When someone is about to start a new software company, usually they think about the features of its product, its potential customers, maybe fundraising etc.
Nobody thinks about all the unpleasant, repetitive and depressing corporate shitwork that they have to carry out as co-founders in order to keep the company running.
But does dealing with corporate chores suck that much?
Yes, it does. That’s because you have to spend a respectable amount of time on things that do not require any of your skills in order to get done.
The last couple of weeks I was dealing a lot with a tax audit that was conducted at SourceLair. This audit demanded lots of accounting and lawyer tasks, long-lasting meetings, follow-up emails and a ton of back-and-forths between the auditors, our accountant, our lawyer and me. These two weeks were a true fucking nightmare for me. Really now, some times I wish I knew some things without having to grow gray hair by experiencing them myself. For that reason I will attempt to pass you the knowledge I got from dealing with SourceLair’s corporate shitwork the last year.
After these two tough weeks, I found out that there is a quite straightforward challenge for people like myself, in order to be a little happier, when dealing with corporate chores:
Reduce shitwork to the minimum and spend the least time possible to carry it out.
In order to do so though we have to expose its sources and eradicate as many of them as possible. From my experience the main sources of shitwork are:
Incorporation. Being incorporated introduces lots of tasks that have to be carried out regularly and do not depend on your skillset. More or less you will have to deal with government red tape, accountants, lawyers etc.
Physical office. Maintaining a physical office needs… maintenance. Paying the bills, making sure it’s safe, clean and open for everyone when they need it and even more.
Employees. By most chances your company will have sone sort of legal employees, even if it is comprised by its co-founding team. This means that papers have to be signed and renewed (usually every year), payroll has to run in time etc.
Investors. When investors come into play, paperwork, reporting, meetings and more come in as well.
Contractors. After running a company for a handful of months, chances are you would like to try outsoursing something; design tasks, marketing, advertising, anything. This will demand some paperwork coordination, maybe consulting your lawyer etc.
How to deal with it
OK. The first thing that could come to somebody’s mind, in order to deal with such situations, is:
Hey, these chores are not your job, delegate them.
Your job is to shape your product and and ensure a long-living future for your company.
Well, while that makes a little bit of sense, I am pretty sure that most people interested in this article are not owners of multi-million-profit companies. This means that resources are limited and I am (and you should be most probably) really careful about where I decide to put money of the company that I work for and at the moment there is no budget for offloading corporate chores.
As a result of the above thought, I came up with the following framework to confront the above challenge, which seems to work out for me:
Eradicate whatever produces less value than problems. Well, there are indeed chores that get imposed on you by others (e.g. contractors) who do not understand the priorities of your business. The first thing to do is identify what has to be done and say no to the rest.
Kill procrastination. You always have something better to do, than deal with corporate shitwork. Don’t do it though. Finish the shitwork first. All of it. Then the field is clean for you to spend your time on what you love.
Enough with preaching. What have I done myself by now though?
I just started being really selective on what has to be done. Can’t recall of particular tasks I said no. After all they are not important at all 😅.
I wrote a Django application that automated our invoicing system. Pretty simple and straightforward – hopefully it will be released as open source software at some point.
I started taking care of shitwork tasks at most by the end of the next day after they show up. Inbox’ snooze feature helped a lot here, but this is totally a matter of mindset and discipline; not of technology and tooling.
The shitwork will always exist and always will have to be done. Even if you live in a country with the least red tape possible there will be corporate chores that are boring as death and should be performed by you. So, there is no place for whining here; eradicate, automate and execute the rest ASAP.
Last, dealing with all the shitwork is a great for one reason though. You make sure that the passion and love that you have for your company overweighs all the negative feelings produced by shitwork. At the end of the day it feels kind of good.