Ideal LLC: The Story so Far

April 10, 2008

Ideal LLC is the company I start work for shortly, which is why I started this blog. Of course I write material that’s apparently unrelated, and information from before my employment at Ideal is here, but the real impetus for starting this writing was reflection on my upcoming role. I thought about how great it would be if there were some resource to guide me through what is sure to be a tumultuous few years. I know of no such thing, so I decided to document what I find for others, so they don’t have to make the same mistakes I’ve made.

Ideal LLC is a private software company servicing the legal industry. The legal industry is a vague thing, featuring lone rangers and corporate legal behemoths. We write software to enable lawyers and others in the industry to manage, scan, search, and otherwise diddle legal documents. They are currently targeting the bottom end of the market.

Ideal LLC has not yet earned its Name

Ideal brought me on board to create a system. So far the company has been flying by the seat of its pants. The founder of the company wanders around the hallways hovering over the young developers, and demanding that they stop whatever they are working on to inject some new half baked feature arbitrarily into one of the packages. Why? Because he just sold a suite and promised that feature, that’s why. It’s not a good situation.

There is no concept of bug tracking or tickets: developers deploy whatever they write onto production servers, and wait for the torrent of E-mails and calls from angry customers who cannot use it anymore before of whatever bug they have introduced. These E-mails and calls are the de facto ticketing system.

There is no concept of testing. No one reviews code, no one does any formal functionality testing. The last time any Unit Testing took place there was when the AC broke down. You get the picture.

I wouldn’t have accepted a role there as a developer, it’s a miserable situation for them. I’ll find out what it’s like for the first 30 days or so as I familiarize myself with the code base. I need to do that because I’ll not only be implementing new control systems, but I’ll be responsible for future code architecture as well — they want to clean up the code to get it ready to sell to the upper end of the market.

The Muck

They say that where there’s muck, there’s brass. The muck here actually isn’t fixing the systems or code. That will be a challenge, but the bigger challenges for me will be people issues. I have to get a team of about 10 developers who have worked at Ideal for between 5 and 10 years to cooperate with major organizational change coming from “the new guy.” That in and of itself will be monstrously challenging.

In addition to the guys who will work for me, there are a couple of personalities to contend with.

Jesper

President and founder of the company. He’s a pretty young guy, who I suspect may have gotten lucky. I haven’t been around long enough to understand exactly how it worked, but I do know that he took the company from nothing to multimillion dollar revenue, which is nothing to be sneezed at. I think he’s a little smarmy, and he likes showing off his money via his modified Porche 911.

He doesn’t really realize why I’ve been hired. He thinks I’m another developer on the stack, but he is mistaken. I’ll get to that in a moment.

A year ago he sold controlling equity in the company to a larger firm, who promptly installed its own executive team, because Jesper cannot handle the growth himself. He’s not organized or disciplined enough.

Walter

Walter is the COO of the company, installed by the investors to get the ship running straight. He seems like a by the book sort of guy, which runs a little askew of my philsophy, but he seems bright, so I don’t foresee big problems. The issue is that he believes I’ll be reporting to him, but he is mistaken as well.

David

David is the CEO that the investors brought in to run Ideal. David is extremely smart. He has massive industry experience, and I have no doubt he will take the company to grand heights. He is the reason I took the job: he knows that there is a problem in his company, and he hired me to take care of it. I have a lot to learn from David, and I plan to pick his brain.

The issue is that I don’t know how David will maneuver around Jesper to get me to the position I need to be in, not only officially, but socially. The work I’ll do threatens Jesper because it will change the company from his pet, to a well-run machine that barely resembles what he built. Also, Jesper built the original products that Ideal sells, which I’ll be radically altering as well. There is a big potential to clash here.

I’m not sure if David expects me to do the political maneuvering myself, or if I should wait for him. It may be a non issue, but I won’t write about why for another month or so.

I understand that Walter has been told that I’ll be reporting to him, but I’m going to change that as soon as I get there. My goal is to move into an invaluable position, as close to David as I can be. I want David to think of me as though I’m in his guy, in his inner circle. If I report to the guy who reports to him, that will be difficult. I plan to go into his office on my first day and explain that I signed on because I believe in his ability to lead the company, and that I’m his guy, and I want to report to him.

I think he’ll be receptive to that, for two reasons. First reason is that during the hiring process he and I formed an understanding, and held a parallel negotiation. While Walter and the recruiter who put us together were haggling, David and I actually made our agreement and informed the other two of our decision. This was a great start to feeling like David and I were working directly together. The other reason is organizational. I think David actually plans to groom me for the CTO position that I want. The executive team (CEO, COO, CFO, CMO) all work for the investor parent company, not Ideal itself. When I was hired, I too signed on to work for the parent company, with the rest of the execs.

This feels like good news, but I want to set the correct tone from the outset. I need to be reporting to David directly without Walter feeling slighted. I need to tiptoe around Jesper. I need to get my own team on board with the changes I need to make.

The Brass

It’s my goal to have the CTO title and nice options before the company makes it big. My work will directly affect the long term viability of the company, and David is the type of guy who makes sure everyone gets their due. My personal threshold for independent wealth is $1.33m in liquid assets. I could live comfortably off of that without ever touching the principal. It’s my goal to meet and exceed that threshold in the next year or two.

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3 Responses to “Ideal LLC: The Story so Far”


  1. […] I was researching Ideal, LLC before my meeting with David, the CEO of Ideal, my goal was to create a positive impression with […]


  2. […] slogan is a technique I used as I wormed my way into the hearts and minds of the good people of Ideal, LLC. I asked myself what it was that I wanted to do there, and I challenged myself to come up with an […]


  3. […] Articles Lesson 2: People MatterAbout KenIdeal LLC: The Story so FarThe Employment Nerves TestLesson 0: Motivation « Pressure to […]


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