We have a meeting every week, where we discuss a handful of questions. Yeah, it's just the two of us, but one thing we've learned from the last handful of years is that you want to regularly address some things, because otherwise you don't think about them until it's too late.
So this is what we talk about:
- Do you think the workload is divided fairly?
- What are you most worried about?
- Are we spending our time on the right thing?
- Are you addressing our riskiest assumption right now? How?
- What do you feel most excited about that we are doing? What do you feel most excited about that we are not doing? Should we do it?
- How are you feeling about our progress?
- Do you feel angry, frustrated, stressed, annoyed, insulted, etc by anyone else in the team or something that happened?
- Did we track the right things?
- Did we learn anything new last week? What was the most surprising thing?
- Is there a tool/book/etc you feel like would help your work that you haven't asked about?
Questions for every 2-4 weeks
- Should we get office space?
- Should we hire someone?
- Should we pivot?
- Should we shut down?
- Should we cut out anything we've shipped recently?
- Do you have any concerns about our runway/burn rate?
- Plus the answer, "This is how much money we have in the bank & how long it's projected to last," which should be addressed every 2-4 weeks at minimum.
We add new things to it on a regular basis, and if the answer to something is the same every week and we don't think it's adding anything to the discussion, then we'll take a question off.
But just going through this list on a weekly basis has had a massively positive impact on the way that we work, because it forces us to take a few minutes to talk about things that we're not otherwise thinking about, and it brings some issues to the surface before they boil over.
For a long time, our answer to the question, "Should we hire someone" was "no". Every week. But we were constantly excited for the day when that would turn from a "no" to a "yes".
The reason it was "no" was that we had a lot of work to do to prove out the very basic concepts behind the game, and to figure out how to deal with the infrastructure of a new startup. Once you hire someone, you're starting a fuse you can't unlight. You're responsible for someone else's livelihood. You're now spending actual money at a brisk clip (even if that person's not taking a huge salary, because startup). And you should know what that person's going to work on, because the more people you have, the more inertia you have behind the work you've already done. And remaining flexible and nimble is a startup's superpower.
So every week, the answer was "no". We had to figure out how to deal with fundraising and investors. The prototype wasn't fun enough. Blah blah blah. There was always something. Even for a while, we'd love to have had an artist, and they'd have added a bunch to the experience, but we could get away without one, because placeholder art doesn't have to look good.
But there was a moment. We'd gotten enough actual investors on board that we could offer someone a job for a minimum of 18 months guaranteed. We had work that would desperately benefit from an artist's talent. Our productivity & progress would increase dramatically. There were things that an artist could do that neither of us had the skills to do.
For six months, every week the answer was "no". And finally, it was "yes".
We sent out an offer last night. I don't know that I've ever been as excited and terrified to do so. I sincerely hope I've got some great news to share soon, but even if things don't work out the way I hope they will (which is fine - circumstance often intervenes in strange ways), it doesn't change that we've finally gotten to a new phase.
The answer, now, is yes.