idea that we would keep it because it sounded like something we would use in the future. After all, our goal in our workshops is to help people understand how to create software in a way that recognizes the value of people. Last year we decided to host  conference specifically for people who had been to our workshops. While we call it a conference, our goal was to eliminate all the things we disliked about typical conferences. We had an awesome time and so did our conference attendees. If you have been to one of our workshops, you really need to attend this conference. You will never look at conferences the same way again!

In summary, I want to thank Eric for being an example of transparency, but more importantly, I want to thank Richard for being a great business partner and friend. The past two years have been awesome and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens in the future!

AngieOh, and this is Angie. If you see her at our conference or anywhere else, be sure to say “Hi, oh and good job, Angie!”

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Bob Hartman

Known as Agile Bob, brings over 30 years of experience and broad industry knowledge cultivated by serving in almost every role in the software industry including developer, tester, documentation writer, trainer, product manager, project manager, business analyst, senior software engineer, development manager and executive. Over the past 15 years Bob has grown from being an early adopter of Agile to his current status as a Certified Scrum Trainer® (CST) and Certified Enterprise Coach℠ (CEC) and an expert in training, coaching and mentoring across all areas of Agile development. Bob is a popular speaker, having spoken at numerous major conferences, seminars, workshops and user group meetings where his engaging style, holistic view of development and personal anecdotes are always well received by attendees.

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