Unscrewing The Pooch
As many of you may already know, a group of us got together a couple of years ago to form Tamarou, an Enlightened Perl/OSS-friendly consulting and development firm. We decided to work the business using an incremental approach-- basically everyone involved had their own things going and each of us committed X number of hours per month to make it grow. The reasoning went: "If we succeed, great; if we don't, we all stay friends and no one loses their house/life savings/etc."
Contrary to conventional wisdom (which states that every business needs some sort of aggressive, hard-charging Executive type to will the business into existence with the magic of their Executive-type executing) we've actually done quite well for ourselves-- well enough that, even in this economy, two of us now work fulltime for Tamarou clients, billing exclusively under our little banner. Nothing is perfect, but, by and large, our plan has worked and we've beaten the odds.
Then last month happened.
It began simply enough: a bit of minor dental surgery that'd I'd been putting off that needed to be finally taken care of. A few office visits, some pain pills and antibiotics, maybe a missed day of work here or there-- no big deal. Except that I had a massively adverse reaction to the pain meds that essentially rendered me completely useless, work-wise, for weeks. Male pride and 10+ years of Hero Coderism made the situation worse. Promises made and broken, and then made broken again; deadlines whizzing by with alarming speed; have-to deliverables that were not delivered. In short, I totally screwed the pooch.
I'm not here to bend your ear with my sorry tale of woe, however. Reality is that the events of the last month has exposed some pretty heavy organizational and administrative weaknesses in our little company, I think. I shouldn't have been able to fall in a hole for weeks at a time without someone inside Tamarou noticing that something was wrong. Our communications systems are entirely ad-hoc and half-assed. Shit happens-- it always does-- you can't change that. But you can plan ahead, and put systems in place to weather the storms when they inevitably come.
So, I'm asking for your advice. If you've been in our same spot-- small company, limited resources-- what structures, plans, etc. did you put in place to ensure that unforeseen events didn't screw your own little entrepreneurial pooch?