FollowUp.cc recently interviewed Koby Bryan, Owner of Koby Consulting, Custom Software Development and Mobile Applications! He was kind enough to share with us everything from his favorite hobbies, to his childhood adversities, and to how he became the owner of his own successful business—all this and more. Want more info? Here’s his Google+ profile and his consulting website.
Hometown: Winter Haven, FL
Favorite city: St. Petersburg FL and Prague, Czech Republic (it’s a tie)
First car: 1974 Pontiac Firebird (as in the 1970’s show The Rockford Files!)
Can’t resist: Barbecue and Beer, both at the same time or by themselves
You have been working in software development for almost 20 years, what changes have you seen?
Now the expectation is that software will never do anything it is not meant to do! Things just “work”, and also “work the way they should” compared to 20 years ago, which means there are fewer problems in software now and most software does not require a manual… it is very intuitive. I looked at Followup.cc’s FAQ’s and usage guides only once - I assumed every possible way I could use the service would be anticipated already, and I was right!
Now software interfaces and the design standards have become very sophisticated, how the software reacts as you use it is very smart. Respect for the overall design in software is now high, which is where it should be in my opinion. Since software is everywhere now, the quality needs to be high or society would break down. It’s not just on your computer or phone, it’s in your car, your coffee maker, your washing machine.
I believe companies like Apple were the trailblazers of high-quality consumer software, and I think it is fantastic that the limits have been pushed so high for everyone. I remember the day my young sister-in-law borrowed my iPod and handed it back to me completely reconfigured… and it was better! Also, just by sitting in my car a few minutes, she found options I never new existed even before she had a license. We now have generations of young users that adapt quickly and will try new things fearlessly.
Software has also become such a part of our everyday lives that the socially rough edges of the original nerd culture have mostly been forgotten or romanticised as the fun, quirky and approachable guru!
It is no doubt Steve Jobs did amazing things, but I only wonder what Apple might have accomplished for humanity if he was actually more socially approachable like the guys on the Big Bang Theory. From what people said about him, it seemed he was aggressive, acerbic and DNGAF. I can imagine within minutes of Steve Jobs meeting the guys on the Big Bang Theory, he would have been invisibly choking them to death - Darth Vader style. There would be no laugh-track, and the theme music would be the song “Seasons in The Abyss” by Slayer.
Can you share some of your past adversities and explain how it shaped you to be where you are today?
Two main things come to mind, first - I went to college to start a career as an artist. I decided to make a career shift afterward and learned software development the hard way, from the bottom up, advancing only through my accomplishments. I had to outperform others to gain credibility, because of my lack of training and background. Now, any young kid can build a billion-dollar company from a software product he created in his mom’s basement and nobody will even think of his credibility. Now performance is valued more than experience more than ever. The good thing is creating software is basically a very creative craft and I loved the constant challenge of it, and this same enthusiasm is shared by everyone in my company. The fact that technology is always changing means we get to create new and exciting software solutions every single day.
Second - I think I got my “grit” from an upbringing that had plenty of adversity. I grew up in a small and rough country town, full of tough southerners and veterans. Author Michael Yon grew up within blocks of our house, and you can get a feel for what it was like from his stories in the book Danger Close.
My dad in particular was someone who was very much into personal protection, he was also one of the early bodybuilders which was an extreme interest for those times. I was taught an incredible sense of integrity and right and wrong and personal responsibility.
As a teenager I had long hair, and this style statement led to a particular brutal beating on the night of my eighteenth birthday. I had been armed moments earlier, and combine that with the fact I believed my life was in danger and my upbringing - it could have turned out differently. I wrote about it here. I now have a deeper understanding of the damage caused by hate and persecution, and it gave me an unforgettable life lesson that helped shape my personal code of conduct.
You specialize in helping businesses gain profitability, what is your best tip? What is the biggest mistake you see people make?
Working in your business - when you should be working on it, is a big mistake! In a business environment full of daily changes and inventions that change whole industries, if you are not trying to constantly improve, you can be overtaken by competition and you can miss out on huge opportunities.
* Look for any process in your business that can be automated, and what might be of value to others… that is where the opportunities are. Creating a software product can solve a problem and bring a new opportunity at the same time. Our clients are often able to resell the custom software products we create for them to their own customers, because needing technology to work smarter is a very common business problem.
What are your favorite online tools? How do you use them to be productive?
- I use Google Drive for writing, keeping track of business contacts, and GMail for email. As an organization, we use it for client-facing processes for our custom software development.
- We use Microsoft OneDrive to keep all the business documentation in sync, the reason this is so important is that I have many computers (4 laptops and a desktop) and I grab whatever hardware tool I want to get the job done without fear of not having my data with me.
- Asana.com for task tracking, even for the domestic “honey-do” (short for “honey, please do this”) tasks.
- Toggl.com we use for time tracking, I use it personally for anaysis of my time to find areas to optimize, simplify and automate.
- I use Followup.cc heavily, for accountability in communication. Every customer interaction gets an email called a “Next Steps Review” and Followup.cc is used to remind us when requirements are to be/have not been received… as custom software is collaborative. In sales or client management, I also use it habitually when negotiating times for meetings or deliverables, basically anytime there is an assumption I am to hear back from someone I use it to make sure that actually happens. People know I expect this from my very first interaction, and also appreciate that I hold myself and our employees to this standard.
We also use many custom software development tools in a Bruce Lee’s “take what is useful” approach, as long as it supports our best practices.
Any exciting projects coming up in the future that you can share?
My colleagues decided my outlook and behavior was unique enough that I should write a book on Integrity. I thought about it, and decided I actually had a lot to say on the subject. The book is in final editing and should be out by the end of the year. It will be called #Integrity (I haven’t finalized the subtitle).
What are three facts about you that people would be surprised to know?
- We are avid dog lovers, and we have two large hounds that are with us 24/7 (even at the office). Hounds are bred to work in teams, and their social dynamics are noteworthy. They don’t hold grudges, and everything about their behavior is meant to hold the integrity of the pack together. Perfect role models for the high-stress team environment of custom software development.
- When I was about 8 years old, I told everyone for a class project that my three role models were: 1. Jesus (for his ability to lead by example), Nat King Cole (because of his grace), and Willy Wonka (because of his sense of wonder). I wasn’t able to articulate why at that age, but my selection certainly marked me as a mental astronaut.
- The book Ender’s Game by author Orson Scott Card is one of the single most influential books in my life. In 1985 I never dreamed we would be living in a similar future, with the Internet, smartphones and tablets.