What You Get When You Buy A Team

Hiring a rockstar coder to create custom software for you has become easier than ever, with multiple freelance websites to choose from.

Why not do that?

It’s not always a bad option. Buyers without any custom software development experience or exposure, though, can be stepping in a deep hole when they do it. They don’t know what they’re giving up by going that route.

There is another option: hiring an experienced team.

If this has the cash register ringing in your head, let me preface it with this…

Most often, hiring a team of people costs more up front than hiring one person. But hiring a team can end up costing you less over time than hiring one developer. It’s counterintuitive, but true.

One of the reasons is the myth of the rockstar.

The Rockstar Myth

Rockstars exist. Some developers actually are that shockingly good (ours are pretty darn good, actually). They seem to do everything right and have the perfect set of skills. They can be a huge benefit to your company. But the number of people claiming the rockstar title is far greater than the ones who live up to it.

There are some common harsh realities when you hire a developer claiming to be a rockstar:

  1. Some rockstars aren’t. We’ve encountered some who, to be diplomatic, misrepresented their technical abilities. If the developer you choose really can’t walk on water, you get what you get, and you potentially waste a pile of money (and a lot of time) finding that out.
  2. Heroes are often undisciplined. Sometimes they can work magic. Other times, they wreak havoc. If they can’t save the day at the last minute, you’re stuck with the bill, and the mess. Hero coders often don’t do “mundane” things like testing their code (even better, using Test Driven Development, or TDD) or validating the user experience. Those practices — and skills — can make all the difference.
  3. One person is rarely an expert at everything. That includes everything you need for your software. You’ll probably need some design, some coding, some DevOps, and some business consulting. Omniscience is rare. Learning that after you start and hang your fate on a single hero can be costly.
  4. One person dictates the schedule. Your rockstar might work nights and not be available when you want. Or maybe that person is on the other side of the world and doesn’t get back to you for a day. Or a week. That bottleneck can cause pain.
  5. All of your eggs are in one basket (your “truck number” is one). Life happens. What if your rockstar gets sick and your project is on hold for a month? Or what if your rockstar goes silent and refuses to answer your emails? You’re out of luck. Whether they literally get hit by a truck or not, they only have so much time in a day, and there are so many things that can take that one person’s attention, either during the project, or when an urgent customer problem comes up, or weeks (or months, or even years) later when you want to add some significant new feature.
  6. Rockstars often lack business experience. They’re frequently focused on technical issues, and not your business goals, which means they might not really understand what you need your software to do.

Rockstars Add Risk

There’s a word for all of those things I just listed: risk. It doesn’t matter if it’s risk of delay or even failure. Either way, it’s risk of higher cost, often much higher.

Ask yourself this:

  • What is the cost of correcting what one not-so-stellar rockstar messed up?
  • What is the cost of getting only one person’s opinion about the best choices to make?
  • What is the cost of trusting one person to know everything about your system if that person leaves?

Probably more than you want to pay.

If you plan to spend $100,000 on a strategic software investment for your business, imagine spending twice that much because your rockstar turned out to have oversold himself. That ain’t tiddly-wink.

Fortunately, there’s a way to avoid this danger most of the time.

Teams Reduce Risk

Hiring a team mitigates most of the risk we just talked about.

You end up with a collection of people who know your system and can change it with confidence. You’re not locked into a single person’s opinions about what your system should be. And you can make progress even if one person is unavailable.

This can end up costing you far less than the supposedly superior rockstar was supposed to. A quick example can illustrate how.

Let’s say you hire said rockstar. He charges you a high hourly rate(he’s a rockstar, after all). He says he works on your system for 6 months, roughly 6 hours a day. He went quiet over a month back, and only emailed once to update you on progress. He delivered something yesterday…and it doesn’t work.

You spent a bunch of money on software that doesn’t do what you need it to. Odds are good the codebase you paid for is a twisted mess, and you’ll need to scrap it and start over. You can’t get solid code reviews to ensure your code is written in a way that’s understandable to a different person who didn’t write it if you only have one developer working on it.

Now let’s say you hired a skilled, experienced team to do the job. They create a system for you in 4 months. Along the way, they deliver working software to you at least every two weeks (most often daily), and it’s fully tested so it’s proven to run. You can validate that it does what you need for your business, because you’ve seen it all along. You never even saw the changed system until it was rigorously tested and peer-reviewed for quality. The team charged you every two weeks for the work they were doing completely transparently, and the total cost came to more than the rockstar’s cost.

True, you paid the team more than you paid the rockstar, but you avoided the rockstar delay and money waste. You don’t have to pay the rockstar, then pay another one to get it right (or rinse and repeat as they keep missing the mark). Did the rockstar save you any time? Any money? Any headache? Any risk?

Not every team works the way I just described, but what you’ve just read is the nutshell version of what it’s like to work with our team. We do that all the time, so you can be sure it’s not a fluke. That’s how it should be.

Bad Teams Don’t Help

If you have to choose between an awful team with lackluster developers who deplete your bank account and can’t give you what you want, and a single self-professing rockstar who may or may not be able to deliver, the rockstar might be worth the risk.

Those aren’t your only options.

A great team without a single rockstar can do amazing things. A great team with great developers, designers, project managers, and DevOps experts can wow you. Look for a great team and you really can’t lose.