Biggest Lessons Learned Over 20-Plus Years as CEO of Haneke Design

I’ve learned many lessons about running and managing a business during my 20-plus years as CEO of Haneke Design. Some lessons are technology-specific, but most are basic management principles that could apply to any business. Here are my top four.

It’s never too early to start planning and goal setting.

When I first started Haneke Design, it was very bootstrap. It was just me working out of my garage apartment. There were no investors; it was a revenue-funded company. When people asked me what my plan was, I said, “Survive.”

If I could go back in time, I would have set more aggressive goals early and often. Because if you don’t start setting goals right away, it’s hard to ditch the survival mindset and start acting like a real company.

I learned to plan better after joining some professional CEO groups and talking to my peers. Now, we set annual goals, break them down into monthly tasks, and track our revenue, net profit, and resource utilization. It’s normal to slip for a couple of months, but if you’re not tracking that, two months can turn into four, and it’s hard to make up for that at the end of the year.

Don’t just sell them a product, give them a roadmap to success.

Technology is constantly changing, making one-and-done products rapidly obsolete. Take Facebook, for example – they’re constantly adding new features. Setting a customer up for success means thinking beyond the initial product and providing them with a roadmap for the future. It also means working with clients who understand that tech products, like apps, require frequent updates to stay competitive.

You must have redundancy.

As a business, you’ve got to be ready for anything. This means having a diverse team and organizational redundancy.

It’s a highly competitive market for technology talent. If you don’t have redundancy on your team, you can wind up in some pretty tough situations. At the same time, too much redundancy is a waste of resources. You don’t want to hire in pairs, with one person just sitting on the bench waiting for the other person not to be around.

You have to devise a strategy for redundancy while not having too many resources on your bench. It’s a juggling act. You want to have just enough supply to meet your demand. Proper or improper juggling of resources can make or break a company.

Employees need to feel like they’re making an impact.

As a small company, our employees have always directly impacted our operations. If you work here, your hand is right on the product. I hadn’t considered how this contributes to employee satisfaction until I heard my peers complain about their employees not being engaged. Typically, the complaints were about millennials, which led to my February 2020 blog post, “Quit Whining About Millennials: It’s Not Them, It’s You.” 

The bottom line is that people are motivated by different things, and it’s up to the employer to determine what those things are. It’s not always as simple as compensation. Effective communication and opportunities for growth are part of the equation too. So if your employees appear unmotivated, it may be time to reconsider your approach to management.

Final Thoughts

Running and managing a technology business requires much more than understanding technology. Building organizational resilience, goal setting, learning what motivates your employees, effectively managing resources, fostering accountability, and nurturing long-term relationships with your clients are equally important. 

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