Those of us who own software product businesses sometimes grumble about what a difficult business it is. Although its indoor work with no heavy lifting, it has it’s frustrations: software piracy, customers who moan about paying a whole $0.99 for thousands of hours of work, buggy third party software, RSI, chargebacks and the catastrophic consequence of accidentally offending the great god Google, to name but a few.
But reading Kitchen Confidential brought home to me just what a hard business it is to run a restaurant. You have to make a major financial outlay to fit out the restaurant and kitchen. You have rent and staff salaries to pay every month, regardless of whether customers come or not. Staff turnover is generally very high in the catering business, so you are continually having to hire new staff. You have to deal with drunken, unreasonable and dishonest customers. Possibly also drunken, unreasonable and dishonest staff, who have ready access to sharp knives and boiling liquids. Theft by staff can be a real problem. You have highly perishable stock. If you don’t order enough, you have to turn people away. If you order too much, you have to throw away the excess or risk poisoning your customers. You have endless deliveries from suppliers, which you have to check to ensure they are the correct amount and quality. You have to keep the restaurant clean. Extremely long hours are standard. Even if you are doing well, you can’t seat more people than the restaurant can physically hold. A restaurant that has to turn people away Fridays and Saturdays might be empty on Monday. And success brings its own problems as you can only increase the scale of the operation by expensive and disruptive measures such as opening a new restaurant or moving venue. The relentless overheads of staff, rent and stock mean that cash flow is a huge issue. It’s no wonder that restaurants fail so frequently.
Running a software product business is pretty cushy by comparison. You can start your own software product business with just a PC and a generous dollop of time. Nearly all the issues related to manufacturing, suppliers, stock and shipping go away when you are dealing with electrons rather than atoms. If you do make a mistake, you can usually put it right just by making another release. The worst a disgruntled customer is likely to do is post a snarky comment on a forum or send you a nasty email. High margins and low overheads means that cash flow is much less of an issue than for most other businesses. Software businesses also scale much more easily than other businesses. You aren’t tied to a particular location and don’t even need to rent an office building (billion dollar company Automattic has a fully distributed workforce and no company office).
The software business is a great business to be in!
You forgot to specifically mention that you can work when you want and can sleep in the hammock when you want. But I presume that is what the picture meant. :-)
That is definitely a benefit. I don’t remember the last time I had to set an alarm clock for work.
Software development company “at home” needs a lot of responsibility. If it is difficult to you to control yourself it might happen that you could sleep in hammock literally all day (especially if you turn off an alarm) :)
What about the decisions you have to make and assume (there are thousands more than in a restaurant)?
What about the technology stack that moves all the time (like having to transition from a fast-food to a Chinese restaurant)?
What about the technology/market transformation that is forcing you to move from desktop to SaaS to mobile (like having to move your restaurant to a different town)?
What about your psychical and mental health (10 hours per day in from of a screen and sitting)?
I really like the software product business but it’s so much different than a classic business.
>What about the decisions you have to make and assume (there are thousands more than in a restaurant)?
I’m sure restauranteurs have to make loads of decisions as well.
>What about the technology stack that moves all the time
I haven’t really moved tech stack in the last 15 years. ;0)
>What about the technology/market transformation that is forcing you to move from desktop to SaaS to mobile
I’m sure there are plenty of trends and fashions in the restaurant business.
>What about your psychical and mental health
I get the impression that chefs work longer hours on average than programmers. And they don’t get to sit down!
>I really like the software product business but it’s so much different than a classic business.
There are a lot of differences. But I think many of them are positives.